Impact of Flake Retirement and Polling the Florida Senate Race

October 25, 2017

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

Top Lines

  • Latest poll shows Judge Roy Moore (R) leading in Alabama Senate Race
  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in a tight race if Gov. Rick Scott (R) challenges him in Florida
  • State Rep. Mike Braun (R) has raised $1 million for Indiana Senate run
  • Former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R) running for Tennessee seat in US Senate
  • J.B. Pritzker leads the Democratic field for Illinois Governor in most recent poll


Two new Alabama US Senate special election polls were released in the latter part of last week, each with highly conflicting results. Fox News (10/14-16; 801 AL registered voters) projects that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), are tied at 42%, apiece. But, the Raycom News Network survey (10/16, 3,000 AL likely voters) arrives at the complete opposite conclusion, data that is more consistent with other polling. Raycom finds Moore leading, 51-40%. The special election is scheduled for December 12th.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor early this week to announce he is not seeking re-election for a second term, bowing to his longstanding feud with President Trump and poor polling numbers. The latest surveys find him losing both the Republican nomination to former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and the general to US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). Other Republicans, possibly including state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), will likely be lining up for a shot at the newly open statewide position. Prior to the Flake announcement, Rep. Sinema was well on her way to becoming a consensus party candidate. Under this new open political scenario, it is unclear whether other Democrats will decide to enter. Actually, without the damaged Flake as their general election nominee, Republican chances of holding this seat improve.

A new University of North Florida survey (Public Opinion Research Lab; 10/11; 838 FL registered voters) tested Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), the unannounced GOP Senatorial candidate. UNF last conducted a statewide poll in February. Their October data finds the two men separated by only a single point, with Sen. Nelson clinging to a 37-36% edge. Eight months ago, the Nelson lead was 44-38%. Gov. Scott's job approval numbers have increased from a tepid 46:40% favorable to unfavorable in February to a robust 59:28%, an extraordinary improvement over that course of time. By contrast, Sen. Nelson's latest ratio is 25:15%, with both his positive and negative scores trending downward since the early 2017 study was published.

Much attention has been paid to the two Congressmen running for the Indiana Senate seat, but a third candidate there could well become a factor, too. State Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) has resigned his seat in the Indiana House to devote full time to his Senate run. He's already put $800,000 of his own money into his campaign, thus pushing his campaign treasury to over $1 million. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are the leading contenders, but with the pair likely engaging in a negative campaign an outside positive alternative could become attractive. The eventual Republican nominee faces vulnerable Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election.

Mississippi Democrats have a Senatorial candidate prospect. Brandon Pressley represents the state's northern district on the statewide Public Service Commission, and is the cousin of the late rock and roll music legend, Elvis Pressley. Commissioner Pressley confirms he is considering the race. The general election could become more interesting if incumbent Roger Wicker (R) has a difficult time topping state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellis County), should the latter man oppose him in the Republican primary.

As expected, Tennessee former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced that he will enter the new open seat Republican Senatorial primary. He will face at least Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director of the Americans for Prosperity advocacy group. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, after originally saying he would not enter the race, is potentially reversing course. He says he will now decide in the next few weeks about whether to launch his candidacy. Sen. Bob Corker (R), last week, announced that he will not seek a third term.


In 2016, South Florida attorney Tim Canova (D) attracted over $4 million in support, largely from Bernie Sanders' supporters across the nation, for his primary challenge to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston). At the time, Ms. Wasserman Schultz was Democratic National Committee chair and resigned in controversy during the campaign. Even with money and favorable circumstance the result didn't turn out favorably for Canova as he lost, 43-57%. But, the failed result has not deterred him from launching a new challenge. The Canova campaign, however, is not off to a brisk start. So far, the challenger has only raised $78,000 for his 2018 effort, and has just $10,000 in the bank. It appears the Congresswoman will have a much easier path to re-nomination come next August.

Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, announced that he will run for the Hoosier State's open 6th Congressional District. This is the eastern Indiana seat that Mike Pence represented for twelve years before becoming the state's Governor, and then VP. The district will be vacant because three-term Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) is running for Senate. Mr. Pence will be a big favorite to win the Republican primary, a nomination that is tantamount to claiming the seat in November.


A new We Ask America automated poll conducted for the Illinois Capitol Fax organization (10/17-18; 1,154 IL likely Democratic primary voters) finds venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker leading the race for a party gubernatorial nomination that will be decided in March. His recent dropping of $21 million on a statewide ad blitz has apparently paid dividends for Mr. Pritzker. The poll results find him jumping out to a substantial 39-15-6% advantage over Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY), and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Skokie). The winner then challenges vulnerable Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) who already has more than $66 million in his campaign treasury.