Four House Retirements Highlight The Week

September 6, 2019

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

Key Takeaways

  • MA-Sen: Poll shows Rep. Kennedy crushing Sen. Markey in primary
  • Four House Retirements: Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA 53), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL 15), Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX 17) & Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5)
  • KS-2: State Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) to challenge Rep. Watkins (R)
  • NC-3 & 9: Sept 10 special election polling
  • WV-Gov: Sen. Manchin (D) will not challenge Gov. Justice (R)


Colorado:  Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who was the leading money raiser in the crowded Senate Democratic race with $3.4 million raised and $2.6 million in the bank, has suspended his campaign. Mr. Johnston, a former gubernatorial candidate, indicated he is simply "not willing to run the kind of negative race needed" to defeat ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper for the Democratic Party nomination.

Georgia:  Freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta), who upset GOP Rep. Karen Handel in the 2018 general election, is reportedly considering entering the Senate special election that will be conducted somewhat concurrently with the 2020 election cycle. The calendar will be announced once Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigns at the end of this year, though we already know that the special will be in the form of a jungle primary scheduled concurrently with the regular general election date of November 3, 2020. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two primary finishers will run-off in a January 5, 2021 statewide election.

Kansas:  Western Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) has scheduled a formal announcement for this Saturday at the Kansas State Fair. It is presumed that Mr. Marshall will make his long-awaited declaration of candidacy for the state's open US Senate seat. The Congressman had been raising money for such a race throughout the cycle but held back on making the move when it was thought that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might return to the state in order to run.

Rep. Marshall will enter the Republican primary against former Secretary of State and gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, state Senate President Susan Wagle, and Kansas Turnpike Authority chairman and former Kansas City Chiefs NFL football player Dave Lindstrom.

Massachusetts:  The Change Research polling organization tested Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in a hypothetical primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey (D), and the incumbent starts out well behind. According to Change (8/23-25; 1,088 MA registered voters; 808 Democratic primary voters; online), Rep. Kennedy would lead Sen. Markey 42-25% if the September 15, 2020 Democratic primary were today. Mr. Kennedy has now admitted to considering the race and has filed a Senate committee with the Federal Election Commission. With such a long primary season, the candidate filing deadline isn't until May 5th, so much time remains for all potential contenders to make decisions.

Freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Boston), who denied then-Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) re-nomination in the 2018 Democratic primary, also hasn't ruled out entering next year's Senate race. When asked whether she would become a candidate, Rep. Pressley was non-committal, but cryptically said, "I just follow the work. Wherever the work takes me, that's where I go."


CA-53:   Ten-term Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) is one of three more House members to announce this week that they will not seek re-election next year. The open seat count, including the two North Carolina seats that will be filled in special elections next week, now grows to 21, but Rep. Davis is only the fourth Democrat heading to the exits.

The Congresswoman's district is fully contained within San Diego County, covering part of the city of San Diego, and the La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, and Bonita communities. The region is now Democratic as evidenced by President Trump managing to receive only 30% of the vote here in 2016. Rep. Davis has averaged 64.1% in the four elections under the district's current configuration.

IL-15:  Twelve-term Illinois Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) also announced that he will not seek re-election next year. The veteran Representative said he is making his decision public now because candidates will begin circulating nominating petitions next week. The 15th District covers southeastern Illinois and is a safe Republican seat. President Trump carried the district, 71-24%, a stronger performance than Mitt Romney's 63-43% margin. Mr. Shimkus was re-elected with 71% of the vote last November.

KS-2:  Late this week, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R), who was the first to announce his US Senate candidacy when the seat opened, switched races. Mr. LaTurner will now challenge freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) in the Republican primary. Many leading Republicans, including former Gov. Jeff Colyer, urged LaTurner to make the move. Resignation rumors surrounding Mr. Watkins had begun to surface, but the Congressman put such talk to bed last week. Mr. LaTurner was quoted as saying, however, that Rep. Watkins is "not focused on advancing Trump's agenda and his campaign is a wreck."

MN-7:  House Agriculture chairman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) could well face the most accomplished opponent since he originally came to the House after the 1990 election. Right after the holiday weekend, former Lt. Governor and state Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R) announced that she will challenge the veteran Congressman in the most pro-Trump district in the country that sends a Democrat to Washington. Mr. Trump carried this seat 62-31% in 2016. Mr. Peterson, against weak opposition, has failed to exceed 52.5% in his last two election campaigns.

NC-3:  A just-released RRH Elections survey (8/26-28; 500 NC-3 likely special election voters) finds Republican state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) holding a 51-40% lead over his Democratic opponent, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, as the September 10th special election quickly approaches. The seat is heavily Republican, so Mr. Murphy is the clear favorite and could easily exceed this polling margin.

NC-9:  Harper Polling released their poll (8/26-28; 551 NC-9 registered voters) for the upcoming September 10th special election congressional campaign in south-central North Carolina. According to the Harper results, Democrat Dan McCready would lead Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), 46-42% on the first ballot test. When leaners are prodded for a response, the totals increase to 49-44%. This polling sample contained 56% female respondents suggesting a slight Democratic skew.

RRH Elections then publicized their 9th District survey results that suggest a different conclusion. The RRH study (8/26-28; 500 NC-9 likely special election voters) finds Sen. Bishop holding a slight 46-45% lead over Mr. McCready, and the margin extends to 48-41% among those who say they have already cast their ballot under the state's early voting system. Clearly, this special election campaign appears headed to a photo finish.

TX-7:  The Congressional Leadership Fund yesterday released their mid-August survey (TargetPoint Consulting; 8/10-11; 336 TX-7 registered voters) that shows Iraq War veteran and mortgage industry executive Wesley Hunt (R) taking a slight lead over freshman Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (R-Houston), 45-43%. Mr. Hunt already has the national Republican leadership's support and raised over $500,000 through the June 30th reporting period. The poll also revealed Rep. Fletcher recording only a 31:30% favorability index.

TX-17:  Another Texas Congressman has decided not to seek re-election next year, making the fifth from the state to announce his retirement. Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan) was first elected in 2010 and has had little trouble winning re-election in his four subsequent terms. The Bryan-College Station anchored district stretches into northern Travis County and then all the way to Waco. It is a strongly Republican seat (Trump '16: 56-39%; Romney '12: 60-38%), so we can expect a hard-fought GOP primary likely followed by a run-off election featuring the top two finishers.

WI-5:  Veteran Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls), who was first elected to represent the west Milwaukee suburban area in 1978, announced yesterday that he will conclude what will be a 42-year career in the House at the end of this term. The fact that this district will open for the first time in two generations certainly changes the area's political situation, but Republicans will be favored to hold the seat. President Trump carried the CD with a 57-37% margin and will likely do so again next year.


Missouri:  State Representative and physician Jim Neely (R-Cameron), serving in his last legislative session under the state's term-limit law, announced that he will challenge Gov. Mike Parson in next year's Republican primary. Gov. Parson, who ascended to the office from his position as Lt. Governor when elected Gov. Eric Greitens (R) resigned, will be running for his first elected term. He is the early favorite both in the Republican primary and general election. State Auditor Nicole Galloway is the lone announced Democrat and well on her way to becoming a consensus candidate for the party nomination.

West Virginia:  A MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll (Research America; 8/14-22; 501 WV registered voters) finds Sen. Joe Manchin (D) leading Gov. Jim Justice (R), 49-39%. In the Republican primary, Gov. Justice holds a 53-19-12% advantage over former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and ex-state Delegate Mike Folk.

Sen. Manchin had been traveling his state during the congressional recess testing the waters as to whether he should challenge Gov. Justice. Though he was leading in the aforementioned poll and presumably in private surveys, Sen. Manchin announced that he will not run for Governor choosing instead to continue his career in federal office. The Senator was just re-elected in November, meaning he does not again come before the voters until 2024.

In the last gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Manchin made a similar maneuver, indicating he might run but then chose to remain. Joe Manchin was Governor from January of 2005 to November of 2010 when he resigned to enter the Senate after winning a special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

Washington:  Washington state Republican leaders were trying to convince retired US Representative and former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert to return to the political wars and challenge Gov. Jay Inslee (D) next year. Late this week, Mr. Reichert released a statement saying he has decided not to run and is confident the GOP will field a strong candidate to oppose Gov. Inslee. At this point, the Governor is favored to win a third term now that he is concentrating on state office after withdrawing from the presidential campaign.