BIPAC Election Insights - Tough Alabama Primary for Strange and Challenger Steps Up for Alaska Governor

July 19, 2017

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


It appears that internal polling data from the Alabama Senate race is showing that appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) is teetering in the August 15th Republican primary. What seems clear is that the contest is evolving into a three-way race among Mr. Strange, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Mooreand US Rep. Mo Brooks' (R-Huntsville). It is likely that two of those three will advance to a September 26th run-off because it is doubtful that any individual will capture a majority of the Republican primary voters next month.

Last week, we reported upon the Remington Research poll that found four different Republicans leadingMissouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), all by single digits. The Club for Growth organization added Attorney General Josh Hawley to its own ballot test poll and found him leading the Senator, 46-42%.

The Missouri Congresswoman who was most openly considering running for the Senate, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), decided not to run statewide in 2018, and instead is choosing to seek re-election to a fifth term in the House. The move may suggest that Attorney General Hawley is on the brink of joining the race. Mr. Hawley appears to be the national Republican leadership's top choice as McCaskill's challenger.

Salt Lake County at-large Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D), daughter of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson (D), declared her candidacy against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) this week. Mr. Hatch appears to be running for an eighth term, but still leaves the door open to retire. Though Ms. Wilson may prove a credible candidate, it is highly unlikely that a Democrat can win a 2018 Utah statewide race.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for US Senate this week. The move had been expected. Mr. Morrisey will face Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the GOP primary, with the winner advancing to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the fall of 2018. Morrisey wasted no time in reminding the GOP electorate that Mr. Jenkins only became a Republican in 2013, after serving 16 years as a Democratic state legislator. This will be an active primary campaign with a competitive general election to follow.


Orange County (California) Democrats continue to see new candidates coming forward to tackle entrenched Republican congressional incumbents. Two more announced their candidacies against twelve-term Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In what could be a first in the world of US House races, a multi-million dollar California lottery winner, Gil Cisneros who won $266 million in 2010, is now a congressional candidate. Former Commerce Department official and ex-congressional aide Sam Jammal also declared his candidacy. This brings the total number of Democrats opposing Mr. Royce to four. Moving toward the Orange County coastline, Nestle company executive Michael Kotick became the seventh Democrat to launch a campaign against 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

Angie Craig, the Democratic healthcare executive who was favored to win the marginal southeastern Minneapolis suburban district in 2016 but instead fell to now-freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury), is coming back. Ms. Craig announced that she will seek a re-match with the new Congressman next year. Mr. Lewis is off to a strong fundraising start. He raised over $550,000 through the off year's second quarter, more than half the amount he originally spent to win. In 2016, Craig had a 4:1 spending advantage but still failed to succeed.


Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker, who has yet to declare that he is running for a second term, has drawn his first serious opponent. State Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R), who actually left the Senate Republican Caucus because the party budget proposal spent too much public money, announced that he will be a gubernatorial candidate next year. Gov. Walker's personal approval ratings are low - he ranks as the eighth least popular Governor on the new Morning Consult national gubernatorial overview - so this 2018 campaign could become highly competitive.

Policy consulting firm owner and former congressional staffer Maya Rockeymoore is likely to soon enter the growing field of Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan (R) next year. Ms. Rockeymoore is the wife of veteran Baltimore city Congressman Elijah Cummings (D). Six Democrats have already announced, including former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker. Financial disclosure statements are being released in some states, most prevalently in the 2017 Virginia Governor's race. Both Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Republican Ed Gillespie have done well since winning their respective June primaries. While Mr. Gillespie raised about $250,000 less than Lt. Gov. Northam ($1.75 million as compared to $2 million), the former's cash-on-hand is much stronger: $3.2 million to $1.8 million. Having greater resources is an advantage Gillespie must have if he is to cut into Northam's early lead.

The Morning Consult organization ran their regular approval ratings survey of all 50 US Governors, questioning more than 195,000 voters across the country during a period that began in e