Sept. 14, 2016 — Yesterday marked the end of the congressional primary season as voters in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island went to the polls to choose the 2016 cycle’s final House and Senate nominees.
At-large Rep. John Carney (D-Wilmington) is leaving the House to pursue the open governor’s position and little doubt remains about the outcome in the state house race. Rep. Carney was unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and will replace term-limited Gov. Jack Markell (D) as the party standard bearer. For the GOP, Republican state senator and former state treasurer nominee Colin Bonini easily out-polled his lone opponent, minor candidate Lacey Lafferty, a retired police officer. Rep. Carney will be a heavy favorite to win the governorship in the general election.
The more interesting contest was the battle to succeed Rep. Carney as the Democratic congressional nominee. A six-candidate race culminated in victory for one contender. Former state Labor Secretary Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) was widely considered the favorite and that showed when she won by 19 points over the closest challenger.
By Jim Ellis
Aug. 11, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan recorded an 84-16 percent landslide victory against Republican primary opponent Paul Nehlen Tuesday night in southern Wisconsin. Nehlen was on his way to approaching the $1 million mark in campaign expenditures, but it did little to help expose any weakness in the Ryan political base.
Ryan followed the lead of his predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8), when faced with a similar primary circumstance in 2014. Boehner re-invented himself as the local congressman for that particular race, returning to his roots in western Ohio and never mentioning his GOP opponent in ads or speeches. In fact, never did Ryan even indicate that he was the House Speaker, instead confining his personal description to that of local congressman.
Nehlen attacked heavily on immigration and trade, but it was Ryan’s years of work in the district and never losing touch with his political base and core constituency that allowed him to record such a big primary victory. In fact, the current Speaker actually ran 13 points ahead of the former Speaker’s final primary performance against a more difficult political opponent.
Aug. 10, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) won re-nomination easily in his Wisconsin district by a margin of 84-16 percent. Businessman Paul Nehlen (R), a first-time candidate who made immigration and trade policies the centerpiece of his campaign, opposed him.
Nehlen had attracted a great deal of local and national attention, particularly when regularly holding events in front of Ryan’s Janesville home. The congressman countered with running positive television ads, using his extreme financial advantage to his benefit, never advertising that he is the Speaker of the House, and relying upon a strong connection with his district Republican voters who have nine times nominated and elected him to the House.
Ryan raised almost $15 million and spent $8 million through July 20, but determining actual re-election expenditures versus national political commitments and expenses is difficult at this point. By contrast, Nehlen had raised and spent close to $900,000 through the same date, a very respectable amount for a challenger to a top House leader.
Turning to northeastern Wisconsin, Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-Sherwood/Green Bay) open 8th District voters also chose nominees. Democrats have coalesced around Outagamie (Appleton) County Executive Tom Nelson, who is unopposed in the party primary. Already raising just over $600,000, Nelson will be a competitive general election factor in a district that has five times elected a Democrat since 1974.
Aug. 4, 2016 — Voters in four states went to the polls Tuesday, and the primary evening’s top news featured western Kansas Republicans unseating their three-term Freedom Caucus congressman.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler) fell to Dr. Roger Marshall (R), 56-44 percent, effectively ending his six-year tenure in the House. Huelskamp was at odds with the Republican leadership from the very beginning of his congressional career, even driving them to remove him from the Agriculture Committee, the industry of premier dominance in his district. The situation deteriorated to the point that even the Kansas Farm Bureau and the state Livestock Association officially backed Dr. Marshall.
Though national issues drove Huelskamp, it was the local agriculture situation that cost him the seat. The successful opposition campaign centered around Huelskamp’s ouster from the Agriculture Committee in one of the nation’s richest farm producing districts, and the incumbent’s refusal to support the farm bill in several Congresses. Dr. Marshall will easily win the seat in the general election.
Aug. 2, 2016 — Today, voters in four states go the polls to choose nominees for their federal and state races. Intra-party contests in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will be decided. The Tennessee primary will follow on Thursday.
The day’s most competitive primary challenge is underway in the 1st District, where one of the conservative Freedom Caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler/Western Kansas), faces one lone, serious challenger, Dr. Roger Marshall (R). Sen. Jerry Moran (R) and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) face only minor opposition in their respective campaigns.
The 1st District stretches from the Colorado border east through three-quarters of Kansas’ land mass. Including cities such as Manhattan, Hutchinson, Salina, Dodge City, Garden City, and Liberal, KS-1 is a conservative, agriculture-dominated CD. Rep. Huelskamp, who won a crowded open seat nomination fight in 2010, also received a primary challenge in 2014 and prevailed 56-44% over Alan LaPolice who only managed to spend just over $160,000.