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Weekly Political Synopsis - May 3, 2019

President

Sen. Michael Bennet: Somewhat surprisingly, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet joined the Democratic presidential parade at the end of the week. Last month, Mr. Bennet confirmed his interest in becoming a national candidate but announced that he had prostate cancer. Now, after having the necessary surgery and claiming he has a clean bill of health, Sen. Bennet has joined the burgeoning field of candidates that is approaching the two-dozen mark in number.

CNN/Q-Poll: CNN (conducted by the SRSS research firm; 4/25-28; 1,007 US adults; 411 likely Democratic primary voters) and Quinnipiac University (4/26-29; 1,044 US registered voters; 419 self-identified Democrats and lean Democratic voters) released new national polls finds that find former Vice President Joe Biden receiving a major bump from his national candidacy announcement.

According to the pair of surveys, Mr. Biden has again surged to a clear lead for the Democratic nomination. But, the small 411-respondent CNN sample and Q-Poll’s 419-person segment leaves a lot of room for polling error.

CNN’s results find Mr. Biden claiming 39% of the Democratic vote, his largest vote share to date. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who was neck-and-neck with Biden before the announcement, drops back to 15% in this poll. No other candidate reaches 10%, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in third place at 8%, South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg following closely with 7%, ex-Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) posting 6%, and California Sen. Kamala Harris recording 5% preference. All of the others fail to break 2%.

The Q-Poll finds Mr. Biden polling a similar 38% and Sen. Warren moving to second at 12%. Sen. Sanders drops to third with 11% preference, while Mayor Buttigieg is the only other contender reaching double-digits posting 10% support.

NH Poll: Though Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is from a neighboring state and has done well in the most recent New Hampshire primary, a new Suffolk University poll (4/25-28; 429 NH likely Democratic primary voters) finds former Vice President Joe Biden lurching out to a substantial 20-12-12% lead over Sanders and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the first-in-the-nation-primary state. In fourth position is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who posts 8%, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) following at 6% support. Ex-Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are tied with 3% apiece.

Senate

Alabama: So far, most of the attention paid to who will oppose Sen. Doug Jones (D) has centered around former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and members of the congressional delegation, naturally including announced candidate Bradley Byrne, the Mobile area Congressman. On Friday, Secretary of State John Merrill (R) came forward to declare his interest in becoming a candidate.

Mr. Merrill would be the second statewide contender. Just before the first of the year, state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) declared that he was exploring the Senate race but has not shown much in the way of activity, since.

Georgia: While still not ruling out that she will join the 2020 presidential field, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (D) said she will not run for the US Senate next year. She had been publicly considering a challenge race against first-term Sen. David Perdue (R) and promised a decision by the end of April. Now attention turns to former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (D), who said she would run for the Senate if Ms. Abrams did not.

Iowa: The Democratic leadership’s second choice to oppose Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has also said no. Earlier, former Governor and ex-US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) said he would not return to Iowa to launch a US Senate challenge. Once Mr. Vilsack made the decision not to run, the party leadership began attempting to convince freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) to oppose Sen. Ernst. This week, Rep. Axne announced that she will seek re-election to the House. Currently there are no officially announced Democrats in the Iowa Senate race.

New Jersey: 2018 candidate Hirsh Singh, who originally was in the 2nd Congressional District but lost the Republican primary, announced his intention to oppose Sen. Cory Booker (D) next year.

The Senate campaign will be a political suicide run for Singh, since Sen. Booker will be re-elected regardless of how his presidential campaign unfolds. But, in a way, his move to the Senate likely helps the Republicans clear the way in order to recruit a more credible consensus opponent to freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May). Additionally, healthcare business consultant Tricia Flanagan has also declared her intention to seek the Republican Senatorial nomination.

New Mexico; GBAO Strategy & Research conducted the first poll of the open seat Democratic primary (4/15-18; 600 NM likely Democratic primary voters) and finds Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/ Santa Fe) jumping out to a huge 64-25% lead over just-announced Senate candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the New Mexico Secretary of State.

Texas: This week, as expected, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) announced that he will not enter the statewide Democratic primary to ultimately challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) next year. That Mr. Castro arrived at this decision some time ago became evident by not attempting to build a statewide organization and his lack of raising sufficient funds to compete. The Castro decision means that 2018 congressional candidate and retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar (D), who lost to Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), 51-48% in November, becomes the clear early Democratic alternative to Sen. Cornyn.

House

CA-22: In March, 2018 congressional nominee Andrew Janz (D), who raised over $8 million for his losing congressional race against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), indicated he was looking toward the Fresno Mayor’s race instead of seeking a congressional re-match. Yesterday, Mr. Janz formally made the decision and announced his candidacy to oppose Mayor Lee Brand in this year’s non-partisan campaign.

CA-39: Former state Assemblywoman Young Kim (R), like several other 2018 California Republican congressional candidates, was leading after the votes were counted on last November’s election night. Yet, as the weeks of counting post-election ballots continued, the final result turned against her. Late this week, Ms. Kim announced that she will return next year for a re-match with freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda). Rep. Cisneros won the November election, 51.6 – 48.4% with a turnout of just over 244,000 voters. Hillary Clinton carried the 39th in 2016 by a 51-43% count.

GA-7: State Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), who originally indicated she wouldn’t run for Congress, has changed her mind and announced her candidacy. She becomes the sixth Democrat to enter the open seat race. The field includes 2018 nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux who lost the general election by a scant 419 votes, the closest raw vote election in the country.

MA-6: Now that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) has announced for the presidency, and even though he says he may return to the congressional primary, several politicos are already beginning to make moves. Last week, we covered that Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Swampscott) announced her candidacy and will remain in the race even if Moulton returns.

Now, it’s being reported that former Rep. John Tierney (D), the man Mr. Moulton defeated in the 2014 Democratic primary, might also have interest in launching a new congressional campaign. Others, including former state Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D), are also publicly confirming that they are considering forming candidacies.

MI-3: Five-term Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) has been a thorn in the side of his party’s leadership because of his intransigence over most issue positions that leads him to vote against virtually every bill. Now, he will have a Republican primary challenger, possibly his first of any substance since his 2014 campaign.

Iraq War veteran Tom Norton announced that he will oppose Rep. Amash for the GOP nomination. Assuming Norton can raise some early money to become credible, mounting a primary challenge here could catch some fire since the Congressman has alienated many in his own party.

MN-1: Another re-do campaign looks to be on tap in southern Minnesota. In one of three Democratic seats that flipped to the Republicans, and one of those was due solely to Pennsylvania redistricting, freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) nipped Democrat Dan Feehan by just 1,315 votes last November, a 50.1 – 49.7% victory margin. Yesterday, Mr. Feehan announced that he will return for a re-match next year.

NY-5: Marine Corps veteran Shaniyat Chowdhury (D), a strong supporter of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) and her wing of the Democratic Party, announced that he will challenge 12-term Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Queens) in next year’s June party primary election. The 5th District, 90% of which lies in Queens Borough with the remaining territory in Nassau County and centered around JFK International Airport, is solidly Democratic. Hillary Clinton attracted 86% of the vote here in 2016, for example.

NC-3: Early this week in eastern and coastal North Carolina, almost 69,000 voters cast ballots in the special congressional primary election. The eventual winner replaces the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), who passed away in February.

In the field of 17 Republicans, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), taking advantage of a very strong performance in his home region, placed first with 22.5% of the vote. Because Rep. Murphy did not exceed the 30% threshold, he and physician Joan Perry, who was backed by state and national pro-life groups, advance to a July 9th run-off election.

For the Democrats, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas easily won the Democratic primary over five opponents. He drew just over 50% of the vote, topping retired Marine Corps Colonel Richard Bew and New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw by better than 2:1 respective margins. Mr. Thomas directly advances to the special general election on September 10th.

NC-11: Becoming the first candidate of the cycle to challenge four-term Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Hendersonville), retired US Air Force officer Steve Woodsmall (D) announced that he will oppose the Freedom Caucus chairman next year. Rep. Meadows should be secure in his safely Republican western North Carolina district (Trump ’16: 63-34%; Romney ’12: 60-39%), so Mr. Woodsmall faces a difficult task in making major inroads. Quite possibly, a primary challenge in this district would be more competitive than a general election effort.

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