Jan. 26, 2018 — Two events occurred two days ago that drastically changed the Kansas gubernatorial race.
First, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) won confirmation as President Trump’s ambassador-at large for International Religious Freedom and will soon be resigning as Kansas’ chief executive to accept his new position. Gov. Brownback barely passed muster in the Senate, a body in which he served 14 years before being elected governor in 2010. Vice President Mike Pence was called into the Senate chamber to break the 49-49 confirmation deadlock.
The move means that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), already a candidate for the state’s top post, will be ascending to the governorship by the end of this week. Colyer will become the fourth Republican lieutenant governor who will be running for governor as an unelected incumbent. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) are the other three who became governor last year when the individual elected in 2014 either left under an ethical cloud (Alabama) or accepted a Trump Administration appointment (Iowa; South Carolina; and now Kansas).
Second, Republicans also received good news over a development that could decimate the Democrat’s opportunity of running a viable general election campaign. Wealthy Independent Greg Orman, who challenged Sen. Pat Roberts (R) in 2014 and actually became the de facto Democratic nominee (he lost 53-42 percent), officially announced he will enter the governor’s campaign and as a non-affiliated candidate.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law just released a compilation of data relating to independent expenditures from the 2014 competitive senatorial campaigns. The compilation tells us some interesting facts about the scope of the outside group involvement, their impact upon the races (from an aggregate perspective), and whether Republicans or Democrats were the greater beneficiary from this campaign expenditure category.
The following are the Brennan Center’s tracked races – the ones the study conductors believed to be the 10 most competitive Senate races; Louisiana was excluded because a run-off appeared inevitable and no clear conclusion would be derived on Nov. 4 – providing totals for the independent money that was spent in each campaign.
The top indirect recipients of the independent outside spending (approximate figures) are as follows (winning candidates’ totals only):
• Thom Tillis (R-NC) – defeated Sen. Kay Hagan (D), 48-47% – $28 million • Cory Gardner (R-CO) – defeated Sen. Mark Udall (D), 49-46% – $25 million • Joni Ernst (R-IA) – defeated Rep. Bruce Braley (D), 52-44% – $23.5 million • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – def. Alison Grimes (D), 56-41% – $21.5 million • Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) – def. Sen. Mark Pryor (D), 56-39% – $19 million Continue reading >
Fox News, which contracts with both a Democratic and Republican pollster to provide joint data relating to key political races, released a series of surveys yesterday, each providing good news for Republicans. The results may skew slightly Republican because in certain instances they exceed other similarly published survey suggests.
The two firms, neither particularly well known nor quoted in national polling circles, are Anderson Robbins Research (D) and the Shaw Polling Company (R). The two combined to produce polls in five different states during the Oct. 4-7 period. In each place, the sampling universe numbered somewhere between 702 and 739 likely voters. In all but Kentucky, both the Senate and governors’ races were tested. Blue Grass State voters won’t choose a new governor until next year. As identified in the headline, the other four polled states were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado and Kansas.
Here, the Fox poll gave former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) a 44-40 percent lead over Sen. Mark Begich (D), which could well be accurate. Sullivan and Begich have Continue reading >
A new NBC News/Marist College poll provides some dire news for Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Everyone knows the senator is enduring a rough election cycle, largely because of the rancorous Kansas political climate, a large number of the senator’s own unforced errors, and a shrewd coalition move between local Democrats and Independents. But this particular poll (released Oct. 6; 1,282 Kansas residents; 1,097 registered Kansas voters; 636 likely Kansas voters) places Roberts in his largest deficit situation of the campaign.
According to the data, Roberts trails Independent Greg Orman 38-48 percent among those in the likely voter category, and 36-46 percent within the registered voter segment. NBC/Marist has been among the more inaccurate pollsters in past election cycles, so their sounding the political death knell for a candidate is not necessarily taken as a sign of things to come, but this particular survey should be given greater credence.
Though one could question its methodology, the end result appears sound. The pollsters testing of residents, the sampling period not being disclosed – just that the questions may have been asked in October (the survey is labeled October 2014 and it is certainly released during such a time frame, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all the interviews were conducted in the early portion of this month) – and, we don’t know the duration Continue reading >
Candidates across the nation are launching comparison spots at rapid-fire pace just as political prime time begins in earnest. This is particularly so in Kansas and Georgia, where all four of the contenders in the two states’ Senate races are delivering major blows that will ultimately lay the final victory groundwork for two of the participants.
Roberts on Offense
Sen. Pat Roberts (R), reeling from self-imposed wounds administered weeks and months ago and now facing a unified Continue reading >
Much has been written about which party will control the US Senate in the next Congress and, with seven pure toss-up races on the political board, there’s plenty of room for conjecture on both sides of the ideological aisle.
Let’s take a look at the aggregate Senate campaign picture, remembering that the Republicans must retain all of the seats they currently possess (15 in this election cycle) and convert six Democratic states just to reach the minimum majority level. Democrats will maintain control if the two parties deadlock at 50-50 (including the Independents who will caucus with one party or the other). The Dems hold power in such a situation because Vice President Joe Biden (D), the constitutional Senate president, will break any tie vote in his party’s favor.
The model also assumes Republican conversion victories in three Democratic retirement seats, Montana (Sen. John Walsh), South Dakota (Sen. Tim Johnson), and West Virginia (Sen. Jay Rockefeller). A three-way contest in South Dakota could Continue reading >
As had been predicted by Kansas political observers since the original judicial hearing earlier this week, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of former Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s petition to withdraw from the statewide race. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who refused to remove Taylor because he is not incapacitated to the point of being unable to fulfill the duties of the office sought as mandated in Kansas election law, says the Democrats have eight days to replace Taylor. The party leadership’s political goal of having Taylor withdraw is to form a united coalition behind Independent candidate Greg Orman who was proving himself stronger than their own nominated contender. Clearly their calculations showed that incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) had the path to victory in a three-way race.
The Kansas Supreme Court, a panel of six justices (with one vacancy) dominated by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ (D) appointees, issue rather bizarre language to support their decision. The justices unanimously said that, “[w]e conclude the plain meaning of ‘pursuant to (the law)’ Continue reading >
Several political news bites came forth yesterday suggesting that any doubts about whether Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is now in a toss-up campaign despite Kansas’ deep red Republican voting history have been extinguished. The fact that Republicans must now divert attention and substantial resources to a state that should be a lock for them lessens their chances to secure the Senate majority.
Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments from attorneys for Democratic candidate Chad Taylor as to why the petition to remove his name from the November Continue reading >
When Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) announced that he was withdrawing from the US Senate race in Kansas in order to give better-performing Independent Greg Orman the opportunity to politically isolate vulnerable US Sen. Pat Roberts (R), the “what if” caucus sprung into action. Though we’ve had many twists and turns around this story during the past week, much speculation abounds as to exactly what will happen in a Roberts-Orman contest, and who would be most adversely affected by the Democratic nominee leaving the political battlefield.
Survey USA provides us our first glimpse into how the candidate field divides sans Taylor. The most definitive number prior to him expressing his desire to leave, a Public Policy Polling study that apparently contributed to Taylor understanding that he had little, if any, chance to win the Senate race, found Orman leading Sen. Roberts 43-33 percent. S-USA sees it differently.
At this moment, Taylor’s name will still appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Kansas secretary of state ruled shortly after the Democratic nominee’s desired withdrawal that Taylor’s name would remain on the ballot because Kansas law only allows a post-nomination change in candidate status Continue reading >
For the second time this week, a statewide Democratic Party nominee ended his campaign in order to help a stronger Independent candidate defeat a Republican incumbent. Earlier, Alaska Democrats and Independents agreed to join forces, coalescing around an Independent candidate and former Republican, Bill Walker, with the joint goal of defeating Gov. Sean Parnell (R). Yesterday, Kansas Democratic senatorial nominee Chad Taylor ended his candidacy, thus giving competitive Independent Greg Orman a better chance of unseating Sen. Pat Roberts (R).
Public Policy Polling conducted a post-Aug. 5 primary survey (Aug. 14-17; 903 likely Kansas voters) in the Sunflower State and found Roberts leading a three-way race but attracting only 32 percent support. More significantly, the incumbent trailed Orman by ten percentage points, 33-43 percent, when the two were isolated. This, and the results from private internal polling, were key factors in Taylor making his exit decision.
Though the Democrats give up the opportunity of converting the Kansas seat for one of their own party members, they are coalescing with a political soul mate. Orman toyed with the idea of previously entering a Democratic statewide primary but chose against doing so. Therefore, should he be successful in November and Continue reading >
Thirty percent of Alaska voters went to the polls last night in one of the nation’s last major competitive primaries. There, former Attorney General and Natural Resources Department director Dan Sullivan claimed the Republican senatorial nomination, winning the right to challenge vulnerable first-term incumbent Mark Begich (D). Sullivan took 40 percent of the vote, defeating surprise second-place finisher Joe Miller (32 percent) and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (25 percent).
For the second time in four years, Miller came from nowhere to vastly exceed his polling projection. In 2010, he upset Sen. Lisa Murkowski to win the GOP nomination. This time, he attracted far more votes than his single-digit polling status suggested. Treadwell, the early race leader, lost momentum months ago and never regained strength. Some late polling suggested that he was pulling closer to Sullivan, but that did not prove accurate as he finished behind Miller.
Sullivan now formally faces Sen. Begich, the latter of whom drew 83 percent in his own ADL primary against one Democrat, two Continue reading >
Polls are coming fast and furiously now, and will continue to do so throughout the remaining portion of summer and onto Election Day. Four post-primary surveys were just released that project flat ties or close contests between the various Democratic and Republican nominees, and each fit at least tangentially into the surprise category.
A poisonous political atmosphere exists between Kansas conservative and moderate Republicans, which is partially responsible for veteran Sen. Pat Roberts winning an underwhelming 48-41 percent primary victory over physician Milton Wolf. A new Rasmussen Reports poll (Aug. 6-7; 750 likely Kansas voters) gives the incumbent only a 44-40 percent lead over newly nominated Democratic candidate Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney. Taylor, too, scored an anemic primary win (53-47 percent), but his standing right after the Aug. 5 vote is much better than Kansas voting history would suggest.
The Rasmussen numbers also reflect Republican weakness in the governor’s race. Despite a better-than-expected showing in his primary (63 percent), Gov. Sam Continue reading >
Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford), a Tea Party favorite tabbed as an “accidental congressman” when he was elected in 2012 – after then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) was disqualified from the ballot – lost his bid for renomination last night, as predicted. Attorney David Trott, brandishing endorsements from virtually all key state Republican leaders and overwhelming the incumbent in fundraising, won a huge 66-34 percent win in the 11th District that ended Bentivolio’s ill-conceived congressional career. Trott now faces former State Department official Bobby McKenzie, who barely won (671 vote margin) the Democratic primary against three opponents. Trott is the clear favorite to carry the open seat in November.
In the other incumbent challenge, controversial Tea Party-backed Rep. Justin Continue reading >
Voters in six states go the polls this week to choose their fall nominees. Most of the primary action is on the Republican side, but that all changes as the weekend approaches in the Aloha State of Hawaii. There, Democrats may deny a sitting governor re-nomination, will settle a tough Senate primary, and choose a fall candidate for the open Honolulu House seat. More on this state later in the week. Same for the Senate and House situation in Tennessee, which holds its primary on Thursday.
Four primaries, in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington are scheduled for tomorrow, and all but the Show Me State feature important contests. Missouri has neither a Senate nor a governor’s race this year, and no House incumbent faces serious nomination competition.
But, the climate is much different in Kansas, where the Republican split between moderates and conservatives is more pronounced than in virtually any state, and Michigan where establishment Republicans Continue reading >
As we enter the primary season’s final stretch, 19 states still have yet to choose their 2014 nominees. The first nine days of August will bring voters to the polls in a half-dozen states with much to be decided.
The most active day is the first Tuesday in August. Four states are holding primaries, featuring one key Senate nomination battle.
In Kansas, Sen. Pat Roberts (R) faces a GOP challenge from physician Milton Wolf. Roberts has made several mis-steps during the campaign, including admitting that he doesn’t own property in his state, possessing a Virginia personalized license plate that identifies him as the Kansas senator, and saying that he returns home, “every time he has an opponent.” Despite the gaffes, Dr. Wolf appears to be a flawed candidate and is not likely to deny Roberts renomination. Continue reading >