Shifting Senate Dynamics and Governorship Races Heat Up

September 27, 2017

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

Top Lines

  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Will Retire from the US Senate
  • Judge Roy Moore Wins Alabama GOP Primary
  • State Sen. Dino Rossi (R) Will Run for WA-8
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) Won't Run for Texas Governor in 2018
  • Virginia Polling Still Gives Edge to Lt. Governor Ralph Northam


Several new Alabama Senate Republican run-off polls were released in the past few days, all of them bringing bad news for appointed Sen. Luther Strange as the campaign gets closer to the September 26th run-off election date. Southeast Research (8/29-31; 401 AL likely GOP run-off voters) sees former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore continuing to lead. In this particular instance, the advantage is 52-36%. Again, however, we see an overly large number of evangelical voters comprising the sampling universe. In this poll, over 79% of the respondents self-identify as evangelical. Those voters heavily favor Judge Moore. Though Alabama is heavily evangelical, and particularly among those who would vote in a Republican run-off, this particular segment may be too high.

Tennessee's Bob Corker (R) became the first 2018 in-cycle Senate incumbent to announce that he will not seek re-election. While the Alabama voters were heading to the polls to select their special election Republican nominee, Sen. Corker was making public his decision to retire after two terms. Mr. Corker said his commitment to a system of citizen legislators was a driver in choosing not to seek a third term. He was already being opposed in the Republican primary against a challenger, American for Prosperity's Tennessee director Andy Ogles, who was drawing substantial early financial backing.

With Sen. Corker now out of the picture, other Republicans are beginning to make moves. A group is forming to encourage former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) to enter the race. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) says she is already considering becoming a Senate candidate. Democrats are encouraging former Gov. Phil Bredesen to seek their party's nomination. The fluid situation will become clearer in the succeeding weeks.


Maryland House Majority Leader Bill Frick (D-Bethesda), who had previously declared his candidacy for the open 6th Congressional District, has now reversed his personal political course. Mr. Frick announced during the week that he will exit the congressional race and entered the open campaign for Montgomery County Executive. The move leaves five Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination including three prominent contenders: Total Wine, Inc. founder David Trone, state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County), and state Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery County).

Republicans scored their top recruitment prospect in the open Washington 8th District, the seat seven-term Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) is vacating. State Sen. Dino Rossi, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost a statewide election by just 129 votes in 2004, announced that he will run to succeed Mr. Reichert in the lean Republican district that begins in King County and stretches to almost the middle of the state. The GOP is showing signs that they will unite behind Rossi, thus increasing their November victory chances. King County Councilman Reagan Dunn (R), whose late mother, Jennifer Dunn, held the congressional seat for six terms, had previously indicated he would step back from launching a congressional campaign if Rossi were to make the race. We can expect several Democrats to come forward. This district will feature a competitive general election campaign.


A Fox News poll of the New Jersey electorate (9/17-19; 804 NJ registered voters) finds former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D) still leading Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) by a substantial margin. This spread suggests a 42-29% margin. With taxes being the number one issue of concern according to the poll, Guadagno is hitting her opponent hard over his statements that he will raise the state levies even higher. Suffolk University also released their Garden State data (9/19-23; 500 NJ likely voters) that gives Mr. Murphy a 44-25% advantage. The regular gubernatorial election is scheduled for November 7th. Gov. Chris Christie (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

San Antonio US Rep. Joaquin Castro has been under pressure from fellow Democrats, including Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, to challenge Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R). But, the Congressman dashed all hopes this week that he will do so. Mr. Castro instead announced his plans to seek a fourth term to his position in the US House.

Five new Virginia polls, all conducted during the September 12-23 period, were released during the past few days. The survey margins between candidates Ralph Northam (D-Lt. Governor) and Ed Gillespie (R-former Republican National Committee chairman) range from the two being tied (Fox News; 42-42%) to Northam holding a six-point advantage (Christopher Newport University; 47-41%). In all five polls, both candidates record support totals in the 40s. The regular 2017 gubernatorial election is scheduled for November 7th.