Two Retirements Add To 2020 Open Seats

March 29, 2019

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

Key Takeaways

  • AZ-Sen: Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) won't run
  • NH-Sen: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) considering Senate
  • NM-Sen: Sen. Tom Udall (D) to retire
  • GA-6: Ex-Rep. Karen Handel (R) to seek re-match with Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
  • NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D) to retire
  • WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice (R) drawing opponents


Fox National Poll:  Fox News went into the field (3/17-20; 1,002 US registered voters; approximately 410 likely Democratic primary voters) to test the coming presidential race and confirmed much of what other pollsters are finding. President Trump continues to have upside down approval ratings, 46:51% favorable to unfavorable in this survey, and, among Democrats, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continue to pull away from the pack.

In this study, Mr. Biden leads Sen. Sanders, 31-23%, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) trailing with 8% apiece. No other candidate even reaches 5% according to the Fox data.

Iowa Poll:   A new small-sample Emerson College survey of the Iowa Democratic Caucus (3/21-24; 249 IA likely Democratic Caucus participants) uncovers several surprising data points. First, former Vice President Joe Biden's Iowa lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has dropped to just one percentage point, 25-24%.

Second, and perhaps the biggest surprise, is South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg moving all the way from obscurity into third place with 11% preference, surpassing Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who post 10 and 9%, respectively. A third unexpected result is former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) dropping all the way to seventh place with just 5% support. Because the sample size is extremely small, the error factor in this particular poll is high so more data is needed to verify these conclusions.

Quinnipiac Poll:  Quinnipiac University yesterday released its new national presidential poll (3/21-25; 1,358 US registered voters; 559 Democratic likely primary participants; 582 Republican likely voters) that tests issues, attitudes, and the Democratic primary. As found in virtually every other national poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the ever-growing pack of candidates with two other candidates gaining a bit of momentum.

According to the results, Mr. Biden posts 29% support from the Democratic respondents followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has 19%. Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke is third with 12%, and California Senator Kamala Harris drops to 8% preference. Moving up are both Mr. O'Rourke and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg who grows from a miniscule support factor to 4%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drops to 4%, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) falls to only 2% backing.


Arizona:  A surprising announcement came from the Grand Canyon State this week as Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) said that he will not run for the Senate next year. The move is a boon to Democrats, as Mr. Gallego acknowledged, because a tough late August primary would have made defeating Sen. Martha McSally (R) much more difficult.

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly now appears to have a clear shot at the Democratic nomination even at this early date, more than a year before the candidate filing deadline. Already raising $3 million for his statewide effort, Rep. Gallego saw that a primary confrontation with Mr. Kelly might well end in a loss for himself, which would mean the end of his congressional career. The Arizona Senate seat may have just moved to number one on the national Democratic target list.

Maine:  A new Maine-based Pan Atlantic Research survey (3/4-13; 500 ME likely voters) finds Sen. Susan Collins (R) posting majority support against declared candidate Sara Gideon (D), the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. According to the ballot test results, Sen. Collins opens with a 51-29% advantage with a job approval rating of 62:37% favorable to unfavorable.

New Hampshire:  While Gov. Chris Sununu (R) previously had ruled out challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), two new polls showing him landing in a statistical tie with the Senator has clearly caused him to reconsider. The Governor now confirms he is looking at a potential Senate race and will likely begin his decision-making process shortly that could consume several weeks.

New Mexico:  Two-term Democratic Sen. Tom Udall (D) early this week announced via video message from his home that he will not seek a third term next year but promises to remain active in the political process. The move is unforeseen as Sen. Udall looked to be a lock for re-election. Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, but a Republican making this open contest competitive is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) appeared set to announce his intention to run for the open Senate seat. Instead, Mr. Balderas announced that he will not run, choosing to remain in his current position. Early next week, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) is expected to become the first candidate to formally declare for the open seat. Without Mr. Balderas in the race, Rep. Lujan appears to be the early favorite for the Democratic nomination and the seat itself. But, with well over a year before the June Democratic primary, this campaign is just beginning.

South Carolina:  WPA Intelligence, surveying for the Conservatives for Clean Energy organization (3/11-13; 500 SC likely voters), finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) comfortably leading his principal announced Democratic opponent, former state Party chair Jamie Harrison. The numbers suggest the Senator would hold a sizable 55-32% advantage still more than one year before primary challenges are held.


CA-22:  2018 Democratic congressional nominee Andrew Janz, an attorney who raised over $9.2 million for his campaign only to lose to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare/Fresno), 53-47%, says he is unlikely to seek a re-match next year. While his effort against Mr. Nunes was strong, Mr. Janz instead is probably going to channel his political efforts and resources into a race for Mayor of Fresno against Republican incumbent Lee Brand. While he may face other strong Democrats before getting a head-to-head opportunity against Mayor Brand, insiders close to Janz suggest the local race is most probably where he will be running.

CO-1:  A few weeks ago, former state House Speaker Cristina Duran announced a Democratic primary challenge to veteran Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver). This week, Ms. Duran unveiled endorsements that make her challenge more substantive. Both former Senator and US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D) and ex-Denver Mayor and US Transportation Department Secretary Federico Pena (D) endorsed Ms. Duran's primary challenge. This developing primary challenge is likely to draw national political attention.

GA-6:   Former Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell), who lost her seat to current Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) by one percentage point, will return for a potential re-match next year, she announced yesterday. First, however, she will have to get past Republican primary opponent Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta state Senator, who announced his intention to run before the end of last year. Expect the 6th District to be a major target for the GOP next year.

IL-6:  In November, businessman Sean Casten defeated veteran Rep. Peter Roskam (R) by a 54-46% margin. Late last week it was reported that GOP former state Sen. Karen McConnaughay is considering entering the 2020 race. Whether or not Ms. McConnaughay runs is clearly undecided, but individuals such as she analyzing their chances is a relatively clear indication that former Rep. Roskam will not be seeking a re-match.

NY-15:  Announcing that he has contracted Parkinson's Disease, 11-term New York Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) said yesterday that he will not seek re-election. Counting his time in the legislature, Mr. Serrano has been in elective office consecutively since 1975. Last week, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D) announced that he would run for Congress, and we can be assured he will now have a lot of company in the Democratic primary.

OH-13:  Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) again confirmed that he is considering entering the presidential campaign but also is not abandoning his congressional post. Rep. Ryan said if he does decide to enter the presidential race he will continue to file for re-election. Such a move is consistent with Ohio election law that allows candidates to run simultaneously for more than one office.

PA-8:  Investment executive John Chrin (R), who lost to Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/ Scranton) 55-45% in November, has filed a 2020 FEC campaign committee. It appears Mr. Chrin is gearing up to run again, but there is speculation that he could hop over to the 7th District where freshman Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) will be defending her seat for the first time. The 7th District is more suited to Mr. Chrin's political base, but the 8th is more Republican and President Trump will likely carry the latter CD. Either way, it is probable we will see Mr. Chrin returning to the political wars in 2020.

PA-10:  In the 2018 cycle, Democratic leaders attempted to convince state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) to run for Congress, but the latter man wanted to finish his term in office. Now, ineligible to seek re-election in 2020 to his statewide post, Mr. DePasquale may well decide to enter a federal campaign against Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/York) who just got by first time candidate George Scott (D), 51-49%, last November. It is unclear whether Mr. Scott, a pastor and military veteran, will consider running again. If either man ultimately becomes the 2020 Democratic nominee, the 10th District will become a major national Democratic target.

TX-21:  Joseph Kosper, the Democratic nominee who came within 50-48% of winning a Texas open seat that, heretofore, had been solidly Republican, was reportedly deciding whether to seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) or challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R). This week, he unpredictably indicated that he will not be a candidate for any office. The 21st should remain in Republican hands but expect Texas Democrats to field a credible candidate and attempt to make a strong run here again in 2020 even without having Mr. Kosper on the ballot.


Louisiana:  Remington Research, polling for gubernatorial candidate Ralph Abraham (R), released their latest data for the impending 2019 Governor's race featuring incumbent John Bel Edwards (D) seeking re-election. The new poll (3/13-14; 1464 LA likely voters; 732 self-identified Democratic voters) finds Gov. Edwards holding a 44-33-10% jungle primary lead over Rep. Abraham (R-Alto/ Monroe) and developer Eddie Rispone (R), respectively.

If no candidate receives a majority vote in the October 12th primary, the top two finishers would face each other in the general election on November 16th. In the head-to-head pairings, Gov. Edwards would top Rep. Abraham, 47-45%, and Mr. Rispone, 48-42%. The results obviously indicate that a very close race could develop later this year.

Montana:  The open 2020 Montana Governor's race is beginning to attract significant attention. On Friday, state Sen. Al Olszewski (R-Kalispell) announced that he will enter the open Governor's race, joining Republican candidates Tim Fox, the state's Attorney General, and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. Sen. Olszewski placed fourth in a field of four Republican US Senate candidates in 2018, attracting 19% of the vote. No Democrat has yet announced, but Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) and Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins (D) are expected to make a run. Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who may soon announce a presidential bid, is ineligible to seek a third term.

West Virginia:  First-term Gov. Jim Justice (R), who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 but switched to the Republican Party less than a year after his statewide victory, has drawn possibly two GOP primary opponents. Former state Del. Mike Folk says he will likely challenge the Governor in next May's primary election, and Woody Thrasher (R), who Mr. Justice appointed as his original Commerce Department Secretary, is also being discussed as a potential contender. So far, however, Mr. Thrasher has refused to confirm that such a move is under consideration.

Last week, speculation began surfacing that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may attempt to re-gain his former post and challenge Gov. Justice in the general election. Therefore, it appears this Governor's race may soon begin drawing serious national attention from political observers.