Upcoming Primaries on May 15th

Four states hold primary elections come this Tuesday.  So without further delay:


With no Senate race, the only interest is in the gubernatorial and two House seat races.  Butch Otter, the incumbent Republican Governor, will be leaving office with a respectable approval rating of 47% and although he is eligible for another term he has decided to call it quits.  There are ten Republicans running in the primary with Congressman Raul Labrador and current Lt. Governor Brad Little being the two front runners.  Little has gained the endorsement of Otter and Senator Jim Risch while Labrador has the endorsement of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.  The spoiler is businessman Tommy Ahlquist who has the endorsement of Mitt Romney.  How many votes he siphons from the other two may be important.  The presumptive winner of the Democratic Party’s primary is businessman A.J. Balukoff although he faces opposition from former state representative Paulette Jordan.  On second thought, she received the endorsement of Cher, basically a kiss of death.  There is no general election polling and the seat will likely stay in GOP control.


In their two House races, the only interest will be in the 1st being vacated by Raul Labrador.  Seven Republicans and three Democrats will square off in their respective primaries.  Whoever emerges, this seat will remain in GOP hands.


Three House seats, a Senate race and a Governor’s race are on tap.  With an approval rating of 53%, current GOP incumbent Pete Ricketts is a shoo-in to win the primary and general election.  In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Deb Fischer will face four primary opponents, none of them a serious threat.  There are four Democrats in their primary.  Fischer has a 43% approval rating which may be a concern for worry.  However, Trump sports a 56% approval rating in the state.

The only House seat of interest is the 2nd where GOP incumbent Don Bacon will likely face former Representative Brad Ashford who is trying to reclaim his old seat.  If any seat falls into Democratic hands, it would be this one.


Five Congressional seats and a Governor’s race occur in Oregon in 2018.  Kate Brown, the incumbent Democrat, will likely win her primary against two unknowns while on the GOP side, state representative Knute Buehler will likely emerge the winner against eight other Republicans.  So why so many Republicans?  Brown has a 43% approval rating- somewhat low for an incumbent seeking reelection- and a 39% disapproval rating.  That leaves an 18% gap and Republicans will fighting hard for those Oregonians with no opinion of Brown.  Perhaps a sleeper race, but it will take lots of work for Buehler to unseat Brown in this blue state.  She has her faults; the question is whether they can be exploited in the general election.


In the House races, all incumbents (which favor Democrats 4-1) are running for reelection and likely to win, but that has not stopped seven Democrats from entering their primary trying to unseat the lone Republican incumbent- Greg Walden in the 2nd District.  Keep an eye on the GOP primary in the 4th as five Republicans are vying for the chance to take on Peter DeFazio in November.


A Senate, a Governor’s race and 18 Congressional districts and a new court-drawn map has Democrats salivating.  First up, the Senate race that will pit Democratic incumbent Bob Casey against likely GOP candidate Lou Barletta.  Although Casey has a precarious 42% approval rating against 32% disapproval, scant hypothetical polling to date indicates a Casey victory on the order of about 15 points.  That should narrow as Election Day nears.

In the Governor’s race, Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf enjoys a 45% approval rating and an equally high 39% disapproval rating, so there are vulnerabilities to exploit.  Although three Republicans are in the primary, this appears Scott Wagner’s race to lose.  Because of his brash style, he has been compared to Trump.  In April, his main opponent Paul Mango released an attack ad that called Wagner, among other things, a “slumlord,” “toxic,” and a “deadbeat.”  The Pennsylvania GOP rallied around Wagner and denounced the ad.  In a state Trump narrowly won in 2016 and where he enjoys a 44% approval rating, this race will come down to a Republican opponent likened to Trump against a Democratic incumbent who bills himself as an opponent of Trump.  Should Wolf prevail, expect the commentary to be about a rejection of Trump, not Wagner.


As for the House races, the new state court drawn map should create some interest as it tends to favor the Democratic Party.  The delegation currently favors the GOP.  However, the new map puts four Republicans in danger since two are retiring.  The races to watch will be whether GOP incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick can hold his new district which comprises about 93% of his old district.  The other race is interesting since an incumbent on both sides will square off and that is the new 17th District which will pit Republican Keith Rothfus (formerly of the 12th) against Conor Lamb, the Democratic incumbent who won a close special election.  Rothfus retains about 55% of the territory of his old district.  Neither faces a primary challenge so all eyes will be on the general election.  Keep an eye on party turnout in the 1st district race as it may be an indicator come November.

Next week, I will preview primary elections in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky.


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