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Congressional Races Heat Up

July 13, 2020

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

Key Takeaways

  • Presidential Polling: FL; PA
  • ME-Sen: Conflicting polls suggest toss-up
  • NJ-Sen: Sen. Cory Booker (D) re-nominated; GOP undecided
  • NJ House: Rep. Jeff Van Drew wins first R nomination; general election set
  • UT-1 :Ex-Foreign Service Officer Blake Moore wins GOP nomination
  • UT-Gov: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) defeats ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman (R)


Florida:  Many polls are currently being released, but the Trafalgar Group data draws special attention since the research organization was the only pollster to correctly predict Wisconsin and Pennsylvania at the end of the 2016 election cycle. The new Trafalgar Florida poll (6/29-7/2; 1,072 FL likely voters) again finds the race much closer than other pollsters. In this case, Trafalgar sees a dead tie between the two major party contenders, with both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden scoring 46% support among the surveyed respondents.

Pennsylvania:  Again looking at a Trafalgar Group poll, this time of the important Pennsylvania electorate (6/29-7/2; 1,062 PA likely voters), the ballot test finds former VP Joe Biden leading President Trump, 48-43%, which is consistent with other current polling data. We can expect seeing regular polls coming from this state for the rest of the election cycle.


Alaska:  Public Policy Polling surveyed the Alaska electorate (7/7-8; 1,081 AK voters via automated response device) and finds Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) to be leading his prospective Democratic opponent, surgeon Al Gross, by only a single-digit margin, 39-34 percent. Close polling in Alaska is not surprising because electoral history reveals that such is typically the case, and not always consistent with the final outcome.

Kansas:  A newly formed organization called Plains PAC just launched what appears to be a $3 million negative media buy against Senate Republican candidate Kris Kobach with a hard-hitting ad in a build-up to the August 4th primary election. Democratic strategists believe they have a chance to win what should be a safely Republican seat if Kobach, who lost the Governor’s race in 2018, becomes the nominee and polling suggests they are correct. Western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) is the most viable candidate with an opportunity to deny Kobach the party nomination.

Maine:  Last week, we reported on a Moore Information survey (6/20-24; 600 ME registered voter telephone interviews) that found Sen. Susan Collins (R) leading state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport), 45-37%. Now, Public Policy Polling (7/2-3; 1,022 “voters” through interactive response devise) posts Gideon to a 46-42% lead. While phone interviews tend to be more accurate than automated responses, the cumulative effect of the two polls provide support for prognosticators who project this race as a toss-up campaign.

Massachusetts:  The Senate Democratic primary race between Massachusetts incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) is expected to be close at the polls and even appears to be down to the penny in the political money war. Both men are releasing their 2nd Quarter 2020 financial numbers, and each raised just over $1.9 million during the period. They both have almost the same amount of cash-on-hand, too. Sen. Markey reports $4.8 million in his campaign account versus Rep. Kennedy’s $4.7 million.

This week, the incumbent also received some help from his climate change allies. The Senator has been a leader in environmental issues and causes for decades during his congressional service, and his work is being recognized. The Environment America Action Fund, whose supported independent expenditure PAC United for Massachusetts, announced they will spend over $900,000 on a broadcast and digital ad campaign to promote Sen. Markey. The Massachusetts primary is September 1st.

New Jersey:  Sen. Cory Booker was easily re-nominated for a second term in this week’s New Jersey primary capturing over 89% of the projected vote. Who he will face in November remains a question mark, however. Former congressional candidate Hirsch Singh and pharmaceutical executive Rik Mehta are seesawing in counting that is taking days to count. Regardless of who wins the Republican primary, Sen. Booker is the prohibitive re-election favorite for the Fall campaign. As with many other states, the large number of mailed ballots means the tabulation period can be stretched for more than a week.

Tennessee:  We’re seeing a number of instances where polling conducted in the same relative time frame is producing differing results. Such is the case again in Tennessee. The open Senate race hasn’t attracted much national attention largely because most analysts believe that former US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty will easily win the Republican primary and the seat in November. One poll, from the Tarrance Group (6/28-30; 651 TN GOP likely voters over half of whom have voted in the last four Republican primaries), supports such a conclusion. Tarrance finds Mr. Hagerty holding a 46-29% Republican primary advantage over Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi.

Victory Phones, which gained statewide credibility for conducting Gov. Bill Lee’s polling in 2018, sees a different result, however. Their study (6/30-7/1; 800 likely Republican primary voters) foresees a much closer contest. While projecting Mr. Hagerty into the lead, it is only by two points, 33-31%, over Dr. Sethi. Tennessee is the only state in the country to hold its primary on a Thursday, and this year the nomination vote is scheduled for August 6th.


AK-AL:  The Alaska Public Policy Polling survey (7/7-8; 1,081 AK voters via automated response device) also produced a ballot test in the at-large House race between veteran Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House in seniority who was elected in a 1973 special election, and challenger Alyse Galvin, the 2018 Democratic nominee who fell seven percentage points short of unseating the Congressman, 53-46%. The PPP poll actually finds Ms. Galvin running ahead 43-41% in the new campaign, but such a position is not altogether unusual. In the 2018 campaign, the last poll before the election actually projected Ms. Galvin to a slight one-point advantage.

AZ-6:  Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) represents a Republican suburban Phoenix district, but he is under investigation for allegedly misusing some of his government funds for political purposes. While the campaign here hasn’t yet drawn much national attention, his likely Democratic opponent, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni who ran in the 8th District special and general election during the last election cycle, has quietly raised well over $2 million and is reporting more than $1.6 million cash-on-hand. This race will become competitive and is an upset possibility.

ME-2:  A new Survey USA poll for the Fair Vote organization, which supports Maine’s controversial instant runoff Ranked Choice Voting system, finds the 2nd District Republican contest turning into a strong three-way battle. According to S-USA (6/30; 7/6; 604 ME-2 likely Republican primary voters), former state Rep. Dale Crafts would lead realtor and ex-journalist Adrienne Bennett and former state Sen. Eric Brakey, 37-25-19%. Such a result would employ the Ranked Choice system to choose a winner once the last place candidate is eliminated and the new ranking occurs. We could once again this system produce a primary nominee next week who did not attract the most votes.

MT-AL:  Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group, surveying for the Kathleen Williams campaign (6/24-28; 500 MT likely general election voters), finds both Ms. Williams (D) and State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) in a dead heat tie at 47% apiece for Montana’s at-large open congressional seat. This survey, however, disagrees with last week’s University of Montana data (6/17-26; 517 MT registered voters) that posted Mr. Rosendale to a relatively strong 45-37% advantage.

New Jersey:  The week’s Garden State primary yielded few surprises in the House races, as all incumbents were headed to easy re-nomination victories in preliminary returns. Republicans David Richter, Tom Kean Jr., and Rosemary Becchi will face Democratic freshmen Andy Kim, Tom Malinowski, and Mikie Sherrill, respectively, in what should become competitive battles.

Party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township/Atlantic City), who was elected in the 2nd District as a Democrat but later became a Republican, scored what looks to be an unofficial 81% of the vote in his first GOP primary. He will face Amy Kennedy, the wife of former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in what will be another competitive general election.

NY-1:  With absentee ballots finally being counted and reported in New York 16 days after the state’s primary on June 23rd, one race has already changed from the early tabulated votes. Late this week, 2018 Democratic nominee Perry Gershon, who held Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to a 51-47% re-election victory, conceded defeat in this year’s Democratic primary. The surprise winner, by just over 600 votes, is college professor Nancy Goroff who will now advance into the general election. Rep. Zeldin is favored for re-election.

TX-13:  Former White House physician and retired Navy Admiral Ronny Jackson (R), with President Trump’s support, is expanding his lead over lobbyist and former congressional aide Josh Winegarner (R) according to a Fabrizio Lee & Associates survey (6/27-28; 400 TX-13 likely Republican runoff voters) for the Miles of Greatness Super PAC, a military support organization backing Dr. Jackson. According to the ballot test results, the Jackson lead over Winegarner has grown to 46-29%. The postponed Republican runoff is scheduled for next week on July 14th. The Republican primary winner becomes a prohibitive favorite for election in November.

TX-24:  A pair of Super PACs announced support in the way of media ads for local school board member Candace Valenzuela who is opposing retired Air Force officer and 2018 state Agriculture Commissioner nominee Beth Olson. The End Citizens United and Latino Victory Fund organizations are supporting Ms. Valenzuela, while VoteVets announced an endorsement for Ms. Olson. Fundraising is nearly equal, too. Ms. Valenzuela says she will report over $465,000 raised for the 2nd quarter, while Ms. Olson will come in around $438,000. The July 14th Democratic runoff winner faces former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who won the Republican primary outright back in March. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) is retiring after serving what will be eight terms at the end of the current congressional session.

UT-1:  In another primary election that took a week to decide, former US Foreign Service officer Blake Moore has won the Republican primary to succeed the retiring Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) in the state’s northernmost congressional district. Mr. Moore looks to have scored an unofficial 31-29% win over Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson, a vote spread of 2,872 votes of approximately 126,000 votes cast. The Democrats may have a nominee as Shoshone Tribe chairman Daniel Parry appears to have logged a 454 vote win against party activist Jamie Cheek. The Democratic turnout was under 23,000 voters. Mr. Moore now becomes a virtual sure winner in November.

Virginia:  The state Board of Elections, on a 2-1 vote, will allow both 5th District Republican convention winner Bob Good and 7th District convention candidate Nick Freitas ballot position despite them missing the candidate filing deadline. The 5th District now officially features Mr. Good, who defeated freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Manassas) for re-nomination in the district convention, against Charlottesville physician Cameron Webb who won the Democratic primary. Mr. Freitas will now be able to compete in the 7th District nominating convention scheduled for July 18th. The winner of that contest faces freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Glen Allen).


Utah:  The close Republican nomination contest between Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Governor and ex-US Ambassador Jon Huntsman has ended with the former man scoring a close 7,330 vote victory, a 36.4 – 34.9 percentage margin of well over 520,000 votes cast. Mr. Cox now faces Democratic nominee Chris Peterson in the open general election, with the Lt. Governor being an overwhelming favorite to win the November vote. The 520,000+ votes is a turnout increase of 127% over the 2016 Republican primary voter participation figure.