TagHeart of the Primaries

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 5 (February 12, 2020)

This week: Susan B. Anthony List endorses Loeffler after opposing her, Empower Texans donors make donations in three-way HD92 primary, and Jon Huntsman picks gubernatorial running mate.

On the news

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

“The only reasonable step at this point is to strip Romney of his committee assignments and expel him from the Senate Republican caucus. While there is truth to Romney’s claim that he votes for the bulk of the administration’s policy proposals, if he is truly as principled as he claims to be, he will continue to do so as an independent senator.

In his speech Wednesday, Romney declared that the impeachment verdict ‘will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people.’

He is correct. The American people should have a vote on both the Trump presidency and on a previously Trump-endorsed senator who went on to betray the will of his constituents. With the backing of national party leadership, the Utah state legislature should immediately pass H.B. 217 in order to allow for the recall of Sen. Romney. This would force him to stand for reelection this year, sharing a ballot with the Democratic presidential nominee he has already done so much to assist.”

Mark Ivanyo, Washington Examiner, Feb. 8, 2020

“If you honestly would prefer your children grow up to be more like Donald Trump than Mitt Romney, I don’t know that there’s anything left to talk about. Watch his actual speech on the floor. I have no problem with people who disagree with his reasoning. But to come away thinking he’s anything other than a man molded by charactering-building [sic] institutions (his family, his church, the Senate itself) who is trying to do right by them strikes me as a kind of Trump-personality-cult derangement. … 

The hysterics insisting that Romney must be kicked out of the GOP—an effort Mitch McConnell sees for the idiocy it is—are in effect arguing that you can vote for all of Trump’s judges and the vast bulk of his legislative initiatives and it counts for nothing if you don’t accept full baptism into his cult of personality. 

I’ve been saying for 20 years that the cult of unity is a poison and that the hero in the American political tradition is not the mob, but the man who stands up to it. This week there was one hero and it wasn’t Donald Trump.”

Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch, Feb. 7, 2020

U.S. Congress

WI-07 special primary election Feb. 18

Jason Church and Tom Tiffany are running in the Republican primary election for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Feb. 18. The district’s special general election is May 12. 

Church and Tiffany agree on most policy positions but have highlighted their different backgrounds. Church describes himself as an outsider and a “combat veteran looking to continue my service on behalf of the people of Wisconsin’s 7th district.” Tiffany, a state senator, describes himself as a proven conservative who would “provide the leadership to get things done.”

With Honor Fund and Americans 4 Security PAC have spent on advertising supporting Church. Club for Growth Action, Americans for Prosperity Action, House Freedom Action, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have spent in support of Tiffany. 

The special election was called to fill the vacancy left by Sean Duffy’s (R) Sept. 2019 resignation. Duffy cited the impending birth of his child as his reason for resigning. He was first elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2018, defeating Margaret Engebretson (D) 60% to 39%.

Incumbent, party chairs back Garbarino in NY-02

State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino picked up endorsements from retiring Rep. Peter King (R) and chairs of the state, Nassau County, and Suffolk County Republican parties in the Republican primary for New York’s 2nd Congressional District. 

Garbarino is one of six candidates running in the June 23 primary. The filing deadline is April 2.

The field currently includes Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger, real estate developer Robert Kudler, Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota, and state Assemblyman Michael LiPetri. Garbarino has been in the state Assembly since 2013.  

The general election is rated Lean Republican. Barack Obama won the presidential election in the district in 2008 and 2012, and Donald Trump won it in 2016. King, first elected in 1992, won re-election in 2018 with 53% of the vote. 

New York’s 2nd is one of 36 House districts with an open seat in the 2020 elections due to congressional retirements. Twenty-seven Republican representatives and nine Democrats are not seeking re-election.

Susan B. Anthony List endorses Loeffler after opposing her 

Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s special Senate election after opposing her appointment to the seat last fall.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigned Dec. 31 for health reasons. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, a financial executive and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, to fill the vacancy. She took office Jan. 6.

Monday, SBA List Candidate Fund said in its endorsement, “During her first week in office, she co-sponsored three major pro-life bills that would stop late-term abortions, protect babies who survive abortions, and end the funneling of taxpayer dollars to the abortion industry.”

In November, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called a hospital whose board Loeffler sat on a “training ground for abortionists” and said her connection to the hospital should “disqualify her from representing the state in the U.S. Senate.”

Susan B. Anthony List says its “mission is to end abortion by electing national leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders.” 

Four Republicans, five Democrats, and one independent are currently running in the Nov. 3 all-party general election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top two will be Jan. 5, 2021.

As we reported earlier, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins—President Donald Trump’s preferred pick for the Senate appointment—entered the special election Jan. 29.

State executives

Jon Huntsman picks gubernatorial running mate

Utah gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) announced Friday he had selected Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi (R) as his running mate. Huntsman is the second Utah gubernatorial candidate to select a running mate — Thomas Wright (R) formed a ticket with Rep. Rob Bishop (R) last month. Five other Republican candidates have yet to pick a running mate.

Kaufusi was elected mayor of Provo in 2017, becoming the first woman to hold the job. She earlier served six years on the Provo School Board. 

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) became the first of the seven Republican candidates to formally turn in his nominating signatures Monday. Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Utah may qualify for the primary ballot by either submitting petitions or winning the party’s nomination at the annual convention. 

Candidates may choose to focus on one track or pursue both. Every candidate other than Jason Christensen and Greg Hughes is seeking to qualify via petition. If Cox files the required 28,000 valid signatures, he will appear on the June 30 primary ballot regardless of his performance at the nominating convention.

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

Dan Forest the fundraising leader in North Carolina GOP gubernatorial race

Dan Forest (R) leads Holly Grange (R) in fundraising with less than one month remaining before North Carolina’s gubernatorial primary, according to reports filed Jan. 31. Forest, the incumbent lieutenant governor, and Grange, a state representative, are the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

The reports cover all fundraising and spending between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2019. During that time, Forest raised $1.4 million to Grange’s $100,000. Since the beginning of the election cycle in Jan. 2017, Forest has raised $4.1 million, and Grange has raised $160,000.

The March 3 primary is open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters only. The last Republican to win election as governor of North Carolina was Pat McCrory (R) in 2012.


Abortion amendment vote sets off intraparty fight in Kansas

Last week, Kansas House Republicans fell four votes short of the threshold needed to send an abortion-related constitutional amendment to the August ballot. All House Democrats and four RepublicansDon Hineman, Jan Kessinger, Bill Pannbacker, and Tom Phillips—opposed the amendment. The four Republicans each expressed concerns about placing the issue on the August primary ballot instead of the November general election ballot when turnout would be higher. As soon as the amendment failed, Senate President Susan Wagle pulled several bills related to Medicaid expansion from consideration in the Senate and said none would be considered until the amendment passed the House.

In recent Kansas history, division within the Republican Party has led to primary battles between conservative and moderate factions of the party. In 2016, 14 conservative incumbents lost primary elections to opponents running against the tax cuts signed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback (R). The 2018 primary season saw a continuation of that fight, with 23 of the 31 contested primaries featuring at least one tax cut supporter and opponent.

Of the four Republicans that voted against the amendment in the House, only two (Hineman and Kessinger) have filed to run for re-election so far, and neither has a primary challenger. The filing deadline for those races is June 1.

Empower Texans donors make donations in three-way HD92 primary

Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, the main supporters of the group Empower Texans, each donated $75,000 to the campaign of Jeff Cason, who faces Taylor Gillig and Jim Griffin in the three-way Republican primary for the District 92 seat held by Jonathan Stickland (R). Stickland announced in June 2019 that he would not seek re-election and endorsed Cason.

Empower Texans was the group that published the recording leading to the retirement of Texas Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Bonnen was recorded offering the group House media credentials in exchange for working to defeat 11 Republican members of the House. Bonnen initially denied that the meeting with Empower Texans occurred, before later apologizing to the Republican caucus in a letter and announcing his retirement.

Three tapped to fill Alaska House vacancy

As we reported last week in Heart of the Primaries, Alaska Rep. Tammie Wilson’s (R) retirement created an opportunity for the chamber’s Republican minority to pick up a seat. Wilson was one of eight Republicans who created a coalition majority with 15 Democrats and two independents in Feb. 2019. This meant that although Republicans had a numerical majority in the House, a Democrat was selected as Speaker.

The Alaska Republican Party submitted three names to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) to consider for the open District 3 seat. 

  • Michael Prax is a former member of the Fairbanks borough assembly and has worked on several campaigns, including Dunleavy’s, in the past.
  • Thomas Studler is the chief of staff for District 6 Rep. Dave Talerico. 
  • Frederick Villa retired last year from his position as Associate Vice President of Workforce Programs for the University of Alaska System.

Dunleavy said he would meet with all three nominees to discuss their policy positions before making an appointment. In a statement, Dunleavy said he wants to discuss “creating a sustainable and affordable state budget, making Alaska safer, and developing Alaska’s vast reserves of natural resources.” Dunleavy has until Feb. 23 to make an appointment.

Power players

“Empower Texans is a non-profit service organization. Through multiple media formats, we educate and inspire Texans to exercise effective citizenship. Using research, reporting, and advocacy, we empower taxpayers to advocate for good governance and hold their elected officials accountable.” – Empower Texans website

Founded in 2006, Empower Texans is a nonprofit organization that describes its work as “[e]nsuring the Lone Star State shines brightly with empowered citizen-leaders holding elected officials accountable.” The group is affiliated with the Empower Texans PAC, which says it “exists to support conservative, reform-minded candidates for the Texas House and Senate.” 

Empower Texans’ projects include Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texans for Courageous Courts, and the publication Texas Scorecard. To view 2020 primary endorsements made by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Texans for Courageous Courts, click here

Empower Texans also produces a Fiscal Responsibility Index, which scores state legislators on what it calls their performance on “size and role of government issues.” 

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 5 (February 12, 2020)

This week: U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Cuellar in TX-28, Chicago mayor endorses Newman in IL-03, and Working Families Party releases endorsements in NY legislative races.

On the news

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

“Even as the Iowa Democratic Party was trying to sort out the chaos in its reporting system, a party official announced that turnout was ‘on pace’ with what they had seen in 2016.

In other words, it was mediocre. About 170,000 people participated in the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses, far short of the unprecedented 240,000 voters who turned out in 2008 and launched Barack Obama on his way to the White House. What was so exciting a dozen years ago was not only how many Iowans showed up, but who they were: young people, first-time caucus-goers, an ethnically diverse mix of voters in an overwhelmingly white state.

Until recent days, there had been plenty of buzz among Democrats that this year would set a new record. There was even some loose talk that turnout could reach 300,000, which would be incontrovertible evidence of the passion that their party is feeling about the prospect of defeating President Trump in November. …

So-so turnout blows a hole in the rationale of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in particular. His electability argument is that he can inspire the passion it takes to bring out young people and disaffected Americans who normally don’t vote.”

Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2020

“[S]ome Democrats who spoke with local voters didn’t think [low voter turnout in Iowa] was necessarily a bad sign for one somewhat odd reason: Democrats, by and large, were happy with their choices and didn’t feel the need to pick.

Megan Suhr, the former chair of the Marion County Democrats, wasn’t surprised when her caucus site saw lower turnout than 2016. She expected the result.

She knocked doors before the caucuses and said she mostly encountered people who said they would vote for whoever the nominee is in November.

‘There were a lot of different reasons and explanations,’ Suhr said. ‘There were also a lot of people who said they’d been watching all the hearings and they were watching the trial, and to them, whoever the caucus-goers decided, whoever came out of the primaries, was who they were going to support in the fall.’”

Nikoel Hytrek, Iowa Starting Line, Feb. 7, 2020

U.S. Congress

U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Cuellar in TX-28

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $200,000 on a Spanish-language ad supporting Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th Congressional District primary. The ad says Cuellar helped pass the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and protected the auto industry from tariffs.

The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek wrote: “It is a somewhat unusual move by the powerful Republican-leaning business group, which has previously supported centrist Democrats but has not spent seriously on behalf of one since 2014.”

Cuellar, in office since 2005, is running against immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros in the March 3 primary. Cisneros’ platform includes Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Cuellar has said the district is more moderate. He says he opposes a Green New Deal and supports expanding health care access and protecting local jobs, among other priorities.

Other satellite spending in the race includes $1.2 million on ads supporting Cisneros and opposing Cuellar from Texas Forward—a PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List—and American Workers for Progress’ $700,000 on pro-Cuellar ads.

PAC backs Smith’s Senate bid in NC, Smith disavows PAC

Faith and Power PAC has spent $2.4 million supporting state Sen. Erica Smith in the Democratic primary for Senate in North Carolina. It’s the first noteworthy satellite spending for Smith in the race. Smith distanced herself from the group.

After the group released a T.V. ad and reported $1.6 million in initial expenditures last week, media outlets wrote that the group had Republican ties. CNN reported, “The media buyer, Neylan and Partners, has worked on behalf of Republican campaigns before, including a super PAC supporting Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign as well as Americans for Tax Reform.”

The group’s ad says Smith is “the only proven progressive” and that she supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

Smith’s campaign said in a statement, “The Erica for U.S. campaign disavows and disassociates ourselves from the interference of Republicans in the Democratic Senate Primary. … This entity is not authorized to represent our views and positions.”

Candidate Cal Cunningham said, “Washington Republicans know Senator Tillis is weak, and apparently they don’t like his chances against me in November. Now they’re resorting to shady tactics to meddle in our election — and it’s disrespectful to North Carolina voters.”

VoteVets Action Fund has spent almost $6 million on ads supporting Cunningham. Cunningham has also released his own ads. 

Cunningham’s ads focus on his support for expanding Medicaid, lowering drug costs, and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. Smith’s campaign website says she supports a Green New Deal, the “expansion of affordable healthcare for all,” drug price controls, and Medicaid expansion.

Cunningham ended 2019 having raised $3.3 million and with $1.7 million on hand. Smith raised $213,000 and had $95,000 on hand.

Smith and Cunningham are among the five primary candidates running for the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in November. The primary is March 3. Three ratings outlets view the race as a Toss-up or Lean Republican.

Chicago mayor endorses Newman in IL-03

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot endorsed Marie Newman in her rematch against incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski. Chicago makes up about one-third of Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.

Lightfoot said Saturday that Newman would stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. She said Lipinski “voted against Obamacare, mocks efforts to combat climate change, and is actually still opposed to marriage equality.”

As we reported in our first issue of Heart of the Primaries, Lipinski announced in January that 27 mayors and village presidents had endorsed his re-election bid. Three days before Lipinski’s announcement, Lightfoot tweeted, “I support a big tent but there’s no room under the flaps for anyone who is actively seeking to deny women control over our bodies. Time to leave @danlipinski.”

Newman lost to Lipinksi 51% to 49% in the 2018 Democratic primary

WI-07 special primary election Feb. 18

Lawrence Dale and Tricia Zunker are running in the Democratic primary election for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Feb. 18. The district’s special general election is May 12. The special election was called to fill the vacancy left when Sean Duffy (R) resigned in Sept. 2019. Duffy cited the impending birth of his child as his reason for resigning. He was first elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2018, defeating Margaret Engebretson (D) 60% to 39%.

Dale, an insurance salesperson, previously ran as a Green Party candidate for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District in 2014 and as a Democratic candidate for District 34 of the Wisconsin state Assembly in 2016. His priorities include transitioning the area’s timber pulp industry to hemp pulp, growing the local farming industry, and passing Medicare for All. 

Zunker, a member of the Wausau School Board and an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, said she would be an advocate for local farmers and work to improve public education. Zunker said she favors “Medicare for All for those who want it.” Zunker received endorsements from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the 7th Congressional District Democratic Party.

State executives

Josh Owens drops out of Indiana gubernatorial primary, leaving Woody Myers uncontested for the nomination

Josh Owens (D) suspended his campaign for Indiana’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination Wednesday, leaving Woody Myers (D) as the only Democrat in the race ahead of the Feb. 7 filing deadline.

Owens, the chief executive officer of tech firm SupplyKick, offered Myers his endorsement and said the desire for a strong Democratic ticket in the general motivated his decision.

Indiana Democrats have not had a contested gubernatorial primary since 2008. That year, former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) defeated businessman Jim Schellinger (D) by 50.6% to 49.4%. Incumbent Mitch Daniels (R) defeated Thompson 58% to 40% in the general election.

Myers will face the winner of the Republican primary, contested between incumbent Eric Holcomb (R) and challenger Brian Roth (R), in the November general election. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Indiana since Frank O’Bannon (D) in 2000.

Pennsylvania Democrats nominate attorney general and treasurer candidates, auditor nomination to be contested in primary

The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania held its annual winter meeting Feb. 1 in Harrisburg, where the party endorsed Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) and Treasurer Joe Torsella (D) but did not settle on a nomination for state auditor ahead of the contested primary.

Incumbent auditor Eugene DePasquale (D) is running for the U.S. House rather than seeking re-election, leaving the office open. Six Democrats, including former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad (D), state Rep. Scott Conklin (D), and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb (D), have so far declared they will run in the April 28 primary. 

The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 18. The last Republican to serve as state auditor was Barbara Hafer (R), who left office in 1997.

North Carolina lieutenant gubernatorial candidates meet for forum

All six Democrats running for the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor of North Carolina met for a candidate forum in Kannapolis Sunday, where they discussed their plans for the office.

North Carolina is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor. Incumbent Dan Forest (R) is running for governor this year, leaving the office open. The lieutenant governor of North Carolina presides over the state senate and casts tie-breaking votes in addition to serving as acting governor while the governor is out of state. The governor may choose to delegate additional powers to the lieutenant governor.

The March 3 primary is open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Should no candidate win a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. No Democrat has won election as lieutenant governor of North Carolina since Walter Dalton (D) in 2008.


Working Families Party releases endorsements in NY legislative races

The Working Families Party (WFP) endorsed 21 incumbent lawmakers representing portions of New York City. In a statement, State Director Sochie Nnaemeka praised each endorsed lawmaker as a “progressive champion” and said that each played a part in the party’s most successful legislative session in decades.

One of the group’s nine endorsements in the Assembly brings it into direct conflict with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). In District 57, the WFP endorsed Walter Mosley (D), who faces a primary challenge from the DSA-backed Phara Souffrant Forrest. The DSA has endorsed five legislative candidates this cycle, and the WFP did not endorse a candidate in any of the other four races with a DSA candidate.

Chicago mayor endorses pair of legislative candidates

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) also endorsed Reps. Eva Dina Delgado (D-3) and Jonathan Pizer (D-12) in their re-election campaigns. Politico noted the endorsements came at a time the mayor is trying to convince lawmakers to amend a casino bill to the city’s benefit. Delgado faces two opponents in her Democratic primary, while Pizer faces five opponents. Neither district has a Republican candidate.

Both Delgado and Pizer were appointed in the last three months. Delgado was appointed in November 2019 to replace Luis Arroyo, who was charged with bribery as part of a corruption probe. Pizer was appointed on Feb. 10 to replace Sara Feigenholtz (D), who was appointed to the Illinois State Senate

Delgado faces a challenge outside of her primary as well. Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R) and Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D) filed a qualifications challenge against Delgado. They alleged that the process to appoint Delgado was flawed, pointing specifically to the counting of Arroyo’s proxy votes in the selection process. House rules dictate that a special committee must review the appointment.

Fundraising reports show distinct differences in Philly Senate race

In Pennsylvania state Senate District 1, which covers portions of Philadelphia, Sen. Larry Farnese (D) faces challenger Nikil Saval in the April 28 Democratic primary. Recent fundraising reports analyzed by the Philadelphia Public Record show distinct differences between the two. Farnese received $5,625 from individuals giving up to $250, while Saval received $27,948. Saval received $0 from PACs, while Farnese received $196,900. Farnese ended the January 31, 2020, report with a $296,000 cash balance to Saval’s $104,000.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called the primary “the latest battle between old and new Philadelphia politics,” describing Farnese as representative of the area’s older machine politics and Saval as a self-described democratic socialist. The primary challenge is Farnese’s first since winning the seat in 2008.

Saval cofounded the group Reclaim Philadelphia in May 2016 with former staff and volunteers from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The group has been behind several other successful campaigns in the city in recent years, including District Attorney Larry Krasner’s 2017 campaign and 2018 primary victories for Elizabeth Fiedler and Joe Hohenstein.

Farnese initially won the seat with the backing of 30-year incumbent Vince Fumo. Fumo told the Inquirer that he specifically drew the district to split it between two ideological camps of liberal and conservative Democrats. That balance has eroded in recent years, with more progressive Democrats gaining control of several other wards in the district.

Power players

“Formed by Members of the New Democrat Coalition, the NewDem Action Fund helps re-elect House NewDems and elect new, like-minded leaders who can help develop a positive policy agenda and message. In 2018, NewDems delivered the Democratic Majority in the House by flipping 31 of 40 net seats blue and contributing about $18 million to electing House Democrats.” – NewDem Action Fund website

The NewDem Action Fund, which is affiliated with the New Democrat Coalition, says it “helps elect and re-elect forward-thinking leaders who will help ensure everyone in America has the opportunity to earn a good life.” 

The group has endorsed nine Frontier candidates for 2020, in addition to their 31 Vanguard members

The NewDem Action Fund website highlights innovation, growth, solutions, and the middle class as areas of focus and says its members have “built a reputation as effective leaders on the critical issues of technology policy, economic growth, security and personal responsibility.”

The New Democrat Coalition was founded in 1997. According to its website, “The New Democrat Coalition is made up of 103 forward-thinking Democrats who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies.”

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

This week: Doug Collins enters special Senate election in GA, Feenstra leads IA-04 GOP field in fundraising, and retiring TX Speaker donates to seven incumbents

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

On the news

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

“Trump is not making the effort [to visit Iowa] because he is afraid of his two hapless Republican challengers, former Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. …

Still, Trump has something to prove. Given his success in the 2016 GOP race, it is easy to forget that he started out by losing the Iowa caucuses to Ted Cruz. So he wants to make up for that. But more importantly, he wants to cement Iowans’ support for his reelection. Plus, he wants to take advantage of the increased intensity of support among Republicans who believe Trump has been treated unfairly by Democrats in Washington.”

Byron York, Washington Examiner, Feb. 3, 2020

“[Trump] easily carried [Iowa] during the last general election. His hold on the Senate majority, though marginal, likely faces little to no danger here. He will easily wipe away a small band of little-known candidates mounting primary challenges against the longest of odds to deny him the GOP nomination.

So why was the president of the United States in Des Moines on a Thursday night when he still stands trial for impeachment in Washington? Because Donald Trump had a simple message for the Democrats lining up for a chance to take him on in November: As far as he’s concerned, Iowa belongs to him.

Philip Wegmann, RealClear Politics, Jan. 31, 2020

U.S. Congress

Doug Collins enters special Senate election in GA

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins announced Jan. 29 he is running in the special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia. He joins three other Republicans—including incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler—four Democrats, and one independent currently running in the Nov. 3 all-party general election

Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned Dec. 31 for health reasons.

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

Several media outlets reported that President Donald Trump wanted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint Collins to the Senate seat. Kemp chose Loeffler, a financial executive and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, to fill the vacancy created when Isakson retired.

Greg Bluestein at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Kemp’s choice was part of a strategy to recapture Georgia suburbs following his 1.4-percentage-point victory over Stacey Abrams (D) in 2018. Kemp avoided a runoff in that election with 50.2% of the vote. Bluestein wrote:

Abrams came within a whisker of forcing a runoff against Kemp by blazing a blue streak across north Atlanta suburbs where Republicans once dominated. …

With Loeffler, who would be the second female U.S. senator in Georgia history, he’s trying to expand the Georgia GOP’s appeal to those moderate and independent voters who have fled the Republican fold.

National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Kevin McLaughlin said of Collins’ entrance to the race, “All he has done is put two Senate seats, multiple House seats and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play.” 

Collins tweeted, “Republican voters in Georgia should choose their candidate — not one politician or a Super PAC in Washington. The time for that contest is now so we can unite well before November. Fighting ourselves and the left at the same time is a bad strategy.”

Club for Growth announced plans to spend $3 million on ads opposing Collins. Collins released a digital ad referring to the group as a “Never Trump, anti-agriculture group” and to a farm bill that he supported and the organization opposed.

After Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock announced their candidacies last week, 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.

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. 

Satellite groups spending on Byrne in Senate primary in AL

Two groups are running ads supporting and opposing U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne in the Senate primary in Alabama, marking an uptick in satellite spending in the race. 

Fighting for Alabama, Inc. spent $351,000 through Jan. 31 on a TV ad calling Byrne “one of President Trump’s strongest defenders.” 

Club for Growth spent $274,000 last week re-airing an ad that first ran in November opposing Byrne. The ad says, “Byrne voted three times to fund a government giveaway program that hands out billions of dollars to help big companies make more profits overseas.” 

Byrne’s campaign representatives have called the Club for Growth a pro-China group that opposed Trump’s presidency and agenda.

Byrne is one of six candidates in the March 3 primary. There will be a March 31 primary runoff if no candidate receives a majority of the primary vote. 

Other candidates include Jeff Sessions, who held the seat for 20 years before the president appointed him U.S. attorney general; former football coach Tommy Tuberville; and 2017 special Senate election candidate Roy Moore, who lost to Doug Jones (D) by 1.7 percentage points.

In two internal polls from the Sessions campaign, Sessions led with 43% and 44%—below the threshold needed to avoid a runoff— and Byrne and Tuberville were in competition for second place.

In addition to satellite spending for and against Byrne, the Senate Conservatives Fund has spent $219,000 since May 2019 on digital ads, direct mail, and more supporting state Rep. Arnold Mooney in the race.

Jones is the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Alabama since 1992. The Republican primary winner will face him in November.

Feenstra leads IA-04 GOP field in fundraising

In Iowa’s 4th Congressional District GOP primary, year-end campaign finance reports show state Sen. Randy Feenstra starting 2020 with $489,000 in cash on hand compared to $32,000 for incumbent Rep. Steve King.

Feenstra raised $721,000 throughout 2019 to King’s $263,000.

As we reported in our January 22 issue of Heart of the Primaries, King has been in the House since 2003. His closest re-election contest came in 2018 when he defeated J.D. Scholten 50%-47%. 

Bret Richards raised $256,000, the third-most of the Republican field, and had $100,000 on hand. Currently, one candidate is running in the Democratic primary—J.D. Scholten, King’s 2018 opponent. Scholten raised $734,000 and had $540,000 on hand.

The primary is June 2, and the filing deadline is March 13. There are currently six candidates in the Republican primary.

Congressional Leadership Fund releases pro-Granger ads in TX-12

Last week, we looked at the Club for Growth PAC’s endorsement of Chris Putnam’s primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Kay Granger in Texas’ 12th District. Since then, the Congressional Leadership Fund released pro-Granger TV and radio ads highlighting Trump’s endorsement of her. The group said it spent $300,000 on the TV ad.

State executives

New Jersey gubernatorial primary begins to take shape as Ciattarelli launches campaign

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 Republicans are gearing up to try and retake the governor’s mansion in the 2021 elections. Incumbent Phil Murphy (D) was elected to succeed term-limited Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2017 and is expected to seek re-election next year, although he has yet to formally declare. The Republican candidate field has begun to take shape this year, with former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli launching his campaign Jan. 21.

Ciattarelli, who served seven years in the state Assembly, was one of five Republicans who ran for the GOP nomination in 2017. Although then-Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno defeated him in the primary, Ciattarelli won seven of New Jersey’s 21 counties and was the only candidate other than Guadagno to receive more than 10% support statewide. Ciattarelli’s early endorsers for his 2021 run include Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo and state Sen. Kip Bateman.

Other potential candidates include state GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt, state Assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick, and 2017 candidate Joseph “Rudy” Rullo. Another potential candidate, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R) confirmed to Insider NJ on Jan. 31 that she would not run in 2021.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox picks gubernatorial running mate

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (R) announced Wednesday that former state Rep. Jon Knokey (R) would serve as his gubernatorial running mate. Candidates for governor of Montana are required to name a running mate at the time they file for election.

Knokey was elected to his Bozeman-area state House seat in 2016, defeating incumbent Christopher Pope (D) by a margin of 0.9 percentage points. Knokey suspended his bid for re-election in August 2018, saying that he had recently accepted a job offer that would leave him without time to serve as a legislator.

Fox’s selection of Knokey leaves Rep. Greg Gianforte as the final Republican candidate who has not yet selected a running mate. State Sen. Al Olszewski is running alongside fellow state Sen. Kenneth Bogner. On the Democratic side, neither Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney nor consultant Whitney Williams has selected a running mate.

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

Follow-up: Second Utah poll finds Huntsman and Cox leading, large segment of undecided voters

Last week, we reported on a Suffolk University/Salt Lake Tribune poll of primary voters in Utah’s gubernatorial race. That poll found former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) apparently leading Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) 26-18 with 48% of voters undecided. 

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll released Thursday paints a similar picture, with Huntsman apparently leading Cox 33-25 and 25% of voters undecided. None of the other candidates received more than 5% support. The Deseret News poll also surveyed voters who said that they were not Republicans but planned to join the party ahead of the gubernatorial primary. When those voters are included, Huntsman’s apparent lead grows to 35-25, while the share of undecided voters is reduced to 23%.

Six of the seven Republican candidates took part in the first debate of the primary Friday at the Salt Lake Palace Convention Center, discussing education and economic development. The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only.


Ohio GOP meeting to reconsider endorsement of candidate

On Thursday, the Ohio Republican Party will meet to reconsider its endorsement of Joe Dills in the three-way Republican primary in House District 65. In January, the party endorsed Dills against the recommendation of the House Republican Caucus, which asked it to endorse Jean Schmidt instead. Schmidt is a political ally of House Speaker Larry Householder.

Dills, Schmidt, and Dillon Blevins are running in the March 17 primary. The winner will face Alan Darnowsky (D) in the general election. The retiring incumbent, John Becker (R), received at least 66 percent of the vote in each of the last four elections. District 66 is located east of Cincinnati. Republicans hold a 61-38 majority in the House.

Retiring TX Speaker donates to seven incumbents

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R) made donations to the campaigns of seven incumbents facing primary challengers this year. He donated $15,000 each to Dan Flynn, Chris Paddie, Geanie Morrison, Jared Patterson, Briscoe Cain, Dennis Paul, and Phil Stephenson. A spokesperson for Bonnen said the donations were given in exchange for help with passing Bonnen’s legislative priorities in last year’s session.

Bonnen announced his retirement in October 2019 after a recording was released of Bonnen telling a group he would give them media credentials in exchange for working to defeat 10 Republican incumbents in the 2020 elections. Bonnen was first elected to the House in 1996 and was elected Speaker in Jan. 2019.

Republican member of AK House coalition retires

Last week, Alaska Rep. Tammie Wilson (R) retired, creating an open race in the 3rd District. Wilson was one of eight Republicans who created a coalition majority with 15 Democrats and two independents in Feb. 2019. This meant that although Republicans had a numerical majority in the House, a Democrat was selected as Speaker. Wilson said she was leaving the legislature in order to take a job with the Alaska Office of Children’s Services.

The filing deadline in Alaska is June 1 and there are so far no declared candidates in the race. All 40 House districts are up for election in November. Republicans hold a 22-15 numerical House majority, along with one vacancy and two unaffiliated members.

Power players

“The Club for Growth is a national network of over 250,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans who share in the belief that prosperity and opportunity come from economic freedom.” – Club for Growth website

The Club for Growth is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. The organization has two political arms, the Club for Growth PAC and Club for Growth Action, a super PAC.

According to the Club for Growth website, the organization focuses on the following issues: budget and spending, education, entitlements, free trade, regulation, taxes, term limits, and tort reform. 

The Club for Growth PAC “endorses and raises money for candidates who stay true to the fundamental principles of limited government and economic freedom,” according to its website. The PAC focuses on U.S. House and Senate races. To view a list of 2020 candidate endorsements, click here.

The super PAC Club for Growth Action can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. The group cannot contribute directly to a politician or political party, but it can spend independently to campaign for or against political figures. According to the group’s website, it “[runs] independent hard-hitting TV, radio, Internet, and direct mail campaigns in critical Senate and House races across the country.”

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.

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.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 2 (January 22, 2020)

Filing deadlines

Filing deadlines

Congressional candidate counter

On the news

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

“Pro-Trump Republican senators contend their home-state constituents oppose impeachment — not just loyal Republicans, but CNN-watching independents as well. They describe constituents back home who see impeachment as a waste of time and a distraction from working on real issues.”

Jim Geraghty, National Review, Jan. 20, 2020

“You want the American people to see a fair and thoughtful process. This is a big-enough issue that people will pay attention in a way they don’t on other issues.”

Michael Steel, quoted in Morning Consult, Jan. 16, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress overview

Cheney not running for Senate, Friess a question mark in WY

Rep. Liz Cheney will not run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. In a statement Jan. 16, she said the House is where she can have the greatest effect:

“Our nation is facing grave security challenges overseas and the House Democrats are working to weaken our president and embolden our enemies. Socialists in congress and among the presidential candidates are threatening our liberty and freedom.

I believe I can have the biggest impact for the people of Wyoming by remaining in leadership in the House of Representatives and working [to] take our Republican majority back.”

Cheney represents Wyoming’s At-Large Congressional District and is chair of the House Republican Conference, making her the third-ranking House Republican. She’s the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

The current four-candidate Republican primary field for this safe GOP seat includes former Rep. Cynthia Lummis. According to The Hill‘s Juliegrace Brufke, “Lummis is a favorite amongst the conservative faction of the party.” 

Foster Friess, a businessman and the second-place finisher in 2018‘s Republican gubernatorial primary, announced Jan. 17 he would begin a listening tour in consideration of a Senate bid. The Casper Star Tribune‘s Nick Reynolds wrote that “Friess maintains a strong conservative coalition across the state as well as a sizable ability to self-fund a campaign.”

The filing deadline is May 29. The primary is Aug. 18. Incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is not seeking re-election. 

Olson endorses Bush to succeed him in TX-22

Retiring Rep. Pete Olson endorsed Pierce Bush in the 15-candidate Republican primary for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. The primary is March 3.

Olson said that if “Texas 22 goes blue, America goes blue,” and that “one person came across as the person who can win this district in November. That man is Pierce Bush.”

Olson won the district by 5 percentage points in 2018. The Democratic primary features 5 candidates, including Sri Preston Kulkarni, who ran against Olson in 2018.

Bush was CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star. He’s the grandson of George H.W. Bush and nephew of George W. Bush.

Andrew Schneider of Houston Public Media said, “The heart of the district is Fort Bend County, accounting for 70 percent of the vote. And for the last two election cycles, Fort Bend County has been trending Democratic.”

According to Houston Public Media, immigration, flood infrastructure, and transportation are major topics of discussion among Republican candidates.

Texas’ 22nd is one of 36 open House seats and one of 26 currently held by a Republican (another open seat is vacant and was last held by a Republican). Six representatives out of Texas’ 23-member Republican House delegation have announced they will not in 2020.

Republican Main St Partnership PAC backs challenger in IA-04

The Republican Main Street Partnership PAC endorsed state Sen. Randy Feenstra in the Republican primary for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. The current six-candidate field includes incumbent Steve King.

King has been in the House since 2003 and faced his closest election in 2018, when he won by 3 percentage points. 

The PAC’s website states that the “governing Republicans of Main Street have worked together to revive Congress as an effective institution after years of deadlock and extremism.” It is targeting suburban districts in 2020. Democrats picked up several suburban seats in 2018.

King was removed from committee assignments in January 2019 after The New York Times published an interview in which King mentioned white nationalism and supremacy and Western civilization. King has said his comments were taken out of context.

The primary is June 2, and the filing deadline is March 13.

CA Congressional delegation backs Obernolte for CA-08 

State Assemblyman Jay Obernolte announced endorsements from the six members of California’s Republican House delegation, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and 8th District incumbent Paul Cook. 

Cook’s retirement leaves the 8th District seat open in 2020.

The March 3 top-two primary has drawn 10 candidates. Among the five Republicans is Tim Donnelly, who ran against Cook in 2018 and received 40 percent of the vote. Donnelly beat Democrat Marge Doyle for the second-place spot in that year’s top-two primary by 1 percentage point.

State executives

Governors infographic

Utah Rep. Rob Bishop signs on as Thomas Wright’s running mate

Last week, we covered U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s decision to endorse former state GOP Chairman Thomas Wright for governor of Utah rather than seek the office himself. On Friday, Wright announced that Bishop would be his running mate. Wright is the first of seven Republicans in the race to select a running mate.

Bishop was elected to the U.S. House in 2002 and earlier served 16 years in the state House, including two as speaker. Local media sources had identified him as a potential gubernatorial candidate after he announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election to the House this year.

Utah abolished the office of secretary of state in 1976 and delegated many of its responsibilities to the lieutenant governor. The office is responsible for overseeing notaries public, authenticating legal documents, overseeing registered lobbyists, and certifying municipal annexations. Utah is also one of two states (the other is Alaska) where the lieutenant governor serves as chief elections officer.

Incumbent Gary Herbert (R) is not running for re-election. The June 30 primary is open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Utah Republicans have won every gubernatorial election since 1984, marking the longest GOP gubernatorial winning streak in the country. 

Montana State Sen. Al Olszewski picks running mate

Montana state Sen. Al Olszewski announced Friday that freshman state Sen. Kenneth Bogner (R) would be his gubernatorial running mate. Olszewski is the first candidate from either party to name a running mate. Candidates for governor of Montana are required to name a running mate as part of the filing process. State Attorney General Tim Fox, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, and any other candidates joining the race have until March 9 to file.

Bogner was first elected to represent his eastern Montana state Senate district in 2018. 

You may recall from last week’s edition that Fox, Gianforte, and Olszewski are scheduled to appear in a debate in Billings on Thursday. It will be the first debate between all three candidates.

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


Legislatures infographic

OC GOP rescinds Diep endorsement

The Orange County Republican Party rescinded its endorsement of Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-72). Chairman Fred Whitaker said, “This is a sad day when an incumbent Republican member of the legislature loses the local party endorsement, but the party felt there had to be accountability for voting patterns.”

Former Assemblyman Matthew Harper, who called for the vote, criticized Diep for being the only Republican to vote in favor of Assembly Bill 5, a bill addressing independent contractors. Harper said Diep was too supportive of public sector unions.

Diep blamed the decision on a small number of political insiders overriding the desires of his full constituency. “While it is disappointing that a few political insiders of the local party drove this, I am confident that voters will know I’m the best candidate to fight for them in Sacramento,” he said.

Former state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R) is the other Republican running in the top-two primary. Commenting on Nguyen’s campaign in December 2019, KCRW said, “Orange County used to be the bedrock of the Republican party in Southern California. But the party is facing an existential crisis.”

Early campaign finance reports show TX GOP civil war may be on hold

The first 2020 campaign finance reports in Texas were released last week. According to The Dallas Morning News, the numbers show that a fight between factions within the state Republican Party could be cooling off. In 2018, factional conflict between moderate Republicans aligned with Speaker Joe Straus and conservative Republicans aligned with the Texas Freedom Caucus played out in 46 Republican primaries across both legislative chambers.

“[Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life], which have funded primary challengers to Republican incumbents in the past, mostly stayed out of most elections this reporting period,” wrote James Barragán and Ariana Giorgi. Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, agreed. “This cycle is different in that the Republican civil war has essentially gone away. We’re not seeing any of that,” he said.

In 2020, Republicans are defending a 19-12 majority in the state Senate and an 82-64 majority with three vacancies in the state House.

One race where the conflict may not have subsided: the race for state GOP chair. Former Florida Congressman Allen West is challenging sitting chair James Dickey. West raised $490,000 (including $250,000 from donor Richard Uihlein) over the past six months, while Dickey raised $18,000.

ND Rep. moves districts and announces he will challenge incumbents

North Dakota Rep. Jim Grueneich (R-12) announced that he and his wife Naomi were moving from their home in District 12 to District 28 to allow Naomi to pursue a career opportunity. Grueneich said he would run in District 28, where incumbents Jeffery Magrum (R) and Michael Don Brandenburg (R) have already announced re-election bids. 

Each North Dakota House district elects two representatives who serve four-year terms. Grueneich and Magrum were each first elected to the House in 2016, while Brandenburg served in the House from 1997 to 2002 before winning election to the chamber again in 2004. Forty-seven of the chamber’s 94 seats are up for election this year. Republicans hold a 79-15 majority.

Power players

A weekly feature on influencers shaping the direction of the party.

“The National Republican Congressional Committee, the only national GOP organization dedicated to defending the House, effectively coordinates and defends conservative House candidates across America.” – NRCC website

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is a national 527 group and subsidiary of the Republican Party that aims to build and maintain a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives through contributions to Republican candidates and political organizations. 

In February 2019, the NRCC announced 55 Democratic-held districts that it would target in 2020. For a list of those districts, as well as margins of victory for each district in the 2018, 2016, and 2014 elections, click here.

NRCC programs include the Patriot Program, which provides funding and support to incumbent members of the U.S. House running for re-election in battleground districts, and Young Guns, which recruits and supports challengers running for U.S. House seats in battleground districts.

As of December 2019, the NRCC had around $29 million in cash on hand, compared to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $48 million.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 2 (January 22, 2020)

Congressional candidate counter

Upcoming filing deadlines

Congressional candidate counter

On the news

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

“Above all, progressives want to beat Trump. The Democratic front-runners have all pledged to support the eventual nominee no matter who it is. And this week, the leaders of six national progressive organizations sent out a ‘unity statement’ to this effect: ‘While we firmly believe that either Warren or Sanders should lead our nation in 2021, we will, in the end, go all-out to defeat Trump no matter who the Democratic nominee is.’

Still, progressives can’t shake the feeling that they’ve seen this movie before. Like Biden, Clinton was once widely considered to be the safest bet to beat Trump. She wasn’t as radical as Sanders, the thinking went, so she could better appeal to voters straddling the political middle. She was a known quantity, a bridge builder, a shoo-in. But then millions of American voters who once voted for Obama didn’t vote for her. To some lefties, a Biden nomination feels like déjà vu.”

Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic, Jan 18. 2020

“For all the hand-wringing among Democrats about which nominee would be most able to unify the party heading into November, Biden is also uniquely positioned to win over Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg supporters. When Sanders supporters are asked about their second choice in the primary, unsurprisingly Warren picks up 32 percent, but Biden follows closely at 28 percent. Similarly, Warren backers support Sanders as a second choice by 33 percent, but Biden is also strong at 24 percent — with Buttigieg trailing with 12 percent. Biden also leads among current Buttigieg and Bloomberg supporters by wide margins when asked about a second option.

Pundits and casual political observers are currently promoting the idea that Democratic primary voters are split ideologically into warring camps, but the ‘second choice’ figures paint a different picture of an electorate ready to unify behind Biden as the nominee.”

Kevin Walling, The Hill, Jan. 12, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress overview

VoteVets Action Fund spending $3.3 million in Senate primary in N.C.

VoteVets Action Fund is spending $3.3 million on ads supporting Cal Cunningham in the Senate race in North Carolina through January. 

An early biographical spot from VoteVets highlighted Cunningham’s experience in the Army and the state Senate, referring to him as a progressive. 

Cunningham released his first TV ad as well, discussing his military service and saying he’d work to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

Cunningham was elected to the state Senate in 2000 and served one term. An Associated Press article said Cunningham was considered a conservative Democrat at the time of his tenure. 

Cunningham is one of five primary candidates, including state Sen. Erica Smith, vying for the nomination to run against Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in November. The primary is March 3. 

On Oct. 31, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsed Cunningham in the primary. Smith responded, “Ultimately, the voters of North Carolina will decide who their next United States Senator will be — NOT a handful of DC politicians making back room deals in windowless basements.”

Smith was first elected to the state Senate in 2014. Her endorsers in the 2020 Senate race include Flip the Senate, a group that says it supports progressive policies, and Build the Wave, a group using texting campaigns to boost Democratic turnout.

A Public Policy Polling poll conducted Jan. 10-12 found “Undecided” leading with 60 percent. Cunningham received 22 percent support to Smith’s 12 percent. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling told Ballotpedia the poll’s margin of error was +/-4.3. A Fox News poll conducted Nov. 10-13 found 18 percent support for Smith to 13 percent for Cunningham, and 49 percent of respondents answered, “Don’t know.” The margin of error was +/- 3.5.

Three outlets rate the general election Toss-up or Leans Republican.

DSCC endorses Mackler in Senate primary in TN

The DSCC endorsed attorney James Mackler in the Democratic primary for Senate in Tennessee. 

The race is open as incumbent Lamar Alexander (R) is not seeking re-election. Five Democrats and 12 Republicans are currently running in the primary elections

Mackler has also been endorsed by Phil Bredesen, the former governor of Tennessee and Democratic candidate for Senate in 2018. Bredesen lost that election to Marsha Blackburn (R).

Melanie Tomlyn of Indivisible of Nashville and Middle Tennessee said of the DSCC’s endorsement that “this Senate race is about the Tennessee grassroots and will not be dictated by outside national organizations putting their fingers on the scale.” 

Indivisible’s website says its mission is “to cultivate a grassroots movement of literally thousands of local Indivisible groups to elect progressive leaders, realize bold progressive policies, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the Trump agenda.”

The primaries are Aug. 6, and the filing deadline is April 2. Three ratings outlets call this a safe Republican seat.

Judi Reiss withdraws from PA-01 primary

Bucks County Prothonotary Judi Reiss withdrew from Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District primary Monday, citing a desire to give full attention to her elected and family roles. 

That leaves three candidates in the Democratic primary: Ivyland Borough Councilmember Christina Finello, technology consultant Skylar Hurwitz, and Pennsbury School Boardmember Debbie Wachspress. The filing deadline for the April 28 primary is Feb. 18.

The 1st District, currently represented by Brian Fitzpatrick (R), is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s target lists. It is one of three congressional districts in the country that Hillary Clinton (D) won in 2016 and that is represented by a Republican. 

Pennsylvania’s district lines were redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections. Clinton carried what is now the 1st District by 2 percentage points. Fitzpatrick won in 2018 by 3 percentage points. 

Roll Call described Democrats’ challenges in the district as follows:

Fundraising will be critical for any Democrat running in the expensive Philadelphia media market and taking on Fitzpatrick, who had nearly $1.1 million on hand as of Sept. 30. Democrats will also have to chip away at Fitzpatrick’s moderate brand. A former FBI agent, he often touts his role in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. According to CQ Vote Studies, Fitzpatrick has supported Trump’s priorities 64 percent of the the [sic] time, the lowest score for a Republican (the average Republican has backed Trump’s priorities 94 percent of the time).

Bucks County Courier Times reported that the county Democratic Party will hold an endorsement meeting the first week of February.

Liss-Riordan drops out, Kennedy gets endorsements in Senate primary in MA

Last week, we dug into the Democratic primary for Senate in Massachusetts. Here’s a brief followup:

  • Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan dropped out, leaving the primary between incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy—at least for now. The filing deadline for the Sept. 1 primary is June 2.
  • Several House Democrats endorsed Kennedy, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Mark Pocan and Rep. John Lewis.

State executives

Governors infographic

Sen. Jon Tester endorses Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney for governor

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney received the endorsement of Sen. Jon Tester (D) Friday in his bid to succeed term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock. Aside from Bullock, who endorsed Cooney in October, and Cooney himself, Tester is the only Democrat to hold a statewide elected office in Montana.

You may recall from last week’s edition that gubernatorial candidates filed campaign finance reports Jan. 6. The reports showed consultant Whitney Williams, who is running with the endorsement of EMILY’s List, leading in fourth-quarter fundraising with $439,000 to Cooney’s $200,000 and state House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner’s $15,000.

A fourth candidate, former state Rep. Reilly Neill, announced Monday that she was suspending her campaign. Candidates have until March 9 to file for Montana’s gubernatorial election. The June 2 primary is open to all voters. No Republican candidate has been elected governor in Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball shifts Vermont gubernatorial election towards Democrats

Last week, we looked at Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman’s decision to run for governor, setting up a primary contest with former state Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe. Since then, Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed their projection for the general election from Likely Republican to Leans Republican. They cited Zuckerman’s history of running in statewide elections as a factor in their decision, saying that he was well-poised to attract voters turning out for the presidential election.


Legislatures infographic

Personal PAC announces endorsements for two challengers in IL House

Personal PAC, a group dedicated to “making sure that Illinois always remains a state where abortion is safe, legal, and accessible to every woman,” announced endorsements across the state. They are endorsing challengers to two sitting state representatives: Yehiel Kalish (District 13) and Thaddeus Jones (District 26). As we reported last week, Kalish faces a primary challenge over his stance on an abortion law.

Primaries for all seats in the Illinois State Legislature will take place on March 17. Across the House, 15 Democratic incumbents face at least one primary challenger. In 2018, eight Democratic incumbents faced primary challengers.

Pennsylvania Rep. receives challenger from the left

Attorney Emily Kinkead (D) announced she would challenge state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl (D-20) in a Democratic primary the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review characterized as part of “a wave of progressive Democrats who in recent years have challenged establishment incumbents in Allegheny County’s Democratic Party.”

Kinkead said that she thought voters in the district were looking for a change, adding that she thinks that District 20 is more progressive than people think. Ravenstahl said he expected a challenge. “That kind of comes with the territory,” he said.

According to the Tribune-Review, Kinkead is following Reps. Summer Lee (D-34) and Sara Innamorato (D-21), who each defeated long-serving Alleghany County incumbents in 2018. Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania will take place on April 28.

Nevada Senate caucus makes endorsement in open primary

The Nevada State Senate Democratic Caucus endorsed Roberta Lange, former chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, for a seat held by term-limited Sen. David Parks (D-7). Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel (D-20) and Assemblyman Richard Carillo (D-18) have both said they plan to run but have not filed for the race. The Nevada Independent called the endorsement “a significant advantage” in the Democratic primary.

Parks has represented District 7 since it was created as a result of redistricting in 2010. He won re-election against a Libertarian candidate 70-30 in 2016 and defeated a Republican challenger 64-35 in 2012. The filing deadline for this election is March 13.

Shevrin Jones receives another endorsement in FL Senate bid

Last week, state Rep. Shevrin Jones received the endorsement of retiring state Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-35) in a five-way primary. This week, he picked up an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D). A primary for this race will take place on August 18, and the filing deadline is June 12.

Power players

A weekly feature on influencers shaping the direction of the party.

“[The DCCC is] the only political committee in the country whose principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates every step of the way to fortify and expand our new Democratic Majority.” – DCCC website

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is an official subsidiary of the national Democratic Party. As a national political committee, the group makes political contributions to support the election of Democratic candidates to the U.S. House.

In January 2019, the DCCC released an initial list of 33 Republican-held or open seats it would target in 2020. Twelve districts have been added since, six in August 2019 and six in January 2020. For a list of those districts, as well as margins of victory for each district in the 2018, 2016, and 2014 elections, click here.

DCCC programs include the Frontline Program, a partnership between the DCCC and members of Congress designed to protect vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and the Red to Blue program, which provides funding and guidance to candidates seeking election in districts represented by Republicans. 

As of December 2019, the DCCC had around $48 million in cash on hand, compared to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $29 million.