TagSpecial Elections

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.

Legislatures

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.”



Georgia Senate District 13 special election headed to a runoff

A special general election was held on February 4, 2020, to fill the Georgia Senate District 13 seat left vacant by former Senator Greg Kirk (R). The special election was called after Senator Kirk passed away on December 22, 2019. He had represented District 13 since 2015.

Three candidates appeared on the ballot in the special election: Carden Summers (R), Jim Quinn (R), and Mary Egler (D). Summers led the field with 5,154 votes (43.10%), followed by Quinn with 5,044 votes (42.18%), and Egler with 1,759 votes (14.71%). Because no candidate received a majority of the vote, Summers and Quinn, as the top two vote-getters, advanced to a runoff election scheduled for March 3, 2020. The winner of the runoff will serve out the remainder of Senator Kirk’s term, which ends January 10, 2021. Members of the Georgia State Senate serve two-year terms and are not subject to term limits.

As of February 2020, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Georgia was one of 21 Republican state government trifectas at the start of 2020 legislative sessions. A state government trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governor’s office, a majority in the state Senate, and a majority in the state House.

Click here to learn more.

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Lipper-Garabedian wins Democratic primary for a Massachusetts state House seat

A special primary election was held on February 4 to fill a vacant seat in the 32nd Middlesex District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Melrose city councilor Kate Lipper-Garabedian defeated Ann McGonigle Santos and Mathew Helman in the Democratic primary. According to the Melrose Patch, Republican write-in candidate Brandon Reid has received enough votes to appear on the special election ballot on March 3.

The seat became vacant on November 18, 2019, when Paul Brodeur (D) was sworn in as mayor of Melrose. Brodeur had served in the state House since 2011. He was unopposed in his re-election bids in 2016 and 2018. He faced Republican opposition in 2014 and won re-election with 66% of the vote.

Democrats control the state Senate by a 34-4 margin with two vacancies and the state House by a 125-31 margin with one independent member and three vacancies. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Charlie Baker (R) was re-elected to a second term as governor in 2018.

As of February, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts will also hold special primary elections on March 3, 2020, to fill four vacant seats in the state legislature.

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Additional reading:


Paul Novotny (R) wins special general election to represent District 30A in the Minnesota House of Representatives

A special general election was held for Minnesota House of Representatives District 30A on February 4, 2020. Paul Novotny (R) won the election with 1,983 votes, defeating Chad Hobot (D) who won 1,141 votes.

The special primary election was held on January 14, 2020. The filing deadline passed on December 10, 2019.

The special election was called after Nick Zerwas (R) left office due to a heart condition on December 6, 2019. Zerwas served from 2013 to 2019.

Republicans control the Minnesota State Senate by a 35-32 margin with no vacancies, while Democrats control the state House by a 75-59 margin with no vacancies. Minnesota has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Governor Tim Walz (D) was first elected in 2018.

As of February, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Sydney Jordan (D) wins special general election to represent District 60A in the Minnesota House of Representatives

A special general election was held for Minnesota House of Representatives District 60A on February 4, 2020. Sydney Jordan (D) won the election with 1,879 votes, defeating Marty Super (Legal Marijuana Now Party) who won 247 votes.

The special primary election was held on January 21, 2020. The filing deadline passed on December 10, 2019.

The special election was called when Diane Loeffler (D) passed away on November 16, 2019, leaving the seat open. Loeffler served from 2004 to 2019.

Republicans control the Minnesota State Senate by a 35-32 margin with no vacancies, while Democrats control the state House by a 75-59 margin with no vacancies. Minnesota has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Governor Tim Walz (D) was first elected in 2018.

As of February, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:


Mfume (D) and Klacik (R) advance to special general election in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District

Kweisi Mfume (D) and Kim Klacik (R) advanced from their parties’ primaries to the special general election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District on April 28, 2020. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings’ term in the 116th Congress.

On the Democratic side, Mfume won 43% of the vote to defeat 23 opponents, including Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who earned 17%, and Jill Carter, who earned 16%.

On the Republican side, Klacik won 41% of the vote to defeat seven opponents, including Elizabeth Matory, who earned 25%, and James Arnold, who earned 12%.

A Democrat has represented the 7th Congressional District since 1953 when the seat was re-added to Maryland’s district map after the 1950 census. In the 2018 general election, Cummings defeated Richmond Davis (R) 76% to 21%. 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 Congressional District the 41st-most Democratic nationally.

As of February 4, 2020, eight special elections had been called during the 116th Congress. Six of those were for seats in the U.S. House, and two were for seats in the U.S. Senate. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

Additional reading:

Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special election (February 4, 2020 Democratic primary)
Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special election (February 4, 2020 Republican primary)



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.

Legislatures

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.

Legislatures

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.



WI-07 special election primaries less than two weeks away

Primaries for the special election to fill the seat representing Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House will be held on Tuesday, February 18. The seat was vacated by Sean Duffy (R) in September 2019.

Tom Tiffany and Jason Church will face off in the Republican primary. Church has received endorsements from U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and organizations including SEAL PAC, Combat Veterans for Congress, and New Politics. Tiffany has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), former U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), former Wisconsin Govs. Scott Walker (R) and Tommy Thompson (R), numerous state legislators, and organizations including the Club for Growth PAC, Americans for Prosperity Action, and the National Rifle Association.

Satellite spending in the Republican primary has included Club for Growth and United States Chamber of Commerce ad buys supporting Tiffany and a With Honor Fund ad buy supporting Church.

Michael Opela Sr. was disqualified from the Republican primary and is running as a write-in candidate.

Lawrence Dale and Tricia Zunker are facing off in the Democratic primary on February 18. Dale has campaigned on transitioning the area’s timber pulp industry to hemp pulp, growing the local farming industry, and passing Medicare for All. Zunker said that she would be a voice in Washington for local farmers and work to improve public education. She said she is “in favor of Medicare for All for those who want it.” Endorsements in the race have focused on Zunker, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Wisconsin 7th Congressional District Democratic Party, as well as United Steelworkers District 2 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 388.

The special general election will be held on May 12. Duffy, who was first elected in 2010, won his last election in 2018 by a margin of about 22 percentage points.

Additional reading:
Click here to learn more about the Republican primary.
Click here to learn more about the Democratic primary.