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Gubernatorial Candidate and Polling Updates from Across the Country

August 23, 2021

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

Key Takeaways

  • FL-Sen: Typical Diverse Polling   
  • NV-Sen: Ex-AG Adam Laxalt (R) to Challenge Sen. Cortez Masto (D)    
  • IL-13: Rep. Rodney Davis (R) Draws Dem Opponent    
  • AK-Gov: Ex-Gov. Bill Walker (I) to Run in 2022    
  • GA-Gov: Ex-Sen. David Perdue (R) Tests Favorably for Governor   
  • Localities: Defeated Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D) Leads in New Poll

Senate

Florida: Not surprisingly, we see another set of Florida polls that provide very different results of the Sunshine State electorate in a similar time frame. Susquehanna Polling & Research went into the field first (8/4-10; 700 FL registered voters; live interview) and found Sen. Marco Rubio (R) establishing a healthy 50-39% lead over US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), who is on her way to becoming the Democrats’ consensus candidate.  

Conversely, St. Pete Polls (8/16-17; 2,068 FL registered voters; online) finds a much closer result: Rubio leading 48-46%. Florida tends to be a difficult place to poll, and often we see Republican candidates performing two-plus points better in the actual election than their polling numbers project.

Georgia: Former University of Georgia and NFL football star Herschel Walker is testing very strongly in a Peach State Republican US Senate survey according to the Fabrizio Lee firm polling for ex-President Donald Trump’s Save America PAC. The study (8/11-12; 500 GA likely Republican primary voters; live interview) records Mr. Walker with a huge 54-5% lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in a hypothetical Republican primary. Told that former President Trump supports Mr. Walker, the margin increases to a whopping 67-4%.  

Indiana: Thomas McDermott (D), who has been the city of Hammond’s Mayor since 2004, announced that he will enter the statewide Democratic primary in hopes of challenging first-term Sen. Todd Young (R) next year. Mr. McDermott ran for the open 1st Congressional District seat in 2020, losing a four-point Democratic primary race to the district’s eventual winner, freshman Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Highland). Mr. McDermott is a decided underdog against Sen. Young should he ultimately come through the Democratic primary.

Nevada: Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (D), who lost the 2018 Governor’s race to then-Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D), 49-45%, filed a US Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission and announced that he will challenge first term Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D). Recent Nevada races have been extremely close, so this contest will be competitive. Sen. Masto, however, has already raised over $11 million for her re-election effort.

Ohio: Until now, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), a former Democratic presidential candidate, has had the open statewide Democratic primary to himself. He is now joined by former congressional candidate and ex-Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper. She challenged Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) in the 2020 Democratic primary but fared poorly. Ms. Beatty defeated her by a landslide 68-32% margin. Rep. Ryan remains the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination but would be an underdog in the general election against the eventual Republican nominee.

Wisconsin: National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal newspaper that he expects Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to seek re-election and make an announcement in the Autumn. Sen. Johnson originally took a two-term pledge when he first ran in 2010 but did begin to hedge about keeping the commitment earlier in the year. He also made other statements suggesting that he would honor his pledge.  

Eleven Democrats have already announced their Senate candidacies including Badger State Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. US Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) is the most likely Republican to run should the Senator decide to retire.

House

IL-13: Yesterday, Office of Management & Budget chief of staff Nikki Budzinski (D) announced she is returning to Illinois with the goal of challenging five-term Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). Illinois’ 13th District could be in the mix for elimination because the state loses a congressional seat. The district sits in the middle of the Downstate region, which is the area losing the most population. Redistricting will be the major factor in likely deciding who runs in which district.

NJ-11: Powerhouse New Jersey fundraising congressional sophomore Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) may have drawn her most credible challenger of the five Republicans who have so far declared their candidacies. Morris County Commissioner and former Chatham Mayor Tayfun Selen (R), a long-time immigrant from Turkey who promotes the American Dream, announced his congressional candidacy yesterday. Rosemary Becchi (R), who was the 2020 Republican nominee has not yet entered the race and now appears unlikely to do so.  

Governor

Alaska: Former Gov. Bill Walker (I), who did not seek re-election in 2018 because his approval ratings were low and polling showed he would lose with Democratic former US Senator Mark Begich in the candidate field, declared yesterday that he will return in the 2022 election because of the top-four primary election format. He also announced that former Alaska Labor Secretary Heidi Drygas (D) will join his ticket in the Lt. Governor slot. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) is seeking re-election. Former state Rep. Les Gara is the only announced Democratic candidate, to date.

California: A lawsuit was filed during the week questioning the constitutionality of a part of the California recall system. The suit contends that the replacement election is unconstitutional because a recall winner could garner less votes than the recall subject even if Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), in this case, loses the recall vote. Under California election law the subject of the recall is ineligible to run in the replacement election. 

The legal argument does not question whether a Governor can be recalled, rather the succession process if the official is removed. The plaintiffs argue that such a vacancy should be filled by the sitting Lt. Governor and not the winner of a plurality replacement vote. 

In the replacement race, former Congressman Doug Ose (R) suffered a heart attack over last weekend and has ended his campaign. His name, however, will still appear on the September 14th ballots that are now being mailed to voters throughout the state.

Florida: As reported above, Susquehanna Polling & Research tested the Florida electorate (8/4-10; 700 FL registered voters; live interview) regarding the Senate race and asked questions about the impending Governor’s race. The results find Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) leading Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) 46-43%. He polls better against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), topping her 50-40%. Mr. DeSantis’ favorability ratio is 52:43% positive to negative, which the pollsters said is a good rating considering the negative publicity the state and Governor have been receiving over the COVID Delta variant spike.

Georgia: The Fabrizio Lee firm, as described in the Senate piece above, surveyed the Georgia Republican electorate and tested former Senator David Perdue in a GOP primary battle against Gov. Brian Kemp. The results show a close race. Gov. Kemp, who scores only a 69:27% favorability rating among the Republican primary voters questioned, would lead announced candidate Vernon Jones, a former Democratic county executive and state legislator, and Mr. Perdue, 41-19-16%, respectively. Isolating Gov. Kemp and Mr. Perdue, the margin decreases to 46-40% in favor of the Governor.

Informed that former President Trump supports Mr. Perdue, the gubernatorial primary ballot test shifts to a 41-26-13% Perdue-Kemp-Jones prospective finish. These numbers suggest that Gov. Kemp has not yet broken free of his post-election unpopularity in relation to his handling of the Georgia voter fraud allegations.

Hawaii: Businesswoman Vicky Cayetano (D), wife of former Gov. Ben Cayetano (D), announced that she will enter the open Governor’s race. Already in the Democratic primary are Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Mr. Cayetano served as Governor from 1994-2002, after eight years in office as the state’s Lt. Governor. Gov. David Ige (D) is ineligible to run for a third term. The eventual Democratic nominee is a lock to win the general election.

New Jersey: The Monmouth University pollsters released their new survey of the Garden State electorate, and the results show little change from what we have seen in the past relating to the 2021 Governor’s race. According to the poll (8/11-16; 810 NJ registered voters; live interview), Gov. Phil Murphy (D) continues to lead former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R) by a solid 52-36% margin. 

New York: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has not yet officially replaced outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), but she already has a potential Democratic primary opponent. Former New York City Council President Christine Quinn (D), who lost the 2013 Mayor’s race to Bill de Blasio (D), says she is not ruling out entering the 2022 gubernatorial primary. Ms. Quinn is described as a “close ally” of Gov. Cuomo. The New York Governor’s race is now expected to draw major national attention next year.

We already see the first 2020 Democratic gubernatorial primary poll. The co/efficient organization tested Ms. Hochul against Attorney General Letitia James and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The survey (8/15-16; 814 NY likely Democratic primary voters; interactive voice response system and text) found Ms. Hochul leading the pair, 28-24-5%, respectively. If the lone challenger were Attorney General James, Ms. Hochul would only hold a 34-32% edge. 

Surprisingly, this Democratic sample still has a relatively high opinion of resigning Gov. Cuomo. His favorability index is 39:40% favorable to unfavorable.

Oregon: State Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle (D) announced that she will not enter the open race for Governor next year. Gov. Kate Brown (D) is ineligible to seek re-election, but this has been a slow developing open seat statewide campaign. To date, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla is the only Democrat in the gubernatorial field. Five Republicans have declared, but all of them are looked upon as minor candidates. Once redistricting plans become known in this state that is gaining a new congressional seat, the Governor’s race will likely attract greater attention.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) was emphatic in answering a reporter’s question about whether he has any plans to run for one of the open statewide races, Governor or Senator, next year. “Certainly not,” was his answer about whether he would run for Governor. Though he has not yet announced, it is clear that Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) will enter the race and likely become the Democrats’ consensus gubernatorial candidate. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is ineligible to seek re-election.

Localities

Buffalo: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D) was defeated in the June 22nd primary election. India Walton, campaigning as a socialist Democrat, scored the 52-45% upset but the Mayor is waging a write-in campaign in an attempt to win the November 2nd general election. A new Emerson College poll (8/7-8; 862 Buffalo likely mayoral race voters; interactive voice response system & text) suggests he may succeed in what was originally viewed as a longshot comeback attempt. The Emerson poll finds Mayor Brown taking a 50-40% lead over Ms. Walton, but 80% said they have never voted for a candidate who was not on the ballot.