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Democratic Presidential Candidate Slate Continues to Evolve

August 26, 2019

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

Key Takeaways

  • Presidential Campaign: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) out
  • AZ-Sen: Sen. Martha McSally (R) drops behind challenger and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D)
  • CO-Sen: Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in Senate race
  • MN-Sen: Former Rep. Jason Lewis (R) announces for Senate
  • NC-Sen: Sen. Thom Tillis' (R) tepid GOP primary lead over businessman Garland Tucker
  • FL-26: Firefighters Union President Omar Blanco announces for GOP
  • OR-4: Anti-terrorist hero Alec Skarlatos (R) announces for Congress


Gov. Jay Inslee:  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced late this week on The Rachel Maddow Show that he is withdrawing from the presidential race, saying that he understands he will not become the Democratic nominee. Mr. Inslee is the third candidate to leave the presidential race. He then quickly announced plans to seek a third term as Governor.

Debates:  The upcoming September 12-13 Democratic presidential debate from Houston now has ten qualifiers. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro is the latest to earn a podium. The others are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke, in addition to Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren along with businessman Andrew Yang. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer each have secured the necessary 130,000 donors, but still need to score 2% on at least one more designated poll in order to be included. The qualification deadline is August 28th.

Elector Ruling:  A 10th Circuit Appellate three-judge panel overturned a federal district court ruling that allows states to mandate Electoral College members vote for the candidate who carried the state they represent. Michael Baca, a 2016 Colorado Elector who said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton despite the candidate winning his state because of a national elector strategy designed to deny Donald Trump the Presidency, was removed from his position before the Electoral College convened. He subsequently filed a lawsuit against the state arguing that his constitutional rights were violated. The Appellate Court ruling agreeing with Baca could have a wide-ranging effect and we could see the US Supreme Court petitioned to make a declarative ruling.

YouGov/Economist:  International online pollster YouGov, again surveying for The Economist magazine, returned with another test for the Democratic presidential contest. As in other polls, the YouGov study (8/17-20; 559 US likely Democratic primary voters), finds the top three finishers to be former Vice President Joe Biden (22%) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (19%) and Elizabeth Warren (17%). These results project Sanders slipping past Warren into second while most of the other surveys see the order reversed.

Colorado:  A new Emerson College poll (8/16-19; 403 likely CO Democratic primary voters) finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) topping the Democratic presidential field in the Centennial State. While Sen. Sanders leads, it is by the smallest of margins, just one point over former Vice President Joe Biden. The ballot test finds a 26-25-20-13% split among Sanders, Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), respectively. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg trails substantially, polling only at 5% just one point over New York City businessman Andrew Yang.

Nevada:  Gravis Marketing just surveyed the important Nevada Caucus prospective electorate (8/14-16; 382 likely NV Democratic caucus participants from a survey universe of 926 registered voters) and finds former Vice President Joe Biden developing a comfortable lead but with a low support level. The results find Mr. Biden commanding 25% preference followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 15%, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) posting 10%, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) close behind him with 9 percent. The Nevada Caucus is third on the election calendar and will likely prove to be a more important nominating event than it has in previous elections.


Alabama:  State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) has ended his Democratic primary challenge to US Sen. Doug Jones saying he does not have the resources to compete with the incumbent. The primary challenge was never viewed as particularly serious, but now it will not even be an irritant. Sen. Jones will face a very difficult general re-election, however, against the eventual Republican nominee in a state that will be one of President Trump's strongest domains.

Arizona:  Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights conducted their semi-regular survey of the Arizona electorate (8/13-14; 600 AZ likely general election voters) and again finds a close contest between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) but, this time, the lead has changed. The OH data finds Mr. Kelly leading Sen. McSally for the first time, 46-41%, in what promises to be one of the most competitive Senate elections in the 2020 cycle.

Colorado:  The long process for former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to end his presidential campaign and convert into a Senate candidacy has been completed. Yesterday, Mr. Hickenlooper, despite earlier saying the Senate would not suit him, declared his candidacy. He has 13 Democratic opponents, but some of those may withdraw. The eventual nominee faces vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Early polling gives Hickenlooper a large lead, but Gardner is arguably the Republicans' best Senate campaigner.

Minnesota:  Former one-term Congressman Jason Lewis (R) announced yesterday, as expected, that he will challenge Sen. Tina Smith (D) next year. Mr. Lewis was originally elected to the House in 2016, defeating businesswoman Angie Craig. In the 2018 election, Ms. Craig returned for a re-match and unseated the freshman incumbent. Instead of attempting to regain his 2nd District Congressional seat, the former radio talk show host has now entered the statewide campaign. Sen. Smith was appointed to replace Al Franken when he resigned due to a sexual harassment scandal. She was then elected in a special election last November to fill the balance of the current term on a 53-42% vote over state Senator Karin Housley (R).

North Carolina:  Public Policy Polling tested the North Carolina Senate Republican primary (8/19-20; 564 NC likely Republican primary voters) and found incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis leading businessman Garland Tucker by an unimpressive margin. The survey results found Mr. Tillis leading only 38-31% in a state that has a penchant for defeating its US Senators. Since the 1974 election, only Senators Jesse Helms (R) and Richard Burr (R) have successfully been re-elected. Democrats are coalescing around former state Sen. Cal Cunningham as their prospective nominee. The North Carolina primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020.


AZ-1:   Sophomore Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona) already has a Democratic primary opponent to his left, former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova, and now it appears he has one to his right. Former state Senator Barbara Maguire, who also served in the Arizona House of Representatives and is a self-described "conservative Democrat," announced that she will run for Congress next year and attempt to deny Mr. O'Halleran re-nomination in the August 4th Democratic primary. She now says that Mr. O'Halleran has moved too far right.

Last week, former three-time World Series champion pitcher Curt Schilling indicated that he was considering running in an Arizona congressional district. This week, Mr. Schilling, who pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks and attended high school and college in the state, said if he does run it will be against Rep. O'Halleran in this expansive district that encompasses almost all of eastern Arizona.

CA-45:  Congressional candidate Greg Raths, a retired Marine Corps officer and member of the Mission Viejo City Council, the 45th District's second largest municipality, released his recent internal Fabrizio Lee Associates poll (8/15-18; 300 CA-45 likely jungle primary voters). The data shows Mr. Raths as the strongest Republican, but not to the point of being out of reach for any of the others. Freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) easily captures first place for the jungle primary with 46%, followed by Mr. Raths with 10%. Three other candidates all finish with either 3 or 2% support. We can expect this race to be a major congressional contest in the fall of 2020.

OR-4:  Alec Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman who helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015 and later played himself in a Clint Eastwood directed movie depicting the event, has announced a bid for Congress. This won't be Mr. Skarlatos first political run, however. Last year, he ran for Douglas County Commissioner, and while placing second in a field of eight candidates for the non-partisan position, still came just under 1,300 votes of winning. Mr. Skarlatos will be running in the Republican primary to eventually challenge House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield/Eugene) who has held the politically marginal district since the beginning of 1987.

FL-26:  Miami-Dade Firefighters local union president Omar Blanco has filed a 2020 congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, the prelude to him announcing his candidacy. Should he win the 26th District Republican nomination, he will face freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami) in a seat the Democrats converted away from Republican hands in 2018. The presence of a Hispanic Republican union president as the GOP nominee will make this race one to watch.

NM-2:  Reports say New Mexico Oil & Gas Association chair Claire Chase (R) is scheduled to announce her candidacy against freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) in the state's southern congressional district. Assuming Ms. Chase wins the Republican nomination, it is highly likely that we will see a race based upon the Green New Deal and its promise to eliminate the fossil fuels industry within twelve years. Southeastern New Mexico is rich in oil and gas, thus placing the energy issue as the focal point of this impending campaign.

PA-8:  Saying, "I think more people are interested in me running than I am," ex-Rep. Lou Barletta, who was the Republican US Senate nominee in 2018, indicates he is not planning to challenge Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) in the district that adjoins his previous CD. Republicans are looking for a strong candidate to challenge Rep. Cartwright because he sits in a seat that went strongly for President Trump in 2016. Early this year, 2018 nominee John Chrin, who lost to Cartwright 55-45%, filed a 2020 cycle FEC committee but has since declined to run. Mr. Barletta says he will make a final decision after Labor Day.

TX-22:  Mega-GOP and conservative cause donor Kathaleen Wall announced her congressional candidacy for the open 22nd District yesterday. In the last cycle she ran in the open 2nd District and lost to now-Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) by just 155 votes as she failed to qualify for the run-off that the latter man eventually won. We can expect both a tight primary and general election in this seat from which four-term Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is retiring.

Also in the GOP race is County Court judge Greg Hill, a former Pearland City Councilman. Expected to join is Ft. Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls. For the Democrats, the leading contender is 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni, who held Mr. Olson to a 51-46% re-election victory last November.

UT-4:  In what will be a Top Five Republican target race nationally, state Sen. Dan Hemmert (R-Orem) this week announced his congressional candidacy. If successful in the GOP primary, he will face freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City), the former Mayor of Salt Lake County. Also in the race is former radio talk show host and software gaming developer Jay Mcfarland and ex-Utah Republican Party Communications Director Kathleen Anderson. Former Rep. Mia Love (R), who has not ruled out running again, previously said she would not seek a re-match with Rep. McAdams if Sen. Hemmert would seek the position.