Primary Preview – Part II

Bob Hamilton, self-funding and running clever ads, such as the one above, could be the spoiler in today’s Kansas Democratic senate primary race.

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2020 — We wrap up our two-part report about today’s August 4th primary with coverage of the Arizona and Kansas nominating elections.


The US Senate race is on the ballot, though the nominations in both parties are virtually set and have been for months. There is action in three of the state’s nine congressional districts, however.

Senate: Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) will easily win nomination tonight. She faces only skincare company CEO Daniel McCarthy, who has raised just over a half-million dollars for his effort. Sen. McSally has attracted over $30 million and brandishes more than $11 million in the bank. That is the good news for her; the bad is her consensus Democratic opponent, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, has brought in an incredible $46 million and had over $21 million remaining in his campaign account at the end of June.

This is a top-tier challenge race, and a Democratic must-win, but not much will be settled tonight.

According to the Phoenix-based Data Orbital polling firm, over 2.6 million absentee ballots have been requested for the primary, and 1.06 million have been returned for a participation rate of 45.6 percent. Therefore, the state already has a primary voter turnout rate of 26.7 percent. Democrats have a 9,900-unit advantage in returned ballots to date.

So far, non-affiliated voters who can choose the primary in which to participate are leaning toward the Democrats with just under 54 percent of the almost 118,000 early voting Independents choosing their primary. Early voting turnout looks to be approximately 27 percent greater than in 2018, and in the neighborhood of 56 percent higher than 2016.

• AZ-1: Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) seeks a third term from one of 30 Democratic congressional districts that President Trump carried in 2016. The congressman has Democratic opposition tonight in the person of former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova, but he is expected to easily prevail.

The Republican primary is between two attorneys, Tiffany Shedd who ran in 2018, and Nolan Reidhead. Shedd is favored tonight, but O’Halleran will become a heavy favorite for November even though this expansive eastern Arizona region still comprises a very competitive congressional district.

• AZ-2: Former US representative and 2016 US Senate candidate Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) returned to Congress in 2018 after re-locating to Tucson and entered the open-seat primary. She announced a leave of absence earlier in the year to fight alcoholism, but her personal situation is not expected to affect the general election outcome. Republicans are fielding three candidates, none of whom have raised enough money to wage a competent general election. This district leans Democratic and Rep. Kirkpatrick is a heavy favorite for re-election.

• AZ-6: Though the two major party nominations are not in doubt for tonight, this formerly safe Republican seat will be competitive in the fall. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) has been found in violation of 11 House ethics charges, which will obviously weaken him in the general election. His Democratic opponent will be Dr. Hiral Tipirneni who ran in both the 8th District 2018 special and general elections, losing both times to Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria). In this cycle, Dr. Tipirneni’s $2.49 million raised is the most for any Arizona House candidate of either party.


Four major primaries are on tap for tonight including the US Senate contest that is drawing great national attention. Three of the state’s four congressional districts also feature hot primaries that will be decided tonight.

• Senate: This is likely the most controversial Senate nomination battle in the nation throughout this election cycle as Democrats are actively involved trying to help deliver the Republican nomination to former Secretary of State and losing 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, while the GOP leadership is running ads against the man who may be their nominee.

The leaders’ preferred choice is Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), but businessman Bob Hamilton, who is self-funding his effort and running clever ads, could be the spoiler. Hamilton, who runs a Kansas City plumbing company and has advertised in the market for decades, is a late entry into the race but is attracting significant support.

There has been surprisingly little public polling released for this race, with the last survey coming at the beginning of June just after Hamilton had entered. The prevailing wisdom is that only Rep. Marshall could beat consensus Democratic nominee, party-switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), but polling actually showed all of the Republicans, including Kobach, breaking even with the unopposed Democratic candidate. Tonight will be interesting and paves the way for a tough general election in a state that should be easily Republican.

• KS-1: Rep. Marshall running for the Senate yields a tight Republican primary that will tonight decide who becomes the expansive western Kansas district’s next Representative. Former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann and Finney County Commissioner Bill Clifford are the top contenders and will assuredly place 1-2 tonight. Which man wins the race is still undecided.

• KS-2: We’ve already seen five incumbents lose their re-nomination campaigns in this election cycle and we could see a sixth here in the Topeka-anchored district tonight. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) in a race that could send another congressman to the sidelines before even making the general election ballot.

Within the past two weeks, Watkins has been indicted in a voter fraud case concerning an election other than his own, and again brings to the forefront that Watkins returned to Kansas to run for the seat, registering to vote at a UPS Store. Watkins’ father, Dr. Steve Watkins, Sr., is also under federal investigation for campaign finance violations.

Former state Labor Commissioner Dennis Taylor is another Republican candidate who could prove a spoiler for one of the candidates tonight. The GOP winner will face Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla who is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Because of Watkins’ legal problems and his plummeting approval rating, this will be a very competitive seat if the congressman is re-nominated.

• KS-3: Freshman Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Roeland Park/Kansas City) stands for a second term after unseating GOP incumbent Kevin Yoder in the 2018 election. A competitive GOP primary between former state Republican Party chair Amanda Adkins and former National Down Syndrome Society president Sara Hart Weir has formed and culminates tonight. The winner faces an uphill climb in the general election against Rep. Davids, but this will still be another race to watch in the Fall.

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