Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R), from a jurisdiction that includes the city of Knoxville, earlier this week took himself out of the open 2018 Governor’s race, citing the difficulty in raising funds for a statewide race. Yesterday, however, he curiously claims to now be considering either running for Senate or the US House. This could potentially mean a Republican primary challenge to either Sen. Bob Corker or veteran US Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-Knoxville). Both Corker and Duncan are expected to run for re-election, though Burchett may also be laying down an early marker in case either decides to surprisingly retire.
In the 2015 redistricted 7th Congressional District, which includes part of Orange County and stretches into Winter Park and Sanford, newcomer Stephanie Murphy defeated veteran Congressman John Mica (R-Winter Park) last November, 51-49%, a margin of 10,456 votes. Yesterday, GOP state Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Murphy next year. The newly configured district’s demographics and voting history suggest that this will become a major battleground race. More Republicans are expected to enter, but so far, Rep. Miller is the first member to come forward and openly declare his intention.
A great deal has occurred surrounding the impending 2018 Alabama Governor’s race since incumbent Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascending to the Governor’s office hasn’t tempered other office seekers from declaring, probably because she has delayed in announcing whether she will run for a full term.
Most of the action has been on the Republican side, since Alabama voters have voted so consistently for the party candidates in recent political history. Last week, however, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announced that she would seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination for what could be an open seat. Just yesterday, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Should he ultimately choose to run, competition will exist on the Democratic side, too. Already, four Republicans have come forward including state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. This race, which should yield a safe Republican open seat campaign, is becoming interesting.
It appears a budding Democratic primary challenging is beginning to form. The Boston Globe is reporting that Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen, who previously said he would not seek re-election this year, is instead planning to challenge Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). Mr. Mazen is the first Muslim elected to political office in Massachusetts. He has dedicated himself to help more Muslims enter the political process and run for office. Mazen has not confirmed that he is going to challenge Rep. Capuano, only that he is looking at a 2018 campaign. He wants to receive more input and talk to more opinion leaders before making any public statement, he told the Globe reporter.
Should Mazen run, it will likely be one of many congressional incumbent primary challenges that we will see throughout the country during the present election cycle. Rep. Capuano, who has received only minimal opposition during his ten terms in the House, would begin such a race as a big favorite. The Cambridge portion of the 7th District is only 7% of the total population, thus giving Mazen a rather small political base from which to build.
Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen’s (D-Henderson) imminent run for the Senate is again bringing former candidate Danny Tarkanian (R) back into the political limelight. Mr. Tarkanian, the son of the late Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian who built his professional resume at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, is a perennial candidate who lost an open seat campaign to Ms. Rosen by a percentage point last year even with President Trump carrying the district.
While there is speculation that Tarkanian may challenge Sen. Dean Heller in the Republican primary, the former candidate made more recent statements suggesting that he will likely return to what will be an open 3rd District. Another Tarkanian candidacy is not what the Republican leadership desires. He has run for state Senate, Secretary of State, US Senate, and congressional districts 4 and 3, all since 2004, and lost every general election each time he has advanced through the primary.
Though he has yet to announce his political plans for next year, two-term Governor and former presidential candidate Scott Walker (R) is a sure bet to run again. Yesterday, he may have drawn his first significant Democratic opponent, but not one who is likely to make a particularly viable challenge. State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D), while saying she has not fully decided to run for Governor, has opened a statewide campaign committee. Sen. Vinehout, who was first elected to the legislature in 2006, ran for Governor in the 2012 re-call election but could secure only 4% support in the Democratic primary. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin (D) is also expected to join this race. Gov. Walker will be favored to win a third term.
Two-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) continues to draw a seemingly ever-expanding crowd of Democrats who want to oppose her. Former State Department official and ex-congressional aide Alison Kiehl Friedman announced her candidacy this week, as did educational psychologist Deep Sran. This brings the field of candidates to eight, including state Sen. Jennifer Wexton and former Veteran Affairs Department senior official Lindsey Davis Stover. The large primary gaggle could well help Rep. Comstock, as all of the candidates will be moving far to the ideological left in order to attract necessary support from base Democratic primary voters.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) continues to confound political voting and polling trends. As a Republican elected to lead one of America’s most Democratic states, Gov. Baker now enjoys possibly the best approval rating of any state chief executive. A new MassInc poll conducted for WBUR Public Radio in Boston (6/19-22; 504 MA registered voters) finds the Governor has a personal approval rating of 64:15% and he destroys any of the announced Democratic challengers by a minimum of 27 percentage points. His 64:15% ratio contrasts favorably with that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who scores a respectable 55:34% favorable to unfavorable rating.
When ten-term Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Lancaster) retired last year, veteran state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) turned backed a credible challenge from Democrat Christina Hartman by a substantial 54-43% margin to hold the seat for the Republicans. Now, the Democrats may be fielding a different challenger for 2018. Yesterday, economic development non-profit organization executive director Jessica King (D) announced her opposition candidacy to Rep. Smucker. It’s unclear if the Democrats will settle upon King, but the move here suggests they may want to mount another challenge at the new Congressman even though this southeastern Pennsylvania district has remained in Republican hands since the end of World War II.
Republicans are hoping to upgrade their Senate candidate pool, the members of which are vying for the opportunity of challenging two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D), as he prepares to seek re-election. Yellowstone County Judge Russell Fagg (R), who is retiring from the bench later this year, confirms he is considering elective office and appears warm to the idea of challenging Mr. Tester. While he cannot say anything overtly political while still in his judicial post, most political observers believe he will announce his Senate candidacy as soon as he officially steps down.
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