Tag Archives: Kansas

The Kansas Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2020 — For weeks, Democratic leaders and strategists have maintained that the open Kansas Senate seat is competitive for them if former secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 governor’s race as the party nominee, wins the 2020 Republican primary on Aug. 4. Public Policy Polling released a survey a couple days ago that seems to confirm such a premise, at least on the numerical surface.

According to the PPP research (April 13-14; 1,27 registered Kansas voters via interactive response device or text message), consensus Democratic Senate contender Barbara Bollier, a state senator from Mission Hills who is a former Republican legislator, would lead Kobach 44-42 percent in a head-to-head match-up.

Kobach is not the only Republican in the race, however, and his nomination is nowhere near being a foregone conclusion. PPP did not test Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) or Kansas state Senate president, Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), against Sen. Bollier or, if they did, such numbers were not released. Therefore, we don’t have a clear perception of the Democratic candidate’s overall strength before the Kansas electorate.

The underlying numbers would suggest another Republican would fare better against Sen. Bollier. President Trump’s job approval rating according to this poll is 52:43 percent favorable to unfavorable, and the generic partisan question – “ … would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate” – is 50-40 percent in favor of an unnamed Republican.

Additionally, after push questions were asked of the respondents that paint Sen. Bollier in a much more positive light than Kobach, particularly that “she is a physician and wants to run for the Senate to help other people,” the numbers don’t change significantly. Post push questions, the secondary ballot test went to only 47-42 percent in Dr. Bollier’s favor.

Considering the nature of the slanted questions, which PPP routinely uses in many of their more ideologically based surveys, one would expect the ballot test to have grown substantially in the favor of the candidate who was painted in the most positive light, in this case Dr. Bollier.

The closeness of the secondary ballot test is even more noticeable when the pollsters asked the respondents which of the two candidates would do a better job handling the coronavirus pandemic. By a 50:18 percent ratio, the respondent universe stated the belief that Dr. Bollier would do an excellent or good job in handling the situation. On the other hand, Kobach’s split was an upside-down 34:44 percent in response to the same question. Yet, the ballot test number did not significantly change.

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Early Clues for Dems’ Early Targets

By Jim Ellis

April 1, 2020 — The Senate Majority PAC, one of the chief advocacy entities for Democratic candidates, has reserved media time totaling $69.2 million from August through the election, as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website. The expenditures provide us some clues into how the Democratic establishment and their progressive left allies view their strategic attack points in relation to the national political landscape.

The early media time reservations are invested in five states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. This is certainly not the limit of the SMP planned expenditures, nor is the organization likely committed to fulfilling the entirety of this time buy without having negotiated an escape clause. All depends upon their agreements with the individual television outlets and does not include any future expenditure the group may make for radio and digital advertising.

Setting the stage, the five states are all clearly top-tier Republican-held targets of which the Democrats would have to convert nearly all in order to wrest Senate control away from the current majority. That number grows if they fail to defend their own vulnerable seats in either Alabama or Michigan, or both.

The largest time reservation is in North Carolina, where Democrats hope newly nominated Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and 2010 US Senate candidate (lost Democratic nomination to then-secretary of state Elaine Marshall who would lose the general election to GOP Sen. Richard Burr), can unseat first-term incumbent Thom Tillis (R) in a state that has defeated more senators than any other in the modern political era. Of the $69.2 million in national reservations the group made, $25.6 million is dedicated to North Carolina media markets.

Arizona gets the second largest share with $15.7 million dedicated toward helping retired astronaut Mark Kelly, already the consensus Democratic candidate, challenge appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Iowa, where Democrats will nominate a candidate on June 2 to challenge first-term Sen. Joni Ernst (R), will see $13.1 million of the SMP media buy. Maine gets $9.6 million to oppose Sen. Susan Collins (R), and Colorado $5.2 million largely for negative ads against first-term Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

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Mid-Year Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2020 — The second in our three-part series about the in-cycle Senate races covers the 13 contests with June and early August primary dates:

JUNE 2

Iowa: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) stands for a second term and will likely face Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) in the general election. Greenfield, who aborted a congressional run in 2018 when her campaign effort didn’t collect the requisite number of legal petition signatures, enjoys at least unofficial backing from the Democratic establishment and party leadership. The leaders’ first choice to run, freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), decided to seek her first re-election instead of jumping into a statewide battle.
Sen. Ernst is favored for re-election but some of her approval ratings have been low. Much will depend upon the national political trend, particularly at the presidential level. Iowa is typically a swing state that has been moving right in most recent elections, though the Democrats did gain two congressional seats in the last election.

Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (R) stands for a second term, and with the Democrats unable to convince outgoing governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock to run for the Senate, most of the political attention has shifted to the open governor’s race and at-large US House contest. With Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) again running for governor, both the governor’s office and the state’s lone House seat are open for the coming election.
In fact, when looking at the entire statewide ticket, mostly due to term limits and statewide officials running for other offices, five of the seven statewide races are open contests in 2020. Therefore, the lack of attention and concentration on the Senate race certainly helps Sen. Daines. At this point, with the March 9 candidate filing deadline less than a month away, the type of candidate who could give the senator a serious run has not yet emerged.

New Jersey: Sen. Cory Booker (D) backed away from the presidential contest in order to concentrate on his re-election campaign. While state law was changed to allow candidates to run for offices simultaneously, Sen. Booker decided the time to exit the presidential race was upon him before embarrassing losses in Democratic primary states encouraged stronger primary competition for his re-election back home. Now concentrating on New Jersey full-time, Sen. Booker looks safe for re-election.

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Pompeo for Senate?

By Jim Ellis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Nov. 25, 2019 — Ever since Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced last January that he would retire at the end of the current Congress there has been consistent speculation that US Secretary of State and former Wichita area congressman, Mike Pompeo, would resign his national position and return to Kansas to run for the open seat. Despite repeated denials from Secretary Pompeo, the speculation would not die.

Now, it appears the rumors of him entering the race have greater foundation, as more concrete stories that he will soon resign and announce his candidacy are regularly surfacing. The Senate Republican leadership is clearly in favor of the Pompeo move, originally fearing that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could win a crowded August Republican primary with only a vote plurality and then perform as badly in the general election as he did when he lost the 2018 open governor’s race.

With Republicans holding 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats but having to defend 23 incumbents and open seats on the 2020 Senate election map versus only 12 for the Democrats, the GOP cannot afford an electoral debacle in what should be a safe seat. It was only two years ago that another flawed Republican Senate candidate bungled the Alabama special election, thus allowing Democrat Doug Jones to win the position that Sen. Jeff Sessions had resigned to become US Attorney General.

Currently, eight individuals have announced for the Republican nomination led by Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). Polling and local political intel suggests that Pompeo would have little trouble winning the nomination, and the seat, if he were to enter the race. If he does become a candidate, some of the others, and particularly Rep. Marshall, would have time to exit the race and pivot back toward seeking re-election to their current position.

Originally, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) had been in the Senate race – in fact, he was the first to enter the contest immediately after Sen. Roberts made public his intentions – but he has already exited and, at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), is now challenging freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) for re-nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

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A Brewing Battle Emerging in Kansas

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2019 — Former legislative aide Abbie Hodgson, the only announced Democratic candidate in the KS-2 congressional race, withdrew her challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) Wednesday because she claims not to possess the fundraising ability to conduct a credible campaign. At this point, there is no alternative Democrat on the horizon in the Kansas district, but that will soon likely change.

Rep. Watkins won a tight 48-47 percent general election victory over former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) last November to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R). This came after political newcomer Watkins, a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran, won a tight seven-way Republican primary but with only 26.5 percent of the vote. Controversy arose when a major independent expenditure committee emerged, which was principally funded by the candidate’s father, to back Watkins.

More potential upheaval surrounds Rep. Watkins, but it simmers below the surface. Rumors were flying around in August that the congressman would imminently resign his office because of a rumored scandal that was about to become public. Watkins took no such action, and to date nothing involving scandalous activity has come to light.

This has not stopped certain Republicans from taking action, however. In early September, reportedly at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) who lost his own bitter primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner made a surprising move. He was the first declared US Senate candidate after incumbent Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement, but he then transferred from the statewide campaign to instead enter the primary to challenge Watkins in the Topeka-anchored congressional district.

Kansas’ 2nd is a decidedly Republican seat, but not intensely so. The CD occupies 23 eastern Kansas counties and parts of two others. It runs vertically from the Nebraska border to Oklahoma and consumes the territory between the Kansas City metro area and Wichita.

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