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.
Jan. 25, 2018 — Earlier this month, we set the stage for the Senate and House campaigns. Today, we look at another important election platform, that of the nation’s governors. Though these races will elect people who will obviously determine future individual state policy, most of the 2018 gubernatorial winners will carry redistricting veto power in 2021. Therefore, these elections also carry national implications.
Of the 36 governors’ campaigns, 17 will be open races mostly due to state term limit laws. While the Democrats must protect the preponderance of US Senate seats this year, the opposite situation exists in the governors’ races. Here, Republicans must defend 26 state houses, 13 of which are open seats.
Of the 13 GOP incumbents seeking re-election, three are actually running for governor for the first time. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) were all lieutenant governors who ascended to their current position because the person elected in 2014 is no longer in office.
Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement over campaign finance violations. The other two state chief executives, Terry Branstad (IA) and Nikki Haley (SC), accepted positions in the Trump Administration. At this point in the election cycle, all three unelected governors are favored to win a full term.
Jan. 23, 2018 — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on a vote of 4-3, Monday invalidated the state’s congressional map due to political gerrymandering. The high court further ordered the legislature and governor to create a new map, enact it, and return it to the court all by Feb. 15.
The new lines will be in effect for the 2018 elections, unless the Republican defendants can devise a way to flip the measure into the federal system. Since this lawsuit was filed against the map for violating the Constitution of Pennsylvania rather than the US Constitution, such a move is considered a long shot.
Chances are high that the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will not be able to agree. If that in fact occurs, the state Supreme Court will subsequently appoint a special master to draw the new map.
With a 13R-5D margin in the delegation, Democrats stand to gain a significant number of seats. The fact that three Republican seats will be open (PA-9, Rep. Bill Shuster; PA-11, Rep. Lou Barletta; and, PA-15, Rep. Charlie Dent), the map drawers have plenty of leeway to turn seats Democratic in the regions that these districts now occupy all without even displacing an incumbent.
Jan. 22, 2018 — A new political poll is providing more evidence that Minnesota is very much in play for the coming election. Analysts were surprised in 2016 when President Trump came within one percentage point of topping Hillary Clinton in the state, but that pattern seems to be holding, at least according to this latest data.
The last time Minnesota voted Republican in a presidential race was to re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972, thus making this state the most consistently Democratic domain in terms of presidential election victories. Since the days when Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy represented Minnesota in the Senate, Republicans have only elected four senators during that stretch of 70 years. Their record of electing governors is a bit better, with seven individuals becoming the state chief executive during the same seven-decade time span.
Building upon President Trump’s strong showing and two Democratic House members, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), winning re-election with 50.3 and 50.2 percent, respectively, the new Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll (released Jan. 17; 800 registered Minnesota voters) suggests that we could again see similarly close results later this year.
While five different pollsters have released national generic vote congressional data since the first of the year giving Democrats an advantage from five to 17 points, the Star Tribune is producing much different numbers for the Minnesota electorate. (Quinnipiac University appears to be the outlier here with polls showing Dem advantages of 11 and 17 points, the only pollster to see a double-digit margin; they were thought to be the outlier in the Virginia governor’s race, too, but ended up being closest to the final result.)
Jan. 19, 2018 — Considering the large number of House retirements that came swiftly late last year and just as 2018 began, it is a good time to review the 49 seats that will have no incumbent running in the next election.
Three of the current vacancies are in special elections that do not run concurrently with the regular election calendar, and will operate under the following schedules:
• AZ-8: (Rep. Trent Franks-R) – Primary: February 27 | General: April 24 • PA-18: (Rep. Tim Murphy-R) – One election: March 13 • OH-12: (Rep. Pat Tiberi-R) – Primary: May 8 (concurrent with state primary) | General: August 7
Republicans are expected to hold all three seats.
While the GOP is risking 34 of the 49 open seats, most should easily remain in the Republican column. Eighteen of the 34 are considered safely Republican, while another six reside in the “Likely Republican” category. An additional five are in the “lean Republican” category The remaining five are clear political battlegrounds and are “Toss Ups,” several of which are ripe for Democratic conversion.
But seeing that only five of 34 open Republican seats rest in the highly competitive category, it will not be enough for Democrats to create the wave election that they are already expecting. Therefore, they will have to build serious and expensive campaigns in the five “Lean R” seats, and further expand their resources into the Likely Republican category in order to score long-shot upsets.