Primary Season Now in Full Swing

June 1, 2018

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

Keyword Takeaways:

  • Rhode Island Senate:  former Senator & Governor Lincoln Chafee (R/I/D) won't challenge Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
  • Texas Senate:  Sen. Ted Cruz (R) stronger in latest polling, leading challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), 50-39%
  • Utah Senate:  polling finds former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) with commanding lead in upcoming primary
  • Washington Senate:  Sen. Maria Cantwell strong in first re-election poll
  • West Virginia Senate:  latest post-primary poll shows Sen. Joe Manchin (D) opening larger lead over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), 53-40% in top-tier Republican challenge campaign
  • MI-1:  Secretary of State disqualifies retired Marine Corps Lt. Colonel Mike Morgan (D) because of failure to list a street address on his candidate application; Morgan to fight ruling in court
  • NM-1:   Albuquerque City Councilman Pat Davis (D) suspends campaign and endorses former state Democratic chair and Tribal Administrator Deb Haaland (D)
  • NY-18:  Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) considers running for state Attorney General
  • VA-5:  Rep. Tom Garrett (R) retires; Republicans to choose new nominee in special convention
  • California Governor:  former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) may be out in jungle primary, falling behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and former presidential and IL Senate candidate John Cox (R) in recent surveys
  • Florida Governor:  latest polling indicates Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D) opening larger lead over other Democrat opponents - former Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King
  • Georgia Governor:  Dem poll finds new gubernatorial nominee and former state House Majority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) topping both GOP run-off participants
  • Minnesota Governor:  Lt. Governor Michelle Fischbach (R) to run with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R)
  • Missouri Governor:  Lt. Governor Mike Parson (R) to replace resigned Gov. Eric Greitens (R)
  • South Dakota Governor:  latest polling shows at-large Rep. Kristi Noem (R) and Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) locked in a virtual tie as candidates enter the stretch run to June 5th primary
  • Wisconsin Governor:  Milwaukee Mayor and former Congressman Tom Barrett (D) decides against making another run for Governor in already crowded Democratic primary field


Rhode Island: Late last month, former Rhode Island Senator and Governor Lincoln Chafee (R/I/D) indicated he was considering challenging Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in this year's Democratic primary. After polls were published showing the Senator crushing Mr. Chafee, he began saying less. Now, according to an announcement this week, the former statewide office holder says he will not run for any office this year.

Texas: A new Quinnipiac University survey (5/23-29; 961 TX registered voters) finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R) with a much larger lead over US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) than two previous polls, including one from Quinnipiac, have shown. According to this latest Q-Poll, Sen. Cruz's margin over Congressman O'Rourke is 50-39%.

Utah: A new Dan Jones & Associates poll for the Utah Policy Institute finds former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney holding a commanding lead over the man who topped him in the April 21st Utah Republican state convention. The poll (5/15-25; 295 UT likely Republican primary voters) gives Mr. Romney a 67-24% lead over three-term state Representative and physician Mike Kennedy (R-Alpine). The survey, however, has major methodological flaws. The sampling period is approximately three times too long, and the respondent group much too small for a statewide campaign.   Still, the margin is so overwhelming that there can be little doubt Mr. Romney holds a substantial pre-election lead for the June 26th Republican primary.

Washington: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the Northwest Progressive Institute (5/22-23; 675 WA likely voters), finds three-term Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) opening her 2018 re-election campaign in robust fashion. The results are hardly unexpected, however, since the tested Republican, former state GOP chair Susan Hutchison, surprisingly decided to enter the race just as candidate filing closed. According to the PPP results, the Senator's early advantage is 52-36%.

West Virginia: Since the May 8th primary election that nominated Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) as Sen. Joe Manchin's (D) November challenger, three polls have been released. The latest, from Gravis Marketing (5/22; 543 WV likely general election voters) puts the Senator in his strongest political position, leading Mr. Morrisey, 53-40%. Mr. Manchin's internal poll, from the Global Strategy Group (5/13-16; 600 WV likely general election voters), found the incumbent's advantage to be 50-42%. An immediate post-primary WPA Intelligence survey (5/10; 400 WV likely general election voters) actually posted Mr. Morrisey to a two-point edge, 46-44%. The West Virginia race will continue as a top-tier Republican challenge campaign all the way to November.


Michigan: The Michigan Secretary of State has ruled that several congressional candidates failed to meet ballot qualification requirements and are, at least for the moment, denied ballot position for the state's August 7th primary election. In the 1st District, which will prove to be the most controversial situation, Democrat Mike Morgan, a retired Marine Corps Lt. Colonel, is disqualified because he did not list a street address on his candidate application. Michigan law specifically prohibits post office boxes being used as an official candidate address. Mr. Morgan says he will fight the ruling in court. He is the lone Democrat who filed for the race. If the Secretary of State's ruling stands, freshman Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet/Upper Peninsula) will be unopposed for re-election.

NM-1: As Tuesday's primary fast approaches, the Democratic field in the open 1st District is becoming better defined at the eleventh hour. With incumbent Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) departing the House to run for Governor - she has a big lead in the statewide Democratic primary - the eventual Democratic nominee will become the heavy favorite to win the seat in November. Late this week, Albuquerque City Councilman Pat Davis, who at one time was viewed as a major candidate, decided to suspend his campaign and endorsed former state Democratic chair, 2014 Lt. Governor nominee, and Tribal Administrator Deb Haaland. She is battling retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and former US Attorney Damon Martinez in addition to two others. Though Mr. Davis has withdrawn from active campaigning, his name will remain on Tuesday's ballot.

NY-18: New York is the only state in the nation to hold two primaries: one for federal offices (June 26), and one for state positions (Sept 13th). Therefore, it is possible for a candidate to run for Congress in June and, if defeated, turnaround and run for state office. Though Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring/West Point) is in no danger for re-nomination in his US House seat, he is publicly toying with the idea of running for state Attorney General since the forced resignation of Eric Schneiderman (D) has created an open seat contest. Rep. Maloney says he will make a decision about the open AG's race on or before June 6th.

VA-5: On the Memorial Day holiday, Virginia freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/ Charlottesville) reversed course from his previous re-election announcement and will instead retire. He also revealed his alcoholism affliction. The local 5th District Republican Party organization will then meet in a special convention over this weekend to choose a new nominee. The eventual candidate will oppose former CBS News "60 Minutes" producer Leslie Cockburn who is well underway with her campaign. The district still leans Republican, so being able to turn away from a weakened Rep. Garrett should actually help the GOP's position, even though the post-convention candidate will have to quickly assemble a major congressional campaign from scratch. This race will continue to attract national political attention.


California: Survey USA (5/21-24; 678 CA likely primary voters) and Emerson College (5/21-24; 600 CA registered voters) tested the impending open Governor's campaign. In both surveys, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) retains the lead, as he has in every survey throughout the year. S-USA sees him with 33% jungle primary support, Emerson: 24%. In second place is Republican attorney and former presidential and Illinois Senate candidate John Cox with 16 and 17%, respectively, in the two polls.

It appears former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) may have a hard time forcing a double-Democratic general election. He gets only 8% in the latest S-USA poll, but finds 12% from Emerson College. St. Treasurer John Chiang (D), another significant candidate, pulls ahead of Villaraigosa in the S-USA survey, but behind him in Emerson. Both find Mr. Chiang taking 10% of the vote. The question soon to be answered in the June 5th primary is whether or not the Republicans will be able to secure any statewide general election ballot positions.

Florida: Sunshine State Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine (D), the Mayor of Miami Beach, has put some separation between he and the rest of the primary gubernatorial campaign according to a new Public Policy Polling survey (5/21-22; 583 FL likely Democratic primary voters). The data projects Mayor Levine to be holding a 30-20-12-6% advantage over former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), Mayor Andrew Gillum (D-Tallahassee), and businessman Chris King, respectively. This is the largest recorded lead for any of the candidates since the field formed earlier in the year and polling began. The Florida primary isAugust 28th. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Georgia: The Garin Hart Yang Research Group (5/23-25; 601 GA likely general election voters) conducted a poll for their client, former state House Minority Leader and new Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and found her topping both Republican run-off participants. But, the survey methodology is open to question. According to the results, Ms. Abrams leads Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), 48-43%, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), 49-40%. This admittedly assumes, however, a turnout model where Trump voters outpace Hillary Clinton voters by just two percentage points. In the actual election, the President's Georgia victory margin was six points.

Pollster Fred Yang accounts for the discrepancy by adhering to the "Democratic surge" in turnout that is expected in November. But, in the recent May 22nd Georgia primary, 52,352 more Republicans than Democrats cast ballots, thus failing to prove any hard evidence that Georgia Democratic turnout will surpass the GOP voter base.

Minnesota: Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach (R) who, as state Senate President, became Lt. Governor when incumbent Tina Smith (D) was appointed to the US Senate, has agreed to join former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R) statewide ticket for the general election. Mr. Pawlenty is petitioning onto the primary ballot, deciding to bypass the important state Republican endorsing convention because he is well behind 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, in delegate support. It is likely that Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Johnson will square off in the August 14th Republican primary with the winner advancing to the general election. US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, and state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul) are the leading Democrats. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is retiring.

Missouri: As has been reported nationally, Gov. Eric Greitens (R), in order to escape potential felony charges hanging over his head after some were recently dismissed, agreed to resign his office as part of an informal plea bargain arrangement. Lt. Gov. Mike Parson (R) will ascend to the office today after the Governor officially leaves office. This situation has been developing for several months and is associated with the Governor's highly publicized extra-marital affair. Incoming Gov. Parson, a former state Senator and Representative who represented the region east and south of Kansas City and north of Springfield, will serve through 2020. He would be eligible to run for a full term at that time.  

South Dakota: A new Republican primary poll of the open Governor's campaign was just released in advance of the June 5th nomination election, and it appears that at-large US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) and Attorney General Marty Jackley are locked in a virtual tie as the candidates enter the stretch run.   Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy surveyed the South Dakota Republican electorate (5/21-23; 625 SD GOP likely Republican primary voters) and found Rep. Noem clinging to a bare 45-44% lead over AG Jackley. The eventual Republican nominee will be a heavy favorite to replace term-limited Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in the general election.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee Mayor and former Congressman Tom Barrett (D), who has already run three times for Governor, a couple of weeks ago said he was contemplating entering the very large field of Democratic candidates who are vying for the right to challenge Gov. Scott Walker (R). This week, Mayor Barrett announced his decision not to run statewide this year. In the Democratic primary are 17 individuals who have announced their candidacies for the August 14th primary. The early leader appears to be state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who has built small advantages in several released statewide surveys. The general election, featuring Gov. Walker running for a third term, promises to yield another close finish.