Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2016 — Today, voters in four states go the polls to choose nominees for their federal and state races. Intra-party contests in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will be decided. The Tennessee primary will follow on Thursday.


The day’s most competitive primary challenge is underway in the 1st District, where one of the conservative Freedom Caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler/Western Kansas), faces one lone, serious challenger, Dr. Roger Marshall (R). Sen. Jerry Moran (R) and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) face only minor opposition in their respective campaigns.

The 1st District stretches from the Colorado border east through three-quarters of Kansas’ land mass. Including cities such as Manhattan, Hutchinson, Salina, Dodge City, Garden City, and Liberal, KS-1 is a conservative, agriculture-dominated CD. Rep. Huelskamp, who won a crowded open seat nomination fight in 2010, also received a primary challenge in 2014 and prevailed 56-44% over Alan LaPolice who only managed to spend just over $160,000.

The current race is more serious with agricultural issues and Huelskamp being removed from the House Agriculture Committee a cycle ago becoming the campaign’s focal points. By the middle of July, Huelskamp looked to be on course to raise and spend well over $1 million in his 2016 quest for re-nomination. Dr. Marshall was entering the same financial realm, raising $891,870 by the July 13th pre-primary filing period. Huelskamp held a $300,000+ advantage in cash-on-hand.

The primary has drawn major Super PAC spending, with the US Chamber of Commerce and the Ending Spending organization both supporting Marshall, along with the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association, while the Club for Growth has been spending heavily for Huelskamp. This race has serious upset potential.


With no Senate contest on the ballot, Michigan voters will choose open seat nominees in the 1st (Rep. Dan Benishek-R retiring) and the 10th (Rep. Candice Miller-R running for local office) districts. Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton), John Conyers (D-Detroit), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) have minor opponents.

The marginal northern 1st District, housing the entire Upper Peninsula, features primaries in both parties. Former state legislator Jason Allen (R), who lost to Dr. Benishek when the seat was last open by a mere 15 votes in the 2010 Republican primary, returns for another try. This time, he faces establishment-backed GOP state Sen. Tom Casperson, and retired Marine General Jack Bergman. All three candidates raised between $300-400,000 by the pre-primary filing deadline. This race should end in a close finish. Rep. Benishek, who kept his three-term service pledge, has endorsed Sen. Casperson.

Democrats feature a two-way contest between 2014 nominee Jerry Cannon, a local county sheriff who scored 45% against Benishek, and state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson. Both have raised over $1 million. This campaign could well become a prime national Democratic conversion opportunity.

In the open 10th District, businessman Paul Mitchell is self-funding his political operation just as he did in the 4th District two years ago. Moving across the state, Mitchell attempts to win the Republican nomination in what will prove to be a safe Republican district for the fall. Mitchell has loaned his campaign more than $2.5 million. He faces three opponents with state legislative experience, state Sen. Phil Pavlov, former state Sen. Alan Sanborn, and ex-state Rep. Tony Folini. Only Pavlov has raised significant money. In 2014, Mitchell heavily outspent then-state Sen. John Moolenaar (R), only to lose by a hefty margin.


Though the Senate contest between Sen. Roy Blunt (R) and Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) sets up as a competitive general election, neither faces major opposition today. The open governor’s contest, featuring a free-for-all primary among Republicans, is drawing top billing for the Missouri primary.

In the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former US Attorney and state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, businessman and former US Senate candidate John Brunner, and Iraq and Afghan War veteran Eric Greitens are locked in a tight four-way contest for the state’s top job. Democrats are coalescing around Attorney General Chris Koster. A competitive general election will determine a replacement for Gov. Jay Nixon (D) who is ineligible to seek a third term.

While all eight of Missouri’s US Representatives have drawn respective primary opposition, none is considered particularly major. The most competitive fight occurs on the Democratic side in the 1st District, where state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal challenges veteran Rep. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis).


The state’s jungle primary will yield a challenger for Sen. Patty Murray (D), likely former state Republican Party chairman and King County Councilman Chris Vance, while Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (R) will advance to the general election in their race. The latter contest could become surprisingly competitive.

The major primary contest occurs on the Democratic side in the downtown Seattle district, where 14-term Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Seattle) is retiring. Five Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent attempt to advance to the general election. There is a strong chance that two Democrats will square off in November. State Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D) is favored to secure one of the general election positions.

Freshman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside) again faces the man he outlasted in the 2014 general election, former NFL football player and conservative activist Clint Didier (R). The other eight incumbent House members all face jungle primary opponents from all qualified parties, but each will secure first place for the general election.

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