Category Archives: Primary

Wacky Wins in a Senate Primary; Incumbents Watkins & Clay Lose

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2020 — We review last night’s primary action in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Washington:


KANSAS

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend)

The 2020 election cycle’s wackiest Senate primary ended last night with a big victory for Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) as he defeated former secretary of state and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Kansas City Plumbing Company owner and self-funder Bob Hamilton in the statewide Republican primary.

The Marshall victory margin is 40-26-19 percent over the two men, while former Kansas City Chiefs football player and state Turnpike Commission chairman Dave Lindstrom captured 6.7 percent of the vote, best among the also-ran candidates.

The race featured both parties making seven-figure media buys. The national Republican leadership, however, came in to run negative spots against Kobach, a risky strategy in case he would become their nominee. It was clear that Republican survey research provided virtually the same results that Democrats were seeing, namely Kobach winning his primary would give the Democrats the inside track toward snatching away what should be a safe Republican seat.

The other unusual Kansas Senate facet was seeing Democratic organizations come into the state to actively boost Kobach in the GOP primary. He lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and the party leaders believed Kobach would be the weakest general election candidate to oppose their party’s consensus nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills). Now, she must run against the Republicans’ presumed strongest candidate, Rep. Marshall.

Interestingly, the most recent publicly released poll, which dated back to the beginning of June from the Civiqs organization surveying for the Daily Kos Elections website, found Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier falling into a virtual tie. It is likely, however, as the new Republican nominee, that Marshall will become a clear favorite to win in November.
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Primary Preview – Part II

Bob Hamilton, self-funding and running clever ads, such as the one above, could be the spoiler in today’s Kansas Democratic senate primary race.


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2020 — We wrap up our two-part report about today’s August 4th primary with coverage of the Arizona and Kansas nominating elections.


ARIZONA

The US Senate race is on the ballot, though the nominations in both parties are virtually set and have been for months. There is action in three of the state’s nine congressional districts, however.

Senate: Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) will easily win nomination tonight. She faces only skincare company CEO Daniel McCarthy, who has raised just over a half-million dollars for his effort. Sen. McSally has attracted over $30 million and brandishes more than $11 million in the bank. That is the good news for her; the bad is her consensus Democratic opponent, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, has brought in an incredible $46 million and had over $21 million remaining in his campaign account at the end of June.

This is a top-tier challenge race, and a Democratic must-win, but not much will be settled tonight.

According to the Phoenix-based Data Orbital polling firm, over 2.6 million absentee ballots have been requested for the primary, and 1.06 million have been returned for a participation rate of 45.6 percent. Therefore, the state already has a primary voter turnout rate of 26.7 percent. Democrats have a 9,900-unit advantage in returned ballots to date.
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Primary Preview – Part I

Negative ad in the MO-1 race by Rep. Lacy Clay (D)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2020 — Voters in five states go to the polls tomorrow, and we preview Michigan, Missouri, and Washington today. Tomorrow’s report will cover Arizona and Kansas.


MICHIGAN

The US Senate race is on the ballot, though the nominations in both parties are already set. We do, however, see action tomorrow in six of the state’s 14 congressional districts.

• Senate: Neither first-term Sen. Gary Peters (D) nor Republican John James faces primary opposition. Both officially will advance into what will be a competitive general election. Pre-COVID, this race was tight in polling, but Sen. Peters has built a clear advantage since. This race is a must-win for Democrats. Should James break through in this contest the Republican majority will likely continue.


• MI-3: This western Michigan seat anchored in Grand Rapids is open because Republican-turned-Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash is not seeking re-election. The GOP needs to convert the 3rd District back into their column and features a five-person primary that looks to have whittled down into a battle between real estate analyst and Iraq War veteran Peter Meijer, whose family owns the Meijer grocery store chain that has 253 locations throughout the Midwest, and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids).

The winner faces Democratic attorney Hillary Scholten, who is unopposed in her party primary. The district leans Republican, but this race is ascending the Democratic national target list.


• MI-6: A bogus poll was released in late July that found teacher Jen Richardson leading Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) by 20 points, but it is unlikely that she even comes close to winning tomorrow’s Democratic primary. State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) is the favorite for the party nomination, and this race will become competitive in the general election. The 6th CD is a Republican district that is moving toward the political center. Rep. Upton, originally elected in 1986, is on the ballot seeking an 18th term.


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Rep. Omar’s Interesting — And Challenging — Open Minnesota Primary Approaching on Aug. 11

“… We can translate our calls for justice into legislation …” — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) in a recent campaign ad.

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2020 — In the congressional district where the George Floyd killing that ignited massive demonstrations around the country occurred, Minnesota’s controversial 5th District Congresswoman Ilhan Omar faces a serious Democratic primary challenger in the state’s Aug. 11 primary.

MN-5 Democratic challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar, Antone Melton-Meaux

There has been political talk and news coverage that Rep. Omar, who has become a national political figure and one of the symbols of the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch, could be threatened in this primary election; there are some outward signs that attorney Antone Melton-Meaux has a chance to deny her re-nomination. On the other hand, the only available published poll finds the congresswoman well ahead suggesting there is little chance she would be defeated.

Melton-Meaux has attracted funding from around the country and raised a huge amount — $3.7 million. Since the district is geographically small and covers the city of Minneapolis with population slivers from two adjoining counties, Ramsey and Anoka, the local media market is very efficient for this contest, and he has been using it extensively. Since Minnesota has an open primary – a state that doesn’t register voters by political party meaning people can vote in the primary of their choice – there are few ad viewers who can’t vote in this primary. Therefore, such a system adds a type of wild-card flavor to the campaign.

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Committee Continuity – Part II

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2020 — Completing our two-part series on changes we may see on some key House and Senate committee panels, today we look at the financial, commerce, and legal committees.


SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE & TRANSPORTATION

Republicans – Just three of the 14 majority Republicans are on the ballot this year, and two are in competitive races. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is in one of the most difficult campaigns in the country, while Alaska first-term incumbent Dan Sullivan (R) is a clear favorite to win in November despite early polling showing a potentially close race. There are no open seats among the Republican committee members.

Democrats – The Democrats have 12 members, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell would replace chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) if her party assumes control in November.

The Dems also have just three of their Commerce Committee members in-cycle, and two are in competitive campaigns. First-term Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) faces a difficult challenge from manufacturing company owner John James (R). Sen. Peters appears secure in polling now, but the race is likely to close. The contest was in toss-up mode before the COVID shutdown. The other competitive race is a Democratic primary, as Sen. Ed Markey faces a difficult toss-up challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).


HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE

Democrats – This is one of the most important committees in the House, and majority Democrats hold a 31-24 advantage. The Dems are looking at four vacancies as Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA-4) are running for the Senate, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is retiring, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) was defeated in the June 23 New York primary. Just one majority member, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), could face a competitive opponent. The Arizona primary is Aug. 4, and we will know more once we see who wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans – Six Republicans will leave the House at the end of this term, including Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR-2). Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT-AL) is running for governor, while Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-15), Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Bill Flores (R-TX-17), and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) are retiring. Michigan Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI-6) and Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) have credible opponents, and Shimkus, particularly, is embroiled in a tough race. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) also has drawn an opponent of stature, but he remains a heavy favorite for re-election.
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Longshot Candidate Close
In Open Tennessee Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 23, 2020 — The open Tennessee Senate race has not gotten much national attention, but we now seem to have a close race brewing in the final days leading up to the state’s Aug. 6 primary. The Volunteer State is the only one to host a Thursday primary.

Dr. Manny Sethi, original long-shot candidate and noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender in the Tennessee Senate Republican Primary race.

Once most of the state’s well-known politicos took their names out of consideration after three-term incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) announced his retirement at the end of 2018, former US ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty looked to be the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination. These days in Tennessee, becoming the GOP standard bearer is virtually tantamount to winning a general election.

As the candidates make a dash for the political finish line, original long-shot candidate Manny Sethi, a noted Nashville orthopedic surgeon, has become a viable contender. Three separate polls released last week all found the two candidates within two to four points of each other, with Hagerty, armed with President Trump’s endorsement, clinging to a dwindling lead.

Late Tuesday, JMC Analytics & Polling released their new independent Tennessee survey (July 18-19; 600 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), which projects Hagerty to be holding a 36-32 percent edge over Dr. Sethi. Last week, both the Trafalgar Group (July 6-8; 1,062 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters) and Victory Phones, the latter for the Sethi campaign (June 30-July 1; 800 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters), released survey results.

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Kansas Rep. Watkins’ Legal Woes

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2020 — On Tuesday night, within an hour of him stepping onto a congressional debate stage in Kansas, freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) was indicted in state court. He is charged with interference with law enforcement, providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and failing to notify the DMV of change of address according to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office as reported in The Hill newspaper.

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

Immediately Rep. Watkins claimed the timing of the indictments was politically motivated, though Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay naturally denied that was the case. Still, being charged three weeks before the primary election on what should be considered a minor activity that is treated as a felony, i.e., where a person declares his residence and whether he voted in a different city council district race that didn’t comply with his stated residence, arguably opens the DA’s actions to legitimate criticism.

The base controversy surrounds Watkins registering to vote at a UPS postal center in 2018. The congressman claims he made a mistake on the voter registration form by listing his mailing address rather than his street address. In a 2019 Topeka municipal election, Watkins apparently voted in the district race that housed the UPS store location he used as his mailing address, which is different from that of his stated residence; hence, the vote fraud charge.

Questions surrounding Watkins’ residence have been raised since he returned to Kansas to run for the open 2nd District seat. He re-located to Topeka after spending time in the military and living for most of the past few years in Alaska where he participates in the annual Iditarod races.

Attacking the residence issue, Rep. Watkins’ principal Republican primary opponent, Kansas state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, was already running an ad about the congressman registering to vote at the UPS store and owning two homes in Alaska “but none in Topeka” before the indictments came down, and now such residency issues will likely be at the forefront of the remaining three weeks in the primary cycle.

The Watkins controversy, however, does not end with the freshman congressman. His father, Dr. Steve Watkins Sr., a local Topeka physician, is reportedly under a Federal Election Commission investigation for allegedly making contributions in the name of another that combined exceeded his maximum individual limits. According to a Politico news story, Dr. Watkins confirms he is under investigation for giving money to his family members and associates in order for them to contribute to the congressional campaign. This is would be a serious charge that normally carries prison time. To date, no charges have been filed against Dr. Watkins.

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