Graham Out; Senate Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

April 25, 2016 — Ever since the Florida State Supreme Court decided to re-draw the congressional boundaries halfway through the decade, freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D, FL-2, Tallahassee) has been in the political wilderness. The court declared eight of the state’s districts unconstitutional last July and finished the new map earlier this year, radically changing the original plan as enacted by the legislative and executive branches.

After the preliminary map became public it was evident that Rep. Graham was becoming a political casualty. Wanting to draw a minority 5th District that stretched from Jacksonville to Tallahassee instead of the traditional draw that began in J’ville and then meandered through Gainesville and Sanford on its way to Orlando, the court sacrificed Graham by removing the Democratic base from the 2nd District seat and transferring it to the new District 5.

Rumors were rampant that Graham, the daughter of former governor and US Sen. Bob Graham (D), would enter the open Senate race. As time passed with no movement in that direction, it was apparent she saw her career heading in a different direction. Yesterday, Rep. Graham announced that she will not seek re-election, and broadly hinted that running in the open 2018 governor’s race is within her political future.

The new 2nd District will go Republican this November, but when Gwen Graham returns to elective politics in 2018 she will prove a formidable gubernatorial candidate.

Tuesday’s Senate Preview

A US Senate seat will likely be decided on Tuesday and another positions itself for the fall campaign.

The Maryland Democratic primary will almost assuredly yield a successor to retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), and late polling suggests that contender will be Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Montgomery County).

The race between Van Hollen and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Prince Georges County) has seesawed in the polls throughout the past several months. The latest two pre-primary surveys, however, show a decided move toward Van Hollen.

New Jersey’s Monmouth University, a frequent political pollster, released their latest data (April 18-20; 300 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters) that projects Rep. Van Hollen to a substantial 52-36 percent advantage, way beyond what other Maryland results indicate. One would be tempted to think outlier here, but Public Policy Polling (April 15-17; 492 likely Maryland Democratic primary voters) drew a similar conclusion. Their ballot test gave Van Hollen a 42-33 percent margin. Every other previous study yielded no candidate more than a five-point edge.

The momentum detected in these surveys suggests that Van Hollen will capture the Democratic nomination on Tuesday night.

Late data is also available in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary between former congressman and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Sestak (D-Delaware County) and former gubernatorial chief of staff and Democratic establishment favorite Katie McGinty. The winner faces Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in the general election.

Lancaster’s Franklin & Marshall College (April 11-18; 510 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters), a regular Pennsylvania political pollster, continues to find Sestak leading the race – in this case 33-27 percent — but with a slimmer margin than previously reported.

Prism Surveys (April 14-17; 832 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters via an Interactive Voice Response system), polling for the Accountable Leadership Super PAC that supports Sestak, sees a 38-31 percent spread. Though the former congressman continues to lead, McGinty is gaining and appears to have momentum. This is to be expected with the entire Democratic establishment, including President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, supporting her, but will her forward movement be too little, too late?

Monmouth University (April 17-19; 302 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters) detects a different pattern, finding the two candidates tied at 39 percent. And, McGinty claims her internal data posts her to a 37-34 percent lead, but refuses to release the pollster’s name or their methodology factors, thus calling her comments into question.

McGinty has the momentum and resources advantage, but Sestak is still in a position to hang on. Tuesday’s final result will be interesting.

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