Scanning the Country – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 6, 2017 — Continuing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the next set of states — from Minnesota to New York — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Minnesota: After publicly contemplating an open race for governor, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced to the Minneapolis press that she will seek a third term next year. With an open governor’s race also on the ballot, it is doubtful that the senator will face any major opposition. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is barred from running for a third term. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who survived a close re-election call in November (50.3/49.6 percent), is now purportedly looking at a statewide run. Republican Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), the unsuccessful 2012 gubernatorial nominee, and Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) are mentioned as potential GOP candidates.

Democrats will target freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury), another close winner in his southern Minneapolis suburban CD. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), who also had competitive contests in northern districts where Donald Trump carried 62 and 54 percent of the respective vote, can expect active opponents in 2018. Retired Air Force officer Dave Hughes, scoring 47 percent against Rep. Peterson while not even spending $50,000, has already announced that he will run again.

Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) is on the ballot next year and is not expected to face difficult competition. There is no 2018 governor’s race in Mississippi and the congressional delegation is secure. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Biloxi) is perennially subject to a Republican primary challenge, but now in his fourth term the seat may be secure.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is highly vulnerable in a state that is moving closer to the Republicans, but has already announced that she will run for a third term next year. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin/St. Louis County) was thought to be a lock to run for the Senate, but such may not now be the case. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Jefferson City) is publicly considering launching a statewide campaign. Unless the Wagner and/or Hartzler districts open, the congressional delegation appears stable.

Montana: Sen. Jon Tester (D) will stand for a third term and figured to face Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-AL). With the latter’s appointment as Interior Secretary, this challenge will not likely transpire. Upon Zinke’s confirmation, a mid-year special election will be held to find a congressional replacement. The two parties will meet in convention to select their nominees, and voters will participate in one election to choose between the two eventual standard bearers.

Nebraska: Sen. Deb Fischer (R) and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) are both standing for re-election in 2018, and each begins as a prohibitive favorite. Freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha) can already expect a challenge from the man he unseated in November, former Rep. Brad Ashford (D). With a 49-48 percent election spread, this race will again be competitive.

Nevada: Once again, the Silver State of Nevada will become a major political battleground. An open governor’s race that either party can win and Sen. Dean Heller (R) standing for re-election headline the 2018 ballot. Sen. Heller just announced he will seek re-election after flirting with entering the open governor’s race. Nevada will likely become the Democrats’ top conversion target. Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) can expect tough re-election competition after winning her seat with only a one-point plurality. Freshman Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) may face a re-match with former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R).

New Hampshire: After a tough race in 2016 that ended as the closest US Senate contest in the country, New Hampshire voters will get a break next year. With no Senator on the ballot, first-term Gov. Chris Sununu (R) seeks re-election in one of just two states that feature two-year gubernatorial terms. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester), who won in 2006, ’08, ’12, and ’16 but lost in 2010 and 2014, can expect another difficult re-election battle in the seesaw 1st District. With only a one-point victory in November, anything can again happen in this Granite State seat that has defeated more incumbents in the past 12 years than any other district in the nation. Rep. Ann Kuster’s (D-Hopkinton/ Concord) surprisingly close 50-45 percent win will cause Republicans to look more closely at this district in the off year.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (R) leaving office this year means the federal campaigns will take a backseat to the 2017 statewide election. Democrats will be favored to succeed Christie. Sen. Bob Menendez (D) stands for re-election with a legal cloud over his head, fighting federal corruption indictments. It doesn’t appear that any congressional member will enter the open governor’s race even though they could do so without risking their House seats. Politically, the Garden State will develop for 2018 after the governor’s race is decided.

New Mexico: An open governor’s race will highlight the 2018 campaign cycle as incumbent Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. Already, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) has announced her statewide effort. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) may also enter. If so, we will see competitive races for governor and both of their House seats. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) stands for his first re-election, and the open governor’s race may deflect enough attention away from his race that he draws little in the way of opposition.

New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is already preparing for a third term, and may have a bigger battle in the Democratic primary than he does in the general election. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is considering a Democratic primary challenge to the governor, as is Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. Former Rep. Richard Hanna (R) is among several Republicans considering the race. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) will likely draw little in the way of opposition as she will stand for a second full term in office. The most competitive congressional race likely exists in the upstate, where freshman Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) will defend her politically marginal district after winning a three-way general election contest with just 44 percent of the vote.

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