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Close Contests for Senate and House Incumbents Continue to Emerge

July 31, 2020

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

Key Takeaways

  • Presidential Polls:  MI; PA; WI
  • GA-Sen: Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) takes lead
  • MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey’s (D) key new endorsements
  • AZ-6: Rep. David Schweikert’s (R) ethics violations
  • FL-26: Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) drops behind
  • NY-12: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) finally declares victory
  • WA-Gov: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) cruising toward third term


Gravis Marketing Polls:  Gravis Marketing conducted a series of surveys in the Great Lakes Swing states during the July 22-24 period, and came to some interesting conclusions.  While President Trump had largely been polling better in Wisconsin when looking at the three regional swing states, Michigan and Pennsylvania being the other two, Gravis sees a different cut. 

Their results find former Vice President Joe Biden leading Mr. Trump in Wisconsin (6/22; 796 WI likely voters via an interactive voice response system and through an online poll of cell phone users), 50-42%, and Michigan (6/22; 754 MI likely voters via an interactive voice response system and through an online poll of cell phone users), 51-42%.  The Pennsylvania numbers, however, reveal the closer ballot test.  Here (6/22-24; 1,006 PA likely voters via interactive voice response system and through an online poll of cell phone users), Mr. Biden leads only 48-45%.


Georgia Monmouth University completed a Georgia survey (7/23-27; 402 GA likely voters) that found, for the first time, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) leading the special election field for the November 3rd jungle primary election to fill the remainder of resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson’s final term.  Mr. Isakson departed the Senate at the end of 2019 for health reasons. 

According to Monmouth, Sen. Loeffler leads Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), 26-20% with Democratic businessman Matt Lieberman, the son of former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (D/I), trailing in third place with 14%.  Following is Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed candidate Raphael Warnock at only 9% preference, ahead of only former US Attorney Ed Tarver’s 5% preference figure.  This is not the first time, however, that a poll projects the two Republicans advancing into the runoff election.

Kansas The full Democratic commitment to helping former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach win the Republican nomination is now becoming known.  Federal financial disclosure reports reveal that over $4.2 million has been spent from the Democratic PACs with the goal of pulling Mr. Kobach, who reported only $136,000 cash on hand through July 15th, across the GOP primary finish line.  It is obvious that they believe him to be the weakest Republican their consensus candidate, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), could face in November.

Mr. Kobach’s prime opponent, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), had more than $1 million remaining to spend.  Plumbing company Bob Hamilton, who is self-funding his campaign to the degree of $3.7 million, still had just under $1 million in his political account on the pre-primary financial disclosure filing. 

Maine:  After recent polling suggested that Sen. Susan Collins (R) had re-captured the lead in the competitive Maine Senate race, state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D), fresh from a big primary win in mid-July, is back on top.  This, according to Public Policy Polling in their survey (7/22-23; 561 ME voters) that included negative push questions about employing federal agents to stop the Portland, OR protests.  The PPP ballot test found Ms. Gideon leading 47-42%.

Maine’s Colby College is out with their second poll of this year (7/18-24; 888 ME voters of which 89% describe themselves as definitely casting their ballot in November; combination of live and online interviews) and they see Ms. Gideon topping Sen. Collins by a similar 44-39% margin. 

Massachusetts In what could be a major development, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has captured another key endorsement.  The Massachusetts Teachers Association announced this week they will actively support the veteran lawmaker in his bid for re-nomination against Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).  Prior to this, several key environmental groups, acknowledging the Senator’s long leadership role on the climate change issue, had endorsed Sen. Markey and launched a major independent expenditure on his behalf.  Additionally, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) confirmed that she will highlight some closing TV ads for the Senator as the race moves toward conclusion.  The Massachusetts primary is September 1st.

South Carolina  An ALG Research poll conducted for Democrat Jaime Harrison’s US Senate campaign (7/15-20; 591 SC likely voters) finds incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) leading Mr. Harrison, the former state chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, 49-45%, with leaners included for both men.  Both have raised huge campaign war chests through June 30th.  Sen. Graham has pulled in over $31 million cycle-to-date as compared to Mr. Harrison’s strong effort that has so far yielded a whopping $29 million in challenger campaign contributions.  Sen. Graham has a substantial lead in cash-on-hand, however, $15 million to $10 million.


AZ-6:  The House Ethics Committee closed an investigation of Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) and issued a report after all parties reached an agreement.  Mr. Schweikert admits he committed eleven violations in the areas of “campaign finance violations and reporting errors, spending government money to support his political campaigns, pressuring government staff to perform campaign work,” and for the Congressman’s "lack of candor and due diligence in the course of the investigation."  While the investigation is now closed, the findings will certainly become a campaign issue.

FL-26:   A Meeting Street Insights survey (7/14-18; 400 FL-26 registered voters) was just released and the data produced an unexpected result.  According to Meeting Street, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) has a taken a 47-42% lead over freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami) in a seat that flipped from Republican to Democrat in the last election.  The race figures to be close, and a survey such as this will likely increase Mr. Gimenez’s standing on the Republican national target list.

GA-5:  Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that the special election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. John Lewis’ (D-Atlanta) term will be filled with a jungle primary scheduled for September 29th.  If no candidate receives majority support, the top two will runoff on December 1st.  It is likely that state Senator and Georgia Democratic Party state chair Nikema Williams will win the special election outright.  She is the official replacement for Mr. Lewis on the November ballot for the regular term, so seeing her lose the special election would be highly unlikely. 

GA-14:  Republican candidate John Cowan, a north Georgia surgeon, just released a new internal poll as reported in the NJ Hotline (7/23-26; 400 GA-14 likely runoff voters) in anticipation of the August 11th runoff election.  The results find Dr. Cowan and his opponent, first place primary finisher Margorie Taylor Greene, tied at 38% apiece.  This is a consistent result with two earlier polls that showed each candidate establishing a three-point lead.  In the primary, Ms. Greene outpolled Dr. Cowan, 40-21%, which was well short of the 50% she needed to capture the nomination outright. 

ME-2 Colby College (see Maine Senate above) also tested the 2nd Congressional District race now that former state Rep. Dale Crafts has officially won the Republican nomination.  The 2nd District sample size, taken over the July 18-24 period is approximately 426 respondents via a combination of live and online interviews.  The ballot test yields freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) a 45-33% general election advantage.  In February’s Colby College poll, Rep. Golden led a generic Republican, 43-29%. 

MN-1:  In 2018, Jim Hagedorn was one of two Republicans to win a Democratic congressional district.  He scored an open seat 50.1 – 49.7% victory over former Defense Department official Dan Feehan (D), a margin of just 1,315 votes.  Mr. Feehan returns for a re-match, and a new Victoria Research & Consultants poll (7/19-23; 511 MN-1 likely general election voters) finds the Democrat jumping out to a small lead, 48-46%.  Early signs suggest that the second election between these two candidates could be just as close as the first.

MO-1:  Veteran Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) has launched a personal media attack ad on his Democratic primary opponent, civil rights activist and pastor Cori Bush.  Late this week, the Justice Democrats PAC, at least loosely affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez (D-NY), responded with an ad wave in support of Ms. Bush in her effort to deny Rep. Clay re-nomination.  With this outside organization coming into the race within the last week of the campaign, we can expect much more to follow making this a contest to watch next Tuesday night in the August 4th primary. 

NY-1:  Public Policy Polling, surveying for the 314 Action Fund, an independent expenditure committee supporting Democratic congressional nominee Nancy Goroff, released a study (7/14-15; 1,100 NY-1 voters) that finds three-term Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley/Smithtown) leading Ms. Goroff, 47-40%.  The 1st District leans Republican but has been known to flip in wave election years.

NY-12:  Five weeks after the New York primary and still without numbers being released, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) declared victory yesterday, saying she will be re-nominated by at least 3,700 votes. New York City officials report that over 95,000 absentee ballots have been counted, but such is not the entire allotment.  Ms. Maloney’s opponent, business executive Suraj Patel did not dispute the count but is still a plaintiff in a lawsuit asking for court intervention to count every ballot regardless of when it was postmarked or received by county authorities. 

On election night, with just under 40,000 ballots counted, Ms. Maloney’s margin was below 700 votes.  She predicted the absentee votes would heavily be in her favor and it appears her analysis was correct.  Assuming her preliminary primary victory holds, the Congresswoman will easily win the general election.

TX-22:  A new survey projects Ft. Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehl’s, fresh from a landslide Republican runoff election victory, in very strong general election position despite having virtually no money.  According to a new Meeting Street Insights survey (7/19-22; 400 TX-22 registered voters), Sheriff Nehls would hold a 44-32% lead over 2018 Democratic nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni. 

TX-25:  Texas Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin) is the latest incumbent to be shown in a close race.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released an internal house survey from their DCCC Targeting & Analytics sector (7/21-22; 389 TX-25 likely voters) that found the Congressman leading Democratic nominee Julie Oliver, an attorney and political activist, only by a 45-43% count.  It may be difficult for Oliver to capitalize on this, even if the poll is accurate.  Mr. Williams, who is independently wealthy, is showing $1.268 million in his campaign account and can add a lot more, as compared to Ms. Oliver’s $90,000 in financial resources.


Washington Survey USA, polling for KING-TV in Seattle, released a study for the upcoming August 4th Washington jungle primary (7/22-27; 513 WA likely primary voters) that finds Gov. Jay Inslee (D), running for a third term after withdrawing from the presidential race, holding a very comfortable lead.  According to S-USA, he would capture 55% of the vote.  His next closest rival is local police chief Loren Culp (R) who has only 9% support.  Businessman Tim Eyman (R) is close behind Culp with 8%, while all others post 6% or less; therefore, Gov. Inslee is a lock for re-election in November.