House Oversight & Reform Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), serving his 12th full term in office, passed away yesterday morning at the age of 68. Now, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has ten days to schedule a replacement special election to fill the vacancy. According to Maryland election law, the special primary must occur before the end of this year, with a general to follow within 65 days of the first vote. This means the entire cycle must be completed on or before March 5th.
We can expect a crowded Democratic primary to form as future candidates will battle to become Mr. Cummings’ successor. With a 68-16% party registration advantage, the 7th District will remain in Democratic hands. The Maryland vacancy now becomes the 26th open seat during the current election cycle, including the three vacancies: MD-7 (Cummings), NY-27 (Chris Collins), and WI-7 (Sean Duffy). Republicans currently hold 19 of the open seats, and Democrats now up to seven.
The Marketing Resource Group just released their Michigan US Senate poll (10/7-10; 600 MI registered voters) and again find a close contest between Sen. Gary Peters (D) and businessman and retired Army Ranger John James (R). The ballot test sees Sen. Peters clinging to a 43-40% edge. This is a similar result to an Emerson College poll conducted in March that found the two separated by a scant 44-43% spread. Last month, however, Target-Insyght released a much different result: Peters ahead 53-37%. Most observers believe this Senate race will evolve into a close contest.
It appears the Democrats have found their candidate to challenge for Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) open seat. Recently, party-switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) announced that she would run for the Senate, and has already earned the endorsement of an individual who appeared to be her strongest primary opponent. Former US Attorney Barry Grissom (D) has withdrawn from the race and announced his endorsement of Sen. Bollier.
Republicans will have a crowded primary at this point featuring US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), state Sen. President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, and Kansas Turnpike Authority chairman and former Kansas City Chiefs football player Dave Lindstrom. Rumors continue to persist that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may eventually become a candidate for the position.
We continue to see tight polling coming from the Iowa Caucus prelude, scheduled for a vote on February 3rd. Emerson College (10/13-16; 317 IA likely Democratic Caucus attenders) finds former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tied at the top of the Democratic field with each posting 23% support figures.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is seeing his Iowa efforts begin to bear fruit as he captures third position with 16% preference. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drops to fourth position with 13%. California Sen. Kamala Harris who, like Buttigieg, also said she is making Iowa a top priority has failed to gel, dropping all the way down to a tie for eighth position with only 2% backing.
Former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, who had been speculating that he might enter the 1st District Republican primary in order to challenge Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) in the general election, has now ruled out becoming a candidate. Though he indicated two weeks ago that he was leaning toward running, comments he made over the weekend about being interested in managing or coaching at the major league level was a clue that he had already made up his mind not to run.
Already, four Republicans are in the race: Safford City Councilman Chris Taylor, Williams Mayor John Moore, attorney and 2018 congressional candidate Tiffany Shedd, and attorney Nolan Reidhead. Mr. O’Halleran also faces two formerly elected Democrats in his primary, ex-state Sen. Barbara McGuire and former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova. The 1st District is politically marginal and one of 31 Democratic seats that voted for President Trump in 2016.
There has been much speculation that former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton would enter the open 17th Congressional District race now that veteran New York Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) is retiring. Appearing on The View program, Ms. Clinton indicated that while running for Congress could be on her personal horizon at some point in the future, she is not looking to run in 2020. She responded to Whoppi Goldberg’s question about whether she would become a candidate as saying, “…right now, the answer is no.”
The Kentucky Governor’s race will be decided on November 5th, and a new Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey (10/10-13; 625 KY registered voters) paints a different picture of the race as the campaigns begin to enter the stretch drive. The last poll released here was in late August, from Garin-Hart-Yang Research, and it gave Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear a 48-39% lead over Gov. Matt Bevin (R).
The Mason-Dixon results find a different trend. According to M-D, the race has now evolved into a flat tie with both candidates deadlocked at 46%. It is clear that Gov. Bevin has again made this race competitive, and we can now expect a dash to the political finish line.
More is becoming known about the presidential campaigns’ financial status. The October 15th filing disclosure deadline is now past, and reports are becoming public.
We knew from the announcements last week that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had raised the most among Democrats during the quarter, and now we see that he has the largest dollar amount in his account, $33.7 million. Next is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with $25.7 million followed closely by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s $23 million. Biggest surprise: former Vice President Joe Biden showing only $9 million on hand, just ahead of businessman Andrew Yang’s $6 million.
The overwhelming number of the intra-party challenges to sitting House incumbents lie on the Democratic side in this election cycle, but Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee), who broke his three-term limit pledge during the 2018 campaign, has drawn a competitive 2020 Republican challenger. State Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), a strong social issues conservative leader who reportedly does not get along with his party’s leadership in the legislature, announced that he will challenge the four-term Congressman next year.
In 2018, Rep. Mullin deflected a challenge from a less formidable series of candidates, 54-25-12-9%, which proved a weak performance for an incumbent in his own party. We can expect this new primary challenge to generate political fireworks.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Hills), second in US House seniority with what will be 42 years of congressional service at the end of the current term and not seeking re-election in 2020, looks to be yielding to a very strong successor. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is rapidly building support to the point that he could actually run without strong opposition for a seat that hasn’t been open in more than two generations.
Yesterday, wealthy entrepreneur and former US Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson (R) said he would not run for the House seat and endorsed Mr. Fitzgerald, following a long line of would-be office seekers who took similar action. Senator Fitzgerald’s political strength is such that he appears a virtual lock to become a member of the next Congress.
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