Filings & Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2019 — As we approach the end of this year, two states have already held their 2020 candidate filings and six more will do so in December. This sets the stage for eight statewide primaries in March, four from large states. Mississippi, with a March 10 primary, set its filing deadline for Jan. 10.

In total, and in addition to the presidential campaign, filings during this period in these states have occurred or will occur for six Senate races and 151 US House districts. All five Super Tuesday primary states will host US Senate contests and hold an aggregate of 113 congressional districts.

Alabama and Arkansas have already filed, and the major stories coming from these places as already covered were former US Attorney General and senator, Jeff Sessions, again declaring for his former position and the lone Democrat challenging Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) dropping out of the race just two hours after he had filed. In the pair of states, two House incumbents, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro), are totally unopposed in their 2020 campaigns.

The other states heading for December candidate filing deadlines are Illinois on Dec. 2; California, Dec. 6; Texas, Dec. 9; and Ohio, Dec. 11. North Carolina is currently scheduled for Dec. 20, but it is conceivable that the pending redistricting lawsuits could potentially postpone the state primary and thus the qualifying candidate deadline.

The five Super Tuesday (March 3) primary states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas.

Alabama has the first Senate primary and that will likely determine which two of the six major Republican candidates move into an April 14 run-off election. Currently, polling suggests that former Sen. Sessions and Auburn University retired head football coach Tommy Tuberville would advance to a run-off. Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), and former state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 US Senate special election nominee Roy Moore round out the group of main competitors. The eventual nominee will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the November campaign.

Two open seat congressional races, both in South Alabama, will almost assuredly go to run-offs, though the eventual Republican nominee in the respective districts will be heavily favored to replace Reps. Byrne and Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), who is retiring.

The March 3 primary is relatively inconsequential in Arkansas since it appears the general election is relatively set. Since the Democrats have no candidate in the Senate race, the party structure will meet to nominate a consensus candidate for a ballot slot in the general election.

California has no Senate race in 2020, but 53 House races are in top-two primary formats. This means that members of the same party are eligible to advance into the general election. The Golden State has three open seats, the 25th District where the resignation of Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale) forces a special election. Former Rep. Steve Knight (R), who lost to Hill in November, will return for the special election. He will likely face freshman state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) who is fast becoming a consensus Democratic candidate.

The other two open seats featuring multiple candidates currently belong to Reps. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) and Susan Davis (D-San Diego). Republicans are favored in the Cook seat; Democrats to hold Davis’ district.

It is likely that freshmen Orange County Democrats Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda), Katie Porter (D-Irvine), and Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) will draw Republican general election opponents on March 3. In the 21st District covering parts of Fresno and Bakersfield, freshman Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) is likely to see a re-match with former Rep. David Valadao (R).

Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) will face strong pressure in the March 3 primary from multiple candidates, and in the general election should he advance. Veteran Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) could find himself opposing another Democrat in the general election. If so, his opponent will likely be Fresno City Councilwoman Esmerelda Soria.

Texas voters also go to the polls on Super Tuesday. The state has six open seats and several challenger races that could develop. There could be primary or general election action in as many as 13 congressional seats. Democrats will also begin the process of selecting a nominee to oppose Sen. John Cornyn (R). With 11 candidates on the ballot and four with a chance to win the nomination, the Democrats going to a run-off is a near certainty.

North Carolinians will also hold a primary on March 3 unless the courts move the date because of new legal challenges to yet another court-mandated congressional map. Republicans will likely re-nominate Sen. Thom Tillis who businessman Garland Tucker is challenging. Democrats have coalesced around former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. If the new congressional map holds, we can expect Democrats to gain two seats within the delegation at the political expense of Republicans George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro).

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