Another Interesting Week In U.S. Politics

April 23, 2018

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Texas Senate: Senator Ted Cruz (R) only slightly leading challenger Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D)
  • PA 15 (7): after announcing his retirement earlier this election cycle, Rep. Charlie Dent (R) decides to resign in May
  • AZ-8: conflicting polling for Tuesday's special election on April 24 but former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko (R) anticipated to defeat physician Hiral Tipirneni (D)
  • California Governor: a recent poll finds former LA Mayor Antonio Villariagosa (D) falling behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Republican businessman John Cox in June 5th jungle primary
  • Minnesota Senate: newly appointed Senator Tina Smith (D) jumps out to a strong fundraising start


Arizona: A day after Magellan Strategies released a survey (4/11-12 and 15; 755 AZ likely Republican primary voters) that showed Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) expanding her previous lead in the Republican Senate primary to 36-26-25%, OH Predictive Insights for ABC15 in Phoenix finds a completely different take. Their poll (4/10-11; 600 AZ 600 likely voters; 302 AZ likely Republican primary voters) projected ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward, who was in last place in the Magellan survey and all others previously commissioned, to be leading Rep. McSally and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 36-27-22%. Looking at the sample size of just 302 Republican voters from the entire state suggests the error factor is extremely high for this study, and even more questionable when seeing that no other survey result projects Ms. Ward with the overall lead.

Minnesota: The first quarter Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports were published this week, and appointed Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith (D) has jumped out to a strong fundraising start. According to her fledgling campaign, Sen. Smith has raised a whopping $1.84 million since she assumed office in early January to replace resigned Sen. Al Franken (D). Her most significant Republican opponent, state Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), is reporting receipts of $514,000 with $501,000 in her campaign account.

Pennsylvania: Monmouth University released their latest Pennsylvania statewide poll (4/4-12; 414 PA registered and likely voters) and finds Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) holding a substantial 48-32% lead over Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). The margin yields no doubt that Sen. Casey enjoys a sizable advantage in this fledgling campaign, but this poll has serious flaws. First, the sample size of 414 voters for a state the size of Pennsylvania is small, and the eight-day sampling period is long. Keeping in mind that Monmouth missed the Pennsylvania presidential campaign result about a week before the election because President Trump's vote was understated by a minimum of four percentage points, it would be fair to speculate that the current margin is likely a bit tighter than Monmouth projects.

Tennessee: Since it is now clear that Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) will be their respective party nominees in the open Tennessee US Senate race, both are already raising copious amounts of money. According to their campaigns, Mr. Bredesen raised over $1.8 million during the quarter just ended, and Ms. Blackburn slightly more at approximately $2 million. Mr. Bredesen added to his campaign account with a $1.4 million self-contribution. The Blackburn Campaign will report more than $6 million cash-on-hand. The Bredesen operation did not release their available resource number, but it appears the related figure will fall between $3.5 and $4 million.

Texas: A new Quinnipiac University poll (4/12-17; 1,029 TX registered voters) finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R) leading Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) only 47-44% in a prelude to the general election. But, many inconsistencies are present in the poll, particularly when observing that Sen. Cruz is viewed as handling every issue better than O'Rourke. The sampling discrepancy appears in the Independent category, which breaks hard for O'Rourke and is grouped at a higher rate than both Republicans and Democrats. Thus, the results suggest the data may be skewed. While clear that Rep. O'Rourke will have the resources to compete with Sen. Cruz, it is still highly doubtful that he can overcome Cruz's inherent Republican advantages once the campaign fully plays out for November.   Both Sen. Cruz and Rep. O'Rourke won their respective party nominations outright in the March 6th Texas primary election.


AZ-8: Voters in the northern Phoenix suburbs will go to the polls on April 24th to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria). In late February, Republicans nominated former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko, while Democrats chose physician Hiral Tipirneni. OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix-based survey research company, tested the special election on April 11th (500 likely AZ-8 special election voters) and found Ms. Lesko leading Dr. Tipirneni, 53-43%. The overwhelming number of Republican voters in this district allowed Ms. Lesko to develop the double-digit lead. But Emerson College (4/12-15; 400 AZ-8 likely special election voters) finds a radically different result. They see Dr. Tipirneni actually taking a one point lead, 46-45%. Ms. Lesko should win easily in this solid Republican district; hence, a Democratic upset would be earth-shattering news.

CO-5: Six-term Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) may not yet be officially qualified for the Colorado primary ballot. Skipping the district nominating convention because he fared poorly there in 2016, Mr. Lamborn instead went the petition signature route to qualify for the ballot. Using this option, candidates need 1,000 valid signatures from registered Republican (or Democratic, as the case may be) voters in the particular voting district.

This week a lower court judge disqualified 58 names from his petitions, but 1,211 remain as valid still giving him a cushion of more than 200 signatures. Now, however, the state Supreme Court is considering a suit charging that some of Lamborn's petition circulators aren't Colorado residents. If proven true, then all petitions the ineligible circulators gathered would be disqualified. The court heard arguments from both sides late this week and will render a decision shortly. State Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, the 2016 US Senate nominee, are challenging Rep. Lamborn in the June 26th Republican congressional primary.

Minnesota: Minnesota Congressional District Democratic delegates met around the state over the weekend and attenders from certain local CD conventions endorsed candidates. No endorsement was reached in the open 8th District to replace the retiring Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), meaning a multi-candidate primary contest will ensue as a result. The Minnesota primary is scheduled for August 14th.

In the southeastern 2nd District, a race that was decided in 2016 by only two percentage points between now Representative Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury) and retired healthcare company executive Angie Craig (D), Democratic delegates reaffirmed their support for Ms. Craig and we can expect to see a re-match of the close campaign come this November.

In the 3rd District, where incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) scored a 57% victory despite President Trump losing the suburban district by ten points, Democratic delegates are going in a different direction. While then-state Sen. Terri Bonoff (D) spent up to $2 million not counting outside expenditures on her behalf, the delegates turned to a candidate who has the ability to self-fund, Phillips Distilling Company heir Dean Phillips. Ms. Bonoff did not seek a re-match.

MT-AL: Yesterday, former state Sen. Lynda Moss (D) announced she is ending her campaign for the state's at-large congressional district. Ms. Moss had raised only $32,000 for the campaign with a paltry $38,000 cash-on-hand. She admitted that poor fundraising was the main reason behind her departure. Remaining in the Democratic primary are non-profit environmental organization executive Grant Kier, attorney John Heenan, and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams. Incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman), who was elected in a special election last May, is favored for re-election.

PA-15 (7): Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent (R-Allentown), who had long ago announced that he would not seek re-election, his week made public his plans to resign from the House sometime in May. His decision to leave Congress early begins an interesting political situation. Under Pennsylvania election law, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will have ten days from the official vacancy date to set the special replacement election. He must schedule the vote for no less than 60 days from the vacancy date but, after that requirement is met, he has great leeway over when to add the replacement contest to the election calendar. Gov. Wolf likely short-circuits the situation by simply scheduling the replacement special concurrently with the regular, November 6th general election.


California: J. Wallin Opinion Research and Tulchin Research teamed up to conduct a new survey of the California electorate (3/30-4/4; 800 CA likely voters), which again finds Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leading the pack of candidates just as he consistently has over the course of the last year. The most significant new finding is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who has fallen to only 7% support. Republican businessman John Cox, a former presidential and Illinois US Senate candidate, is second with 16% and has a chance of advancing through the June 5th jungle primary. State Treasurer John Chiang (D) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) record 9%, apiece. The top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation and percentage attained, will advance to the November 6th general election.

New York: Actress Cynthia Nixon drew a great deal of media attention in mid-March when she announced her Democratic primary challenge to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and a new Siena College New York survey (4/8-12; 692 NY registered voters) finds Gov. Cuomo leading Ms. Nixon by a 58-27% count. In the Upstate areas outside of New York City, the spread is an even smaller 48-37%, which is offset by the poll's reported 3:1 advantage the Governor has in the City. While this obviously is a big lead, the margin is somewhat less than other early polls project.

Ms. Nixon also received the Working Families Party endorsement. The WFP is heavily backed by organized labor and, in fact, two pro-Cuomo unions left the WFP after the delegates' weekend action. Though this is a minor party endorsement and in most states would not be much of a factor, New York is different. Here, parties can cross-endorse candidates meaning the same contender will appear multiple times on the same ballot representing different political parties.

While Ms. Nixon has little chance of upending Gov. Cuomo, her Working Families Party endorsement means that she will appear on the general election ballot even after losing the Democratic primary. There is little for Gov. Cuomo to worry about from an electoral standpoint, but Ms. Nixon's presence in the race all the way to November could make what should be a dull campaign much more interesting.

Pennsylvania: The aforementioned Monmouth University poll (see Pennsylvania Senate above) also tested the state's Governor's race. Paired opposite state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), Gov. Tom Wolf (D) opens up a large 47-31% lead. As with Sen. Casey, there is no doubt that the Governor has a clear edge at this point in the race, but taking into account the methodological flaws and Monmouth's track record in the state, it is probably that the margin between the two candidates is a bit less than stated.

Texas: The aforementioned Quinnipiac University poll (see Texas Senate above) also tested Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) re-election standing and produced even more questionable results. According to the data, the Governor would lead Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (D), 49-40%, and businessman Andrew White (D), 48-41%. The latter two are facing each other in aMay 22nd Democratic run-off for the party nomination. Again, because of over-sampling Independents who seem to skew Democratic in unusually high percentages in this particular poll, Gov. Abbott's standing is clearly under-stated. All other data shows him with very comfortable re-election leads and a mammoth advantage in campaign resources.

Wisconsin: There are already 16 announced Democratic gubernatorial candidates vying for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Scott Walker (R) in November, but at least one more major entry could come before the June 1st candidate filing deadline. Four-term Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), who also served ten years in Congress before entering city government, may again run for Governor. He has already lost twice to Mr. Walker, after failing to capture the party nomination in 2002. The current leader appears to be two-term Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, but that could change with Mayor Barrett entering such a crowded field. Early special and odd-numbered election returns suggest that Democrats could fare well in the state next year, making Gov. Walker more vulnerable and the Democratic nomination worth having.