Category Archives: Senate

Hickenlooper: Heading Out and In?

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – running for Senate after all? (Photo Moritz Hager)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 6, 2019 — Some politicos are saying that former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is poised to end his failed presidential campaign and return home to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). The speculation is largely coming because new Hickenlooper for Senate campaign domain names were just registered in the past few days. That, and in an interview Sunday on satellite radio, Hickenlooper said he would “be a fool” to continue running for president if he couldn’t see improvement in the polls.

Democratic leaders had long attempted to recruit Hickenlooper into the Senate race, but he steadfastly refused to be swayed from becoming a presidential candidate. He went further than rejecting the idea of running statewide in 2020 when he even expressed some disdain for the Senate as a political body. Hickenlooper seemingly ruled out serving in the Senate saying in February that, “I’m not cut out to be a senator,” and that, “Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups…”

In his absence, no less than 14 Colorado Democrats have come forward to seek the party nomination to oppose Sen. Gardner, who began the 2020 cycle as arguably the most vulnerable Republican incumbent because his state is moving decidedly leftward. Ten months later, however, Sen. Gardner’s re-election chances appear stronger.

Of the 14 active candidates, six have electoral experience and seven have served in either elective, appointed, or political party positions. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold leads the group, and former state House Speaker and statewide candidate Andrew Romanoff, ex-state House Majority Leader Alice Madden, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, state Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver), ex-US Ambassador Dan Baer, and former Boulder County Democratic chair Ellen Burnes follow.

It is unclear just how many from this group, if any, would step aside for Hickenlooper, who is certainly a weakened political figure considering his national performance and given that he previously has said he doesn’t want the federal office. Therefore, it is conceivable that he will have to face what could be a difficult Democratic primary, and then Sen. Gardner, who is widely regarded as the best campaigner in the Republican candidate stable. According to the latest Federal Election Commission disclosure report, Sen. Gardner’s campaign account possessed just under $5 million at the June 30 deadline.

Though money will be no object for either Sen. Gardner or the eventual Democratic nominee, Colorado voting history is a major factor. The state has been trending much more Democratic since the turn of the century, and President Trump only recorded 43 percent of the vote in his loss here to Hillary Clinton. Prior to that, the last Republican to carry Colorado was George W. Bush in 2004.

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Q2: The Money Count – Senate

By Jim Ellis

July 22, 2019 — The second quarter campaign financials are now public, and already candidates in both parties have raised millions of dollars in preparation for hard-hitting 2020 US Senate campaigns. And, the two most prolific fundraising candidates from April through June are actually running against each other.

Arizona Senate candidate and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) | Sen. Martha McSally (R)

Topping the campaign receipts category with $4.21 million raised for the quarter is retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is an Arizona Senate candidate. Close behind, with $3.34 million obtained during the same three-month period, is Kelly’s general election opponent, appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Obviously, with each candidate already holding between $4.3 million (McSally) and $5.9 million (Kelly) in their political committee accounts, this Arizona campaign will almost assuredly set a statewide campaign spending record in 2020.

Of the 30 Senate incumbents presumed to be actively seeking re-election next year, 21 raised over $1 million in the quarter, and four obtained more than $2 million. Two others topped $3 million in receipts. In addition to Sen. McSally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) raised just over the $3 million mark.

Another senator, Cory Booker (D-NJ), reports raising no money during the quarter for his Senate campaign because he is running for president.

Overall, the Republican candidates’ aggregate figure was higher than the Democrats in the second quarter ($33.3 to $29.8 million) and for the entire cycle through June 30 ($105.7 to $79.2 million). This is likely because the Republicans have more incumbents on the ballot in the current cycle, 19 to 11, in addition to defending three of the four open seats.

The cash-on-hand category is, of course, highly important. Here, three Republicans lead the category. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who faces the largest electorate in any 2020 Senate campaign, leads the cash category with just over $9 million in the bank. In no surprise, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has the second most, with $7.9 million. Third is South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham with $6.5 million.

The Democrat holding the highest number of dollars is again challenger Mark Kelly in Arizona. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who surprisingly had a close call in 2014, is the Democratic incumbent holding the most cash: $5.4 million.

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Kobach Announces in Controversy

By Jim Ellis

Former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach

July 10, 2019 — In most runs for public office, the day a candidate announces is one of the best campaign days. For former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, his declaration that he would run for Sen. Pat Roberts (R) open seat looks to have turned out differently.

Kobach’s Senate announcement on Monday, though speculated upon for several weeks, was met with a considerable amount of negativity from members of his own party including a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Through a reported tweet from an interview with the Kansas City Star newspaper she said, “just last year [ex-Sec of State] Kris Kobach ran [as GOP nominee for governor] and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and [the GOP] Senate majority at risk.”

Kobach, the sitting secretary of state at the time, defeated Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary by just 343 votes of over 317,000 ballots cast. Colyer was the state’s lieutenant governor who ascended to the governorship when two-term incumbent Sam Brownback resigned to accept a federal appointment. Post-nomination, the Kobach general election campaign was routinely rated as poor, from a lack of fundraising to deficient campaign strategy and implementation that caused him to lose 48-43 percent to then-state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) who attracted a significant amount of Republican support.

Prior to his running for governor, Kobach was tabbed by President Trump to be vice-chairman and lead administrator for the President’s Advisory Committee on Election Integrity under Vice President Mike Pence. But Kobach’s leadership of this organization was also called into question. Asking for voter information from states that even Republican chief election officials routinely refused to turn over, the panel was dissolved after only seven months of existence with no tangible accomplishment.

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Intra-Party Primary Challenges On Both Sides Emerge This Week

By Jim Ellis

July 3, 2019 — If you thought the 2020 cycle might feature a smaller number of primary challenge campaigns than we’ve seen in recent election years, then Monday might have changed your opinion. No less than six combined intra-party incumbent opposition campaigns were announced, or at least publicly contemplated.

After seeing the results of some key primaries in the past couple of election cycles, such as the now famous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018 victory over veteran Rep. Joe Crowley in New York, it’s hard to discount any early intra-party candidate at face value. But, it appears, at least today, that all of the potentially challenged incumbents begin their re-nomination campaigns as clear favorites.

In South Dakota, state Rep. Scyller Borglum (R-Rapid City), an engineer and theologian who was just elected to the legislature in November, announced that she will oppose first-term senator and former governor Mike Rounds in next year’s Republican primary. This challenge is particularly curious since no Democrat has yet even come forward to battle Sen. Rounds. The odds of Borglum finding a way to deny her opponent re-nomination look particularly long, but the contest should be watched for indicative early happenings.

Rep. Danny Davis (D) has represented the downtown Chicago and Oak Park areas in Congress since the beginning of 1997. Before that, he served on the Chicago City Council or Cook County Commission for another 18 years. But his long service has not made him immune from enduring a primary challenge. Attorney Kristine Schanbacher announced her opposition to Davis in the March Democratic primary. The congressman is a prohibitive favorite to again win re-nomination. Two other minor Democratic candidates had declared earlier.

Indiana’s 3rd District will feature a “family affair.” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne) largely won the safe Republican seat in the 2016 GOP primary against former Wisconsin state senator Pam Galloway and four others when he captured over one-third of the vote in a plurality victory scenario.

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He’s Baaaaaack!

By Jim Ellis

                      Judge Roy Moore

June 24, 2019 — As expected and despite urgings from President Trump not to do so, former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his Senate 2020 candidacy late last week.

We will remember Judge Moore’s ill-fated 2017 special Senate election effort that resulted in Democrat Doug Jones becoming the first member of his party to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was last re-elected in 1990.

Even before the announcement, Moore and Sen. Richard Shelby (R) were again trading barbs. Judge Moore argued that Shelby’s involvement, which culminated in the senior senator saying he was placing “country before party,” led to Jones’ victory, while Shelby retorted that he still thinks “Alabama can do better,” in a reference about electing Judge Moore.

Arguably, Alabama is the most important Senate race on the 2020 election board. If the Republicans take back the seat, which is a must if they want to cement their hold on the majority, the Senate party division would increase to 54 Republicans. Looking at the remaining seats in play for the current election cycle it becomes increasingly difficult for the Democrats to reach majority status if they lose this race.

In 2017, Judge Moore, after defeating appointed incumbent Luther Strange 55-45 percent in a run-off election after placing first with 39 percent in the original special primary, was found to have attempted to date, or did date, between two and nine underage girls when he was a deputy district attorney in Etowah County some 40 years ago. The controversy likely cost Moore the election, a battle that he lost to Jones 50.0 to 48.3 percent.

The 2020 regular primary appears to feature a more difficult field of opponents for Moore than did the special election. Appointed Sen. Strange waded into his own batch of quicksand when allegations surfaced that he allegedly cut a deal with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) when the former man was Alabama’s attorney general and the state chief executive was being scrutinized for spending and utilizing state resources for his personal use.

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