The Aug 7 Primaries – Part II

the-primariesBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2018 — We finish our look at today’s primary elections, covering Michigan and Washington, and the OH-12 special congressional election contest.


The US Senate and open governor campaigns lead the Michigan ticket today. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) will learn whether she faces venture capitalist Sandy Pensler or retired Army Ranger and manufacturing company owner John James, the latter a President Trump-endorsed candidate, in the fall campaign. The senator begins the general election in the clear favorite’s position.

With Gov. Rick Snyder (R) ineligible to seek a third term, competitive Republican and Democratic primaries will be both settled tonight. For the GOP, Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill Schuette has enjoyed double-digit leads in all polling for several months over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. On the Democratic side, former state House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer has been the clear leader almost since the campaign began, and she is expected to defeat former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed and businessman Shri Thanedar. The general election promises to be highly competitive in this pivotal redistricting state.

Three open seats are the top attractions in the congressional contests.

In veteran Rep. Sander Levin’s (D-Royal Oak) open seat, it appears the retiring congressman’s son, energy consultant Andy Levin, is the clear favorite in the Democratic primary. The 9th is a decidedly Democratic district meaning Levin’s chances of succeeding his father in the general election are strong.

Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham) is retiring from Congress after two terms and leaves a toss-up political contest in his wake. Crowded primaries are present for both parties, including a Republican race featuring five candidates, while the Democrats have an additional five people running. Trump state co-chair Lena Epstein has developed a late lead in two Republican primary polls, while former Treasury Department official Haley Stevens and state Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Troy) appear atop of the Democratic contest.

The concurrent special and regular election to replace resigned Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) will likely be resolved today, though actually filling the seat won’t occur until the November general election is complete.

The winner will likely emerge from a tight three-way battle that includes City Council President Brenda Jones, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Westland Mayor Bill Wild. Polling shows the three virtually tied.

Though two members of the Conyers family are running, or tried to run, it appears their congressional political dynasty will be no more. Rep. Conyers, originally elected in 1964, had hoped to turn the seat over to his son, John Conyers III, but he failed to qualify for the ballot. State Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), the former congressman’s nephew, is faring poorly in publicly released surveys.


The Evergreen State is one of three places that use a “jungle primary” format. That is, all the candidates appear on one ballot and the top two regardless of percentage attained or political affiliation advances to the general election.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) is on the ballot for the fourth time, after originally winning election in 2000. She is the prohibitive favorite for re-election irrespective of who qualifies for the general election tonight.

At the congressional level, the big primary race is in the open 8th District to see which Democratic candidate advances into the general election with former state senator and 2004 gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi (R) who, after losing the governor’s race by just 129 votes, became the closest gubernatorial loser in American politics.

Rossi tried again in 2008, challenging then-Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) but failed to overcome her incumbency and lost 53-47 percent. He further challenged Sen. Patty Murray (D) in 2010 and again came close, falling 52-48 percent. But in all of his statewide races, Rossi carried the constituency within the confines of the current 8th District.

With four Democrats, five Independents, and two other Republicans also running in the jungle congressional primary, it will be of interest to see who advances along with Rossi.


The long-awaited special election in the central Ohio district will be filled today, as state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor (D) fight for the seat that former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) vacated to accepted a position with an Ohio business association.

Polling suggests a close race in a district that should normally be a Republican hold. President Trump carried the seat 53-42 percent and came to the district over the weekend for a rally in support of Balderson. According to multiple polls that show the race even between the two candidates or Balderson slightly ahead, the GOP nominee will need all of the Trump supporters’ fervor to convince voters to participate in this unusual summer election.

The 12th District covers 17 percent of Franklin County, all of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow counties, and parts of Richland, Muskingum, and Marion. In the three elections under the concurrent district boundaries, Tiberi averaged 66.1 percent of the vote, a far cry from where the district appears to be languishing at the present time.

Much will be written about this election if O’Connor pulls the upset. Regardless of who wins, both candidates will advance to the regular general election. Today’s winner assumes the seat for the balance of the term, but whoever comes out on top this evening must continue in full campaign mode. Otherwise, his congressional tenure could be very short in duration.

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