Category Archives: Senate

Iowa Senate: Finkenauer Disqualified

By Jim Ellis

Former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D)

April 13, 2022 — An Iowa district judge rejected former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s (D) signature petitions late Sunday night, thus disqualifying her from the Democratic primary ballot. It appeared that she was the party’s early front runner to challenge Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) in the general election.

Under Iowa law, a statewide candidate must submit 3,500 valid registered voter signatures to obtain ballot position. A side requirement is that at least 100 signatures must come from a minimum of 19 individual counties, and it is here where Finkenauer came up short. While filing more than 5,000 signatures statewide, the qualification came down to two of her 19 counties where all but the bare minimum number were rejected outright.

The State Objection Panel, comprised of two Democratic statewide officials and one Republican, had approved the petitions, but Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie said the body was wrong for ignoring the full legal requirements. Three signatures from the two counties in question lacked the date of signature, which is a clear requirement under the Iowa procedure. Republicans then filed their legal challenge arguing that the Objection Panel did not fully adhere to the law.

Judge Beattie agreed, and wrote that though the “court takes no joy in this conclusion,” he had no choice but to enforce the letter of the law.

Finkenauer immediately claimed the judicial ruling was partisan in nature because Judge Beattie is a Republican. She said his decision is a “massive gift to Washington Republicans,” according to the Des Moines Register newspaper.

She then launched an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Secretary of State, however, has said he has to see a ruling overturning the decision, if such is to be rendered, before April 15 in order to satisfy the national MOVE Act requirements, which mandates notice of an election at least 45 days prior for overseas and military voters. The Iowa primary is June 7. Therefore, if the Court proceeds with their review, it will have to act within the next couple of days.

It is not yet known what amount Finkenauer raised during the year’s 1st quarter, but she had already obtained more than $1.9 million in contributions prior to 2021 ending. Of that, she reported more than $723,000 in the bank at the Dec. 31 reporting deadline.

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AZ, NJ, NY, TN Complete Filings

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2022 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona, New Jersey, and New York for major party candidates, and for all candidates in Tennessee. The first three states noted each have later deadlines for minor party, independents, and write-in candidates.

Arizona

In Arizona, the Senate and governor races highlight the state’s political battles this year, and there were no surprise entries in either contest.

The Senate race features incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who is running for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. He has no primary opposition. Republicans feature five candidates, but the battle is revolving around three of them for the party nomination — Attorney General Tim Brnovich, venture capitalist Blake Masters, and former solar energy company CEO Jim Lamon.

The open governor’s contest finds six Republicans and three Democrats vying to become their respective party standard bearers. Former news anchor Kari Lake, who former President Donald Trump endorses, and ex-congressman and 2000 gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon appear to be the leading candidates. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs opens with a large polling lead over former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and ex-Nogales mayor, Marco Lopez. This race will likely evolve into a toss-up general election battle.

Four key congressional general election races and a Republican primary are on tap in Arizona. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) inherits a tougher new district, now numbered 1, that rates a R+7 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. His current 6th District is R+13. Physician Hiral Tipirneni (D), who held Rep. Schweikert to a 52-48 percent victory in 2020, is not returning for a re-match. Former Phoenix Suns executive Adam Metzendorf appears to be the strongest of the three filed Democrats. Rep. Schweikert drew two minor GOP primary opponents.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) has an R+6 rated 1st District under the current map, but the new 2nd District, despite having almost two-thirds of his current territory, increases to R+15, making him possibly the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination, the leader of whom appears to be state representative and decorated Army veteran Walt Blackman.

Democratic representative and former Phoenix mayor, Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix), is also looking at a post-redistricting competitive general election. Seeing his Phoenix metro district move from D+15 to D+1 suggests that a Republican challenger will be a serious contender in November. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination including two sports figures. Jerone Davison is a pastor and former member of the then-Oakland Raiders NFL franchise after playing football for Arizona State University. Tanya Wheeless is an attorney and former senior vice president for the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise.

The open Tucson-anchored 6th District is another commission-drawn CD designed to be competitive for the decade. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) had she decided to seek re-election, would have run here. This is a must-win seat for Republicans if they are to capture a House majority. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already endorsed former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce official Juan Ciscomani among a field of five GOP candidates. Democrats feature a battle between state Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Sunnyside) and former state senator Kirsten Engel.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) draws no opposition in her 8th District. In the new 9th CD, controversial Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) sees his home placed outside the new 9th, but faces only a Republican primary battle in a CD that contains 70 percent of his current constituency.

New Jersey

There is no 2022 New Jersey Senate race, and the governor’s contest was decided last year. Therefore, the US House races lead the top of the ticket. Redistricting saw the Democratic commission members strengthen the politically marginal districts of Reps. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff), and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), but doing so made Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D-Rocky Hill) 7th CD more Republican.

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SC Filing Closes; Rep. Rice in Battle

By Jim Ellis

South Carolina’s 7th District contest will be the race to watch on June 14. (Go to Interactive Map on FiveThirtyEight.com)

April 4, 2022 — South Carolina election officials late last week published the 2022 qualified candidates list after filing closed the previous day, and there are several points of note for the June 14 primary election.

While several notable Republican figures were at one point talking about challenging Gov. Henry McMaster in this year’s GOP primary, none did, and he should have an easy re-election campaign not only in the primary, but the general election, too.

McMaster, as the state’s lieutenant governor in 2017, ascended to the governorship to fill the unexpired portion of then-Gov. Nikki Haley’s second term after she resigned to become US Ambassador to the United Nations. This allowed Gov. McMaster to serve the final two years of the Haley term and run for a pair of consecutive stints in his own right. After winning again this past November and serving the next full term, Gov. McMaster will be the longest-serving state chief executive in South Carolina history.

Sen. Tim Scott (R) is poised to win a second full term. He is unopposed in the Republican primary and his strongest general election competition comes from state Rep. Krystle Matthews (D-Ladson). Sen. Scott was originally appointed to the Senate in 2013, serving the four-year balance of Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R) term after the latter’s resignation. Scott was easily elected in his own right in 2016 with a 61-37 percent victory.

In the House races, primary challenges are on tap for Reps. Nancy Mace (R-Charleston), William Timmons (R-Greenville), Jim Clyburn (D-Columbia) and Tom Rice (R-Myrtle Beach). Reps. Joe Wilson (R-Springdale), Jeff Duncan (R-Laurens), and Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill) are unopposed for re-nomination. Rep. Duncan has no opposition in June or November.

Rep. Mace is fighting a challenge from 2018 GOP congressional nominee Katie Arrington, a former state representative who is a Trump appointee and has the former president’s endorsement.

Freshman Rep. Timmons faces three GOP opponents, two of whom have run unsuccessfully in other elections. The congressman will face business consultant Ken Hill (D) in the general election.

Rep. Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, sees two Democratic opponents file against him, but he will have little trouble in winning both the primary and general election.

Rep. Rice, on the other hand, has major competition. One of the 10 House Republicans to vote in favor of impeaching then-President Trump over the Jan. 6 situation, the congressman was originally facing a dozen GOP opponents. At the end of the filing process, six would not follow through with their challenge, but six did become official qualified candidates, including his three main competitors, state Rep. Russell Fry (R-Surfside Beach), former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, and Horry County School Board chairman Ken Richardson.

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House Candidates File in Two Competitive States

By Jim Ellis

Candidate filings have closed in both Nevada and Iowa.

March 23, 2022 — Though both are only four-district congressional states, Iowa and Nevada will both host a large number of highly competitive US House races this year, and now the candidates have filed.

The Senate races in both states are already well defined and will come to a head in the general election. In Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) is on the ballot for an eighth term having been first elected in 1980, and it is clear that he will face former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) in the general election.

In Nevada, first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) defends her seat most likely against former Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), but he must first deflect a credible Republican primary challenge from businessman and disabled Afghan War veteran Sam Brown.

The Hawkeye State House races feature only one safe member, freshman Randy Feenstra (R-Hull/Sioux City). The other three races will again host tight campaigns as they did in 2020, which of course includes Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa) six-vote victory.

In the new 1st District, Miller-Meeks will again campaign in a district not much different than the 2nd District that she carried by the slimmest of margins in the last election. She won’t again face former state Sen. Rita Hart (D), however. Despite coming agonizingly close to victory in 2020, Hart declined to seek a re-match this year. Democrats only filed one candidate, so state Rep. Christina Bohannan (D-Iowa City) and incumbent Miller-Meeks will compete in a venue that is likely to yield another close finish.

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids), who knocked off then-Rep. Finkenauer in what was Iowa’s 1st District, finds herself in a slightly more Republican 2nd District. Like in the new 1st CD, the Democrats filed only one candidate. In this seat, the Democrat nominee will be state Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Hiawatha) a former news anchor at the same television station where Hinson also reported the news. The new 2nd rates as R+6 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization.

In the Des Moines-anchored 3rd CD, Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) has won two plurality victories and looks to face another difficult re-election campaign in a seat that rates R+2. State Sen. Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant) looks to be the strongest Republican of the three GOP contenders and is the favorite to win the nomination. This will become a top national Republican conversion opportunity.

Not previously mentioned as a potential candidate against Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) in a new 1st District that is much more Republican, former 4th District Congressman Cresent Hardy (R) filed at the deadline on Friday to officially enter the race.

Rep. Titus has expressed displeasure at the configuration of her new district that FiveThirtyEight calculates went from a current D+22 rating to a D+4 under the new plan. Dave’s Redistricting App finds the average 1st CD Democratic vote at 52.6 percent and the Republican percentage at 42.3 percent. This is considerably better than the seat where Titus averaged 62.1 percent in the five elections conducted during the previous decade.

As many as four other Republicans may qualify for the primary ballot, but Hardy appears to be the most formidable of the contenders. The new 1st District contest, in a CD that encompasses part of Las Vegas before moving south to include the cities of Henderson and Boulder City, will become competitive in the fall but is still an uphill battle for any Republican nominee.

Frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian (R), who last year was elected to the Douglas County Commission after a long string of electoral defeats, is again running for Congress. This will be his fourth quest for the US House in a third different district, on top of two Senate races. Previously, he lost a pair of campaigns in the 3rd CD and one in the 4th District.

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Missouri Anxiety

By Jim Ellis

Ex-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R)

March 21, 2022 — In 2016, retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens was an upset winner in the Missouri governor’s contest and was quickly looked upon as a rising national Republican political star, but the glow would soon fade. Nineteen months later Gov. Greitens would resign his office in disgrace as a pre-election extra-marital affair came to the forefront followed by associated criminal charges relating to actions toward the woman and alleged campaign finance violations.

Later, the criminal charges were dropped because the prosecuting St. Louis District Attorney’s proven corrupt actions transformed into official prosecutorial misconduct. The embarrassing details that surfaced around the Greitens affair, however, underscored with him having a pregnant wife at home, ruined his previously stellar reputation.

Despite his tarnished personal image, Greitens was not finished with electoral politics, and decided to enter the open US Senate race after Sen. Roy Blunt (R) chose not to seek re-election to a third term. Speculation had been rampant earlier in the cycle that Greitens was even considering launching a primary challenge against the veteran politician if Sen. Blunt had run again. Had such a contest come to fruition, Greitens was viewed as having little to no chance of pulling an upset victory.

When the resigned governor entered the open seat Senate campaign, many Republican leaders began expressing trepidation that if he won the nomination the door would open to the party losing the general election against the eventual Democratic nominee. With virtually any other Republican standard bearer, the Missouri race would be considered safely Republican.

The new Trafalgar Group survey (March 9-13; 1,075 likely Missouri Republican primary voters, live interview, interactive voice response, online and text) gives credence to the previous analysis. Paired individually with two Democrats, Greitens only ties former St. Louis area state Sen. Scott Sifton, 45-45 percent, and holds the smallest of leads, 46-45 percent, over Iraq/Afghan War veteran Lucas Kunce.

In contrast, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) would defeat Sifton, 57-37 percent, and Kunce, 56-39 percent. Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) would also easily top the two Democrats (against Sifton: 54-40 percent; opposite Kunce: 55-40 percent).

However, a previous February Trafalgar poll (Feb. 22-24; 1,026 likely Missouri Republican primary voters) posted Greitens to a 31-23-17 percent Republican primary lead over Schmitt and Rep. Hartzler, respectively.

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