In a political week dominated by Sen. Tom Udall’s (D) unexpected announcement that he will retire after his current term ends, another surprise happened yesterday. Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) appeared set to announce his intention to run for the open Senate seat in a video message scheduled for release, yesterday. Instead, Mr. Balderas announced that he will not run, choosing to remain in his current position.
Early next week, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) is expected to become the first candidate to formally declare for the open seat. Without Mr. Balderas in the race, Rep. Lujan appears to be the early favorite for the Democratic nomination and the seat itself. But, with well over a year before the June Democratic primary, this campaign is just beginning.
While Gov. Chris Sununu (R) previously had ruled out challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), two new polls showing him landing in a statistical tie with the Senator has clearly caused him to reconsider. The Governor now confirms he is looking at a potential Senate race and will likely begin his decision-making process shortly that could consume several weeks.
Sen. Shaheen, a former Governor, lost to Gov. Sununu’s brother, John E. Sununu (R) in 2002, but returned to defeat him in 2008. She was re-elected in 2014, topping former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) who decided to run in neighboring New Hampshire, 51-48%.
First-term Gov. Jim Justice (R), who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 but switched to the Republican Party less than a year after his statewide victory, has drawn possibly two GOP primary opponents. Former state Del. Mike Folk says he will likely challenge the Governor in next May’s primary election, and Woody Thrasher (R), who Mr. Justice appointed as his original Commerce Department Secretary, is also being discussed as a potential contender. So far, however, Mr. Thrasher has refused to confirm that such a move is under consideration.
Last week, speculation began surfacing that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may attempt to re-gain his former post and challenge Gov. Justice in the general election. Therefore, it appears this Governor’s race may soon begin drawing serious national attention from political observers.
Quinnipiac University yesterday released its new national presidential poll (3/21-25; 1,358 US registered voters; 559 Democratic likely primary participants; 582 Republican likely voters) that tests issues, attitudes, and the Democratic primary. As found in virtually every other national poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the ever-growing pack of candidates with two other candidates gaining a bit of momentum.
According to the results, Mr. Biden posts 29% support from the Democratic respondents followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has 19%. Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke is third with 12%, and California Senator Kamala Harris drops to 8% preference. Moving up are both Mr. O’Rourke and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg who grows from a miniscule support factor to 4%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drops to 4%, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) falls to only 2% backing.
Looking at the Democratic universe as a whole, 49% say they would prefer a “progressive” nominee while 44% say they want a “moderate.”
In the 2018 cycle, Democratic leaders attempted to convince state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) to run for Congress, but the latter man wanted to finish his term in office. Now, ineligible to seek re-election in 2020 to his statewide post, Mr. DePasquale may well decide to enter a federal campaign.
Though originally hailing from western Pennsylvania, Mr. DePasquale now lives in Harrisburg in order to complete the duties to which he was elected to perform. The location would allow him to challenge Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/York) who just got by first time candidate George Scott (D), 51-49%, last November. It is unclear whether Mr. Scott, a pastor and military veteran, will consider running again. If either man ultimately becomes the 2020 Democratic nominee, the 10th District will become a major national Democratic target.
WPA Intelligence, surveying for the Conservatives for Clean Energy organization (3/11-13; 500 SC likely voters), finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) comfortably leading his principal announced Democratic opponent, former state Party chair Jamie Harrison. The numbers suggest the Senator would hold a sizable 55-32% advantage still more than one year before primary challenges are held.
WPAi did not release Republican primary numbers, which is likely the Senator’s greater test. Regardless, it appears Mr. Graham’s political position is enhanced throughout the state and his standing within the SC GOP much improved.
2018 Democratic congressional nominee Andrew Janz, an attorney who rose over $9.2 million for his campaign only to lose to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare/Fresno), 53-47%, says he is unlikely to seek a re-match next year.
While his effort against Mr. Nunes was strong, Mr. Janz instead is probably going to channel his political efforts and resources into a race for Mayor of Fresno against Republican incumbent Lee Brand. While he may face other strong Democrats before getting a head-to-head opportunity against Mayor Brand, insiders close to Janz suggest the local race is most probably where he will be running.
Ex-US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana/Anaheim), who relinquished her congressional seat after a twenty-year career to run unsuccessfully for US Senate in 2016, has failed in comeback attempts. She first was rejected in her bid to win a seat on the Orange County Democratic Central Committee, and now she has fallen in a special election for Orange County Supervisor.
In California’s typical post-election counting process that literally consumes weeks, it appears Ms. Sanchez has again been defeated for a voting process that began March 12th. Trailing 42-37% in a raw vote margin that now exceeds the number of outstanding ballots, Irvine Mayor Don Wagner (R) has clinched the special election victory. It appears that Ms. Sanchez has now reached the end of her political road.
A new Maine-based Pan Atlantic Research survey (3/4-13; 500 ME likely voters) finds Sen. Susan Collins (R) posting majority support against declared candidate Sara Gideon (D), the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. According to the ballot test results, Sen. Collins opens with a 51-29% advantage with a job approval rating of 62:37% favorable to unfavorable.
A few weeks ago, former state House Speaker Cristina Duran announced a Democratic primary challenge to veteran Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver). Yesterday, Ms. Duran unveiled endorsements that make her challenge more substantive. Both former Senator and US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D) and ex-Denver Mayor and US Transportation Department Secretary Federico Pena (D) endorsed Ms. Duran’s primary challenge. This developing primary challenge is likely to draw national political attention.
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