Ohio Governor's Race Shuffles Candidates and House Retirements Continue

December 1, 2017

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

Key Takeaways:

  • Judge Roy Moore Leads in Alabama Senate Special Election Runoff
  • Rep. Martha McSally leads GOP field for Arizona Senate
  • Former Coal Executive Don Blankenship (R) joins WV Senate race
  • Raquel Regalado (R) drops out of FL-27 race
  • Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad (D) to challenge Rep. Bob Brady (D) in PA-1
  • Attorney John Morgan will not run for Florida Governor in 2018


Alabama:  Four new polls were released during the week, and all see former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) rebounding against Democratic ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.  The polls detect Moore leads between two and six percentage points.  WT&S Consulting (11/18-20; 11,641 AL registered voters) sees Moore moving back in front, 46-40%.  On the heels of this survey, the Strategy Research organization polling for the Raycom News Network (11/20-21; 3,000 AL likely voters) projects a 47-45% Moore edge. The Change Research firm released their third poll of the special Alabama Senate race (11/26-27; 1,868 AL self-identified registered voters) and it, too, confirms the latest surveys findings.  The CR spread gives Judge Moore a 49-44% edge, with the partisan divisions returning to more usual Alabama voting pattern. 

The final survey in this series, from JMC Analytics & Polling, also confirms the latest results.  The new JMC data (11/27-28; 650 AL registered voters; 513 saying they will vote) finds Judge Moore topping Mr. Jones, 48-43%, with the four minor party and independent candidates receiving a combined 4 percent. The remaining respondents report themselves as undecided.  The new results reverse the trends revealed in JMC's 11/9-11 survey that found Jones to be ahead, 48-44%.  The JMC numbers might even be better for Moore.  The sample includes 56% female respondents, about five percentage points higher than the actual voting universe.  Among women, Mr. Jones has a 50-44% lead.  Judge Moore is way ahead among men, 54-37%.  

Arizona:  Rep. Martha McSally's (R-Tucson) camp just released their internal Arizona Senate Republican primary poll that places the Congresswoman slightly ahead of former state Senator Kelli Ward.  According the WPA Intelligence survey (11/15-16; 500 AZ likely GOP primary voters), Rep. McSally holds a slight 38-36% edge over Ms. Ward.  The Congresswoman has yet to announce that she is entering the open US Senate race, but the fact that her political people are releasing statewide data provides further evidence for the supposition that she will soon become a candidate.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is retiring after one term.  The eventual Republican nominee will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who is quickly becoming the consensus Democratic candidate. 

At this point, former state Senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward is the only major Republican in the open seat field.  But, Rep. McSally is expected to soon officially join the statewide race.   With the Arizona primary not until August 28th and the candidate filing deadline still months away on May 30th, prospective candidates have plenty of time to make their final 2018 campaign decisions.

West Virginia:  Don Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy who was personally cited for safety violations in the deaths of 29 employees in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion.  Mr. Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison, but that notwithstanding, he has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to join the US Senate Republican primary.  There, he will face Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington).  While his chances of winning the nomination are virtually nil, it is likely he is running to tell his side of the tragedy in an attempt to improve his moribund public image.


FL-21: After Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) announced her retirement many individuals began to come forward and declare their congressional candidacies.  One was Republican Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member and daughter of city of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (R).  After raising only $15,000 for her campaign through the September 30th financial reporting period, last among eight major candidates, Ms. Regalado has now decided to end her short-lived congressional campaign.  The August 28th Democratic primary is host to the real political action in this race.  The eventual Dem nominee will begin the general election as the favorite to snatch this seat away from the Republicans.

IL-3:  Democratic primary challenger Marie Newman is drawing strong support from liberal organizations in her bid to deny Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) re-nomination in the March 20th Democratic primary.  The marketing consultant who is making her first run for public office announced official endorsements from NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.org, the Human Rights Campaign, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America.   It is clear that her challenge strategy will center on developing a clear contrast on social issue positions, but it remains to be seen if such an approach will work against a seven-term incumbent whose father represented the district for the previous 22 years.

IL-4:  Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he will not seek re-election next year, just a week before the December 4th candidate filing deadline.  The Congressman also confirmed that he is endorsing Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D) as his successor, and saying he would not be retiring if Mr. Garcia had not agreed to run for Congress.   Chicago Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (D), who is likely to attract national liberal organization support, and Joe Moreno (D) are coming forward to challenge Garcia in the March 20th Democratic primary.  The winner of that plurality contest will claim the seat in the November 2018 general election.

NJ-2:  Democratic Party leaders had long believed that state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) would match up well in a race against veteran Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor City), but the former wouldn't challenge the incumbent.  Now that Mr. LoBiondo has announced his retirement from Congress, Sen. Van Drew declared his candidacy for the seat this week, and will be a viable contender against whomever the Republicans choose to defend a seat the party has held since the beginning of 1995.  So far, no Republican has yet entered the race.  Sen. Van Drew was just re-elected to a fourth term in his current position, after serving three terms in the state Assembly.  NJ-2 now becomes a top Democratic conversion opportunity and will be rated as a Toss-up.

PA-1: Embattled Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia), who is reportedly under a FBI investigation for involvement in allegedly arranging a pay off to an opponent to exit the 2012 campaign, is drawing a Democratic primary challenge from Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad.  Mr. Brady is also chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.  Ms. Ahmad resigned her city position in order to enter the congressional race.

PA-10:  Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), who was forced to withdraw as President Trump's nominee as the nation's drug czar, now has a Republican primary opponent.  On Thursday, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko (R) announced his challenge to the four-term Congressman, and immediately began the campaign with an attack on Mr. Marino.  Probably because he didn't expect to be on the ballot next year, Rep. Marino raised only $47,000+ before the September 30th financial disclosure deadline and reported just under $113,000 cash-on-hand.  Therefore, expect the Congressman's campaign to rapidly move into high gear.

PA-15:  State Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg), who had announced a primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) before the Congressman decided to retire, has ended his congressional effort.  Stung by several negative stories, not the least of which are the 500+ votes he has missed as a member of the legislature, Mr. Simmons could see his US House race victory path narrowing to the point of unlikelihood. 

Remaining in the race is state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie), Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein who won a gold medal for cycling in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, and former CIA officer Scott Uehlinger.  The leading Democrats appear to be Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild.  Republicans have a slight edge here, and this district will yield a highly competitive campaign particularly if the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit prevails before the state Supreme Court early next year.

TX-6:  Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman who has recently come under attack when his nude picture taken during a previous consensual sexual relationship surfaced on Twitter, announced late this week that he would not seek re-election next year.  Mr. Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas' December 11th filing deadline.  We now expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open seat 6th District contest since 1984.  Mr. Barton will retire after serving 34 years in the House when the current congressional session ends.  The 6th is a safe Republican seat.  President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton here, 54-42%.  In 2012, Mitt Romney topped President Obama 58-41% in this north Texas congressional seat.
VA-6:  After Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) announced he would retire at the end of this Congress, several GOP candidates immediately jumped into the open primary campaign in this safest of Virginia Republican districts.  In addition to state Delegate Ben Cline (R-Lexington) and Republican National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar, the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court, Chaz Haywood, has also joined the nomination contest.  The eventual Republican nominee will be a heavy favorite in the general election, but the party leaders have not yet decided whether the nomination contest will be decided by primary or district convention.


Florida: John Morgan is a wealthy trial attorney who has developed major name identification throughout Florida through his extensive television advertising.  It has been presumed that he would enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, but Mr. Morgan announced this week that he will not.  He further went onto say that if he does run for office in the future it would most likely be as an Independent and not a Democrat. 
The decision still leaves former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as the three leading Democratic candidates.  The open Florida Governor's race will be one of the most important such contests in the country because of the position's significant redistricting power and since Florida hosts so many close election campaigns.  GOP Gov. Rick Scott is ineligible to seek a third term, but is expected to announce a Senate run after the first of next year.
Michigan: As long expected, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley finally announced that he will join the open Republican gubernatorial primary, setting up a battle against Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill Schuette.  The Michigan Governor's race is one of national importance since this is a critical redistricting state come 2021.  The Governor elected in 2018 will carry redistricting veto power.  Candidate filing does not end until April 24th for the August 7thprimary, so both parties could see other potential candidates stepping forward.  Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Ohio: Major developments occurred in the important Ohio Governor's race on Thursday.  The top two Republican candidates, in terms of polling and fundraising, joined forces in an announcement to unify the party ticket.  Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine will lead the new team with Secretary of State and former state House Speaker Jon Husted dropping his own gubernatorial run in order to join DeWine as his running mate for Lt. Governor.  Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) remain in the race.
For the Democrats, former Consumer Protection Financial Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray is expected to make a formal campaign announcement next week.  If Cordray is successful in topping the current Democratic field, which includes former US Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley, and others, and the DeWine-Husted ticket is nominated for the GOP, the 2018 Governor's race would be a rerun of the 2010 Attorney General's contest.  In that tight political battle, DeWine ousted then-incumbent Cordray, 47.5-46%. 
Texas: Retiring state House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) announced last month that he would not seek re-election next year, and speculation immediately began about the moderate legislative leader challenging Gov. Greg Abbott either in the Republican primary or as an Independent in the general election. Earlier this week, Mr. Straus quelled such talk saying that he may eventually consider running statewide but it would be highly unlikely he will do so before the 2022 election cycle.  At this point, Gov. Abbott faces little in the way of Democratic or Republican opposition.