By Jim Ellis
Aug. 17, 2020 — August primary season continues tomorrow with nomination elections occurring in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming. Today, we cover Alaska and Wyoming. Tomorrow, we look at all the races in Florida.
The Alaska primary is not a major event because the general elections are basically set. Here, Independent candidates have the option of coalescing with a major party, which has a major effect upon the state’s politics. This Independent/Democrat situation is likely to occur in the Senate race, as favored candidate Al Gross, an Anchorage surgeon, will run as an Independent but coalesce with the Democrats. Therefore, regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s primary, Dr. Gross is likely to have ballot position in the general election.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) is seeking a second term. Several early polls found a tight race, but the latest survey, from the Alaska Survey Research firm (June 23-July 7; 66 likely Alaska voters), found the senator running ahead of Dr. Gross by 13 percentage points, 53-40 percent. At a commensurate time, Public Policy Polling (July 7-8; 1,081 Alaska voters via automated response device) found a five-point spread, with Sen. Sullivan holding only a 39-34 percent edge.
The latter PPP poll is suspect because Sen. Sullivan, as an incumbent, has an abnormally low ballot test standing, especially when comparing it to the Alaska Survey Research data. Additionally, when asked about President Trump’s job approval, the nation’s chief executive scored a 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Also asked of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), her ratio was a surprisingly poor 29:55 percent. Yet, when asked whether the respondents have a higher opinion of President Trump or Sen. Murkowski, by an inconsistent 48-45 percent, the sampling universe answered Sen. Murkowski.
Sen. Sullivan remains a favorite for re-election, but this race could develop and become of some interest. It is a sleeper race for the Democrats that could come home if a political tsunami forms.
At-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House who was originally elected in a 1973 special election, seeks a 25th term and can expect another competitive race. Should Rep. Young be re-elected he will have served a total of 50 years in the House upon completing the succeeding term. That would still place him almost a decade behind the all-time seniority leader, the late Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who served 59 years.
All signs point to a re-match between Rep. Young and Independent Democrat and education reform activist Alyse Galvin, who held the veteran congressman to a 53-46 percent win with the latter candidate outspending the incumbent by about $600,000. In this election, Galvin has already raised more money, $2.26 million, than she did for her entire 2018 effort. In contrast, Rep. Young has brought in a lower $1.36 million, but that too is more than he raised two years ago.
It’s not particularly surprising that polling finds a close race again here. Such has been the case several times during the past decade, but Rep. Young always has pulled ahead at the end to win another election.
Two polls gave Galvin a two- and one-point edge over Young in May and July, exactly the same as we saw directly before the 2018 election. In fact, the Alaska Research Service found Rep. Young trailing Galvin by a percentage point in the Oct 26-29 survey, just before he recorded the seven-point victory. Needless to say, Alaska has proven one of the more difficult places to poll in the United States.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is retiring after serving four terms and his successor appears to be former congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R). She served four terms in the US House before deciding not to seek re-election in 2016. Prior to her federal service, she was elected to both houses of the state legislature and won two elections as state treasurer.
Originally, Lummis entered the Senate race expecting to oppose at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/Jackson) and begin in an underdog role. Rep. Cheney, however, decided to stay in the House since she is on the leadership track, and Lummis was quickly transformed into the front-runner.
Lummis has nine Republican opponents tomorrow, but only two have raised more than $100,000 and both are far behind the former congresswoman’s $1.84 million in campaign receipts.
The Republican primary appears to be Lummis’s race to lose, and if she is successful tomorrow night, she’ll become the prohibitive favorite in the general election from a place that was President Trump’s strongest 2016 state. It appears Lummis is a lock to return to Washington — this time as a member of the Senate.
Rep. Cheney has minor opposition both in the Republican primary and general election and will breeze to winning a third term in November.