July 17, 2017 — There is a great deal of political chatter discussing the Democrats’ chances to assume the House majority in the 2018 elections, but one key facet that must work for them is not yet in place.
For an out-party to wrest the majority away from their counterparts who control the body, a large number of open seats must change hands. So far, after three consecutive election cycles that featured large numbers of open seats – a cumulative 158 since 2012 inclusive, counting the 20 new seats that reapportionment and redistricting created at the beginning of the decade – only 15 CDs so far will be open next year in addition to the UT-3 special election that will be filled this coming November.
To make matters even more difficult for Democrats, just one open Republican seat, that of retiring Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), can reasonably be considered a toss-up. This compares to two Democratic opens, those of Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN; running for governor) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV; running for Senate), which now reside in the pick ‘em category.
July 14, 2017 — Now, just about a month away from the Alabama US Senate special primary election, we are seeing the first political patterns that begin to define the Republican primary race.
To review, the seat became vacant when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) was appointed US attorney general. In a controversial move, embattled Gov. Robert Bentley (R) tabbed state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to replace Sessions. The appointment was controversial from the start because Bentley was reportedly under investigation by Strange’s office.
Gov. Bentley, who was facing impeachment from his own Republican base in the state legislature, saw the process grind to a halt when Strange asked the legislative leadership to allow him to complete his investigation to determine if the governor actually misused state funds when engaged in an extra-marital affair. Strange later said that he never confirmed such an investigation was actually underway, but he publicly asked the legislative leaders to halt, and that helped him earn him the appointment. Bentley was then in position to appoint the new attorney general who would decide whether to continue the stealth investigation into his own potential wrongdoing.
July 13, 2017 — Two major announcements occurred during the last few days resulted in one individual becoming an official statewide candidate and another withdrawing from a campaign that had already begun.
West Virginia Senate
As had been expected for some time, two-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for the United States Senate. He will face two-term Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the Republican primary, with the winner drawing a difficult political match with Sen. Joe Manchin (D).
With average win percentages of 62 percent over two elections as governor (2004, ’08) in addition to a pair of Senate campaigns (2010 special election; 2012), Sen. Manchin appears to be in strong shape as he approaches his 2018 re-election. But, there are some cracks in his armor, hence the presence of two strong GOP opponents.
Though Sen. Manchin has attempted to cross the partisan line in his public relationship with President Trump and the Republican leadership on several issues, it is still a net negative for the senator to campaign on the same political landscape that proved to be the former’s second strongest state (69 percent).
July 12, 2017 — A major announcement was made in a western state governor’s race Monday, with an additional one from an adjacent domain coming later today. Both affect corresponding US House seats.
New Mexico Governor; NM-2
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) announced that he will enter the open New Mexico governor’s race next year, saying to the Albuquerque Journal that he’s “concerned about an exodus of young people leaving New Mexico,” going to other places for a more favorable job market. Pearce said his campaign will emphasize improving education, spurring economic growth, and reducing crime and poverty.
This will be the second time Pearce has left his House seat to pursue a statewide contest. In 2008, when serving his third term in Congress, he decided to challenge then-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) for the US Senate nomination, and successfully upset her in the Republican primary. He would then go onto lose the general election to then-Rep. Tom Udall (D-Santa Fe), 61-39 percent, in the Obama landslide year.
July 11, 2017 — Surprising political rumblings are being felt in two key western swing states, one highlighting what will be a major Republican primary battle, with a toss-up open seat and a potentially competitive challenger campaign in the other.
The former will feature a serious Colorado GOP primary between two of the most conservative candidates in that state, while two Nevada seats could see a pair of candidates swapping districts.
Republican former US Senate nominee Darryl Glenn says that, in the next several weeks, he will announce a formal GOP primary challenge to veteran Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs). Glenn received no national party support in his 2016 race against Sen. Michael Bennet (D) but still came within six points of him on election night, holding the incumbent below majority support. Just recently, state Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) announced his own primary challenge to Rep. Lamborn. Therefore, we are on the precipice of witnessing a major three-way intra-party confrontation before a Republican electorate very familiar with tough primary battles.
Rep. Lamborn was originally elected in 2006, coming through a difficult primary battle in that year. The same scenario occurred in his first re-election, and he has repelled several primary challenges in subsequent campaigns. But, in each of those situations he was the most conservative candidate. The difference here, at least when reflecting upon a Glenn candidacy, is that Rep. Lamborn may not be considered as such. This will be the first challenge where the congressman will actually have to defend himself from the right.