Tag Archives: West Virginia

The Primaries Through May:
Setting November, Part II

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

May 25, 2018 — With primaries having been completed in 13 states we review the key run-off and general election pairings that these primaries produced. Today we’ll look at Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. Yesterday we reviewed Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Carolina.


Ohio: A competitive open governor’s race is underway, featuring Attorney General and former US Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and ex-Attorney General Richard Cordray (D). Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) begins the general election in the favored position over Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). A special election in the 12th District between state Sen. Troy Balderson (R) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) occurs on Aug. 7. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) defends his seat against Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Former NFL football player and businessman Anthony Gonzalez (R) is heavily favored to succeed Rep. Renacci in the open 16th District.


Oregon: The only competition here is occurring in the governor’s race, where incumbent Kate Brown (D) runs for her first full term against state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend). The governor is a clear favorite for re-election.


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The Primaries Through May:
Setting November, Part I

By Jim Ellis
the-primaries
May 24, 2018
— We have now completed primaries in 13 states. Therefore, we can review the key run-off and general election pairings that these primaries produced. Today we’ll look at Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Carolina. Tomorrow we’ll go over the states of Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.


Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is a lock for re-election. Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) is a clear favorite over state Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock).


Georgia: Republicans will see a gubernatorial July 24 run-off between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The winner faces former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) in the open general election. In the House, Democrats are forced into run-offs in District 6 and 7. The winners will be clear underdogs to Reps. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) and Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville).


Idaho: Lt. Gov. Brad Little (R) is a heavy favorite over state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Moscow) in the open governor’s race. Former state Sen. Russ Fulcher (R) will succeed Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) in the open 1st District.


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The Turnout Report:
Signs of a “Blue Wave”?

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2018
— Looking at the voting patterns for Tuesday’s primaries in the four states holding elections, we see little evidence of the reported “blue wave” often discussed in media analyst reports — meaning a surge in Democratic Party voter turnout — but there is also sparse information to determine specific participation trends in many of the noted places.

state-of-ohio-mapOhio has the most complete data to compare totals for midterm elections dating back to 2006. On Tuesday, 1,506,777 people voted in the two major party primary elections, with just about 55 percent recorded in the Republican gubernatorial contest. The current grand total was the second largest participation figure in the four midterms since 2006, inclusive. The 1.506 million aggregate total was second only to the 2006 turnout that saw 1.626 million Ohioans voting. This year, both parties featured open gubernatorial primaries, each with a clear leader heading into Election Day.

In all four of the tested Ohio midterms, more people voted in the Republican primary. The 54.9 percent participation factor when measuring the two parties against each other on Tuesday night was the second highest of the sampled four. Only the Republicans’ 56.0 percent participation rate in 2014 was stronger. To put the current rate in perspective, the GOP low occurred in 2006 when 50.8 percent of primary voters cast a Republican ballot. In the succeeding general election, Democrat Ted Strickland would win the governor’s campaign, making the result consistent with the higher Democratic primary participation rate.

In the Buckeye State House races, eight of the 16 districts featured primary elections for both parties. In each of the districts holding primaries for both parties, the political entity controlling the seat before the election saw more people vote in that party’s primary. The most significant race was the special primary election in the 12th District, the seat former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) vacated to return to the private sector. There, 23,902 more people voted in the Republican primary, thus providing some tangible support for predicting the state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) is favored to win the seat in the Aug. 7 special general vote.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 9, 2018 — Voters in four states made their preliminary electoral statements known last night, choosing nominees in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia in the 2018 election cycle’s first multi-state primary event. The night included defeating the first incumbent of the electoral season, North Carolina three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), and nominating two Senate nominees in what could become first-tier Republican challenger campaigns.

Indiana

One of the more interesting contests heading into yesterday’s voting was the Indiana GOP Senate primary where three major contenders were vying for the right to advance into the general election and face first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). There, former state representative and national distribution company owner Mike Braun attempted to seamlessly drape both Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) in the algae of the Washington swamp, with the two House members retaliating that Braun is a former Democrat with a voting record that supported raising taxes 47 times.

Considering that Braun proved successful in winning the nomination last night, his strategy and clever advertising campaign worked but, in the aggregate, almost 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate still voted for one of the two congressman. In the end, Braun captured 41.2 percent of the vote, enough of a plurality to claim the nomination. Rep. Rokita was second with 30 percent, while Rep. Messer was a very close third, getting 28.8 percent of the GOP vote. Braun swept virtually all of the counties outside of Congressional Districts 4 and 6, which belong to Reps. Rokita and Messer, respectively.

A Donnelly-Braun general election will be highly competitive, as now the new Republican nominee will make the incumbent senator the focal point of his anti-Washington swamp, politics-as-usual campaign strategy. The Indiana race now becomes one of the premier GOP challenge targets in the country.

In the House races, while Braun ran strongly throughout most of the state, he failed to provide familial coattails. His brother, Steve Braun, fell to state Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) in a 36-29 percent spread from a 4th District GOP electorate that exceeded 80,000 votes. Baird will easily win the general election and come to Washington as Rep. Rokita’s replacement in the western state congressional district that touches the outer Indianapolis suburbs.

Turning to the eastern 6th District, in a highly expected result, Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg Pence, easily captured the Republican nomination for Rep. Messer’s open seat. His 65 percent victory over four opponents sends him into a general election campaign that he will surely win in November.

North Carolina

All local political observers were following the two Republican US House incumbents facing strong challengers. As mentioned in the introduction, Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) became the first House member in this fledgling election cycle to be denied re-nomination. Pittenger, who came within just 134 votes of losing the 2016 GOP primary, could not overcome former pastor Mark Harris this year. Harris, a 2014 US Senate candidate, ran two years later for the post court-mandated redistricting seat that changed 60 percent of the district just before the 2016 primary.

Though it looked like Rep. Pittenger would have an easier road to re-nomination this year, the opposite proved true. Harris won the party nomination, 48.5–46.2 percent, a margin of 814 votes of more than 35,000 primary votes cast. Harris will now face the new Democratic nominee, businessman Dan McCready who is already on record saying he won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker if he wins in November. The 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville, posted a 54-43 percent victory for President Trump. Rep. Pittenger won re-election in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. Though the numbers stack up well for Republicans in this district, with McCready already raising $1.9 million for the primary, it makes this contest competitive and may become a targeted Democratic challenge race.

Moving to the Outer Banks region, veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), also facing serious competition, scored a 43 percent victory to win what he says will be his last term. The fact that he had two opponents who pulled virtually equal support allowed Jones to win again with just a plurality. He faces no competition in the general election, which means last night’s victory assures him of re-election in the fall.

In the Greensboro area, as expected, University of North Carolina at Greensboro trustee Kathy Manning, another challenger who has raised well into seven figures, easily advanced into the general election last night with 70 percent of the vote. She will face freshman Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in another November race that appears more competitive than the regional voting history might suggest. Budd garnered 56 percent in his first general election. The congressman was unopposed last night in the Republican primary.

Ohio

The Ohioans voted as expected last night. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) scored a 47-32 percent win over investment banker Mike Gibbons to win the 2018 Republican Senate nomination. The congressman now advances against two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in November.

Originally a gubernatorial candidate, Renacci made the smart switch to the Senate race after attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted voluntarily formed a ticket to effectively clinch the nomination in the early part of the year. All of these strategic moves proved prescient, as DeWine easily won the gubernatorial election last night, 60-40 percent over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R); Rep. Renacci secured the Senate nomination.

In the 12th District special election, state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) out-paced Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan by a single percentage point (29-28 percent) and topped a field of seven other candidates to win the Republican nomination and advance to the Aug. 7 special election. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor easily won the Democratic nomination. The 12th is a reliably Republican seat, and with a 24,000-vote edge in total turnout last night, Sen. Balderson becomes the clear favorite to win the special general. Both men also were nominated for the full two-year term in November.

Looking at Rep. Renacci’s open Cleveland-Akron area 16th District, technology executive and former NFL football player Anthony Gonzalez defeated conservative state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township) 53-41 percent to win the Republican nomination. Gonzalez will now face healthcare company executive Susan Moran Palmer, who captured the Democratic nomination. The former Indianapolis Colts and Ohio State Buckeye wide receiver is the favorite to win the seat in November.

West Virginia

In the other premier Senate contest of the evening, media reports that disgraced former coal company CEO Don Blankenship was making a serious move on the Republican nomination proved erroneous as two-term Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the GOP primary with a 35-29 percent margin over US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington). Placing third with 20 percent of the Republican vote was Blankenship. AG Morrisey won the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election. The incumbent defeated a Democratic primary challenger from his left, environmentalist Paula Jean Swearingen, 70-30 percent.

Morrisey swept the northern and central portions of the state, with Rep. Jenkins dominating south West Virginia, the site of his congressional district. Blankenship won four small counties. The Manchin-Morrisey Senate election now becomes a top-tier Republican challenge race.

With Reps. David McKinley (R-Wheeling) and Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) running unopposed for re-nomination, the congressional action was in Rep. Jenkins’ open 3rd District where state House Majority Whip and farmer Carol Miller (R-Cabell County) topped a field of six other Republican candidates, including two sitting state delegates, one former delegate and congressional nominee, and an ex-West Virginia Republican Party chairman to win a close nomination campaign. She begins the general election in the favorite’s position against state senator and Iraq War veteran Richard Ojeda (D-Holden/Logan) who easily won the Democratic primary.

Primary Previews

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185May 8, 2018 — Today’s elections kick-off the prime time of primary season, with voters in four states — Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia — choosing nominees for November. Here is an outlook for each of the states:

Indiana

With no governor’s race on the ballot this year, the Republican Senate nomination campaign tops the Indiana political card, which is one of the more interesting campaigns in the country. Here, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are battling former state representative and Meyer Distributing and Meyer Logistics companies’ owner Mike Braun for the right to face first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November. Donnelly has no opposition for his party nomination.

Braun has gained national notoriety for his campaign, which has strategically melded both congressmen into basically one person. The Braun Campaign ads have characterized Reps. Rokita and Messer as being part of the Washington “swamp”, concentrating negatively on their budget and trade votes, as well as casting them as professional politicians. He even goes so far as to brandish two cardboard cutouts of the congressmen where they are dressed exactly alike and says they are both lawyers who never practiced, instead spending their entire careers in politics.

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Ohio Poll: Heading for Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

state-of-ohio-mapMay 7, 2018 — Tomorrow’s primary featuring voting in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia is now only a day away; Berea, Ohio’s Baldwin Wallace University just released a new survey of the Buckeye State electorate.

Though the poll possesses significant flaws, the primary results for both parties seem consistent with other published data, even though such publicly released information is sparse.

The Baldwin Wallace poll (April 24-May 2; 811 registered Ohio voters — 333 likely Ohio Democratic primary voters, 323 likely Ohio Republican primary voters) is unusual in several ways.

First, the nine-day polling sample is, on average, three times too long and thus negatively affects overall reliability.

Second, and more damaging, is the huge over-sampling of female voters in the respondent sample. Some 59 percent of those polled are female leading women to dominate every polling segment. For example, on the question of political ideology, more women then men say they are very liberal (60.3 percent), liberal (60.0 percent), moderate (57.3 percent), conservative (53.6 percent), and very conservative (52.8 percent), thus yielding a female majority in every category. Since women traditionally poll more liberal than men, this poll skews definitively to the left.

Another unusual aspect associated with the Baldwin Wallace research is the administrators not testing 2018 general election pairings even though they move forward to begin examining the 2020 Ohio presidential campaign.

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Conflicting Polls in West Virginia

By Jim Ellis

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

April 27, 2018 — The nomination races in the May 8 primary states are heating up as Election Day draws near, and one of the more interesting campaigns is in West Virginia. There, three major Republican candidates are vying for the party nomination to earn the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in November.

Two polls were released earlier in the week, each projecting a different leader. The first came from National Research, Inc. for GOPAC, a long-established political organization that supports Republican candidates. The survey (April 17-19; 411 likely West Virginia GOP primary voters) gives Attorney General Patrick Morrisey a 24-20-16 percent lead over US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) and former Massey Energy company CEO Don Blankenship who recently spent time in a Nevada prison for his role in a mine explosion that killed 29 of his company’s workers in 2010. Five years later, Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to willfully violate government safety standards. He received the maximum sentence, which resulted in a one-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.

The second poll comes from Fox News, employing their normal research process. The media organization conducts its surveys in collaboration with two polling firms, one a Democratic research organization, Anderson Roberts Research, and the other Republican, Shaw & Company Research. In West Virginia, their poll was in the field over the April 18-22 period and interviewed a more robust 985 likely West Virginia Republican primary voters.

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More on the Illinois Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2018 — Tuesday night’s big stories in the Illinois primary were Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) having a difficult time in winning a close Republican primary, and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) just barely surviving his Democratic primary challenge. Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker successfully captured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination with a margin greater than polling had predicted.

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) | RGA

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) | RGA

Gov. Rauner scored only a 51.5 – 48.5 percent win over state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in a primary result that finds the state chief executive’s GOP political base eroding. While spending over $60 million in the primary campaign against just $3 million-plus for Ives, the 20:1 resource advantage only proved good for a three percentage point win with still 294 precincts not fully reporting as of this writing. The 351,086 to 330,227 vote totals represent 97 percent of the recorded voting universe. Mathematically, however, there are not enough uncounted votes remaining in Ives’ areas of strength for her to overcome the current statewide deficit.

In the 3rd District House race, seven-term Rep. Lipinski appears to have scored a narrow victory with almost all Cook County precincts reporting. Lipinski carried Cook County with 51.7 percent, a total that will likely rise a bit once all the votes are counted. His opponent, media consultant Marie Newman, won Will County with 58.6 percent of the vote and took the district’s sliver of DuPage County with a mere 55 to 34 vote margin. But, her 1,256 vote lead coming into Cook County was not substantial enough to defeat Lipinski there, which resulted in her district-wide loss.

Lipinski is one of the few remaining Blue Dog Democrats, while Newman enjoyed support from the Bernie Sanders’ wing of the Democratic Party along with major backing from national liberal organizations. The turnout will exceed 90,000 voters once all of the ballots are recorded. When all totals are official, the voter turnout percentage here will hover somewhere in the 45-50 percent range.

In other key congressional races, the Democratic primary in the state’s 6th District has flip-flopped back and forth in a very close contest between financial advisor Kelly Mazeski and clean energy company executive Sean Casten. Mazeski initially was in the lead but in the end, Casten pulled ahead when all 640 precincts were able to report vote totals. Casten captured about 30 percent of the vote (18,863) to Mazeski’s 26.5 percent (16,686). Five other candidates were on the ballot, and cumulatively they garnered 44.2 percent of the vote. Now Casten will challenge veteran Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) who was unopposed in his primary.

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“R’s” Up in Dubious Senate Polls

By Jim Ellis

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgMarch 12, 2018 — One of the keys to deciding the 2018 Senate election cycle is seeing how the 10 Democrat senators forced to defend states that President Trump carried will fare. A series of new Axios/Survey Monkey polls in these aforementioned places produces good news for Republicans, but the data appears flawed.

According to the methodology, 17,289 registered voters participated in the surveys within the 10 states between Feb. 12 and March 5. Obviously, the sampling period is too long, unless the polls were conducted successively, but there is no indication of such. The voluntary online response system also brings the polling reliability factor into question.

That being said, even suspect studies are valuable to analyze because more opportunities are provided to detect flows and trends within the various sampling sectors.

The results of the 10 polls are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):
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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 18, 2018 — We continue with our two-part series reviewing the announced candidate status in each state. Yesterday, Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced that he would not enter the special election against appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D). Therefore, the second Minnesota seat will be re-stated:

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Karin Housley (R) – State Senator; Attorney
• Tom Emmer (R) – US Representative; 6th District; 2010 Governor nominee – possible candidate
• Michele Bachmann (R) – Former congresswoman; former presidential candidate – possible candidate

New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 2, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Bob Hugin (R) – Pharmaceutical company CEO – possible candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
2 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

New Mexico: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 6, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commissioner

New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Process Ends: April 19, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 9, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Tom Campbell (R) – State Senator; agri-business owner
• Rick Berg (R) – Former at-large US Representative
• Gary Emineth (R) – Former ND Republican Party chairman

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 7, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
Michael Gibbons (R) – Venture capitalist
• Jim Renacci (R) – US Representative; 16th District
• Jim Tressel (R) – Youngstown State U President; former football coach, Ohio State University – possible candidate
• J.D. Vance (R) – Venture capitalist; author – possible candidate

Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 6, 2018
State Primary: May 15, 2018
• Paul Addis (R) – Energy company executive
• Cynthia Ayers (R) – Former National Security Agency staff member
• Lou Barletta (R) – US Representative; 11th District
• Jim Christiana (R) – State Representative
3 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 27, 2018
State Primary: Sept. 12, 2018
• Bob Flanders (R) – Former state Supreme Court justice
• Bobby Nardolillo (R) – State representative
1 Independent candidate

Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 2, 2018
• Marsha Blackburn (R) – US Representative; 7th District
• Stephen Fincher (R) – Former US Representative; 8th District
• Phil Bredesen (D) – Former governor; former Nashville mayor
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Minor Democratic candidate

Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Completed December 11, 2018
State Primary: March 6, 2018
Run-off Election: May 22, 2018
• Beto O’Rourke (D) – US Representative; 16th District
• Bruce Jacobson (R) – Evangelical Cable TV executive
2 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Libertarian candidates

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 15, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
• Dan McCay (R) – State representative – possible candidate
• Evan McMullin (R) – Former Independent presidential candidate – possible candidate
• Mitt Romney (R) – Former GOP presidential nominee; ex-MA governor – possible candidate
• Chris Stewart (R) – US Representative; 2nd District – possible candidate
• Jenny Wilson (D) – Salt Lake County councilwoman
1 Minor Republican candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate

Virginia: Sen. Tim Kaine (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 29, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Nick Freitas (D) – State Delegate
• E.W. Jackson Sr. (R) – Minister; former lieutenant governor nominee
• Corey Stewart (R) – Pince William Co Bd Chairman; 2017 Governor candidate
• Jim Gilmore (R) – Former governor; ex-Senate & presidential candidate – possible candidate
1 Minor Republican candidate

Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 31, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
1 Minor Democratic Candidate
1 Independent Candidate

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 18, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 7, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidate
1 Libertarian candidate
3 Independent candidates

West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Jan. 27, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
• Don Blankenship (R) – Former coal company CEO; convicted felon
• Evan Jenkins (R) – US Representative; 3rd District
• Patrick Morrisey (R) – Attorney General
• Paula Jean Swearingen (D) – Environmental activist
6 Minor Republican candidates
2 Minor Democratic candidates

Wisconsin: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Kevin Nicholson (R) – Businessman
• Leah Vukmir (R) – State Senator
• Eric Hovde (R) – Venture capitalist; 2012 Senate candidate – possible candidate
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Constitution Party candidate
1 Veterans Party candidate
1 Independent candidate

Wyoming: Sen. John Barrasso (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 21, 2018
• Gary Trauner (D) – Former Teton County School Board Chair; ex-congressional nominee (2006; ’08)
• Foster Freiss (R) – Mutual Fund founder; GOP donor – possible candidate
• Erik Prince (R) – Security firm founder – possible candidate


Major Sources:
• Politics1.com political blog
• Ballotpedia.com website
• State Elections offices

New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part III (Of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-3-of-3

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 27, 2017 — Wrapping up our holiday recap of the 2018 Senate races — we finish our coverage with Ohio through Wyoming.

• Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 51-45 percent win in 2012 during the same election when President Obama led the ticket in Ohio, returns for a re-match next year. Mandel must first get past wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons in the Republican primary, but appears well positioned to do so. A Brown-Mandel race could again develop into a major campaign, as the Republican’s ability to run a strong statewide race has improved during the last six years. In 2014, Mandel was re-elected state Treasurer with 59 percent of the vote.
Rating: Lean D

• Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a third term after seeing President Trump and fellow Sen. Pat Toomey (R) win close Keystone State contests last year. It is conceivable that Sen. Casey will be in a tighter re-election campaign cycle than five years ago when he scored a 54-45 percent victory. Since Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) entered the race, the GOP Senate candidate field has decreased with two contenders, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) and businessman Jeff Bartos, departing to run for other offices. The general election could be competitive, but Rep. Barletta may have a difficult time re-constructing President Trump’s winning coalition. The congressman may find a very rough going in the Philadelphia suburbs as did President Trump, which means developing a winning statewide base becomes highly challenging. Like the president posted, Rep. Barletta will need a record rural turnout in order to win.
Rating: Likely/Lean D

• Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) appears poised for an easy re-election run next year, particularly with Republican attention focused upon a much more competitive governor’s race.
Rating: Safe D

• Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) is retiring after two terms, but Republicans are still in strong position to hold the seat. Democrats are attempting to recruit former Gov. Phil Bredesen, but he is not likely to become a candidate even though saying a decision about running will be made shortly. Republicans will likely feature a GOP primary between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former two-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) that will be very competitive in early August, but sure to produce a strong general election contender.
Rating: Likely R, and Safe R if Bredesen does not run.

• Texas: Though eventual Democratic nominee Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will be able to raise a large amount of national money, he will be no match for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who is seeking his second term. O’Rourke is a capable candidate who can wage a respectable campaign, but Texas voting history and Cruz’s strength within the Republican base will still yield him a victory at least in high single-digits.
Rating: Likely R

• Utah: Two major questions dominate this campaign: will Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) seek an eighth term, and if not, does former presidential nominee Mitt Romney come forward to replace him. Sen. Hatch continues to say he plans on running, but always leaves the retirement door open particularly if Romney says he will run. Either way, the seat remains in the Republican column, as Utah Democrats are too weak to field a strong statewide candidate. It is probable that the GOP dynamic will not crystallize until well after the first of next year.
Rating: Safe R

• Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders will again appear on the Vermont ballot as an Independent even though he was a major contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Regardless of his party designation, he is safe for re-election in his small state, which likely features the most liberal constituency in the country.
Rating: Safe I

• Virginia: Particularly after the Democrats’ strong showing in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is a heavy favorite for re-election as he seeks a second term on the heels of losing as the Democrats’ Vice Presidential nominee. At this point, controversial Republican Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Board chairman who ran strongly in the GOP gubernatorial primary, is Sen. Kaine’s leading opponent but Republicans desire a more viable candidate. Speculation is increasing that Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) might run especially with the Democrats turning in such a strong performance in her Northern Virginia district earlier this month. So far, there is no indication that Rep. Comstock will reverse course to enter the statewide contest, however.
Rating: Likely/Safe D

• Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) has yet to even draw an opponent as she prepares a run for a fourth term.
Rating: Safe D

• West Virginia: A major Republican primary is brewing between Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), with the winner facing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next fall. Though West Virginia has moved decidedly to the right since the turn of the century and President Trump posted 69 percent here last November, Sen. Manchin remains at least a slight favorite for re-election. A minor Democratic primary challenge from the left should help the senator continue better craft his centrist image.
Rating: Lean D

• Wisconsin: Though Republicans have seen their fortunes greatly increase here during the past seven years, the field challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) has been slow to develop. Businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) is active and receiving heavy support from outside financial sources, but the Republican conservative base is looking elsewhere. State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) is in the race and figures to be a significant candidate. With the Wisconsin primary not occurring until August, Sen. Baldwin has the luxury of having a long time to prepare for what should be an active general election campaign cycle.
Rating: Lean D

• Wyoming: The big question surrounds whether Sen. John Barrasso draws a GOP primary challenge from Blackwater Security firm founder and international businessman Erik Prince, brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or mega-conservative donor Foster Friess. Chances are neither will run, meaning Sen. Barrasso has little trouble in securing a second full term.
Rating: Safe R

Senate Candidate Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2017
— Yesterday, we reviewed the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Today, the remaining 17 states are covered.

As a reminder, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

NEVADA — TOSS UP
Sen. Dean Heller (R)
Danny Tarkanian (R) – Businessman, frequent candidate
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) – US Representative, 3rd District
Rep. Dina Titus (D) – US Representative, 1st District

NEW JERSEY — LIKELY D
Sen. Bob Menendez (D)
• Sen. Menendez federal trial has frozen potential Democratic and Republican Senate hopefuls. After the Menendez legal situation is decided, much could happen in this state.

NEW MEXICO — LIKELY D
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)
Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commission member
Richard Berry (R) – Albuquerque mayor
John Sanchez (R) – Lt. Governor

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Another Trump Appointment;
A Double-Digit West Virginia Poll

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.

Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.

There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.

The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.

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