Gubernatorial Candidates Begin to Emerge

December 11, 2020

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

Key Takeaways

  • President: Quinnipiac pre-Inauguration poll
  • GA-Sen: Special runoff election polling disparity
  • LA-5: Luke Letlow (R) wins House runoff election
  • NY-22: Judge returns canvass to counties; still unresolved
  • KS-Gov: Major players making 2022 moves
  • VA-Gov: Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announces 2021 effort


Quinnipiac Poll:  Quinnipiac University released its new national poll (12/1-7; 978 US registered voters; live interview via landlines and cell phones) to test attitudes and perceptions about President-Elect Joe Biden as he prepares to assume office.  The results suggest Mr. Biden has work to do to improve his image even on the first day of taking his new position. 

His favorability index is a weak 45:44% positive to negative, though the sample size does appear to skew slightly Republican as its composition is reported to split 31% Democratic, 29% Republican, and 31% Independent.  The Republican number is several points higher than what is typically believed to be a national GOP loyalty factor.

On the question as to whether the respondents believed there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, by a margin of 58-38%, the individuals comprising the sample said no.  Still, well over a third of the polling universe, including 35% of Independents, answered affirmatively.  Additionally, when asked whether the group expected the country to remain divided or if the citizenry could re-unite, the respondents believe, in just a 49-45% break, that the nation will again come together.

On the positive front for Mr. Biden, by a 56-37% margin, the respondents feel optimistic about his impending presidency.  Conversely, regarding whether his economic policies are perceived to help or hinder the economy, the answers respectively broke in only a 39-38% split.  


Georgia:  The Trafalgar Group and RMG Research just released early December/late November polls for the two Georgia runoff Senate races.  While the two pollsters found the same result for the Sen. David Perdue/Jon Ossoff race, there is wide disparity in the Sen. Kelly Loeffler/Raphael Warnock contest.

Both Trafalgar (12/1-3; 1,083 GA likely voters; online and interactive voice response system) and RMG Research (11/19-24; 1,083 GA likely voters; online and text) find Mr. Ossoff holding a 48-47% lead over Sen. Perdue, which is obviously a statistical tie.  The special election came out quite differently, however, and the difference in when the polls were taken (RMG before Thanksgiving; Trafalgar after) could partly explain the polling range.  Trafalgar sees Sen. Loeffler holding a 50-45% lead over Rev. Warnock in the later poll, while RMG detected a two-point Warnock edge, at 48-46% in the pre-holiday study.


CA-21:  Former US Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), fresh from ousting the man who defeated him in 2018, Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno), has drawn a potential new opponent for 2022.  Former state Assemblywoman Nicole Parra (D-Bakersfield) wasted no time in filing a 2022 congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, doing so late this week.  Mr. Valadao scored a 50.5 - 49.5% re-match victory in November, a margin of 1,522 votes in a district that ranked the lowest in turnout (170,334 votes cast) of California’s 53 congressional seats.

CA-48:  California freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) is already taking steps to begin a re-match campaign with the woman who unseated him in November, Rep-Elect Michelle Steel (R).  Yesterday, Mr. Rouda filed a 2022 congressional campaign committee and, while stopping short of committing to run in two years, was quoted as saying, "while one campaign ends today, another is just beginning.  I look forward to having voters compare my opponent's two years in Congress with my accomplishments on November 8, 2022."  Ms. Steel, an Orange County Supervisor, defeated Rep. Rouda, 51.1 - 48.9%, a difference of just under 8,400 votes. 

LA-5:  Former congressional staffer Luke Letlow, capitalizing on his time running 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham’s (R-Alto) office, easily won the double-Republican runoff election last Saturday.  Mr. Letlow defeated state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), 62-38%, which was similar to the ratio that he recorded in the original blanket primary election held November 3rd. 

NY-22:  New York Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte, who now has jurisdiction over the unresolved NY-22 congressional election, issued a ruling mid-week.  This is the last uncertified or conceded House election in the country, and it appears it will be at least another couple of weeks before a winner is declared.  The current count shows former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) leading freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) by a scant 12 votes from more than 317,000 ballots cast. 

The canvass process has discovered as many as 1,400 - 1,700 uncanvassed and possibly uncounted ballots, which could obviously change the outcome.  Justice DelConte cited seven of the eight counties that comprise the 22nd District for not following New York election law regarding the counting of the early, mail and affidavit ballots.  Therefore, he ordered a re-canvassing of the disputed ballots.  He further ordered the counties to report back to him on December 18th.  Therefore, it is possible we will not see a winner by the time the new Congress takes office on January 3, 2021.

OH-11:  President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he will nominate Ohio US Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights/Cleveland) as the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary.  This means another member will resign from the House in order to accept a new position.  Previously, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) announced that he will resign before January 20th in order to head the Office of Public Engagement at the White House. 


Kansas:  Names are surfacing for the 2022 Jayhawk State Governor’s race, as first-term incumbent Laura Kelly (D) looks to run for re-election after winning her office in 2018 after consecutive terms of Republican leadership.  The biggest news of the past few days is that US Secretary of State, and former Kansas Congressman, Mike Pompeo (R) not ruling out a run for his state’s top office. 

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who ascended to the top office when then-Gov. Sam Brownback (R) resigned to accept a position in the Trump Administration but would lose the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is clearly making moves to enter the 2022 statewide campaign.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R), who eschewed a previous opportunity to run for the US House, is another potential gubernatorial candidate who is not denying his interest in entering the race.

Nevada:  Northern Nevada US Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), the state’s lone federal delegation Republican representative, confirmed in an interview late last week that he will “look at” potentially challenging first-term Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) when the latter man seeks a second term in 2022.  Prior to his election as Governor, Mr. Sisolak was a member of the Clark County Board of Commissioners. 

New Jersey:  State Republican Party chairman and former local Mayor Doug Steinhardt declared his gubernatorial candidacy yesterday for the 2021 campaign.  He joins a Republican primary field that includes former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and businessman and former congressional candidate Hirsch Singh.  The eventual Republican nominee will challenge first term Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in November of next year. 

Rhode Island:  Lt. Gov. Dan McKee (D), who has virtually no role in the Raimondo Administration despite being a member of the same party, confirms that he will become a gubernatorial candidate in 2022 when the position is open.  The incumbent, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.  Much Rhode Island press attention has been given to the fact that a major rift exists between the two office holders. 

A crowded field is expected in the Democratic primary, in which claiming victory is virtually tantamount to winning the general election.  Another key figure considering running is ten-term US Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick).  Rhode Island is likely to be reduced to at-large status in the next congressional reapportionment, meaning Rep. Langevin would at least face a Democratic primary with fellow Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) if he chooses to continue seeking public office.  Therefore, he is not ruling out a run for Governor.

South Carolina:  First Congressional District Representative Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston), who Republican Nancy Mace unseated in November, while saying he is not making any further political decision at the present time, over the weekend did not rule out a bid against Gov. Henry McMaster (R) when the incumbent seeks a second full term in 2022.  Rep. Cunningham lost his re-election to Ms. Mace, a state Representative, 50.6 - 49.4%, a margin of 5,415 votes.

Virginia:  The Virginia Republican Party executive committee met and voted to again nominate their slate of statewide candidates through the convention process and not a direct primary election.  State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian), who had already announced her candidacy for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in anticipation of a primary, now says she will run in the general election as an Independent.  Sen. Chase understands that she would not secure the party nod in the convention process. 

As expected, former Virginia Governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe announced in an email message this week that he is going to seek another term as Governor in 2021.  Mr. McAuliffe promises that he will, “think big, be bold, and approach our challenges [as] never before if we’re going to move the Commonwealth forward.”  Also, already in the Democratic primary are Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), and state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Woodbridge).  The leading Republican is expected to be state Delegate and former House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). 


Detroit:  Two-term incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan, who won office in 2013 in the depths of the city’s economic calamity, announced yesterday that he will run for a third term next year.  Mr. Duggan will be a heavy favorite for re-election as, to date, no one has yet come forward to announce a challenge.

New York CityThe 2021 open New York City Mayor’s race is going to attract a great deal of political attention, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is now reportedly testing the waters for his own candidacy. 

A new Slingshot Strategies survey (11/30-12/6; 1,000 likely 2021 NYC voters) finds Mr. Yang actually leading the field with 20% support.  Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is second with 14%, while City Comptroller Scott Stringer, often characterized as one of the leading candidates, falls back to just 11% support.  Former NYC Council President Christine Quinn records 7% and defeated Congressman Max Rose (D-Staten Island) posts 6% preference.