Weekly Political Synopsis,
Period Ending May 17, 2019

By Jim Ellis

• Gov. Steve Bullock: As has been expected for some time, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) officially announced his presidential effort this week, becoming the 23rd Democratic candidate. Bullock made the argument that he will be an effective national candidate because he’s won two elections in a conservative state and has been able to earn legislative achievements, like Medicaid expansion, in negotiating with Republican leaders.

• Mayor Bill de Blasio: Following Gov. Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released an announcement video at the end of the week making him the 24th Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election cycle. His declaration centered around being the candidate for “working families,” and cited the $15 minimum wage, a free pre-K school program, a comprehensive healthcare program that especially covers mental health, and paid sick leave.

• Florida: Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to see strong polling numbers, with the latest data coming from Florida. The Tel Opinion Research organization is reporting its latest results (released May 8; 800 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) that show Biden pulling away from his Democratic opponents on an open-ended ballot test poll. An open-ended ballot test is one where the respondent is not given the candidates’ names. That approach tests for committed strength.
According to Tel Opinion, Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 39-16 percent, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each pulling only five percent support. South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows at three percent preference. All of the candidates scored well on the favorability index scale. Biden is viewed positively with an 81:13 percent ratio, where Sen. Sanders’ score is 68:23 percent.

• Arizona: Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights released their latest data from their May 1-2 poll (600 likely Arizona voters) where they queried the respondent universe about the impending Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Though we are more than a year before Arizona’s 2020 late August primary, the chances are strong that the aforementioned will be their respective party standard bearers.
According to the OH poll results, the early race again earns toss-up status. The sample breaks 45-44 percent in Sen. McSally’s favor, which is virtually identical with the firm’s late February poll giving the incumbent a 46-44 percent edge.

• Iowa: After both former governor and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) declined to challenge Sen. Joni Ernst (R), the Democrats were left with no announced senatorial candidate. That changed during the week when attorney Kimberly Graham, an Indianola neglected and abused child advocate attorney, announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination. We can expect others to join, but no current elected official is, to date, coming forward to oppose the first-term senator.

• Montana: Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins (D) announced his intention to seek the Montana Democratic senatorial nomination next year, with the hope of eventually challenging first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R). Collins, a native of Liberia, is the first African American to be elected as Helena’s chief executive.

• New Hampshire: After previously confirming that he was considering challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) next year, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that he will instead seek a third two-year term as governor in the 2020 election. Clearly, Sununu was the strongest Republican the party could have fielded against the two-term senator and former governor. Preliminary polling showed a proposed Shaheen-Sununu race as being a virtual dead heat.

• AL-5: Retired Navy Commander Chris Lewis yesterday announced that he will challenge Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) in next year’s Republican congressional primary. Last week, Rep. Brooks made it clear he would not again run for the Senate, and in response to the Lewis challenge made public his Senate endorsement for state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) who quarterbacked his 2017 statewide campaign. The Alabama state primary will run concurrently with the presidential race, meaning the nominating election will be March 3.

• CA-15: State Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) announced late this week that he will run for Congress next year but would retreat to the legislature if Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), now a presidential candidate, returns to run for the House in the California primary. Another Democrat, Hayward City Councilwoman Aisha Wahab, is also in the race but has been less definitive about leaving the race if Rep. Swalwell were to come back.

• CA-45: Late last week, a sixth Republican candidate came forward to enter the Orange County based 45th Congressional District race, still a year before the California primary election. In November, freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) defeated two-term congresswoman Mimi Walters (R), 52-48 percent.
Orange County Board of Education member Lisa Sparks joined the crowded field that now includes a half-dozen Republicans beginning with Orange County Deputy District Attorney Ray Gennaway, and featuring Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang, Mission Viejo City Councilman Greg Raths, Laguna Hills Councilman Don Sedgwick, businessman Brenton Woolworth, and now Sparks.

• FL-26: South Florida ex-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami), who lost his seat 51-49 percent to current freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami) last November indicated yesterday during a trip to DC that he has not ruled out attempting to re-capture his former position. It had been a widely-held belief that Curbelo was planning to enter the Miami-Dade mayor’s race, but apparently his plans are not yet solidified.

• IA-1: State representative and former local television anchor Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) in Iowa’s northeastern quadrant. In November, Finkenauer, herself then a sitting state representative, unseated two-term Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque), 50-45 percent. For his part, Blum has indicated he is considering running again but has made no firm decision.

• IA-2: Republican Bobby Schilling served one term in Congress from western Illinois’ 17th District, losing his re-election bid in 2012. Re-locating across the Mississippi River to Iowa in 2017, former Congressman Schilling looks to make a political comeback. It is expected that he will soon announce his candidacy for Iowa’s open 2nd Congressional District.
In April, Rep. David Loebsack’s (D-Iowa City) made public his decision not to seek an eighth term. Former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart (D) announced that she will run in the 2nd Congressional District next year, attempting to succeed Loebsack. Hart is the first Democrat to come forward for the competitive open seat that should lean to her party. Previously, Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley announced for the Republican nomination.

• IA-3: Former Rep. David Young (R) lost his seat to freshman Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) last year, and he announced last week that he will return for a re-match. But it appears he will have to fight for the party nomination. This week, retired Army Colonel Bill Schafer (R) said that he will run for the position and state Sen. Zach Wahls (R-Coralville) has embarked on a “listening tour” of the congressional district and expects to make a decision about becoming a candidate in July.

• NJ-11: Financier Reinier Prijten (R) announced yesterday that he is ending his month-old congressional bid. Prijten was looking to challenge freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) in next year’s general election. Prijten’s chief reason for discontinuing his political effort: he simply does not live in New Jersey, now or ever before.

• NC-9: The special primary to begin the process of filling the vacant 9th Congressional District was held on Tuesday, and Democrat Dan McCready, who was unopposed in his primary, and Republican Dan Bishop, a Charlotte state senator, advanced into the Sept. 10 special general election.
Sen. Bishop took 48 percent of the vote, well exceeding the 30 percent threshold needed for nomination against nine other Republicans. The seat was vacant because the November race leader, Mark Harris (R), was denied a certificate of election due to voter fraud allegations in one county.
This will be a competitive special general, but with McCready already raising over $2 million for the effort, he will be cast as an early favorite despite the voter history here favoring the Republicans.

• TX-23: Ex-US Trade official and military veteran Gina Ortiz Jones (D) late this week made official her intention to seek a re-match with Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio). Jones came within 926 votes of unseating the three-term congressman last November and will return to again become a congressional candidate. Obviously, this race will be a major Democratic conversion target, and enters the election cycle with a toss-up rating.

• Mississippi: The Hickman Analytics research organization, polling for the Jim Hood (D) for Governor campaign, tested the Mississippi electorate in preparation for the 2019 state chief executive race, which will be held in November of this year. The position is open because Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.
According to the Hickman results (May 5-9; 604 likely Mississippi 2019 gubernatorial election voters), Attorney General Hood would lead Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R), 45-40 percent, if the election were in the present. Both have August primary opposition, but each is expected to easily win their respective party nominations.

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