Reports Barletta to Run for Senate and Special Elections in UT & AL Next Week

August 10, 2017

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


The Alabama special primary elections are now less than a week away, and the Republican battle continues to remain close. Several polls are in the public domain and each show that the nine-person GOP race has winnowed to three candidates, one of whom will be eliminated come Tuesday. At this point, all research studies agree that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is running first, capturing a solid 30-33%. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange runs second, but Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) is within the margin of error of qualifying for the run-off in most polls.

The Democrats, on the other hand, may well nominate a candidate on Tuesday. Either marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. or ex-US Attorney Doug Jones could win the nomination outright in the August 15th special Democratic primary. The special general is scheduled for December 12th.

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), as expected, will imminently announce his US Senate campaign. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) has informally declared his candidacy and will do so definitively in the coming days. State Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) became a candidate earlier this week. The eventual Republican nominee will face vulnerable first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, fresh from a 2016 one-point congressional loss in the 2016 District 3 general election, announced that he will challenge Sen. Dean Heller in next year's Republican primary. Though Sen. Heller will be favored for re-nomination, Tarkanian does have a Republican base and could cause the Senator to tack right in order to win re-nomination. Ironically, the more competitive Republican primary could spur action on the Democratic side, too. Seeing that Heller could be even weaker going into the general election could encourage Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) to enter the Democratic primary. Within the last two weeks she confirmed interest in doing so. Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), who defeated Tarkanian in November, is already an announced Democratic Senate candidate.

Pennsylvania US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) has reportedly decided to enter the 2018 US Senate contest in hopes of challenging Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), according to the Associated Press. The reporter indicates that Mr. Barletta will make an official campaign announcement in the coming weeks. Already in the Republican primary are state Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana, along with businessmen Jeff Bartos and Paul Addis, Berwick Borough Councilman Andrew Shecktor, and retired National Security Council staff member Cynthia Ayers. US Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie), who was also considering the statewide run, announced instead that he will seek a fifth term in the House.


Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who has run unsuccessfully for both the Senate and House, announced that he will seek a Republican primary re-match with Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), a race that was decided by just 134 votes in 2016. At the time, however, Rep. Pittenger's business was under FBI investigation (closed with no charges filed), and, because of the court-ordered redistricting decision, the constituency was 60% new to the incumbent. With both of those obstacles cleared, Mr. Pittenger should have an easier time in the primary this year. An anti-incumbent sentiment among Republican primary voters, however, could put this and many other seats in play.

The Utah special election for the state's open 3rd District will also be held on Tuesday, August 15th. There, Republicans will nominate a candidate to advance to the November 7th special general election. Democrats previously nominated Dr. Kathryn Allen in a March convention, so she automatically moved into the general.

Three Republicans are vying for the party nomination: convention-endorsed former state Rep. Chris Herrod, Provo Mayor John Curtis, and marketing executive Tanner Ainge. The latter two bypassed the state endorsement convention and petitioned their way onto the ballot. Mayor Curtis has raised the most political cash, but at least two outside organizations are spending in the last week for Herrod and Ainge. The Club for Growth is backing Herrod with advertising that attacks both Curtis and Ainge. Freedom Works and the Senate Conservatives Fund are also actively supporting Herrod. A new Super PAC entitled "Conservative Utah" is spending $140,000 in the final days to support Mr. Ainge. The GOP winner will be a heavy favorite to capture the seat. Hillary Clinton failed to even place second in this district last November.


Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who will become Governor when incumbent Sam Brownback (R) is confirmed to his new federal appointment, announced that he will run for a full term in 2018. He will have company in the GOP primary as Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer have already announced their candidacies, along with prominent oil businessman Wink Hartman, and two former state legislators.

A new Public Policy Polling survey (8/1-2; 672 ME likely GOP primary voters) delivers bad news for Sen. Susan Collins (R) as she ponders whether to enter the Governor's race. According to PPP, former Health Department Secretary Mary Mayhew would lead the four-term Senator in a closed Republican primary, 44-33%.

In an expected political move, Tennessee US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) announced that she will enter the open race for Governor. Rep. Black, chair of the House Budget Committee, is serving her fourth term in the House after multiple terms in both houses of the state legislature. With Gov. Bill Haslam (R) ineligible to seek a third term, Rep. Black can be considered the favorite for the GOP nomination, and to win the general election.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice used President Trump's rally in the Mountain State's city of Huntington to announce his move to the Republican Party. Mr. Justice, who ran as a conservative, said he can no longer help the people of West Virginia as a Democratic Governor. His move to the Republicans now gives the party a record 34 state houses, and drops the Democrats to an all-time low of fifteen.