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.


• MI-8: Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly/Lansing) is again one of the top congressional fundraisers in the country raising over $6.1 million for this election cycle. Republicans field four candidates in tomorrow’s primary, but whoever advances into the general election becomes a severe underdog against Rep. Slotkin. This former Republican seat will stay in the Democratic column.


• MI-10: One of the more interesting primary races comes in the safe Republican eastern Michigan 10th District where two-term Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) is retiring. A mid-July poll was released late last week from WPA Intelligence for the Club for Growth that finds state Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) topping self-funding financial company executive Lisa McClain by six percentage points with retired Brigadier Air Force general Doug Slocum trailing significantly. This primary will select the next representative, as the 10th District will remain Republican in the fall.


• MI-11: In a political situation similar to that of 8th District Rep. Elissa Slotkin as described above, freshman Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills/Livonia) is a major fundraiser who also converted a Republican district in the last election. Here, five Republicans are vying for the party nomination, but Ms. Stevens is a heavy favorite in the general election. She has already raised just under $4 million and appears headed for a high 50 points or better re-election victory.


• MI-13: The Detroit-anchored 13th District Democratic primary features a re-match of the 2018 campaign between freshman Rep. Rashida Talib (D-Detroit) and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Both women won the seat in 2018. Ms. Tlaib won the regular term, but Ms. Jones took the special election to fill the unexpired portion of resigned Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) final term. The money count and primary polling suggests that Talaib will easily win re-nomination tomorrow for the safely Democratic seat.


• MI-7: The other potentially competitive general election campaign is found in the 7th District, but both major party contenders are unopposed in their respective primaries. Therefore, we will see the third consecutive contest between Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) and former state Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D). Congressman Walberg won the first two elections by 15 and 8 percentage point margins, respectively, and is favored to win again this year.


MISSOURI

Missouri has no Senate race on the ballot, but Gov. Mike Parson (R) stands for his first election in his own right.


• Governor: Parson assumed the governorship when elected Gov. Eric Greitens (R) resigned under scandal. Gov. Parson faces three Republican opponents tomorrow but is expected to easily win the nomination. The Democrats will nominate State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Some polls have shown the general election contest to be within a few percentage points, but the voting history here strongly favors a Parson victory in November.


• MO-1: Rep. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) defeated challenger Cori Bush, 57-37 percent, in the 2018 Democratic primary and the two square-off again tomorrow. This time, however, Bush is getting outside support from the Justice Democrats PAC, at least loosely affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Largely with national help, Bush’s fundraising has grown to almost $570,000 for this campaign, not counting the independent support coming into the district, up from just $177,038 in 2018. Rep. Clay has been running negative ads against Ms. Bush suggesting his internal polling shows her as a threat. This is a race worth watching tomorrow night. The St. Louis-anchored 1st District is safely Democratic, so whoever wins the party primary easily takes the seat in November.

• MO-2: In 2018, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin/St. Louis County) was re-elected with only a 51-47 percent margin, meaning the Democrats are making this a top targeted race in 2020. There isn’t a primary race tomorrow here because Rep. Wagner and state Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) are both unopposed in their respective primaries.

This will be a race to watch in the general election, however. Both candidates have been very active on the money trail. Rep. Wagner, one of the stronger fundraisers in the Republican conference, raised $3.3 million while Sen. Schupp pulled in $2.06 million through the July 15 pre-primary financial disclosure period.


WASHINGTON

Washington is one of three states that employs a top-two jungle primary system to determine its general election participants. Therefore, all candidates will be on the same ballot tomorrow, so this primary is an actual general election precursor.


• Governor: Incumbent governor and former presidential candidate Jay Inslee (D) is seeking a third term and appears to have a clear victory path ahead of him. Polling shows the governor exceeding 50 percent in the jungle primary format, but such a number will not elect him outright under Washington election law.

The top two finishers, regardless of percentage attained will advance into the general election. There are 35 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on the gubernatorial ballot, so it is unclear who will emerge as the second general election qualifier. Regardless of his opponent, Gov. Inslee is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.


• House: All nine incumbents seeking re-election are expected to place first in their respective jungle primaries. The most competitive challenger race could come in the 3rd District where five-term incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground/ Vancouver) will again face college professor Carolyn Long (D). The two fought to a 53-47 percent result in 2018.

With 10th District Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia) running for lieutenant overnor, this likely Democratic seat is open and up for grabs. The top finisher tomorrow night will almost assuredly be a Democrat and will assume the front-runner position heading into the general election. A total of 20 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are on the ballot with state Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), former Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland, and ex-state representative Kristine Reeves (D) being among the leading candidates. These three are the top fundraisers, each bringing in between $579,000 and $617,000.

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