April 2, 2019 — Last week we spent a great deal of time analyzing the 2020 Senate races, and now we begin to take a look at some of the expected US House activity.
With Republicans now fighting to regain the majority they lost in November, are there enough opportunities for them to convert the 18 or 19 (depending upon the NC-9 special election result) districts that they will need to reclaim the House?
After the November vote, we see 31 seats that President Trump carried in 2016, which a Democrat now represents. That number rose from 12 before the election. These districts will form the basis of the Republican target list, but it doesn’t appear they will have enough open seats to augment their conversion inroad opportunities. And, as has been the case in the previous four elections, Republicans are already risking many more of these latter seats than Democrats.
Generally, a feature of the House flipping is the winning party converting a sizable number of open seats. That certainly happened in 2018 as we again saw an unusually large number of incumbent-less campaigns (64), with 16 of them going to the opposite party (13 R to D; 3 D to R). Since the congressional seats were re-drawn before the 2012 election, a total of 64 (2012), 47 (2014), and 49 (2016) districts were open, in addition to the aforementioned 64 for the last cycle.
By Jim Ellis
April 1, 2019 — Several presumed presidential candidates whose aspirations appeared dormant have suddenly sprung to life. In reading the current political tea leaves, and should the latest trends prove true, we could return to projections of a Democratic presidential field as large as 23 candidates.
While it has been generally regarded as a given that former Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race next month, and all indications are that he will, as many as six others may also soon join according to individual published reports late last week.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), whose name surfaced months ago as an individual contemplating becoming a national candidate, all of a sudden says that he will likely do so. This, after seemingly weeks of not even being mentioned in the long list of aspiring candidates.
Ex-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who looked to be gearing up early but hadn’t been heard from lately, also confirms that he is headed toward announcing his candidacy this month.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has brandished more overt signs of planning to run. Always admitting that he was considering becoming a candidate, Gov. Bullock has spent some time in Iowa conducting meetings and getting to know the political terrain. He has also firmly ruled out challenging Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and appears headed toward the national stage. Bullock is ineligible to seek a third term as governor, so these underlying signals seem more indicative that he will, in fact, run for president.
March 29, 2019 — Sen. Tom Udall (D) surprised the political world on Monday when he released a video announcing that the will retire when this session of Congress adjourns instead of running for a third term. Though he appeared to be a lock for re-election, the 70-year-old senator said it was time for him to look for other political avenues from which to contribute.
Potential Democratic successors are wasting no time. Later today, state Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) is releasing a video message that will presumably contain his Senate announcement. He may soon have company from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe).
Balderas is no stranger to statewide office in the Land of Enchantment. After winning a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2004, the freshman legislator was elected state Auditor in 2006. He then ran for an open Senate seat in 2008, but decisively lost the Democratic primary to now-incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). He was re-elected Auditor in 2010, and then ran for, and won, the attorney general’s post in 2014. Balderas was re-elected in November with 62 percent of the vote.
Though he ran for re-election last year, it was originally thought that Balderas would challenge Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) for the open gubernatorial nomination. But, Grisham opened with a large lead, took advantage of her strong inside connections, and Banderas, knowing he could not afford to lose another statewide race, decided to stay put. Therefore, instead of running for governor, he made a major public production of supporting Grisham and unifying the party for the gubernatorial push. That move may well pay-off for him in this open Senate election.
March 28, 2019 — Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) both made public on Monday their intentions not to seek re-election in their respective houses of Congress. The Udall announcement was a surprise, and we updated our outlook on his open seat in our 2020 Senate Review, Part III, yesterday. Retirement rumors had begun to swirl around Rep. Serrano, especially with New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D) last week declaring his intention to run for the congressional seat.
The New Mexico Senate After Udall
Sen. Udall’s announcement saying that he will not seek a third term was unexpected. Both parties are now scrambling to see who will begin to line up to run for the open seat.
There is no question that Democrats will be favored to hold the seat but the new campaign evolving into a competitive battle is not out of the question. Though Republicans last won a New Mexico Senate seat with the late Sen. Pete Domenici’s last victory in 2002, the party did elect Susana Martinez governor both in 2010 and 2014.
Though Gov. Martinez’s approval numbers were low when she left office, she would have to be considered a possible, and viable, Senate candidate. Additionally, former US representative, and Senate and gubernatorial nominee Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), who is now the New Mexico Republican Party state chairman, will also likely surface as a potential candidate.
By Jim Ellis
March 27, 2019 — The third and final segment of our three-part Senate review covers the races alphabetically from North Carolina through Wyoming, with a re-visit to the new open seat in New Mexico:
New Mexico – Sen. Tom Udall (D) – Open Seat – Since our Senate review began, Sen. Udall, who looked to be a lock for election to a third term, announced he will not run in 2020. Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, but Republicans have won statewide races here as late as 2014, so the potential for a competitive 2020 campaign exists.
So far, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) both confirm they are considering running, as is 2018 Republican nominee Mick Rich. Two individuals have already said they will not enter the Senate race: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber (D). Many more potential candidacies from both parties are being discussed. Currently, this open seat earns at the very least a Lean Democrat rating but is realistically Likely Democratic.
North Carolina – Sen. Thom Tillis (R) – This will be a top-tier race, as are almost all North Carolina Senate races. Sen. Tillis ousted then-Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in 2014 in a state that has re-elected only one senator since the days of Sam Ervin (D) and Jesse Helms (R).
The Democrats failed to recruit their top target in Attorney General Josh Stein (D), and so far, their field is second tier. Only Mecklenburg County commissioner-at-large Trevor Fuller (D) and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) have declared their candidacy.
Sen. Tillis received pushback for originally opposing President Trump’s emergency border declaration, which has fueled rumors of a potential primary challenge. Therefore, the North Carolina campaign is in a state of flux. Much will change here in the coming year to affect the outcome. Currently, rate this seat as Lean Republican.
Oklahoma – Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) – The major discussion surrounds whether 84-year-old veteran Sen. Inhofe will retire. If he runs, the election campaign may be slightly more competitive based upon the 2018 Oklahoma results, in which the Democrats made some significant gains. Even if they continue to build momentum, their chances of winning a statewide election in the Sooner State still remain slim. Likely Republican until it becomes clear whether or not Sen. Inhofe will seek re-election.
March 26, 2019 — The second of our three-part Senate review covers the races alphabetically from Louisiana through New Mexico:
Louisiana – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) – Sen. Cassidy will seek a second term next year but, as in Kentucky, no real action will occur in the federal campaigns until the 2019 governor’s race is decided. Currently, Sen. Cassidy faces no serious opposition. Likely Republican
Maine – Sen. Susan Collins (R) – Sen. Collins appears near the top of the 2020 Democratic target list, but she may not be as vulnerable as it might appear on paper. The four-term senator is a good fit for her constituency; she racked up win percentages of 67 and 61 in her past two elections (2014; 2008) and, unless Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/ Portland) runs, the Dems don’t appear to have a top tier candidate.
Neither newly elected Democratic Gov. Janet Mills nor Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) appear to be looking at a Senate run. Currently, Lean Republican and closer to Likely Republican than Toss-up
Massachusetts – Sen. Ed Markey (D) – Sen. Markey’s only concern is a potential Democratic primary challenger and, with Rep. Seth Moulten (D-Salem) looking more toward the presidential contest than the Senate, the veteran incumbent should be secure for a second full term. Adding his long tenure in the House, Sen. Markey will be in Congress 44 consecutive years at the end of the current session. Safe Democratic
Michigan – Sen. Gary Peters (D) – Republican manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James’ better-than-expected performance against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) last year, and first-term Sen. Peters’ below-average polling numbers are moving Michigan fast up the Republican target list. Assuming James runs, the Michigan Senate race could become quite interesting. Lean Democratic
March 25, 2018 — Only nearing the end of March in the off-year, already a great deal of early 2020 Senate action has occurred. Thus, it is a good time to begin reviewing all 34 statewide federal races that will adorn next year’s ballot in a three-part series. Today, we look at the first dozen in alphabetical order:
Alabama – Sen. Doug Jones (D) – From the Republican perspective, this could be the most important race in the country. The GOP must convert this seat in order to provide a better cushion to protect their Senate majority.
The 2017 special election became a debacle for the Republicans that allowed Sen. Jones to unexpectedly slip past politically wounded former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Already, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) and state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) have announced their 2020 Senate candidacies. Judge Moore claims to be seriously considering running again, which could again create the same adverse situation that previously plagued the Republicans. Toss-up
Alaska – Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) – At this point, there seems little in the way of opposition developing either in the Republican primary or general election against Sen. Sullivan. Safe Republican
Arizona – Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) – Another critically important Senate race that has already featured substantial action. Sen. McSally’s appointment came after her defeat in the 2018 Senate race and she faces a difficult campaign ahead to win the 2020 special election. Whoever wins next year serves the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. The seat next comes in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2022.
Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), has already announced his candidacy and will be a major candidate. In early April, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), whose ex-wife, Kate Gallego, was just elected Mayor of Phoenix in a special election, is expected to enter the Democratic primary. Since Arizona holds a late August primary, a tough Democratic nomination fight would benefit McSally just as her difficult 2018 Republican primary played to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s advantage. Toss-up