Primary and Filing Status
On the primary front, it has been relatively quiet this month. The Alabama runoff has been the only election held since June 22, and it provided yet another example of voters (in this case, in the Republican runoff for governor) choosing someone other than the preferred candidate of the local political establishment, by an unambiguous 56-44% margin.
There has been more action, however, with Congressional/gubernatorial filings; in the past week, filing has concluded in Maryland, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and New York, for a total of 48 states (all but Delaware and Hawaii have concluded their congressional qualifying). Thus far, 37 House members (31 Republicans and 6 Democrats) will not have major party opposition; this list expanded by two when after the close of Louisiana’s qualifying, Democrats decided not to compete for the seats held by Rodney Alexander (R-Quitman) and Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette). (7/18 Editor’s updates: (1) As of press time, candidate filing has concluded in New York, but a finalized list of candidates is not yet available until sometime before August 9, according to their Board Of Election. We currently believe that four New York City Democrats will have no Republican opposition, and once we have the final list, we will revise the paragraph above; (2) We had incorrect dates for filing deadlines for Minnesota and Vermont, and in fact, their filing deadlines have passed)
While Congressional qualifying concludes, the only other electoral action this month will be the Georgia primary on July 20 and the Oklahoma primary on July 27. We are watching two races in Georgia – the governor’s race and a U.S. House race in the suburbs of Atlanta.
On the Democratic side of the governor’s race, we have yet another example (in addition to California, Iowa, Maryland, and Oregon) of a former governor wanting his old job back. Democrat Roy Barnes was defeated by a Republican when he ran for re-election in 2002 (incidentally, the victor was the first and only Republican to win that office since Reconstruction), and is seeking a comeback now that the Republican is term-limited. While he’s expected to win the Democratic primary easily, the more interesting race is the Republican primary. With this being an open seat race, a crowded field of seven candidates is seeking the nomination. What makes this race interesting is that it is yet another test of the power of the Sarah Palin endorsement, as she has thrown her support behind Secretary of State Karen Handel, who leads in a recent poll with 32%.
We are also watching a House race in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta. This majority black district has seen a series of contested Democratic primaries since 2002, and was the district that twice rejected former Congresswoman (and firebrand) Cynthia McKinney. The person who defeated her in 2006, Hank Johnson, is now in some political trouble himself: his two primary opponents have made hay over recent remarks he made in a committee hearing asserting that “…relocating Navy personnel to Guam would cause the small island to ‘become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize’…” . As a result, the picture they are painting to Democratic primary voters in that district is that he is “aloof and out of touch”, and that he “runs his campaign by press releases.”
Shortly after the Georgia and Oklahoma primaries, Congressional qualifying concludes in Delaware on July 30, and contested primaries return with a vengeance, starting on August 3. Throughout the month of August, 14 states (including Louisiana’s August 28 Congressional party primaries) will be holding primaries, and we have summarized those races below (7/18 Editor’s note: We have found out that Minnesota and Vermont have their primaries in August and not on 9/14, as we originally thought):
August 3: Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri – We are focusing on the Republican primary for Senate in Kansas. While throughout the election cycle, “political establishment” candidates have suffered defeat after defeat, Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin have been more successful in their endorsements whenever they weigh in on a race. And in Kansas, two Republican Congressmen are seeking the nomination for this open seat, and Sarah Palin has endorsed Todd Tiahrt, whose endorsement list is a “who’s who” of conservatives: Sean Hannity, Steve Forbes, the Tea Party Express, and Focus On the Family.
August 5: Tennessee: While the Kansas primary will be a test of the power of Sarah Palin’s endorsement, we are following a Democratic House primary in Memphis, Tennessee to assess how viable the use of the “race card” still is in black majority districts. In this situation, two-term incumbent Steve Cohen is a white liberal representing an inner city district that voted 78-22% for Barack Obama. His holding this seat for two terms has ruffled the feathers of the local black political establishment, so pugnacious former Mayor Willie Herenton (who is black) is challenging Cohen in the primary. Yet in this contest, the racial overtones have been counteracted by endorsements Rep. Cohen has received from both members of the Congressional Black Caucus and of President Obama.
August 10: Colorado, Connecticut, and Minnesota: The Colorado Senate race features contested Democratic and Republican primaries. The Democratic primary is an interesting proxy battle between President Obama and former President Clinton. This senate seat initially became vacant at the start of the Obama administration when former Senator Ken Salazar was appointed Secretary of the Interior. To fill the vacancy, Colorado’s Democratic governor appointed Michael Bennet, who was at the time the superintendent of Denver’s public schools. Though Bennet has compiled a generally liberal record and has the strong support of the Democratic establishment (including President Obama), some local politicians like former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff felt slighted, and Romanoff is challenging Bennet in the primary with the endorsement of former President Clinton. This “national vs local establishment” subtext to this race seems similar to the Specter/Sestak race in Pennsylvania, except that Bennet has always been a Democrat who has worked within the political system, and he has (unsurprisingly) led in the polls throughout the campaign.
On the Republican side, the Colorado Senate primary is, like Kentucky and Nevada, another test of the strength of the Tea Party movement in Republican primaries. DA Ken Buck is running with Tea Party support. His main opponent is Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, who is viewed as more of an establishment favorite.
August 17:Washington and Wyoming: In Washington, the GOP scored a recruiting coup when former state senator (and two time gubernatorial candidate) Dino Rossi agreed to run against three term incumbent Patty Murray, the “Mom in tennis shoes.” However, local Tea Partiers are not enthusiastic about his candidacy, and have rallied behind former Washington Redskins tight end Clint Didier. Didier also claims the endorsements of Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, so in a sense, this race is also a test of the power of the Palin endorsement. Washington State, however, is a more hospitable environment for political moderates and/or moderate Republicans, so we believe that Rossi will survive the primary and become the Republican challenger to Senator Murray.
August 24: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Vermont: In Alaska, Sarah Palin (and Tea Partiers, for that matter) is supporting the insurgent candidacy of attorney Joe Miller against eight year incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary. There is a personal aspect to this endorsement: former Senator Frank Murkowski (the incumbent senator’s father) was elected Governor in 2002 and promptly appointed his daughter to the seat. This appointment proved to be bad politics for both father and daughter. While Lisa was barely elected to a full term in a year George W. Bush was carrying Alaska with over 60% of the vote, Governor Murkowski was politically humiliated in his 2006 re-election bid. Not only was he defeated in the Republican primary by Sarah Palin, but he came in third place.
The Palin endorsement also is playing itself out in Arizona as well, although this time, Sarah Palin is endorsing the incumbent. In the Republican Senate primary, four term incumbent John McCain has stiff opposition from sportscaster/former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, and Hayworth’s candidacy is an outlet for Arizona Republicans who’ve felt that over the years McCain is not conservative enough. There is a very simple reason for Palin endorsing the incumbent: simple gratitude for McCain’s making her his running mate in his unsuccessful 2008 Presidential candidacy. Also on the ballot is the gubernatorial primary, which was effectively settled on the Republican side when formerly embattled incumbent Jan Brewer decided to enforce federal immigration laws on her own and has since attained hero status with conservatives across the country and in Arizona.
For months, the Republican primary for an open Senate seat in Florida was a marquee event, especially after Governor Charlie Crist saw his poll numbers steadily decline after embracing President Obama during a 2009 visit to the state. When he decided to change parties and run as an Independent (thus bypassing any party primaries), former House Speaker Marco Rubio effectively became the Republican nominee. The race took another twist on the Democratic side, however, when presumptive nominee, Kendrick Meek (a black Congressman from Miami) got a primary challenge from controversial billionaire Jeff Greene. This has been a hard fought 3 way race for several months now, and will continue to be competitive after the primary.
August 28: Louisiana Congressional Party Primaries: This is the last year that Louisiana will hold party primaries for Congressional races (this practice started with the 2008 election cycle and has never been very popular with voters comfortable with Louisiana’s open primaries). There are several races worth following, however. Keep in mind that only Republicans can vote in Republican Congressional primaries, while Democrats and/or unaffiliated voters can vote in Democratic Congressional primaries:
Senate – While both David Vitter and Charlie Melancon face two opponents each in their respective party primaries, we are most interested in the percent of the vote in each parish that Senator Vitter’s challengers will receive, since that vote represents the potential defections Senator Vitter may face in November to any of the 10 independent candidates running. What makes the Republican primary race especially interesting is the last minute entry of former Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor; his candidacy was borne out of disgust at Senator Vitter’s prior conduct with a prostitute, as well as assault charges facing one of his aides.
House – There are also several Congressional primaries we are watching: (1) in New Orleans, can the Democrats unite behind a single challenger to vulnerable Republican freshman “Joseph” Cao, or will they be pushed into a runoff, thus giving Cao an additional month to campaign and raise money ?; (2) in New Iberia/Houma/Chalmette, three Republicans are seeking Democrat Charlie Melancon’s vacated House seat. Will the financial firepower of attorneys Jeff Landry and Hunt Downer put them in the runoff against each other, or can political newcomer Kristian Magar use his grassroots support to pull off an upset by making it into the runoff ?;(3) Three term incumbent Rodney Alexander is facing a primary opponent this year who is questioning his credibility as a conservative. Rep. Alexander similarly faced a more conservative primary challenger in 2008, and whipped him 90-10%. Will the challenger (Todd Slavant), with his Tea Party affiliations, make it a more competitive race in this anti incumbent year?
After the gauntlet of August primaries, all will be quiet on the political front until “Super Tuesday II” on September 14, when 7 states hold their primaries on that day. “Super Tuesday II” pretty much concludes primary season nationally, although Hawaii has a primary on September 18, and on October 2, Louisiana will have (if necessary) party runoffs for Congress, as well as “open primary” races for statewide (Lt Governor, PSC) and local (judge, school board, etc) races. And if no one in those local/statewide races receives a majority, they will have to compete in a runoff held on the same day as the midterm elections.
John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.