Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 4 (February 5, 2020)

This week: Warnock enters special Senate election in GA, Bernie Sanders, steelworkers’ union issue competing endorsements for governor of New Hampshire, and NY Assemblyman loses endorsement of local party to challenger.

Click here to follow developments on the Republican side. Have a tip or see something we missed? Email us at cory@ballotpedia.org. And please share this newsletter with your colleagues!

Filing deadlines

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“The one good thing that can come from the disaster of Monday’s botched Iowa vote count is it may convince the national Democratic Party to end the caucuses once and for all.

The case for the Iowa caucuses is now weaker than it’s ever been — and it’s never been strong. Iowa is an unrepresentative state, and its caucuses impose an unconscionable burden on voters who wish to participate. Votes are counted in an absurd way, and the result can diverge significantly from the actual will of the people. …

It should go without saying that there is a better way to hold an election — the method used by the overwhelming majority of states. The state can simply pick a day to hold a primary, give voters a full day to cast ballots, and even allow voters who can’t make it on election day to vote early or absentee.

And in this system, every voter’s ballot will count exactly the same amount.”

Ian Millhiser, Vox, Feb. 4, 2020

“[Iowa]’s done. So now everyone is asking, What do we replace it with? 

Keep in mind that the Democratic Party can’t just make up its own primary calendar, independent of state desires and whatever it is the Republicans want to do. I mean, it could, but it would have to run the operation all by itself. It’s possible via vote by mail, but still, it likely won’t happen. So, say, if national Democrats decided that having Illinois go first made the most sense (it’s the most demographically representative state in the nation), it wouldn’t matter, because the state doesn’t want to go first. The end. So much of this isn’t about what will happen, but about frameworks for alternatives, which would then have to be hashed out through difficult negotiations with state parties, the Republican Party, state legislatures, and governors. Maybe that’s why Iowa and New Hampshire have been able to keep their duopoly for so long?”

Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos, Feb. 4, 2020

U.S. Congress

Warnock enters special Senate election in GA

Raphael Warnock entered the all-party Nov. 3 special election for Senate in Georgia. Politico‘s James Arkin called Warnock the most prominent Democrat in the race. Currently, the race includes four Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams endorsed Warnock. 

Warnock is a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and was chairman of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group Abrams founded.

Warnock’s Jan. 30 announcement came one day after U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R) entered the race. Incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) is also running. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed her to fill the seat following Johnny Isakson’s resignation in December. Several media outlets reported that President Donald Trump wanted Kemp to appoint Collins to the Senate seat.

After the Warnock and Collins announcements, The Cook Political Report changed its special election rating from Likely Republican to Lean Republican:

All these dynamics — long and protracted attacks between Collins and Loeffler and the entrance of Warnock — make it clear that this race is moving up the list of GOP headaches and Democratic opportunities, giving them yet another seat in their path to a majority. With its rapidly changing demographics, Georgia is a state that will be contested at the presidential level, and also sees Republican Sen. David Perdue running for re-election. But this is the more competitive race of the two.

If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two will be Jan. 5, 2021.

While the all-party special general election is not a primary, the race will be the first contest for the Senate seat in Georgia, and it is unlike most other Nov. 3 general elections in that it may not be the last. 

Polls show many voters still undecided in Texas Senate race

Two polls conducted in January show voters are still making up their minds about who to support among the 12 candidates seeking the Democratic Senate nomination in Texas.

The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas-Tyler conducted a poll Jan. 21-30 in which 56% of respondents said they weren’t sure who they’d support. M.J. Hegar polled at 8%. Royce West had 6% support and Annie Garcia had 5%. Four candidates polled at 4%, and five polled at 2% or below.

The poll had a sample of 487 Democratic primary voters and had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

The Texas Lyceum conducted a poll between Jan.10-19 that showed 19% of respondents didn’t know who they’d like to see as the Democratic nominee, and 17% responded “none of the above.” The poll showed Hegar with 11% support, West at 8%, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez with 7%, and Amanda Edwards at 6%. Four candidates polled at 5%. The remaining four candidates were at 4% or less.

The Texas Lyceum conducted their poll among 401 potential Democratic primary voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.9 percentage points. The group describes itself as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide leadership organization focused on identifying the state’s next generation of leaders and providing a forum for civil discourse on the important policy discussions facing our state.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R), who is seeking a fourth term, first won election in 2002 and won in 2014 by 27 percentage points. In the 2018 election between Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Beto O’Rourke (D), Cruz won by 2.6 percentage points.  

Open top-two primary for CA-50 down to one Democratic candidate

Marisa Calderon suspended her campaign for California’s 50th District House seat Jan. 31, citing a need to support ill family members. That leaves Ammar Campa-Najjar as the lone Democrat in the March 3 top-two primary.

Rep. Duncan Hunter resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to a count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. The seat will remain vacant until the 2020 winner takes office in January 2021. Campa-Najjar lost to Hunter by 3.4 percentage points in 2018.  

The two candidates with the most votes on March 3, regardless of party, will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

Four Republicans, three independents, and one member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California are also running. Republican candidates include former 49th Congressional District Rep. Darrell Issa, state Sen. Brian Jones, and former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio. 

California first used its top-two congressional primary system in 2012. In each 50th District election since, a Democrat and Republican have advanced from the top-two primary, and Hunter won each general election. Of previous 50th District top-two primaries, 2018 had the largest candidate field of seven, including three Republicans, three Democrats, and one independent. 

Three ratings outlets rate the general election Safe/Solid Republican.

State executives

Shavar Jeffries mulls primary challenge to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021

Fewer state executive races take place in presidential election years than in midterm years. This year, there are 159 state executive offices on the ballot nationwide, compared to 303 offices up in 2018. Just 37 of those seats are top four offices (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state); down from 123 in 2018. In this year’s run of Heart of Primaries, our coverage of state executive races will include stories on emerging state executive candidate fields in the 2021 and 2022 elections as well as the most recent news from 2020.

This week, we turn to New Jersey, where first-term Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is up for re-election in 2021. Although Murphy has not yet formally declared he will seek a second term, a potential primary challenge is already shaping up from former assistant New Jersey Attorney General Shavar Jeffries (D), according to the New Jersey Globe.

Jeffries served as assistant attorney general under Anne Milgram (D) between 2008 and 2010. Following Chris Christie’s (R) election as governor and Milgram’s departure as attorney general, Jeffries taught at Seton Hall Law School. In 2014, Jeffries ran in the nonpartisan election for mayor of Newark, losing to then-City Councilor Ras Baraka by a margin of 8.4 percentage points.

Jeffries may face an uphill battle against Murphy —  a New Jersey Globe analysis found that while six of the past 10 New Jersey governors faced primary challengers, just one of those challengers was successful.

Montana House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner ends gubernatorial campaign

State House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner (D) ended his campaign for governor of Montana Monday. Schreiner’s withdrawal leaves Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) and consultant Whitney Williams (D) as the only declared Democrats. Incumbent Steve Bullock (D) is term-limited.

Schreiner was first elected to his Great Falls-area seat in 2012. Term limits prevent him from seeking re-election to the House this year. He is the second candidate to withdraw from the race this year.  Former state Rep. Reilly Neill (D) suspended her campaign Jan. 12. 

The June 2 primary is open to all voters. No Republican candidate has been elected governor in Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.

Bernie Sanders, steelworkers’ union issue competing endorsements in New Hampshire governors race

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed New Hampshire Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky (D) for governor Thursday. The same day, the United Steelworkers of America Local 12012 endorsed Volinsky’s opponent, state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D).

Volinsky was first elected to the five-member Executive Council in 2016 and was re-elected in 2018. Among his other endorsers are former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and state Sen. Jeanne Dietsch (D). Feltes has served in the state senate since 2014. Eight of his fellow 13 state senate Democrats endorsed him.

Feltes and Volinsky are the only candidates to file for the race so far. The filing deadline is June 12. The Sept. 8 primary is open only to registered Democrats, although unaffiliated voters may join the Democratic Party on the day of the primary and vote the same day. Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is running for a third, two-year term.


Niles Township Democrats denounce IL House candidate

As we previously reported in Heart of the Primaries, Illinois Rep. Yehiel Kalish (D) has drawn a primary challenge over his refusal to vote on abortion-related legislation in the most recent legislative session. This week, a local Democratic group in the 16th District spoke out against one of the challengers. The Niles Township Democrats claimed Kevin Olickal promised not to run without their endorsement, but chose to run anyway. They say this hurts their chances of defeating Kalish in the primary. The group has endorsed Denyse Wang Stoneback in the primary.

Politico called the race “Kalish’s to lose,” noting his status as incumbent but also his fundraising figures, totaling $442,000. Stoneback has raised $68,000 to this point, while Olickal has raised $105,000. The primary is March 3, and the winner will be unopposed in the general election.

NY Assemblyman loses local party endorsement to challenger

At a February 1 meeting of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, the group voted to endorse Alex Yudelson over Assemblyman Harry Bronson in the District 138 Democratic primary. Party leaders voted in favor of Yudelson after initial voting by party members across the district resulted in neither candidate receiving a majority of the vote. Bronson said that he disagreed with the calculations from the first round of voting and that the party leaders manipulated the system. Yudelson said he was honored to win the endorsement.

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Bronson is unpopular with local party leaders for his refusal to support Mayor Lovely Warren’s suggestion that the state temporarily take over the Rochester school board. According to the paper, Warren is the de facto leader of the local party. Yudelson is Warren’s chief of staff, and made remarks at the committee meeting criticizing Bronson’s stance on the takeover.

MN Senate Democrats elect new leader

On Saturday, Minnesota Senate Democrats elected Susan Kent to replace Thomas Bakk as Senate Minority Leader. The vote tally was not made public, and neither Kent nor Bakk issued public statements after the nearly six-hour closed-door meeting. Bakk had led the Senate Democratic Caucus since 2011. The move came two weeks before the start of the 2020 legislative session.

The Star Tribune said that the move was the result of friction between senators who represent urban and suburban districts and Bakk on issues such as mining and guns. It also reported that members of the party were concerned the move could shift more voters in rural districts away from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Power players

“We promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights. Fair Fight brings awareness to the public on election reform, advocates for election reform at all levels, and engages in targeted voter registration and other voter outreach programs and communications.” – Fair Fight website

Fair Fight was founded in 2018 by Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia state representative and the 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee. According to the organization’s website, its areas of focus include voter registration, ballot access, and ballot counting. Fair Fight is also suing the Georgia Secretary of State and Board of Elections over what it says are “Georgia’s unconstitutional elections policies and procedures.” 

According to a Jan. 30 interview with Abrams, the organization is currently focused on “making sure that counties and precincts have adequate resources for the March 24 presidential primary” and “holding the Secretary of State accountable for providing proper resources and training to local elections officials so every eligible Georgian can participate without hardship.”

Other recent Fair Fight activity includes an ad titled “Voter Purge,” released at the end of January, which urges Georgia voters to check their voter registration status online.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins seeks election to Senate, 2,456 major party candidates filed for 2020 Congress elections

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R) announced January 29 that he is running in the special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia. Former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigned in December.

Collins has represented Georgia’s 9th Congressional District in the House since 2013. He is the third member of Georgia’s congressional delegation to announce he would not seek re-election to the House—Rob Woodall (R) of Georgia’s 7th and Tom Graves (R) of Georgia’s 14th are retiring from public office.

Collins is the 36th representative not seeking re-election and the 27th Republican. Four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) are not running for re-election. In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.

As of February 3, 2020, 2,456 major party candidates have filed to run for the Senate and House of Representatives in 2020.

A total of 348 candidates were filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. Of those, 296—154 Democrats and 142 Republicans—were from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.

For U.S. House, 2,355 candidates are filed with the FEC to run in 2020. Of those, 2,160—1,038 Democrats and 1,122 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.

On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, where all seats are up for election, Democrats currently hold a majority with 232 seats.

Click here to learn more.

Additional Reading:
United States House of Representatives elections, 2020
List of U.S. Congress incumbents who are not running for re-election in 2020

Immigration judge union calls for independent immigration courts

The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) on January 29 urged members of the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship to create independent immigration courts outside of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

“America needs an immigration court that is free from improper influence on the decisions of immigration judges,” said NAIJ President Ashley Tabbador. She argued that immigration courts lack independence from DOJ oversight, which results in outside pressure on IJ decision-making. Tabbador further claimed that the judicial role of immigration courts is “simply irreconcilable with the law enforcement mission and role” of the department.

Immigration judges (IJs) are a type of administrative judge (AJ) employed by DOJ to preside over special classes of administrative adjudication proceedings pertaining to immigration, including removal proceedings. Under the current structure, IJ decisions can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for review. BIA decisions can then be reviewed, modified, or overruled by the attorney general. Respondents can further appeal BIA decisions to the federal circuit courts.

The independence of IJs and other AJs from agency control is a topic of debate among administrative law scholars. AJs are hired directly by agencies and, unlike administrative law judges (ALJs), do not enjoy statutory protections from removal, discipline, and performance reviews. While some scholars argue that AJs maintain decisional independence from their employing agencies, others claim that the employee-employer relationship prevents impartial adjudication in violation of the Due Process Clause.

Additional reading:

87 candidates file to run for 8 U.S. House seats in Maryland

On January 24, the major-party filing deadline passed to run for elected office in Maryland. A total of 87 candidates filed for Maryland’s eight seats in the U.S. House.

The Congressional District 7 seat is currently vacant due to the death of Elijah Cummings (D) on October 17, 2019. A special election to fill the seat is scheduled for April 28 with a primary on February 4. The seat is also on the regular election ballot with the other congressional districts on November 3 with a primary on April 28. Every incumbent filed to run for re-election in the other seven congressional districts.

Maryland’s statewide filing deadline was the 10th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. It was followed by West Virginia’s deadline on January 25. The next statewide filing deadline is on February 7 in Indiana.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

U.S. Rep Doug Collins running in special Senate election in Georgia

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) announced on January 29, 2020, that he is running in the special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia and will not seek re-election to the U.S. House.

He joins seven other candidates, including appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R), in the all-party special election on November 3. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a special runoff election will be held January 5, 2021, for the top two vote-getters.

Currently, there are three Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent in the race. The filing deadline is March 6.

Former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigned in December, citing his health. The winner of the special election will complete his term ending January 2023.

Collins was the 27th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he would not seek re-election in 2020 and the third Republican representative to run for Senate this year. Nine Democratic representatives have announced they will not seek re-election, two of whom are running for Senate.

In the 2018 election cycle, 52 members of the U.S. House—34 Republicans and 18 Democrats—did not seek re-election.

Currently, Democrats hold a 232-197 majority in the U.S. House with one independent member of the chamber. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.

In the Senate, Republicans hold 53 seats to Democrats’ 45. Two independent senators caucus with Democrats. There are 33 regularly scheduled Senate elections and two special elections, including Georgia’s, in 2020.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee names initial 12 Red to Blue candidates

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) named the first round of 2020 congressional candidates to the organization’s Red to Blue program Tuesday. The 12 selected candidates will receive financial and organizational support from the DCCC, which is House Democrats’ official campaign arm.

The named candidates include 10 who are running for a Republican-held seat, one running for the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), and one running in California’s 25th district, which is currently vacant following Katie Hill’s (D) resignation. All but one of the named candidates faces a contested primary.

Launched in 2004, the Red to Blue program offers support to Democratic candidates running for U.S. House seats which are either open or held by a Republican incumbent. Qualifying candidates are required to demonstrate that they have met specific organizational and financial benchmarks. In the 2018 campaign cycle, the DCCC named 92 candidates to the program, 43 of whom won election to the House.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 3 (January 29, 2020)

This week: Two Van Drew challengers withdraw in NJ-02, six candidates now running in open GA-14 primary, and Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12.

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“As for the ‘vulnerable’ Republicans, they need to buck up. The only way they have a chance to win is by firmly supporting the President. … 

If they try to take the ‘reasonable’ route by crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats, they can forget about winning in November. Their efforts to curry favor with the media will backfire on them. Rather than bring moderate Democrats (if there is still such a thing other than 2016 Trump voters) over to them, they will alienate their base. That base will be furious and without their avid support, there will be far fewer door knockers and phone bank volunteers.”

Mike Ford, RedState, Jan. 27, 2020

“There’s a good chance [Susan Collins] will join the Democrats during the vote. Already, she’s expressed her willingness to work with the other side of the aisle to reach a compromise that will suit both parties. And unlike the other centrist Republicans who have said they’d like to hear from Bolton, Collins has the most to lose. She’s up for reelection in Maine this year, and her Democratic challenger has raised a significant amount of money and has tapped noteworthy endorsements. …

If she does break with her party on the trial rules vote, it’s unlikely the GOP will hold it against her. The Republican Party has much more of a vested interest in maintaining Collins’s Senate seat (a seat the Democrats need if they’re going to flip the Senate in 2020) than they do in preventing Bolton from testifying.”

Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner, Jan. 21, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress infographic

Two Van Drew challengers withdraw in NJ-02

Defense contractor Brian Fitzherbert and businessman David Richter withdrew from New Jersey’s 2nd District Republican primary, leaving two candidates in the race: Rep. Jeff Van Drew and Bob Patterson, a former Acting Associate Commission of the Social Security Administration.

Van Drew switched his affiliation from Democratic to Republican on December 19, 2019, after he voted against impeaching President Donald Trump in December. Trump endorsed him. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, local Republican Party leaders endorsed Van Drew in the following weeks, including some who had previously endorsed Richter.

Richter is now running in New Jersey’s 3rd District Republican primary. He said of his switch, “When I decided to run for Congress, it was to flip a congressional seat. That’s already happened. I’m endorsing Jeff Van Drew.”

Van Drew had been a member of the New Jersey Senate before winning the 2nd District in 2018.

New Jersey’s candidate filing deadline is March 30. The primary is June 2.

Open GA-14 primary candidate field grows to 6 

Six Republicans are currently seeking the GOP nomination in George’s 14th Congressional District. The incumbent, Rep. Tom Graves, announced in December he would not seek re-election. 

The latest entrant is state Rep. Kevin Cooke. In addition to representing District 18 in the state House, Cooke is the associate athletic director at Shorter University. In his campaign announcement, Cooke said:

“The question is who do you trust to stand up to big government Republicans behind closed doors in Washington. … Choosing a candidate based on rhetoric is dangerous and conservatives fall for it every cycle. This is a Republican primary in Georgia. We will all say we want to stop socialism, support our President, protect life, defend the Second Amendment and build the wall. Talk is cheap.” 

Ben Bullock recently announced his switch from Georgia’s 7th District race to the 14th District primary, saying, “For over 200 years, my family has lived, served in both the military and elected office, farmed, and operated small businesses in the 14th congressional district.” Bullock founded a real estate investment firm and served in the Air Force.

Businesswoman Marjorie Greene was the first candidate in the primary, announcing her switch from the 6th District race to the 14th following Graves’ retirement announcement. Neurosurgeon John Cowan, former assistant district attorney and Air Force veteran Clayton Fuller, and Kyle Perkins are also running.

The filing deadline is March 6. The primary is May 19. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the primary vote, a runoff will be held July 21. 

Georgia’s 14th District is one of 36 open House seats this year, and Graves is one of 26 Republicans retiring from the House.

The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index, which compares districts’ presidential election results to national averages, found this district to be the 10th-most Republican district in the country. 

Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12

Club for Growth PAC endorsed former Colleyville City Councilmember Chris Putnam in his primary bid against incumbent Kay Granger in Texas’ 12th Congressional District. It’s the first time the group has endorsed a challenger to a Republican House incumbent since 2016.

Granger first took office in 1997. Trump endorsed her re-election bid in December. 

Putnam joined the race in September, saying, “Just like President Trump, we need an outsider to bring proven business experience to drain the Washington swamp.” 

Club for Growth describes itself as the “leading free-enterprise advocacy group in the nation.” The group’s president, David McIntosh, said Granger “has recklessly voted for out-of-control deficit spending, backroom bloated budget deals, and debt limit increases.” 

Granger campaign representative Keats Norfleet said, “Kay is proud to be endorsed by President Trump and she’s proud of her record of delivering conservative results for her district. … It’s ironic that [the Club for Growth] would choose to support a candidate that voted to raise property taxes and grow the budget while serving on his local city council.”

Protect Freedom PAC is also involved in the race. The group spent $547,000 on a TV ad released last week criticizing Granger on abortion. The group says it was “founded for the purpose of supporting pro-freedom and liberty-minded candidates.”

The primary is March 3.

State executives

Montana gubernatorial candidates meet for first debate

The three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Montana appeared on the debate stage together for the first time Thursday. State Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski participated in a debate last November which Rep. Greg Gianforte did not attend. All three stated their support for cutting taxes, lowering spending, and supporting the growth of Montana’s energy sector.

Fox said that because he was born in Montana and had served as state attorney general, he was the candidate most familiar with the issues Montanans face and would perform best in the general election. Fox said that he outperformed Gianforte in the 2016 election when he ran for attorney general and Gianforte challenged incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

Gianforte said that he had the business experience necessary to develop Montana’s economy. He highlighted his experience in founding and managing a software company that had 1,100 employees when Oracle purchased it in 2011. Gianforte also said that he had a close working relationship with President Trump and would follow the president’s lead in cutting state taxes and regulations.

Olszewski said that he had the right mix of experience as a state legislator and the operator of his medical practice. He said that gave him a better sense than the other candidates of what needed to be done in Montana and how to do it. Olszewski said crime was a major policy priority and that he would put up billboards on the state line offering rewards for information on drug dealers and human traffickers. 

The candidate filing deadline is March 9. The June 2 primary will be open to all registered voters. No Republican has won election as governor of Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.

Poll shows 48 percent undecided in Utah GOP gubernatorial primary

A Suffolk University/Salt Lake Tribune poll of likely primary voters shows 48 percent are still undecided in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Among those who did voice a preference, former Jon Huntsman (R) has 26 percent, followed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox at 18 percent, and former House Speaker Greg Hughes at 7 percent.

Jeff Burningham, Aimee Winder-Newton, and Thomas Wright each received 1% support. The poll did not measure support for Jason Christensen. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.

A Y2 Analytics poll of registered Republican voters conducted in December for UtahPolicy.com showed Cox leading Huntsman 41 to 29 percent. Rep. Rob Bishop, who was seen as a potential candidate at the time but since joined Thomas Wright’s campaign as his running mate, had 9% support. That poll, which had a margin of error plus or minus 4.6, did not allow respondents to say that they were undecided.

The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only.

Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner’s resignation to run for attorney general takes effect this week

Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp (R) resigned effective Friday to challenge state Attorney General Curtis Hill (R). Krupp joins attorney John Westercamp (R), who launched his campaign in June.

Hill is currently undergoing a review before the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission following allegations of misconduct. In July 2018, four women who worked in the state legislature, including a member of the state House, accused Hill of inappropriately touching them at an event that March. Hill has denied the allegations.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), who had called for Hill’s resignation after the allegations were made public, has so far declined to endorse in the race. In Indiana, state executive candidates other than gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial nominees are nominated at party conventions rather than being selected in primaries. The Republican nominating convention will take place on June 19-20.


Alaska Senate President draws primary challenger as conflict within caucus grows

Roger Holland filed a letter of intent to run against Alaska Sen. Catherine Giessel (R). Holland is a political newcomer and works for the Alaska Department of Transportation. 

In a campaign announcement on Facebook, Holland cited Giessel’s cooperation with House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I) as a reason for the primary challenge. Edgmon changed his party affiliation from Democratic to undeclared in February 2019, before he was elected speaker of the chamber where Republicans held a numerical majority.

Last week, Anchorage Daily News reported that several Republican members of the Senate had been stripped of their committee assignments over their position on the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The committee changes were approved 13-7, with all seven votes coming from Republicans who voted against the PFD changes in 2019. Republicans hold a 13-7 numerical majority in the chamber.

Giessel last faced a primary challenger in 2012, when she defeated Joe Arness 68-32 percent. She represents District N, which covers portions of South Anchorage. She was first elected to the Senate in 2010. In the last three election cycles, Giessel won each general election by at least five percentage points.

Term-limited senator joins SD House primary field

State Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24), who is term-limited and unable to run again for the seat, filed paperwork to run for one of the two state House seats representing the same district. Both of the current House incumbents are also term-limited and not running for re-election. Monroe is the fourth Republican candidate to file for the two seats.

The other candidates are Mike Wiesgram, a businessman from Pierre, Bob Lowery, a former Assistant Executive Director for the SD High School Activities Association, and Will Mortenson, who worked in former Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s (R) administration.

Republicans are expected to win both House seats in November. In 2018, both Republican candidates won with 35 and 37 percent of the vote, compared to the Democratic candidates’ 18 and 11 percent of the vote. In 2016, 2014, and 2012, both Republican candidates were unopposed in each general election.

U.S. Senate candidate drops out of race to run for KS Senate

Bryan Pruitt (R) announced he was dropping out of the Republican primary for Kansas’ U.S. Senate seat and running for District 22 in the Kansas state Senate instead. The other declared Republican candidate in the race is Craig Bowser. The district is currently represented by Tom Hawk (D), who was elected in 2012.

Pruitt said he wants to focus his efforts on improving Kansas. “As I met with voters, I realized I could accomplish more in Kansas than I ever could trying to fix Washington D.C. at this time . . . I see an opportunity to flip [the seat] from Democrat back to Republican. Taking back [District] 22 will solidify Republican control of the Kansas State Senate and allow me to do the important work of implementing conservative change for all Kansans,” Pruitt said.

District 22 changed party control from Republican to Democratic control in 2012. In that race, Bob Reader (R) defeated incumbent Roger Reitz in the Republican primary before losing to Hawk 51-49 in the general election. District 22 covers portions of Manhattan.

Power players

“The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to electing more Republicans to state legislatures. The RLCC’s primary mission is gaining and growing Republican control of more state legislative chambers by targeting national resources to support winnable local races.” – RLCC website 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is a state-oriented national Republican organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures. Founded in 2003, the RLCC is an affiliate of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). The RLCC provides financial training and strategic assistance to Republican candidates and also operates campaign training schools in some states.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 3 (January 29, 2020)

This week: We preview the MD-07 special primary on Feb. 4, Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, and several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“In the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic Party was the subject of bitter and widespread criticism from its left wing. The party’s strategy was to flip the House by recruiting moderate candidates who would avoid controversial left-wing positions and instead focus attention on Trump’s agenda, especially his effort to eliminate Obamacare. The left predicted the strategy would fail — only an inspiring progressive agenda could mobilize enough voters to win back the House. … 

As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. …

Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed.”

Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer, Jan. 28, 2020

“When moderate Democrats assure us that they would win back more white swing voters than progressive Democrats would, I am haunted by the thought that the evidence is hardly so reassuring. I see moderate candidates struggling with younger voters, who are more likely to favor progressive policies, and are more likely than older voters to stay home or vote third party if they don’t like the Democrat. … 

The low-hanging fruit [voters who voted for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016] is disproportionately composed of young voters, and especially young black voters. Democratic primary voters should value candidates’ performance with these other swing voters as much as they value their performance with white swing voters.”

Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic, Jan. 28, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress infographic

MD-07 special primary election Feb. 4

Voters in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District will pick party nominees in special primary elections Feb. 4.The winners will face off in a special general election scheduled for April 28.

The 7th was formerly represented by Elijah Cummings, who died in 2019. The winner of the special general election will fill the remainder of Cumming’s current term.

The Democratic special primary features 24 candidates. Eight are running in the Republican primary.

Democrats have held the 7th District since 1953 when Maryland gained an additional district following the 1950 census. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was D+26, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 26 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. This made Maryland’s 7th District the 41st-most Democratic nationally.

In addition to the special election, Maryland is holding a regularly scheduled primary on April 28, 2020. Regular primary winners will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election to compete for a full term in the 117th Congress.

Cook changes CA-25 race rating to Likely Democratic

The Cook Political Report changed its race rating for California’s 25th District special election from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic, saying that Democratic candidate “Christy Smith has emerged as a heavy favorite” and that the district has trended Democratic in recent years.

California’s 25th District will have both a special election primary and a regularly scheduled primary on March 3. The state holds top-two primaries. In the special primary, a candidate can win outright by getting more than 50% of the vote. Otherwise, a special general election for the top two candidates will be held on May 12. 

In the regular primary, the top two candidates will advance to the November general election (nobody can win outright).

According to Cook, “Of the dozen candidates running in each election, there are only three with a serious shot at advancing to either a May 12 special runoff or November: Smith (who flipped a GOP-held Assembly seat in 2018) and two Republicans, former Rep. Steve Knight (whom [Katie] Hill defeated by nine points in 2018) and Navy veteran Mike Garcia.”

The California Democratic Party endorsed Smith. Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named her to its Red to Blue program, which “arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support,” according to the group’s website. 

The Los Angeles GOP backed Garcia, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Knight.

Cook said Republicans held a 4 percentage point registration advantage in 2012 when the district supported Mitt Romney for president, and that Democrats now have a 6 percentage point registration advantage. Hillary Clinton won the District in 2016.

Smith released her first TV ad last week in which she said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” The position is distinct from that of another prominent Democrat in the race, Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur, who backs Medicare or All.

Former Rep. Katie Hill resigned in November 2019 following her acknowledgment of having had a relationship with a campaign staffer. Knight represented the district from 2015 to 2019.

Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, no endorsement in Senate primary

The Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education endorsed Jessica Cisneros in her challenge to Texas’ 28th District Rep. Henry Cuellar. The primary is March 3. 

Cisneros’ other endorsers include Justice Democrats, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos endorsed Cuellar. The group American Workers for Progress recently released an ad saying Cuellar has worked to protect healthcare and lower drug prices. The group says it “works to ensure that leaders at every level are focused on reducing barriers to job growth and addressing economic challenges to guarantee a better future for all Americans.​”

Cuellar said the 28th District is made up of “more moderate, conservative Democrats.” He voted in favor of a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks in 2017 and has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Cuellar was first elected in 2005. 

Cisneros said her campaign is “the only one in this race with an ear to the ground in Texas’ 28th Congressional District. … We know we are the people’s campaign.”

The Texas AFL-CIO did not endorse in the U.S. Senate race as no candidate received 2/3rds of the vote at the AFL-CIO meeting. The Democratic primary features 12 candidates. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed MJ Hegar in the race.

Several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues

Progressive Congressional Caucus Co-Chairs Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, along with several other progressive representatives, said they would pay member dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after a meeting with DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she will not pay dues for the 2019-2020 election cycle as she opposes a DCCC policy, made official in 2019, that it will not give business to any consultant who works for a primary challenger to an incumbent Democrat. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, Ocasio-Cortez started a PAC to support Democratic primary candidates, including challengers.

Pocan said Ocasio-Cortez “has a very unique ability to raise lots of money on the outside that no one else does and she can use that to also be helpful. … For most of us, it’s the collective efforts that happen through the DCCC that help make sure that we’re in the majority.”

Jayapal and Rep. Ro Khanna said they disagree with the DCCC policy but will pay dues to help support maintaining a Democratic House.

According to Politico, “Withholding dues is not an uncommon practice. Dozens of House Democrats have shirked the duty this year for an array of reasons, such as fundraising prowess, dynamics in their district and members’ own relationships with DCCC.”

According to a DCCC document obtained by The Intercept, DCCC dues range from $150,000 to $1 million during the 2020 election cycle depending on the member’s seniority.

State executives

Molly Gray launches bid for lieutenant governor of Vermont

Vermont assistant attorney general Molly Gray announced Monday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Kelly joins four other Democrats, including 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate Brenda Siegel, state Senate Majority Leader Tim Ashe, and state Sen. Debbie Ingram. Incumbent David Zuckerman is running for governor, leaving the office open.

Vermont is one of eight states to allow fusion voting, where a candidate may be affiliated with multiple political parties on the ballot. In recent years, some Vermont Democrats have cross-filed with the Vermont Progressive Party, a political party founded in 2000. Incumbent David Zuckerman is a member of the VPP who cross-filed as a Democrat. Of the four Democrats currently in the running for lieutenant governor, only Ashe has cross-filed with the VPP in previous elections.

Vermont’s lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and is tasked with presiding over the state Senate, casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate, and serving as acting governor while the governor is out of state. In the 2018 election, Zuckerman won re-election over challengers Donald Turner Jr. (R) and Murray Ngoima (Liberty Union) by a margin of 18.4 percentage points.

The candidate filing deadline is May 28. The August 11 primary is open to all registered voters.

Seventeen Democrats file for West Virginia executive offices

Seventeen Democrats filed for the state’s six executive offices, setting up contested primaries for all but two.

Seven candidates filed for governor. West Virginia Democrats have won the last six gubernatorial elections, tying their all-time record for most consecutive wins in the state. However, Gov. Jim Justice switched to the Republican Party in August 2017, meaning that Democrats will need to defeat an incumbent governor to continue their streak. A December poll found three of the declared candidates—activist Stephen Smith, state Sen. Ron Stollings, and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango—were leading the field and were about even with one another.

Contested primaries are also in store for the other top executive offices. Attorney Sam Petsonk and state Del. Isaac Sponaugle will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), while Brent Pauley and former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant are in the running for secretary of state. The only other contested primary is for commissioner of agriculture, where four Democrats are seeking the nomination.

Incumbent state Treasurer John Perdue (D) is running unopposed, while Mary Claytor is the only Democrat to have filed for state auditor.

The May 12 primaries will be open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters.


DSA-backed candidates in NY announce criminal justice platform

A group of five candidates for the New York Senate and Assembly backed by the Democratic Socialists of America released a criminal justice platform. The package of legislation calls for decriminalizing the adult sex trade, eliminating cash bail, create safe injection sites, and a number of other changes. The five candidates are all from Brooklyn and Queens: Jabari Brisport (SD-25), Marcela Mitaynes (AD-51), Boris Santos (AD-54), Phara Souffrant Forrest (AD-57), and Zohran Mamdani (AD-36).

Democratic strategist Evan Stavisky said that the platform was more about presenting united ideas as a party than it was individual results in the primary races. “[W]hile it is not yet clear how much support each bill has in each of these districts, presenting a common platform enables them to advance their agenda regardless of the outcome of any individual primary,” he told the Queens Daily Eagle.

The Daily Eagle noted both challengers and incumbents agree on several of the bills, but decriminalizing the adult sex trade was a particular point of contention. In the last month, state bail and discovery changes have divided more moderate and liberal Democrats in the state capitol.

WI Sen. announces retirement, setting up competitive primary

Wisconsin Sen. Mark Miller (D) announced that he would not seek re-election in Wisconsin’s 16th Senate District. Following the announcement, state Rep. Melissa Sargent said she would seek the nomination, while state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh and Kelda Roys also expressed their interest in running. Miller was first elected in 2004 and served as leader of the Democratic caucus on several occasions.

District 16 covers portions of southeast Madison. Miller never faced a challenger in any of his re-election campaigns in 2008, 2012, or 2016. Republicans currently hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate, and 16 of the 33 seats are up for election this fall.

Power players

“Rebuilding the Democratic Party starts at the local level. The DLCC recruits, trains, and supports local Democrats running for state legislative office. We give our candidates resources, field support, and the data they need to run smart, winning campaigns.” – DLCC website

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is a 527 political organization whose aim is to oversee state-based political campaigns for Democratic candidates. The organization runs grassroots campaigns and provides campaign assistance to candidates with the goal of gaining a Democratic majority in state congresses. 

In December 2019, The Washington Post reported the DLCC planned to spend $50 million in 2020, ahead of redistricting. The group said it would target the state House in Iowa, Texas, and Michigan; Minnesota’s Senate; and both chambers in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  

In January 2020, Politico reported that the DLCC had “quadrupled its staff, partnered with a slew of other large Democratic groups … and planned to target as many as 14 states.” In addition to the chambers listed above, Politico reported that Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin were potential targets for later in the year. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, the group raised around $33 million in 2018.

California will hold two primaries for the same congressional seat on March 3

Two top-two primaries will take place on Mar. 3, 2020, in elections to represent California’s 25th Congressional District. The seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Katie Hill (D) on Nov. 1, 2019.

The top two finishers in the primary for the regularly scheduled House election will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The top two finishers in the primary for the special election that was scheduled as a result of Hill’s resignation will advance to the May 12, 2020, election to complete Hill’s term.

Eleven candidates are running in both primaries, so it will be possible for voters to vote for the same candidate twice.

Media coverage and endorsements in both races have focused on four candidates: Raytheon executive and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia (R), former Congressman Stephen Knight (R), California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D), and The Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur (D). All four are running in both primaries on Mar. 3.

The other candidates in both primaries are Robert Cooper (D), Getro Elize (D), Kenneth Jenks (R), David Lozano (R), Daniel Mercuri (R), David Rudnick (D), and Anibal Valdez-Ortega (D). Otis Lee Cooper (I) and George Papadopoulos (R) are only running in the regular primary, while Courtney Lackey (R) is only running in the special primary.

On the Democratic side, Smith was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the California Democratic Party. Uygur says his campaign is not accepting endorsements and has rejected PAC donations. He has criticized Smith for accepting money from several private industries. In response, Smith said, “I am determined to fight within the system as it is set up to make sure that we hold this seat.” On the issue of healthcare, Smith has said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” On the issue of healthcare, Uygur has said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who is in favor of Medicare for All.”

On the Republican side, Garcia was endorsed by the Los Angeles Republican Party. Knight was endorsed by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Garcia has focused his messaging around issues regarding service members, stating he would “make it a priority to ensure our men and women in uniform have the funding and tools necessary to keep America safe.” He also says he supports congressional term limits. Knight has highlighted his previous experience representing California’s 25th District from 2015 to 2019. According to his campaign website, “As a Congressman, Knight quickly became known as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety in our nation’s Capitol.”

In the 2018 general election, Hill (D) defeated Knight (R) 54% to 46%. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was EVEN, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average. Race raters have given Democrats a slight edge in the race. Of the three major race rating outlets, one rates the race as Lean Democratic, one rates it as Likely Democratic, and one rates it as Solid Democratic.

Eight special elections have been called during the 116th Congress.

Click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District election, and click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District special election.

Additional reading:

2,388 major party candidates filed for 2020 races, no new congressional retirements

As of January 27, 2020, 2,388 major party candidates have filed to run for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2020.

So far, 338 candidates are filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. Of those, there are 152 Democrats and 135 Republicans. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.

For U.S. House, 2,292 candidates are filed with the FEC to run in 2020. Of those, there are 1,013 Democrats and 1,088 Republicans. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.

No new congressional retirements were announced last week. Four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) and 35 representatives (26 Republicans and nine Democrats) are not running for re-election. A special election won’t be held to fill the seat vacated by Republican Duncan Hunter (CA-50) on January 13, bringing the total of open-seat House elections in 2020 to 36.

In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.

On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, where all seats are up for election, Democrats currently hold a majority with 232 seats.

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