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2017 General Election Previews, Part 3: Marquee Races

Tomorrow is general election day; there are major elections taking place in 13 states. Today is our final installment of a 3-part preview series. Part 1 covered legislatures and county races and Part 2 covered mayoral contests. Today we will focus on the major races in NJ, VA, and NYC, plus the congressional special in UT-3. Our liveblog will start at 7ET tomorrow; poll closing times are as follows:

7 ET – FL, VA || 7:30 ET – NC, OH || 8 ET – GA, MA, MI, NJ, PA || 9 ET – MN, NY || 10 ET – UT || Vote by Mail – WA (no results Tues night)

Ralph Northam

VA-Gov: The biggest-ticket race of the day tomorrow (and the entire year) is the gubernatorial election in Virginia. The race has attracted widespread national attention due to Virginia’s purple to light-blue nature, and the fact that its always-open gubernatorial race has potential to act as a bellwether for the 2018 elections. LG Ralph Northam (D) is the Dem nominee to move up to the top slot. A physician who originally hails from the remote Eastern Shore but has built his career in Norfolk, Northam has had a term as LG following service in the state legislature. He is a relatively moderate Dem who supported Republicans as recently as the 2000s, and was at one point even recruited to switch parties. But Northam has more recently mostly been notable for being about as bland and low-key a pol as they come. That has historically been a good posture for Virginia Democrats, who have built their statewide success over the last decade and a half through unexciting moderate-liberals like Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D). But this year, Northam’s bland-as-vanilla personality is a tough fit for the energized anti-Trump #resistance. Indeed, Northam’s strange attempts at straddling the line between riding voter anger and his own calm-to-a-fault personality have come off as more comical than anything else. And that has led some Democrats to become jittery that he could blow things by not doing enough to turn out his base. That balancing act got Northam into significant trouble in the last few weeks of the campaign when a group he funded aired a phenomenally offensive ad effectively accusing Gillespie of wanting to murder minority children.

Ed Gillespie

Northam’s rival is ex-RNC Chair and 2014 Senate nominee Ed Gillespie (R). Gillespie came much closer than anyone expected to upsetting heavily favored Sen. Mark Warner (D) in 2014, and this campaign has proved his performance was no fluke. With campaign skills honed by his years as an operative, Gillespie has proven an adept messenger, seizing on Northam’s support for sanctuary cities to cast him as being soft on the Central American gang MS-13, which has been a longtime criminal presence in the DC suburbs. Additionally, the archetypally establishment Gillespie’s temperament could not be farther from Trump’s, giving him the potential to overperform with the suburbs’ sizeable Clinton Republican contingent. Gillespie’s strong campaign has definitely made the race far more competitive than many would have predicted several months ago. But Virginia is a light-blue state – and this is the right state and year to run as a Democrat. And thus Northam has led almost all polls of this race, though generally by only low- to mid-single digits. (Polls in this race have been bizarrely anti-herding, putting out an absurd spread of results from Northam +17 to Gillespie +8). Overall though, polls have been closing dramatically in the last few weeks of the race, and both sides are now treating the race as likely to be decided by a small margin. Northam still looks like a slight favorite, but a Gillespie upset is well within the realm of possibility. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean D.

Phil Murphy

NJ-Gov, NJ-LG: The other gubernatorial election this year is in New Jersey, and it looks far less interesting than the one in Virginia. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has become incredibly unpopular and Democrats seem poised to take back this seat. The Dem nominee, Goldman Sachs exec and former ambassador Phil Murphy (D), looks like the prohibitive favorite. Murphy has won strong Dem establishment support the traditional way, by simply purchasing it. That establishment support allowed him to coast to an easy win in the Democratic primary. Murphy’s cash has also allowed him to spend as much as is necessary in the ridiculously expensive state, though the largely non-competitive nature of the general has rendered that advantage largely unnecessary. In the general, Murphy has felt little need to do much other than repeat liberal platitudes and coast on the lean of the state and year as well as Christie’s unpopularity. New Jersey’s LG is elected on a ticket with the Governor, and Murphy has secured a big name as his #2 in State Rep. and former State House Speaker Sheila Oliver (D). Indeed, Murphy is considered such a lock that there is already extensive speculation as to how the state’s various Democratic machines will be dividing the spoils of office once he takes over.

Kim Guadagno

Murphy’s rival is LG Kim Guadagno (R). Guadagno has served eight years as Christie’s #2, but has recently had a testy relationship with her boss. That position has left her with something of the worst of both worlds in this race. She is tied to Christie, whose slow-motion implosion has left him completely toxic. But their personal tension and Christie’s attitude (which can only be described as DGAF) means that Christie is in no mood to lift a finger to help her. Underscoring the long-shot nature of her campaign, Guadagno’s running mate is a little-known “C” lister, Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo (R). For this race, Guadagno has more or less run as a Generic Republican, which is not a great position for a blue state in a year with an energized Dem base. But when the alternative is being tied to Christie, that looks like the best way for Guadagno to avoid an embarrassment while operating within her campaign’s underfunded means. However, that has meant this race has been quite sleepy overall. Indeed, this race is mostly notable for how boring it is, with many New Jerseyans anecdotally remarking that they are all but unaware there is even an election going on this year. Polls have tightened in the race from a massive 30-point Murphy lead down to the low double-digits, but that seems more like Republicans coming home to Guadagno than any real movement. As a result, Murphy looks like a prohibitive favorite and it would be a shock if he did not notch an easy win here. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.

Justin Fairfax

VA-LG: Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor is elected independently, and this year there is a competitive race for Northam’s seat. Federal prosecutor and 2013 AG candidate Justin Fairfax (D) mounted his first statewide bid four years ago as an antiestablishment candidate. As a little-known prosecutor, he came within three points of upsetting the heavily-favored then-State Sen. Mark Herring (D). However, Fairfax made a good impression in that race and his second try for statewide office has been met with more support from establishment Democrats. His African-American heritage was also considered a strong selling point. Fairfax is, however, the most liberal candidate on Virginia Dems’ statewide slate, to the point where he has even drawn opposition from a major union for his opposition to a pipeline project. That opposition led to his embarassing exclusion from a flyer promoting the Dem ticket and Bloomberg declining to include him in a buy supporting his running mates. While Fairfax has not run far behind his ticket-mates, it’s hard to escape thinking of him as the weakest link in the Dem ticket.

Jill Vogel

Fairfax is additionally facing a strong GOP rival in State Sen. Jill Vogel (R). Vogel is an interesting figure: she is a wealthy establishment conservative from the ultra-wealthy southwest horse-country exurbs of DC (living on an estate that once belonged to an heir to the Mellon fortune) and founded one of the nation’s top political law firms. But Vogel is also a native of Roanoke and is more comfortable than the similarly establishment-steeped Gillespie in speaking the language of rural downscale Trump voters. As a result, polling has shown her leading the statewide GOP ticket, though only by a small margin. Between Vogel’s strength and Fairfax’s weakness, this looks like the GOP’s best opportunity for a win. However, the few polls in the race have shown Fairfax up, and unless Gillespie wins or comes very close, he probably is still a slight favorite based on the lean of the state and year. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean D.

Mark Herring

VA-AG: The third race on the Virginia statewide ballot is the contest for Attorney General. Incumbent Mark Herring (D) is seeking a second term after somewhat surprisingly declining to run for Governor. Herring has been an activist AG on social issues, though perhaps not quite to the extent of a Kamala Harris or Eric Schneidermann. Overall, he is within the liberal mainstream, though that’s still a position that would have been shockingly left-wing for Virginians as little as a decade ago – Herring notably refused to defend a SSM ban that he himself voted for as a State Senator. A good rule of thumb is that incumbent Virginia Row Officers who seek re-election get it; as best I know, a Row Officer has never been defeated for re-election since the current Gov/LG/AG system was put in place back in the 1920s. As a result, it was an open question whether Herring would even get a serious challenger at all.

John Adams

Republicans’ nominee, prosecutor John Adams (R), was not originally considered anything to write home about. Though Adams (who is related to the Presidents of the same name) is very well-connected (he served as a Supreme Court Clerk and held a top position in the Bush 43 White House), he started with zero name recognition and no elected experience. Adams is running as a mainstream conservative. But beyond ideology, Adams is also promising to return to a more limited conception of the office. Adams has run a very strong campaign and polling has shown the race surprisingly competitive. Herring has even felt the need to go negative, launching some attacks on Adams’s corporate legal work. Though Adams is not the long-shot it seemed at the beginning of the race, he is definitely still an underdog. Most polling has shown Herring ahead by a few points, and his incumbency likely means he will lead the statewide Dem ticket, though probably not by a huge margin. Thus, Herring looks like a moderate, but definitely not prohibitive, favorite. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Lean D.

John Curtis

UT-3: There is one congressional special tomorrow, for UT-3, an extremely Republican but Trump-unfriendly district. Trump won it 47-23, with most of the remainder going to McMullin. The seat covers the southeast quarter of the state, but essentially all the population is in the Provo metro area and a small slice of Salt Lake City’s southeast suburbs. The prohibitive favorite for the seat is the GOP nominee, Provo Mayor John Curtis (R). Curtis is a moderate who ran for office as a Democrat in the early 2000s. As such, he was not endorsed at the GOP convention. However, harnessing his high name recognition as mayor of the district’s largest city and strong fundraising, he was able to best two more conservative rivals in the primary. Facing two candidates to his left in the staunchly conservative district, it would be a shock if Curtis came in with anything less than a large majority.

Kathie Allen

Curtis is facing physician Kathie Allen (D), who fundraised well from national support during her run against Chaffetz. But as a staunch progressive, she has no chance in this district. Finally, businessman Jim Bennett (I), son of the late ex-Sen. Bob (R), attracted some interest with his third-party bid. Though Bennett may do well by third party standards, perhaps cracking double-digits, the GOP nominating the moderate Curtis instead of a more firebrand rival has essentially robbed Bennett’s campaign of its rason d’etre, and he is not considered a threat to win. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.

NYC-Mayor: New York City is holding its mayoral election tomorrow. NYC is of course the nation’s largest city by far, with a population of 8.5M. It is solidly Democratic with a PVI of D+29 (2016) and a multi-ethnic population that breaks down roughly 45% White, 20% each Hispanic and Black, and 10% Asian. In terms of its government, NYC is best thought of as less like any other city than as a hybrid between a city and a state. In addition to its huge population, more than twice that of any other city, the Mayor and council have extensive home-rule powers without equal among American cities, as the state has delegated them a large number of functions. As a result, the Mayor of New York is really more like the nation’s 51st Governor than any other Mayor, and fittingly it is elected in traditional partisan races.

Bill DeBlasio

Incumbent Bill DeBlasio (D) is seeking a second term and considered the prohibitive favorite to get it. If you’re reading this blog you probably don’t need me to recount the various trials and tribulations of DeBlasio’s mayoralty, but his four years in office have been a mixture of some high-profile embarrassments and failures: a significant rise in homeless living on the streets, poor response to snowstorms, massive maintenance problems with the subway, a small up tick in crime and a crazy vendetta against the Central Park horse carriage system. DeBlasio has also been the focus of an expanding investigation into his campaign finance operation, specifically a scheme to funnel money to state candidates, but so far that investigation has not borne significant fruit. Additionally, like many of his predecessors, DeBlasio transparently harbors higher ambitions, but in this case that may be working to his benefit. Through his term, he has never hesitated to use his position to cast himself as a national left-wing hero – and in that respect the election of Trump was an enormous gift to him. Instead of getting a seriously contested race on his vulnerabilities as an administrator, DeBlasio’s use of the bully pulpit to preach left-wing causes (and prepare for a 2020 Presidential run) has largely insulated him from a viable challenger in the staunchly left-wing, anti-Trump city. As a result, he is set to coast to victory against four opponents who have been unable to give him much of a challenge.

Nicole Malliotakis

DeBlasio’s only truly serious rival is State Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R). Malliotakis is considered a rising star on NYC’s thin GOP bench, ousting a Democratic incumbent from a purple Staten Island and Brooklyn district in 2010. Due to her youth (she is 37), Greek-Cuban background, and proven political skills, she is considered likely to climb the ladder at some point, topping lists of potential successors for Staten Island’s State Senate and Congressional seats when they come open. This mayoral run is most likely about banking name rec for a bid of that nature down the line. Malliotakis’s campaign has been well-received for a sacrificial lamb run, with even liberal corners like the New York Times praising her energetic attempts to hold DeBlasio’s feet to the fire. However, Malliotakis is not independently wealthy and has little pre-existing name recognition, meaning her chances to significantly outperform the Generic R baseline this year (especially to the level needed to be competitive in ultra-blue NYC) are slim. While she is all but certain to lose by a large margin, a better than expected showing (say, more than ~35%) would significantly bolster her profile for a future bid of some sort.

Three other candidates in the race are total sideshows. Retired detective and Arby’s pitchman Bo Dietl (I) attempted to run in the Dem primary before being thrown out for not registering in time, then was laughed out of an attempt to get the GOP nomination and is now running as an Indie. Dietl’s campaign seems more about self-promotion than anything, but his name recognition could get him as much as a high single-digit score. 90s-era ex-councilman Sal Albanese (D) is continuing his ineffectual primary campaign on the Reform party line, and may draw a percent or two of anti-DeBlasio Dems. Finally, activist Akeem Browder (G), brother of a man who died from neglect while being held in an overheated jail cell, is the Green Party candidate, and may take a point or two hitting DeBlasio from the even-further-left edge of the spectrum. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.

Other NYC Offices: The races for the other major offices in NYC are quite boring, as they are all simply incumbents coasting to re-election.
For NYC-Public Advocate, NYC’s equivalent to a Lieutenant Governor, Incumbent Tish James (D), a stauch leftist who thankfully holds a basically powerless position, is the prohibitive favorite for a second term over token opposition from professor and elections board member JC Polanco (R). RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
For NYC-Comptroller, incumbent Scott Stringer (D) was considered a potential DeBlasio primary challenger, but he wound up deciding to run for a second term. Stringer faces only token general election opposition from former congressional candidate and minister William Faulkner (R). RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe D.
The 5 Borough Presidents are also up and are also incredibly boring races. All 5 incumbents, James Oddo (R) of Staten Island and four Dems elsewhere, are running for re-election and prohibitive favorites. Just two, Oddo and Brooklyn’s Eric Adams (D), face challengers the least bit serious, in retired teacher Tom Shcherbenko (D) and nightclub owner Vito Bruno (R) respectively. While Shcherbenko and Bruno will lose by a large margin, each might be someone to keep an eye on for a future race. Incumbent DAs in Manhattan and Brooklyn will also win without substantive opposition.

Political Roundup for November 1, 2017

Check back at noon for the first in our 3-part series of general election previews. Today we’ll be covering legislatures, county races, and the NYC Council. Part 2 tomorrow at 3 will cover Mayors, and part 3 on Monday will cover big-ticket races in NJ, VA, and NYC.

Polling Quick-Hits:

AL-Sen: The Senate Leadership Fund (R) has ex-State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R) up 56-39 on ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (R).

AZ-Sen (R): Data Orbital has ex-State Sen. Kelli Ward (R) at 28, Rep. Martha McSally (R) at 19, ex-Rep. Matt Salmon (R) at 10, and others in single digits.

NV-Sen (R): JMC Analytics has perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian (R) up 44-38 on Sen. Dean Heller (R).

VA-Gov: WaPo has LG Ralph Northam (D) up 49-44 on ex-RNC Chair Ed Gillespie (R).

Charlotte-Mayor: SUSA has councilwoman Vi Lyles (D) leading fellow councilman Kenny Smith (R) just 41-40; Lyles had been thought a heavy favorite.

Nassau, NY-CE: Siena has ex-State Sen. Jack Martins (R) up 43-41 on county commissioner Laura Curran (D). Internals for both candidates are also out: Martins has himself up 47-41, while Curran’s internal has her up 43-39.

Governor:

CA-Gov: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) announced Monday he would not run for Governor. Garcetti was the last major candidate considering a run here, and could have shaken up the race if he entered. It looks like the field is set with four serious Democrats, LG Gavin Newsom (D), Garcetti’s predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), Treasurer John Chiang (D), and ex-Superintendent Delaine Eastin (D).

CO-Gov: Ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R) is making his third bid for Governor, after losing a third-party run in 2010 and a primary bid in 2014. Tancredo, a polarizing figure known for his strident opposition to illegal immigration and occasional foot-in-mouth tendencies, will join a crowded primary field. Also in the GOP race are Treasurer Walker Stapleton (R), Arapahoe DA George Brauchler (R), and a pair of self-funding businessmen, ex-State Rep. Vic Mitchell (R) and Romney relation Doug Robinson (R), with AG Cynthia Coffman (R) thought to be considering.

IL-Gov, IL-LG: State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R) has begun circulating petitions for a primary challenge to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), though she has not officially committed to a run. Ives, a second-term legislator from DuPage County, was incensed at Rauner’s signing of a bill permitting taxpayer-funded abortions. She could potentially harness social conservative enthusiasm to oust the incumbent. Unlike Rauner, however, Ives is not personally wealthy, and would likely find the general election very difficult in the large and deep-blue state. Ives has selected Rock Island County commissioner and ex-State Rep. Rich Morthland (R) as her running mate.

MI-Gov: Attorney Andy Levin (D) is considering a run for Governor. Levin’s only electoral foray was a 2006 State Senate bid that he lost by 700 votes, and he also held some minor positions in the Granholm administration. However, his biggest asset is his name: Levin is the son of MI-9 Rep. Sander (D) and nephew of ex-Sen. Carl (D), giving him instant statewide name recognition. Levin would face ex-State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D), businessmen Shri Thanedar (D) and Bill Cobbs (D), and Detroit city official Abul El-Sayed (D) in the Dem primary. It seems possible Levin’s interest in this race may be more about raising his name recognition for an MI-9 bid if his father decides to retire.

OH-Gov: State Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill (D), the only Ohio Democrat holding a statewide state-level elected office, has joined the primary for Governor. O’Neill intends to remain on the court while campaigning until February (he is required to step down when petitions are due), which may be legally problematic as the court does not allow recusal from cases. O’Neill joins a quartet of other Dems, ex-Rep. Betty Sutton (D), Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D), State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D), and ex-State Rep. Connie Pillich (D), in the crowded Dem primary.

Congress:

NJ-Sen: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) has rested his defense case in his corruption trial. Menendez did not take the stand in his own defense, a move that could have been politically problematic for him even if he were acquitted. The jury is likely to begin deliberations by the end of the week.

FL-5: Rumors are flying that ex-Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (D) is considering a primary challenge to first-term Rep. Al Lawson (D) in this Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee seat. Brown’s bid could be complicated if another Jacksonville Democrat, State Sen. Audrey Gibson (D), also decides to primary Lawson, as they would likely split the Jacksonville vote.

NH-1: State Rep. Mark McKenzie (D), a former state AFL-CIO chair,  is the latest candidate into this crowded race. McKenzie joins Obama admin offiical Maura Sullivan (D) and ex-Strafford DA Lincoln Soldati (D) in the race to fill the purple open seat of retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D); the GOP also has a crowded field.

TX-5: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) announced his retirement yesterday. Click for our full post and Great Mentioner for his R+16 Dallas-to-rural East Texas seat.

State Offices:

AZ-SoS: Oof, now this is about as damning an indictment you can get without actually being indicted. An investigation has found that SoS Michele Reagan (R) broke the law through sheer incompetence in office. Reagan was supposed to mail out the state-produced voter information pamphlets for a referendum in May 2016, but the pamphlets did not go out in time. However, there will be no punishment, as the criminal law requires willful neglect of duty, and this error “demonstrates poor or incompetent execution of the task, not a knowing omission of their duty.” Reagan’s staff apparently hid the technical error responsible for the missed mailing from her, but the investigation also found she was responsible for covering up the error for 19 days before admitting it publicly, time during which the referendum ballots were sent out and votes cast without the information pamphlet. Reagan is currently facing a primary challenge from State Sen. Steve Montenegro (R). Democrats are seriously contesting this seat as well, with State Sen. Katie Hobbs (D) and attorney and Dem operative Mark Gordon (D) squaring off in the primary.

CA-AG: Republicans have a mildly credible candidate for this race, as retired judge Steven Bailey (R) has announced a bid to take on appointed incumbent Xavier Becerra (D). Bailey has some GOP establishment support, but has no chance in the deep-blue state’s general given his lack of cash or name recognition. That said, it’s still good to know we will probably have a non-embarassing nominee, and Bailey could be a solid get for a legislative seat or CA-4 in the future.

CO-Treas: Two new candidates have entered this crowded field. For Republicans, businessman Brian Watson (R), who lost a State House race in 2012 but has proven fundraising ability, is the latest candidate into this crowded primary. Watson joins State Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R), State Reps. Polly Lawrence (R) and Justin Everett (R), Routt DA Brett Barkey (R), and Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn (R). On the Dem side, State Rep. Steve Lebsock (D) now has a serious primary rival in fellow State Rep. Dave Young (D) of Greeley.

DE-AG: Tom Neuberger (R), a prominent attorney who has made his name suing the state on behalf of public employees, will run for AG. Neuberger most notably represented correctional officers alleging unsafe practices led to a prison riot at the state’s main prison in February. Neuberger could be a credible candidate for the GOP in this race. Former AG’s office CoS Tim Mullaney (D) is the only other  candidate in the race, but ex-AG Charles Oberly (D) and State Rep. Sean Lynn (D) are considering.

DE-Aud: Kathleen Davies (I), the former top deputy to State Auditor Tom Wagner (R), is running for her boss’s seat as an Independent. Davies could be a credible candidate, but there are allegations she was forced out of the office over misappropration of travel reimbursements. Wagner has not declared if he will seek an eighth term; ex-State Rep. Dennis Williams (D) is in the race for Dems.

FL-AG: State Rep. Sean Shaw (D) is considering a run for AG. Democrats have struggled to find a recruit for this race, with no candidate obviously making moves toward a bid so far. While Shaw, a first-term Rep. from a heavily Democratic Tampa seat, is not considered a top-tier prospect, he would likely be stronger than the only Dem in the race so far, little-known attorney Ryan Torrens (D). The GOP has a 3-way primary between front-running retired judge Ashley Moody (R) and State Reps. Jay Fant (R) and Frank White (R).

FL-Ag Comm: Former Orlando Mayoral candidate Paul Paulson (R) is dropping out of the race for Ag Commissioner and endorsing State Rep. Matt Caldwell (R). Paulson had some self-funding ability but little name rec or establishment support and was thus considered a long-shot. Caldwell is facing State Sen. Denise Grimsley (R) and ex-State Rep. Baxter Troutman (R) in the primary.

GA-PSC: Public Service Commission Chair Stan Wise (R) will not run for re-election next year. Seats on the 5-member, currently all-GOP, board are elected at-large for staggered 6-year terms.

KS-SoS: State Sen. Marci Francisco (D), who represents a deep-blue Lawrence seat, is considering a run for the open SoS post, becoming the first Dem to declare interest in this seat. Three Republicans are in the race, KSGOP chair and Sedgwick County commissioner Kelly Arnold (R) and State Reps. Keith Esau (R) and Scott Schwab (R).

LA-Treas: The State Democratic Party has belatedly endorsed attorney Derrick Edwards (D) in his November 18 Treasurer runoff. Edwards came in first in the October primary, but did not run a serious campaign and the three Republicans took 2/3 of the vote. State Rep. John Schroeder (R) is considered the prohibitive favorite in the runoff, but there is a theoretical chance high New Orleans turnout for the mayoral race and ultra-low turnout elsewhere could give a D-heavy enough electorate for Edwards to shock.

NM-AG: Immigration attorney Michael Hendricks (R), who had previously been exploring a run for the open congressional NM-1, will take on AG Hector Balderas (D). Balderas is considered a strong favorite for re-election in the medium-blue state.

OH-Aud: State House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R) will not run for Auditor, ending a few days of speculation that he would jump into the race. Rosenberger’s decision keeps the primary field clear for State Rep. Keith Faber (R), the former State Senate President. Ex-Rep. Zack Space (D) is the likely D nominee.

SC-AG: State Rep. Todd Atwater (R) is considering a primary challenge to AG Alan Wilson (R). Atwater is well connected, having spent over a decade as director of the state’s Medical Association and as a former gubernatorial and congressional staffer. Atwater would likely plan to hit Wilson on his close ties to indicted lobbyist Richard Quinn (R).

Local Offices:

Westchester, NY-CE: The hits just keep on coming for State Sen. George Latimer (D). After it came out that he owed $48K in back property taxes and missed a key legislative vote to take a vacation with his mistress, Latimer has had another embarrassment come out: his car registration has been suspended for unpaid parking tickets (and he is driving the car anyway). Latimer is in a closely-fought race with incumbent Rob Astorino (R) in this deep-blue county.

St. Paul-Mayor: Ex-councilman Pat Harris (D) is disavowing a mailer on his behalf from the city’s Police Union. The mailer attacks ex-councilman Mel Carter (D), thought to be Harris’s main rival in the 5-way race, for failing to secure guns at his home that were stolen in a robbery. Harris, who is the “moderate” in this extremely left-wing field, is disavowing the mailer as racist.

St. Petersburg-Mayor: Ex-Mayor Rick Baker (R) is going nuclear on his rival, incumbent Rick Kriseman (D). Baker is bringing up the history of Kriseman’s CoS, who propositioned a teenage girl while working as a substitute teacher in 2001. The runoff next week has been very hard-fought as the two were separated by just 70 votes in August.

Coroners: Finally, here’s an absolute must-read piece from mapmaker/consultant Matt Isbell on the election of Coroners. A surprising number of counties still elect their coroner, and the combination of a low-profile and technical office with an uninformed electorate can lead to some weird political stories.

Political Roundup for October 30, 2017

Over the weekend in Iceland, elections produced a deeply-fragmented result, with no obvious coalition set to form. A four-party or more coalition of left or right or a minority government could be possibilities.

Congress

AZ-Sen: Former Rep. Matt Salmon (R) is quickly emerging as the more conservative alternative to the likely candidacy of Rep. Martha McSally (R). Neither politician has confirmed a 2018 run in the wake of the retirement of Sen. Jeff Flake (R), but both are likely to take a shot at it.

UT-Sen: If true, this is a big scoop; The Atlantic is reporting that longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) will retire this cycle, and that he intends to support former presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) for the Republican nomination to replace him. Romney is very popular in Mormon-heavy Utah, and would likely defeat all comers in the primary and the general elections. We’ll see if this is true, but regardless it’s an important development.

FL-13: Singer Joy Villa (R) is a big fan of President Trump, and the reverse is also true if recent tweets are to be believed. Villa is considering running against Rep. Charlie Crist (R->I->D) in his Pinellas County district. Villa would have an uphill climb in the Clinton-voting seat, but anything is possible when Charlie is on the ballot.

NY-21: Yet another no-name Democrat has picked up the gauntlet to challenge Rep. Elise Stefanik (R). This time, it’s Tanya Boone (D) of Granville. She’s running on a populist platform with a special focus on rural connectivity. If she somehow manages to make it to the general election, the Green Party nominee will take a significant number of her base’s votes, and Stefanik will likely flatten her. The really funny part of all this is that such a message, with a few other very local concerns tacked onto it, would likely be effective if backed with a cleared-field and big money. Thank god that the DCCC isn’t that competent.

PA-11: The race to replace Rep. Lou Barletta (R) is heating up, at least in the Republican primary. Fundraising-wise, it’s a three-way fight, with Andrew Lewis raising 116k in two weeks, State Rep. Stephen Bloom raising 110k in less than a month, and former state Revenue secretary Dan Meuser loaning himself about a quarter of a million dollars. With three well-funded candidates, I’d guess that this race will come down to the different candidates’ messages.

Governor

VA-Gov: This is a tad odd, but encouraging nonetheless; Ed Gillespie’s (R) ad buys have pulled ahead of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) for the last two weeks of their gubernatorial contest. This is despite Northam having more CoH. Northam is likely still slightly favored, but conserving cash this late in the game is a textbook dumb move. VPAP also has an awesome tool showing you which ads are airing in which part of the state.

VA-Gov Continued: A new CNU poll has the race for Virginia’s highest office at 50-43 Northam-Gillespie, though other polls have shown the race much tighter. Throw it in the average and we’ll see who was right in a few weeks.

VA-Gov Continued Continued: A columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch (which recently endorsed Gillespie) thinks that the three GOP statewide nominees aren’t really acting like a ticket. This guy comes at things from a certain point of view, but reading in-depth local pieces is almost always illustrative, so I recommend that you do so.

State/Local

IL-AG/WATN: He’s baaacck… Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has resurfaced and is running for state Attorney General to succeed Lisa Madigan (D). If there’s any viable Democrat who could possibly lose this race, it’s Quinn. Let us hope that Erika Harold (R) takes full advantage of the situation. Quinn joins State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D), State Rep. Scott Drury (D), Chicago police official Sharon Fairley (D), and prosecutor and talking head Renato Mariotti (D) in the Dem primary.

CA-Prop: One of the proposals to split California into multiple states has qualified to collect signatures. The proposal would carve California into three states, wth two being pretty Democratic and one being swingy.

Detroit-Mayor: Well, folks, it looks like this one is going to be a snoozer. Incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan leads Heir Force candidate Coleman Young II 63-28 in the nonpartisan race to retain the mayor’s office in America’s worst large municipality.

Ulster County Lege: Jennifer Schwartz Berky (D), an Ulster County, NY, legislator, is in trouble for faking PTSD to try and get out of a traffic ticket. I’m not sure what her county legislative district is like, but the lame apology she issued seems to indicate either that the district is safe or that she just DGAF. It’ll be interesting to see if this story goes anywhere or whether it causes her trouble in the primary or the general election.

Political Roundup for October 27, 2017

Senate:

AZ-Sen: Ex-Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is taking her name out of the running to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R). However she is promoting another candidate to run that is not well-known outside the state. She is encouraging lawyer and Arizona Board of Regents member Jay Heiler (R) to run. Heiler had said earlier this month before Flake dropped out that he was thinking about challenging Flake in the primary. Reports are that Rep. Trent Franks (R) has taken himself out of the running, and Rep. David Schweikert (R) said he wasn’t sure he had the “burning passion” to run, although he didn’t fully rule it out.

FL-Sen: Another poll indicates that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) may have a real fight on his hands if Gov. Rick Scott (R) runs as expected. The Mason-Dixon poll has the two tied at 44. The poll represents an improvement for Scott from their last poll in February, where Nelson led 44-40. This is the 2nd poll this week to show an essentially tied race.

House:

ID-1: State Rep. Christy Perry (R) is considering joining the race for this open seat. Perry would join a GOP primary that currently includes former state Sen. Russ Fulcher (R), former 80s era LG David Leroy (R) and state Rep. Luke Malek (R). Perry is from Nampa in the southern, Boise-area part of the district along with Fulcher and Leroy while Malek comes from Coeur d’Alene in the north.

MT-AL: State Rep. Kathleen Williams (D) joined the race for Congress yesterday. Williams joins 4 other Democrats running to face Rep. Greg Gianforte (R). They are former state Sen. Lynda Bourque Moss (D), former Five Valleys Land Trust director Grant Kier, attorney John Heenan, and state Rep. Tom Woods (D).

Governor:

FL-Gov: Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (D) has scheduled an event next Wednesday where he is expected to announce he is joining the Democratic primary race for governor. Levine has led all Democrats, including announced candidates in fundraising to this point. He will join Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), former Rep. Gwen Graham (D) and businessman Chris King in the primary. Others, including wealthy trial lawyer John Morgan and billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene are considering getting in the race as well.

ID-Gov: Real estate developer Tommy Ahlquist has received the endorsement of Mitt Romney in his campaign for governor. Romney appeared in the state yesterday to lend his support to Ahlquist. Ahlquist is facing LG Brad Little (R) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R) in the Republican primary. He has received some criticism in the party for donating to some Democrats in the past, including 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee A.J. Balukoff. Ahlquist says that he donated to Balukoff because he thinks his family are “wonderful people”, but he donated the same amount to Gov. Butch Otter (R) and voted for Otter.

NE-Gov: Democrats finally appear to have at least one and maybe two candidates interested in the very tough task of taking on Gov. Pete Ricketts (R). One who is willing to lend their name publicly is University of Nebraska-Omaha instructor Tyler Davis. Davis was a Republican who has switched parties to challenge Ricketts. State Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb also says a state senator, unnamed at this point, is considering running.

OK-Gov: In a surprise move, House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D) announced he was dropping out of the governor’s race on Wednesday. Although Inman was already being term-limited out of his seat at the end of his term, he furthermore announced his resignation from the Legislature effective in January. Inman was considered one of the top Democratic contenders for governor, and his exit probably helps ex-AG Drew Edmondson (D), the other major contender. Liberal ex-state Sen. Connie Johnson (D) is the other candidate still in the race.

OR-Gov: It was appearing like state Rep. Knute Buehler (R) might get the field to himself for the Republican nomination for governor, but now he has a challenger. Businessman Sam Carpenter says he will challenge Buehler for the Republican nomination.  Carpenter, who like Buehler is from the central Oregon city of Bend, is running to the right of the moderate Buehler. This is Carpenter’s 2nd bid for public office-he finished 2nd in the Republican primary for US Senate last year.

VA-Gov: If a new poll by Hampton University is accurate, LG Ralph Northam (D) could be in deep trouble. The poll puts Ed Gillespie (R) ahead by 8 points, 41-33. There are reasons to doubt the poll-there are 27% undecided, which seems pretty high for this late in the campaign and while one recent poll put Gillespie ahead by 1 point, others have Northam ahead, and one by Quinnipiac just last week had him comfortably ahead by 14 points. However it could also indicate late movement towards Gillespie and we do know that national Democrats have become nervous about the race. Either this trend will be reflected in other forthcoming polls, or somebody is going to have egg on their face in a couple of weeks.

State offices:

HI-LG: Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho (D) has announced he is running for Lieutenant Governor. He joins State Sens. Jill Tokuda (D) and Josh Green (D) in the Democratic primary. Current LG Shan Tsutsui (D) is not running for re-election.

IA-AG: One of the country’s longest serving row officers is running for another term. Attorney General Tom Miller (D) is running for a 10th term. Miller was first elected in 1978 and re-elected twice before making an unsuccessful run for governor in the Democratic primary in 1990. He ran for the office again in 1994 and has been re-elected every 4 years since. Miller and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (D), who was first elected in 1982 are the only Democrats currently in statewide office.

International:

Australia: A temporary crisis is brewing for PM Malcolm Turnbull and his Coalition government as National Party leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has been declared ineligible by the Australian High Court to sit in Parliament because of dual citizenship he has with New Zealand. Joyce has since renounced his New Zealand citizenship and will be running in the Dec. 2 by-election to fill his seat. This poses a problem for Turnbull as it at least temporarily deprives him of the already razor-thin 1 seat majority his government had. However the government would appear to be safe from losing a no confidence vote as independent Cathy McGowan says she will continue to support the government on confidence and supply. Other key votes however could be up in the air. Joyce appears to be the favorite to be returned to his seat and received a break when former independent MP Tony Windsor, whom Joyce defeated in last year’s election said he would not contest the seat in the by-election. 4 Senators were also declared ineligible to hold their seats in the same ruling-two of which had already resigned. Those seats will be filled by a special recount of ballots cast in last year’s election

Political Roundup for October 26th, 2017

Lots of gubernatorial news in today’s roundup.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Sen. Flake’s retirement yesterday is one of those situations where the incumbent stepping down may actually help Republicans, considering Flake’s eternally soft numbers and more recent loathing by Republican primary voters. Whereas Democrats before would have counted on either a bruised incumbent or far-right primary challenger, now they get to face a fresh face. This news is particularly bad for former State Sen. Kelli Ward, his would-be primary challenger who will now have to face viable conservatives in the primary. See our retirement announcement for a short Great Mentioner. One candidate, Rep. Paul Gosar (R), is already out.

Speaking of Ward, the McConnell-allied Senate Leadership Fund has announced a Counter-Reformation against Steve Bannon’s crusade to purge establishment Senators. They fired their first shots by calling Ward a “conspiracy theorist” and planning to tar Bannon as tied to white nationalists. The group’s social media also recently targeted Danny Tarkanian in NV-Sen, who is primarying vulnerable Sen. Dean Heller (R).

Governor

TX-Gov: Democrats may finally have a viable gubernatorial candidate in the form of Andrew White, son of former (and recently deceased) Governor Mark White (D). White, a Houston investor, called himself a “very conservative Democrat” and opposed bathroom bills in his first comments to media and said he will announce a decision officially in three to four weeks. Some Democrats are also courting Paul Quinn College (in southern Dallas) President Michael Sorrell.

TX-Gov / Leg: A bombshell for Texas politics dropped last night when Speaker Joe Straus (R) announced he would not run for reelection. Straus served as speaker for five terms, tying the record for length of time in that post. While Straus’ San Antonio seat nowadays should stay Republican, the real interest is twofold. First: will Straus choose to primary a statewide incumbent, particularly Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick or Gov. Greg Abbott? While Straus said he is “not one to close doors,” and failed to demur on a gubernatorial bid, he also said he is unlikely to appear on a ballot in 2018. If Straus’ name did appear this cycle, it would open up the chance that next March’s Republican primaries might not be as low turnout as expected. Second, who runs for Speaker? Straus filled a moderate void in Texas politics, and there will surely be more conservative candidates for Speaker than State Reps. Phil King and John Zerwas. Leaving with Straus is the powerful committee chairman Byron Cook, so we may see a flood of conservative legislation pass the 2019 legislative session.

UT-Gov: We have a poll for a 2020 gubernatorial race from Dan Jones with an odd format. They test something like a jungle primary with a bunch of Republicans and a Democratic candidate, presumably to save money on a series of ballot tests between the Democrat and differenet Republicans. Anyway, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) leads the pack with 24% over Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D), who recently elected to run against Rep. Mia Love (R) in Ut-4, with 20%; Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox with 11%; and Josh Romney, son of Mitt, at 9%. Chaffetz has said a decision on whether to run is years away for him but called it “a definite maybe.”

MN-Gov: After helming his successful Minnesota campaign last cycle, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) returns the favor by endorsing Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson’s gubernatorial bid. The Republican side of this open seat race is kind of on hold as people wait and watch if Speaker Kurt Daudt or former Gov. Tim Pawlenty toss their hat into the ring. One candidate, former MNGOP Chairman Keith Downey, chose the interesting decision to attack Rubio in response in his continuing efforts to make himself sound Trumpian or something (interesting because Minnesotans picked Rubio and tend to like their politics bland / Minnesota Nice- see Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Erik Paulsen, and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty for examples).

VA-Gov: In a pretty heated pitch to juice up their base’s turnout, Virginia Democrats’ latest mailer ties Gillespie to Trump and overlays both men’s pictures over a bunch of white nationalists in Charlottesville carrying tiki torches. The message? “Virginia gets to stand up to hate.”

RI-Gov: Former jewelry company CEO Giovanni Feroce is considering a Republican gubernatorial run. Meanwhile, former Cranston Mayor Allen Fung will run for Governor a second time this cycle after losing to Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) by four points in 2014.

State and Local

NC-Leg: State Rep. Bill Brisson of Bladen County switches from the Dems to the Republican Party. Brisson was a DINO but he held a very conservative seat in rural areas south and east of Fayetteville. His decision moves this seat from Tossup or Lean D to Likely or Safe R.

New Orleans-Mayor: After finishing in third place in the first round, Michael Bagneris (D) has endorsed City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell (D) in the Nov. 18th runoff for New Orleans Mayor over former municipal court judge Desiree Charbonnet (D). Cantrell led the first round despite being outspent and now looks like a fairly strong favorite in the runoff.

Political Roundup for October 24, 2017

First, there is a single legislative special primary today. SC-LD-56 is an R+17 (2016) seat covering most of the inland suburbs of Myrtle Beach along State Route 31. Retired TV news anchor Tim McGinnis (R) looks like the front-runner for the seat due to his high name recognition, but chiropractor Dwyer Scott (R) has self-funded and also seems serious. College student Adam Miller (R) seems less serious. Either McGinnis or Scott could win, or the two could advance to a runoff in two weeks if Miller holds both below 50. No Democrats are running.

President:

Cuban: Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban has stated that if he runs for president in 2020 he would “probably” do so as a Republican. However, this is probably not the “Cuban” presidential candidate most Republicans were hoping for.

Governor:

IL-Gov: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) rode a Harley and criticized state Boss House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) as he officially announced his run for a second term. Rauner released a two-minute video with him riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and promising to fight for Illinois.

NY-Gov: NY Mets owner and Ponzi scheme magnet Fred Wilpon has donated $65,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) re-election campaign as he lobbies the state for approval of an arena for the NY Islanders at the Belmont Race track because this is how business is done in New York State.

RI-Gov: State Rep. Patricia Morgan becomes the first Republican to enter the race to challenge incumbent Gov. Gina Raimondo  (D) in 2018. Morgan is one of eleven GOP members of the 75 member Rhode Island state House and enters the race for governor with about $90,000 in her campaign account. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former Rep. Joseph Trillo are also considering a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

VA-Gov: Republican Ed Gillespie’s new ad hits Democrat Ralph Northam for supporting the automatic restoration of voting rights to felons that would make it easier for them to get guns and serve on juries. The ad is part of Gillespie’s tough on crime message that seems straight out of old GOP playbooks.

Senate:

CA-Sen: State Senate leader Kevin de León (D) has $3.8 million in his state campaign account that cannot be rolled into his federal account as he seeks to take on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). Political strategists Maclen Zilber and Dave Jacobson have created a super PAC called A Progressive California to help support De León but it is unclear if he can transfer money from his state committees to the PAC. The legal issue may have to be resolved by federal authorities or courts as federal law restricts contributions by candidates to super PACs that support them.

MA-Sen: Republican John Kingston allegedly asked Beth Lindstrom to drop out of the Republican primary during a meeting they had last month. Kingston claimed he would be a better senate candidate against incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Faux Cherokee Nation) and allegedly offered to help Lindstrom with a congressional campaign for the MA-3 seat that Niki Tsongas is vacating or a challenge to US Senator Edward Markey’s re-election in 2020. Massachusetts state law prohibits a candidate for elected office to give another candidate anything of value in exchange for not running in the same race and Lindstrom clearly leaked this story to the Boston Globe as a way of ratf**king Kingston’s campaign. Conservative state Representative Geoff Diehl, self-promoter Shiva Ayyadurai and 2013 senate candidate Gabriel Gomez are also seeking the GOP nomination for the uphill task of unseating Warren.

MI-Sen: Former Trump White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is in regular contact with musician Kid Rock (R) about a potential Senate run.

MS-Sen:  If Sen. Thad Cochran (R) resigns from the Senate early who would Gov. Phil Bryant (R) would appoint a temporary replacement? Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is believed to be the most likely option but Rep. Gregg Harper (R) and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) could also be possibilities. Reeves has been planning a run for Governor in 2019 so taking a Senate appointment could shake up that race. If Cochran leaves office before Nov. 6 it would prompt a special, nonpartisan election within 100 days and if he leaves office after Nov 6th it would trigger a special, nonpartisan election in November 2018 to serve out the remainder of his term which will expire at the end of 2020.

OH-Sen: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) says the White House is full of “Goldman Sachs executives” and “white supremacists” which if true is probably just as bad as a US Senate full of wife beaters.

House:

CA-24: Republican Justin Fareed is back and will make his third run for this congressional seat. Fareed lost to Rep. Salud Carbajal (D) by 7 points in 2016 and did not make it to the top two in 2014. Fareed has raised more than $215,000 for his campaign.

MS-4: Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes (R) is “strongly considering” a primary challenge of Rep. Steven Palazzo (R). Hewes, 55, has been mayor of Gulfport since 2013 and formerly served in the state Senate from 1992 to 2012 and was president pro tem, the second-ranking position in the Senate, from 2008-2012. Hewes also ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2011.

NH-1: Illinois native Obama administration official Maura Sullivan (D), who was originally recruited to run in IL-6, is exploring a run for Congress from her new home of New Hampshire. I guess there is no better way to see a state for the first time than by travelling around it campaigning for public office.

OH-12: Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien (R) has become the first Republican candidate to announce a run for the seat Rep.  Pat Tiberi (R) intents to resign from in January.

PA-18: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has set Tuesday March 13th as the date for the special election to replace ex-Rep. Tim Murphy (R). Under Pennsylvania law nominees will be picked through party conventions rather than primaries. Donald Trump won this seat 58% to 39% in 2016.

VA-10: Dumb viral videos work! Some dude Army vet Dan Helmer’s (D) campaign for Congress has taken off after he released a painfully bad to watch “Top Gun” themed ad in September. Helmer’s campaign account has $397,941 cash on hand which is a a lot more than Democrat rivals state Sen. Jennifer Wexton ($255,075) or former Obama administration official Alison Friedman ($241,857) have on hand. The winner of the Democrat primary will face Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) who has a history as a strong campaigner and winning elections in a swing district.

WI-3: Retired Army veteran Steve Toft (R) announced he will challenge Rep. Ron Kind next year. Kind had the good fortune to run unopposed in 2016 when his district swung from 55-44 for Obama in 2012 to 49-45 for Trump.

State, Local & Other:

Houston-Bond Measure: Lift Up Houston plans on running $250,000 worth of broadcast TV ads supporting the five bond measures on the ballot this November. The 30 second ads features Mayor Sylvester Turner urging Houstonians to go into debt to pay for pension reforms and “public improvements”.

CO-Broomfield Ballot issue 301: The Vote No on 301 supporters have raised more than $344,000 to fight this November’s ballot issue 301 which would restrict the presence of oil and gas industrial operations in Broomfield, CO.

NY-Westchester County Executive: Democrat George Latimer has released an internal poll showing him with a 1-percentage point lead over Republican incumbent Rob Astorino. If a 1 point lead is the best Latimer can show in his press release/poll there is a good chance Astorino is leading this race.

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