Open Governor Races Draw Candidates and Polling from AZ to WV

November 17, 2017

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

Key Takeaways:

  • Polling tightens in Alabama Senate Special Election
  • WV AG Patrick Morrisey leads US Rep. Evan Jenkins in GOP Senate Primary Poll
  • OH state Rep. Tom Patton withdraws from OH 16 race
  • US Rep. Bill Shuster (PA-9) will run for re-election in 2018
  • State Rep. Rick Saccone secured the GOP nomination in the open PA 18
  • Richard Cordray (D) inches toward Ohio Governor run


Alabama:  Six different pollsters went into the field immediately after the Roy Moore sexual impropriety scandal broke and they all now show a very tight special election campaign.  Of the six, three find Democratic nominee Doug Jones leading, two still see embattled Republican Moore with an advantage, and one projects a dead heat.  Interestingly, the one giving Mr. Jones his largest lead, a 51-39% spread, comes from the National Republican Senatorial Committee but they release no information about the pollster or methodology.  Fox News (11/13-15; 649 AL registered voters) gives Jones a 50-42% lead, but a Democratic skew appears to exist.  The party division is listed at 48R-42D, in a place where Democrats have failed to break 37% of the vote in any statewide election during the last two cycles, and Republican primary and run-off turnout virtually three times greater than that of their Democratic counterparts.  Therefore, it is likely that Jones' edge is much closer to very low single digits.  The special election is December 12th.

Arizona:  The local Arizona polling firm OH Predictive Insights conducted a new open Senate race survey (11/9; 600 AZ likely voters; automated responses) testing Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) against GOP Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) and then pairing the former with ex-state Senator and US Senate candidate Kelli Ward.  According to the results, with Rep. Sinema having a statewide name identification advantage over Ms. McSally largely due to the Democrat hailing from the dominant Phoenix media market, the spread between the two House members is only one point.  From this data, Ms. Sinema would lead 46-45%, meaning such a contest is a virtual tie.  Against ex-state Sen. Ward, Ms. Sinema's lead is just slightly larger, 46-43%.  The open Arizona race figures to be one of the focal point campaigns of the 2018 election cycle.

West Virginia:  A late October Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll is now making its way into the public domain.  According to the survey (10/19-22; 400 WV likely Republican primary voters), Attorney General Patrick Morrisey would lead Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), 40-34%.  The poll was conducted for a Super PAC supporting Morrisey, called the "35th PAC."  The West Virginia GOP primary will be hotly contested from now until its culmination at the end of May.  The winner then faces Sen. Joe Manchin (D), and will begin that campaign in an underdog position.  Still, the general election figures to become highly competitive.


NH-1: Executive Councilor Nick Pappas (D-Manchester) announced that he will join the open seat field of candidates for the 1st Congressional District.  The eastern New Hampshire seat has defeated more incumbents since 2006 than any single congressional district in the country.  Current Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester), who was twice defeated herself only to come back each time, has already announced that she will not run again.  This race will be highly competitive.  The New Hampshire Executive Council is a five-person elected board, divided into single-member districts, that has a check on the Governor's veto power. 

NH-2:  Former state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan (R) announced that he is ending his congressional campaign.  Mr. Flanagan was one of four candidates who had announced candidacies for the Republican nomination.  The eventual winner will challenge Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Concord), who was re-elected in 2016 with only a 50-45% margin.  The remaining candidates include state Rep. Steve Negron, physician Stewart Levenson, and 2016 candidate Jay Mercer.  Despite her close call last November, Rep. Kuster will be a decided favorite for re-election to a fourth term.

OH-16:  State House Majority Whip Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), a former state Senate Majority Floor Leader, announced yesterday that he is ending his congressional campaign for the open 16th District.  Mr. Patton's newborn grandson is in a life-threatening situation, thus continuing his run for Congress, he says, would impede upon his family responsibility.  Therefore, Rep. Patton will instead seek re-election to his current position in the state legislature.  This leaves former Indianapolis Colts and Ohio State University football star Anthony Gonzalez as the leading Republican congressional candidate.  He has raised more than $600,000 for the effort, an almost 6:1 ratio over his remaining top competitor, state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township).  The 16th District is reliably Republican.  Four-term Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) is not seeking re-election in order to run for Governor.

PA-9:  While so many of his colleagues, particularly those whose committee chairmanships are expiring at the end of this Congress, are announcing their retirements, nine-term Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) made public this week his intention to seek re-election.  Speculation was relatively heavy that the Congressman might retire since he had a close primary in 2016, his Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairmanship is ending, and the threat of a new redistricting map before the next election could radically change his district.  But, Mr. Shuster has chosen to stay.  Assuming no change in district boundaries, the Congressman will be a clear favorite for re-election.

PA-18:  It appears that state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) made the right move in withdrawing from the US Senate race and jumping into the vacated House special election when Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned his seat.  Early in the past week, Mr. Saccone won the special Republican nominating convention, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).  The convention featured 215 voting members from the district's four counties.  Mr. Saccone, first elected to the state House in 2010 after a US Air Force career in counterintelligence and serving as a US diplomat in North Korea, won the nomination on the second ballot after Sen. Ward was eliminated in the first round of voting.  The Democrats will nominate their candidate on November 19th.  The special election is scheduled for March 13th, and Mr. Saccone begins the campaign as a heavy favorite to secure the safely Republican western Pennsylvania seat.

TX-29:  Veteran Texas Democratic Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston/Pasadena) became the sixth member of the state's delegation to not seek re-election next year.  Yesterday, Mr. Green announced that he will retire after 13 terms in the House, originally winning election in 1992.  Rep. Green has continually represented the majority Hispanic Democratic seat since that time.  The 29th District, which meanders within and around Houston and then stretches to the Pasadena area, is 77% Hispanic and safely Democratic.  We can expect a large number of Democrats to now come forward to join former Harris County Sheriff and ex-Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia, who challenged Mr. Green in the 2016 Democratic primary and had already announced his candidacy for next year.  The Green retirement now brings the regular cycle open seat count to 35.

VA-2:  Democrats were excited about the electoral prospects of retired Air Force Colonel Doug Belote in a district that is moving more toward a politically marginal status.  Late this week and due to illness in his family, Col. Belote announced that he is withdrawing from the race.  Three other Democrats remain, but party leaders are now looking toward state Senator Lynwood Lewis as a viable alternative.  Freshman Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) defends the southeastern Virginia Tidewater district in what could become a competitive campaign.


California:  The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll (10/27-11-6; 1,504 California adults) was just released into the public domain.  As has been the case for every survey, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leads the diverse, multi-candidate field.  He scores 31% support within this sampling universe, ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) who posts 21% support.  Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is next with 15%, followed by Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang (12%), and GOP businessman John Cox (11%).  The latter man is a former presidential and Illinois federal candidate.  Democrats are prohibitive favorites to hold the California Governor's mansion.  Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is ineligible to seek re-election.

Connecticut:  While the open Connecticut Governor's race has exploded with seven Democratic and 11 Republican candidates, one major political figure looming large on the horizon will not enter the race.  Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) announced yesterday that she won't enter next year's gubernatorial campaign thus making the campaign to succeed outgoing Gov. Dan Malloy (D) even more unpredictable.

Iowa: The Insight, LLC survey research firm tested the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial primary (8/8-10; 762 IA likely Democratic primary voters) and found that businessman Fred Hubbell, largely because of his early advertising campaign, has jumped out to the early lead.  According to the result, Mr. Hubbell would command 22% support.  He is followed by state Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) with 13%.  All of the other candidates: SEIU labor union leader Cathy Glasson, John Norris, the former chief of staff to then-Gov. Tom Vilsack, ex-state Democratic Party chairman Andrea McGuire, former Des Moines School Board president Jonathan Neiderbach, and Ross Wilburn, the ex-Iowa City Mayor, all fall under 7% support.  Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who ascended to her position when incumbent Terry Branstad (R) was appointed US Ambassador to China, will seek her first full term in the Hawkeye State's top political position.

Ohio: Speculation had been rampant earlier in the year that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray (D) would resign his federal position and return to Ohio to run for Governor.  He was expected to leave in September to formally enter the statewide campaign, but did not.  Then, speculation became pretty clear that he would not become a candidate to the point that state Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill (D), who previously said he would not run for Governor if Mr. Cordray returned, announced last month that he would officially enter the gubernatorial race in February.  Now, it looks like Mr. Cordray, a former Ohio Attorney General and state Treasurer, will run for Governor after all.  This week, he announced that he is in fact resigning his position and returning to the Buckeye State, but still stopped short of declaring for Governor, however.

Pennsylvania: With early polling suggesting that state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) leading the GOP gubernatorial contest and businessman Jeff Bartos (R) leaving the US Senate campaign hoping to join Wagner has his Lt. Governor running mate, a new Republican gubernatorial candidate is emerging.  State House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-McCandless Township) says he will now become a gubernatorial candidate and compete for the nomination.  Businessman Paul Mango, who has just recently run a wave of television advertising, is also waging an active campaign.  The eventual Republican nominee will challenge first-term Gov. Tom Wolf (D) next November. 

Rhode Island: According to a TargetPoint Consulting survey (11/4-6; 600 RI active voters; 433 registered Republican households) conducted for 2014 gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung, he leads state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan and former state Representative and Trump honorary Rhode Island campaign co-chairman Joe Trillo by a respective 45-24-10% split.  In the proposed general election, Mr. Fung claims a 46-41% edge over Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), who records an upside down favorability ratio of 43:49%.   While Rhode Island is one of the nation's most reliably Democratic states, the party has only elected two of the last six Governors.

Wisconsin: Labor leader Mahlon Mitchell (D), who was the party's Lt. Governor nominee when Democrats attempted to re-call Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in 2012, announced that he will join the enlarging Democratic gubernatorial field, one of whom will challenge Gov. Walker next year.   Adding Mr. Mitchell means that 14 candidates are running in the Democratic primary, a race that won't be settled until next August.  Among the more prominent contenders are state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Buffalo County), state Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.