Presidential Candidate Slate Continues to Evolve

March 11, 2019

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

Key Takeaways

  • President: Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) in; former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) & Hillary Clinton out
  • OR-Sen: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) in for Senate, out for President
  • TX-Sen: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) mulling Senate bid
  • NC-9: special election schedule - May 14 primary; runoff on Sept. 10 if required then general election on Nov. 5; if no runoff, general election on Sept. 10
  • PA-12: State Rep. Fred Keller (R) nominated for special election
  • MS-Gov: candidate filing list released

President

Stacey Abrams:  Reports from Georgia suggest that defeated gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D), who said she would decide about challenging Sen. David Perdue (R) by the end of this month, may now be on a different timetable that may extend well into April. In addition to determining if she might launch a Senate race or return in 2022 to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp (R), she also is contemplating whether to enter the presidential campaign.

Michael Bloomberg:  Despite public comments that he would spend $500 million of his own money on a presidential campaign, hiring key political staff, designing a presidential logo, and planning an announcement tour beginning in his birth city of Boston, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he will not run for president in 2020. While saying he believes he would match up well against President Trump in the general election, he doesn't see a path to claim the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Sherrod Brown:  Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who many believed was also preparing to enter the Democratic presidential nomination field, said yesterday that he will not. Citing a reason similar to that Michael Bloomberg articulated, Sen. Brown basically indicated that he did not see a victory path, meaning that he would be unable to attract many of the supporters he needs because of other similar candidates fighting over the same voter pool.

Hillary Clinton:  Former Secretary of State, US Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton publicly confirmed that she will not run for President in 2020, but says she wants to remain active in the political process.

Gov. Jay Inslee:  As expected, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee became the twelfth official Democratic presidential candidate with decisions pending from former Vice President Joe Biden and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), but declined to rule out seeking a third term in his present position. Because the Washington candidate filing deadline is not until May of 2020, Mr. Inslee can stay in the race through the critical March 17th primary election day when 65% of the first ballot delegate votes will be committed. If not a factor headed toward the national convention at that time, he will easily have time to revert back into another race for Washington Governor.

Senate

Colorado:  Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada), who entered the 2018 Governor's race only to withdraw after two months and return to his safe House seat, said yesterday that he is not thinking about entering the 2020 Senate campaign and that, "he likes the House."

Democrats are in search of a stronger potential opponent to Sen. Cory Gardner (R) than the ones who have already announced: former state Senator and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, and ex-state House Speaker and twice defeated federal candidate Andrew Romanoff. The seat looks to be highly competitive since Colorado is moving distinctively toward the political left. But, it will likely take a stronger candidate than Messrs. Johnston or Romanoff to unseat Sen. Gardner, one of the GOP's most talented candidates.

Kansas:  Dave Lindstrom, a retired Defensive End for the Kansas City Chiefs NFL Club (1978-85), is considering entering the open US Senate Republican primary. Currently, Mr. Lindstrom is the chairman of the Kansas Turnpike Authority and serves as a member of the Johnson County Community College Board. Johnson County, home of Kansas City, KS, is the state's largest county by far, home to over 559,000 people. Sen. Pat Roberts (R) has already announced that he will not seek a fifth term in office.

North Carolina:  It has been no secret that the Democratic leadership has tagged state Attorney General Josh Stein as their top choice to challenge first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Yesterday, it was reported that the first-term AG is planning to eschew a Senate race, however, in order to run for re-election to his current post.

At this point, the Democrats have not fielded a Senate candidate with statewide name recognition. So far, state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller are the only announced Senate candidates. Since both are regional officials, each will first be tasked with becoming known on a statewide basis in order to position themselves as Mr. Tillis' top challenger.

Oregon:  Late this week, two-term Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) announced that he will seek re-election next year. His declaration also means that he will not be a presidential candidate, which he acknowledged, because the Oregon political leadership would not adhere to his request to change election law so individuals could simultaneously seek more than one office. Sen. Merkley is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

Texas:  Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), the subject of much discussion about whether he will challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) next year, took an unusual step during the week. The Congressman released a statement saying that he is "seriously considering a Senate 2020 campaign."

While former state Senator and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis (D) said she would yield to Rep. Castro if he chooses to oppose Sen. Cornyn, she would consider running for the Senate if the Congressman decides to remain in the House. The emergence of ex-Senator Davis would likely be a welcome sight for Sen. Cornyn and the Republicans. Against then-Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), Ms. Davis fared poorly, losing 59-39%.

House

CA-21:  Former Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) lost a close re-election battle to businessman T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) in November, but recent developments suggest no rematch is likely at least in 2020. This week, Mr. Valadao and his wife filed for bankruptcy citing multi-million-dollar agribusiness losses.

The 21st District is heavily Democratic, and Mr. Valadao had done well to hold the seat for three terms until what certainly proved to be a wave election in California swept him out of office. It is unlikely another Republican could do better in the future, so Rep. Cox may find himself in good shape for re-election.

CA-48:  Former state Assemblyman and Orange County Republican chairman Scott Baugh (R) announced this week that he will not challenge freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) even though he filed a fundraising committee with the FEC earlier in the year. Mr. Baugh, who finished a strong fourth in the 2018 jungle primary, was viewed as one of the Republicans' strongest potential candidates for 2020. Mr. Rouda defeated 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), 54-46%, in the November election.

CA-49:  Freshman Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) proved to be an easy winner in November, converting this southern California Republican congressional district to the Democratic column. With incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) not in the field, Levin cruised to a November victory over Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey, 56-44%.

Late this week, one of the 16 candidates who ran for the open seat last year says he will run again in 2020. San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott (R), who finished in the middle of the pack in 8th place, captured only 3% of the jungle primary vote. He will have to perform considerably better next year if he is to have a chance at unseating Rep. Levin. At least in the early going, the new Congressman appears to be a lock to secure a second term.

NC-9:  We now know that North Carolina's 9th Congressional District will remain vacant for exactly one year. On November 6th, Republican Mark Harris, the top vote getter in the 2018 general election, was not certified the winner because of voter fraud accusations in one particular county. On Monday, the NC State Board of Elections, after last week ordering a brand new vote, released the special election schedule.

The candidate filing deadline will be March 15th for the special primary now scheduled for May 14th. If a run-off is required - meaning no candidate received 30% of the party primary vote - such election will be conducted on September 10th. The special general election will occur November 5th. If no party requires a run-off, the general will move to September 10th. But, considering that Mr. Harris won't run and the GOP side is wide open, it is highly likely that a run-off will occur. Democratic businessman Dan McCready, the '18 Democratic nominee, is the prohibitive favorite to win the party nomination in the special election.

PA-12:  Republican delegates to the special district convention chose a party nominee for the May 21st special election to replace resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) in a marathon seven-hour session last Saturday.

TX-23:  Though 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones has yet to confirm that she will again run for Congress, all signs are pointing to a re-match between she and three-term Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio). In November, Ms. Jones lost to Congressman Hurd by just 926 votes.

While Ms. Jones has yet to declare her candidacy, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Cheri Bustos, who represents a district in Western Illinois, is telling Texas news reporters that there will be a re-match in 2020. We can expect another tight race from this highly volatile Lone Star State district.

Governor

Louisiana:  Though House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Slidell) has several times indicated he is not planning to run for Governor this year, political speculation continues that he may well reverse course and enter the jungle primary against incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). During the week the situation clarified as Mr. Scalise again reiterated that he is "not running for Governor."

Many Louisiana Republican leaders reportedly feel the party needs a stronger candidate than the two announced entries, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and developer Eddie Rispone. GOP strategists are unhappy, for example, that Rep. Abernathy reported raising less than $400,000 before the end of last year.

Mississippi:  At the beginning of this week Mississippi election officials released the candidate list for the 2019 state elections, thus the field for the August 6th party primaries are now set. If no candidate receives majority support in the first election, the top two finishers will run-off on August 27th. The general election is November 5th.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, to replace term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R), three candidates filed as expected. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who Gov. Bryant has endorsed, retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando) are now the official contenders.

For the Democrats, nine individuals filed paperwork to run. The prohibitive favorite for the gubernatorial nomination is four-term Attorney General Jim Hood. The other candidates of significance are Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, and former Natchez Mayor and ex-state Representative Phillip West.

The large number of minor candidates suggest there is an outside possibility that Hood is forced to a run-off, but at this point he must be considered a clear favorite to win outright. Most observers believe that AG Hood gives the Democrats a legitimate chance to capture the Governor's mansion for the first time since Ronnie Musgrove last won in 1999.

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