Senate Polling Abound and Candidates for Governor Make Their Intentions Known

August 30, 2017

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

Top Lines

  • Senator Jeff Flake trails fmr. state Sen. Kelli Ward in recent AZ GOP Primary polling
  • Rep. Lou Barletta (R) will challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D) for PA senate seat
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-1) will run for eighth term in 2018
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will run for reelection


Two new Alabama polls bring the upcoming special Senate Republican run-off election into closer proximity. The first two surveys gave former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore commanding 18-19 point leads over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. This week's data, first from Voter Surveys & Consulting (8/21-23; 601 likely Republican run-off voters) gives Strange major hope. The VS&C result finds him trailing 41-45%. The new Harper Polling survey (8/24-26; 600 likely Republican run-off voters) provides the interim Senator even better numbers. According to HP, the split between Moore and Strange is 47-45%. The run-off election is scheduled for September 26th.

Last week the Phoenix-based Highground Public Affairs Consulting firm released its poll of the Arizona electorate that gave former state Sen. Kelli Ward a 42-28% advantage over Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in the 2018 Republican primary, but the sample size was low bringing the results into question. This week, JMC Analytics & Polling (8/26-27; 500 likely AZ Republican households) provides confirming results. They find Ms. Ward's lead to be an even stronger 47-21%, suggesting deep trouble for Sen. Flake. Though he is way down in polling right now, the primary election isn't until August 28, 2018, so he has a full year to right his political ship.

A new Florida Atlantic University survey (released 8/29; 800 FL registered voters via online and automated response) provides good news for Gov. Rick Scott (R). It is widely believed that the term-limited Governor will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year, but the state chief executive says he is in no hurry to decide. According to the FAU poll, Sen. Nelson would edge Gov. Scott only, 42-40%. With Florida's voting history of tight statewide elections, we can expect a toss-up contest between the two well-known incumbents all the way to the next election.

Major conflicting Republican polling data was also released this week in Nevada. One poll finds incumbent Sen. Dean Heller being crushed by his GOP challenger, while the other suggests he is comfortably ahead. The JMC Analytics & Polling survey (8/24-25; 700 likely registered Republican voters) finds frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian leading Sen. Heller by a surprising 39-31% clip. But, Heller's own Tarrance Group poll (8/14-16; 300 NV GOP likely voters) finds the Senator holding a 55-33% advantage. Both surveys have methodological flaws, thus perhaps partially explaining the wide variance. Even the Tarrance poll, however, suggests that Heller is not particularly strong in the GOP primary, thus causing even further problems for the man widely seen as the top 2018 Democratic conversion target.

Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), as expected, has now formally announced his US Senate challenge against two-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D). Mr. Barletta must first top four active Republican candidates, but in the early going he enters the race as the favorite. President Trump had publicly encouraged the Congressman to run.


Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City/Ogden) announced that he will run for an eighth term next year, but will not be a candidate in 2020. Mr. Bishop was first elected in 2002, and has recorded statistically strong percentages in a district where Hillary Clinton scored only 22% of the vote last November. Rep. Bishop should have an easy re-election next November, but a major Republican primary will ensue to succeed him in 2020.

In South Florida, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) has decided not to seek the open Miami-anchored 27th Congressional District seat in 2018. He was reportedly testing the waters for such a run. The race will be open because veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) is not seeking re-election. Eight Democrats have jumped into the primary campaign, each looking to win the open shot at converting the district next year. FL-27 is widely regarded as the Democrats' best national conversion opportunity since the electorate broke 58-39% in favor of Hillary Clinton. Republicans have done well in down ballot races here, however. Former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro are the top announced GOP candidates.

The special three-judge panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling that will force the re-drawing of two Lone Star State districts. The southeast Texas CD of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and veteran Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's (D-Austin) Austin-San Antonio seat will be re-configured. The new map is expected to alter at least five or six districts including the aforementioned. The ruling's surprise piece was leaving Rep. Will Hurd's (R-San Antonio) politically marginal district intact. That means the boundaries will not change for the remainder of the decade unless tangentially touched by the 35th District re-construction.

Within days of the announcement, two more Democrats announced their efforts to oppose Rep. Hurd. Former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings and ex-San Antonio City Council candidate and Bernie Sanders activist Rick Trevino both became congressional candidates. The moves may force the hand of former US Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who lost the last two consecutive races opposite Mr. Hurd after originally winning the seat in 2012. The 23rd CD stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, and is Texas' only swing political district.


Former Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) confirms he is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor next year. Gov. Bill Walker, last week, announced that he would run for re-election as an Independent, meaning that a three-way race among Walker, possibly Begich, and Republican state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who also this week confirmed he would run for Governor, could create a realistic victory scenario for any one of the candidates.

The aforementioned Florida Atlantic University poll also tested the Sunshine State gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam leads the candidate grouping with 27% support. He is followed by state House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 10%, US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) posts 9%, and state Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Bartow) has two percent backing. Within this group, only Putnam and Latvala are announced gubernatorial candidates.

For the Florida Democrats, advertising trial attorney John Morgan leads the five candidates and potential candidates with 19% of the vote. Former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-Governor and Senator Bob Graham (D), follows at 14%, ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (9%), Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine (8%), and real estate developer Chris King (4%).

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), though originally saying he would decide whether to seek a third term in the next month or two, surprisingly tweeted late last week that he will run again. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers joined the growing list of Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Mr. Evers was re-elected in April to a third term in his non-partisan position with 70% of the vote. He becomes the eighth Democrat in the gubernatorial primary, but he is the only statewide elected official within the primary field of candidates.