The Battle for the Senate in 2016- April News

With two Senatorial primaries in the books, there was a lot of news on the Senatorial front in April.  Without further ado:

Arizona:  The latest poll out of Arizona shows incumbent Republican John McCain deadlocked with Democratic opponent Ann Kirkpatrick.  Although there is not much polling out of the state, this is the third consecutive one to show McCain in a tight race.  He faces Kelli Ward in the GOP primary, but polling indicates a McCain victory.  And obviously leaving nothing to chance, a McCain-favored group is running ads attacking Ward as being weak on national security.

Colorado:  The biggest news of the month was the Colorado convention where Ted Cruz embarrassed Donald Trump and the Senatorial endorsement of Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner.  In order to qualify for the June 28th primary, candidates must get 30% of the vote at the convention.  However, one can still get on the primary ballot by-passing the convention route through a petition process.  Four candidates preferred the petition route and went to the primary ballot.  In all, Colorado started with 14 Republican candidates for Senate to take on Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet in the fall.

Now there are five.  Glenn, who had raised $40,000 up to this point, won 70% of the convention vote and with eight other candidates, no one else came even close to the 30% required to qualify for the ballot.  He will now run against four other candidates in the primary: Jack Graham (former athletic director at Colorado State), John Keyser (ex-state representative), Robert Blaha (wealthy businessman) and Ryan Frazier (Aurora City councilor).  That means that higher profile candidates like Peg Littleton and Tim Neville saw their chances crash.

But in a surprise move, though, Keyser was kicked off the ballot because he failed to get the requisite number of signatures.  Keyser has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to overturn the state’s determination since it appears that the shortfall is due to a highly technical violation.  Most of the signatures rejected were collected by one person- Tyler Gonzalez.  The address he listed on his petition affidavit did not match the one on his voter registration.  Gonzalez recently moved and failed to update his information.  Chances are Keyser will win his case and appear on the ballot.

In a sign that Democrats may know something others don’t know- or perhaps they are just playing it safe- the DSCC has committed at least $2.3 million defending Bennet’s seat.

Florida:  Dave Jolly, one of many Republican candidates for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio and the favorite of the GOP establishment in this primary, was recently caught with his pants down so to speak.  Jolly currently represents a congressional district that includes Clearwater which happens to be the Mecca of Scientology, that strange “religion” invented by science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard.  Since they have such a large footprint in his district, one can excuse Jolly for currying their favor.

But now he is running for a statewide office and his ties to Scientology (he has not disavowed them, has attended fundraisers for them, and was their guest of honor at a festival) are proving to be a drag.  To make matters worse, he or someone in his campaign attempted to scrub his Wikipedia page of all references to Scientology.  Brushed off as a careless mistake by Jolly, that contradicts statements made by others in his campaign.

Now there are rumblings that Jolly should drop out of the Senate race.  Stay tuned in May as this already important race is getting more interesting by the month.

Illinois:  Mark Kirk released the results of an internal poll showing him trailing Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth by three points, 43-40.  Some may snicker at an internal poll showing you down, but considering that even though Kirk enters the race the underdog, it may prove to be closer than some may have thought.

And speaking of Kirk, it is a shame that no serious primary opponent took this clown on and won because there sure does not be much light between him and most Democrats.  He is one of only two Republicans to break ranks and insist that Merrick Garland be given a hearing and vote.  His advocacy has been so strong that Obama even thanked him.  And he joined with five very liberal Democrats calling on the NBA to move their All-Star game out of Charlotte in 2017.  He claims to be “himself”, an “independent thinker.”  Actually, no- he’s a Democrat in disguise.  Losing this seat won’t mean any difference since there is a de facto Democrat in it already.  He makes Susan Collins look downright conservative!

Indiana:  Marlin Stutzman faces Todd Young in the May 3rd primary for the GOP to replace outgoing Senator Dan Coates.  Stutzman is running commercials depicting Young as being a follow-the-leader Republican.

Meanwhile, stories have surfaced that Stutzman billed his campaign for air fare and hotels for an apparent family vacation in California.  This is not the first time Stutzman has faced these accusations.  The primary is May 3rd in Indiana, so this race will be settled soon.  Most polls indicate a Young victory although Democrats are hoping it will be Stutzman who they consider the weaker opponent.

Iowa:  Democrats seem really high on ex-Lt. Governor Patty Judge.  After one month in the race, she raised $215,000 compared to her Democratic primary opponent Rob Hogg who pulled in only $58,000 over three months.  Even though she is trying to portray Charles Grassley as an obstructionist Republican, it is still too early in this race to see any movement.  And the DSCC endorsed Judge over Hogg to signal to donors for more money.

Kansas: GOP incumbent Jerry Moran recently broke ranks with fellow Republicans and called for a Senate hearing on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.  That raised the ire of Mike Pompeo to announce that he is considering running in the primary against Moran. The RSCC tried to warn Pompeo off, but he still considered it to such a degree that state treasurer Ron Estes had announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run in Pompeo’s 4th District if he decided to run against Moran.  Estes also made it clear his intention is NOT to challenge Pompeo.  However, the drama was for naught as Pompeo decided not to challenge Moran.

Maryland:  Chris Van Hollen defeated fellow representative Barbara Edwards in a race that, in the end, really was not that close.  On the GOP side, as expected, Kathy Szeliga won her contest in a crowded primary with 36% of the Republican vote.  She is considered by many the most powerful woman in Maryland politics given her position on the powerful state house appropriations committee.  Although Maryland is a solid blue state, it should be remembered that a Republican- Larry Hogan- won the Governor’s race in 2014 in one of the biggest off-the-radar races of that cycle.

Louisiana:  The Club for Growth recently endorsed Republican John Fleming in his bid to succeed David Vitter.  His main foes in the jungle primary are Charles Boustany who many view as too close to the House leadership, and state treasurer John Kennedy.  Rob Maness is probably the closest to Fleming in terms of ideology and may cost Fleming some votes in November making the chances of a December runoff quite likely.

Nevada:  The Senate Leadership Fund is out with a poll showing Joe Heck absolutely crushing Sharron Angle in the GOP primary.  After her disastrous 2010 campaign, this is clearly a shot across the bow against Angle.  The poll showed Heck up an astounding 67-11%.

Pennsylvania:  On the 26th, Pennsylvania Democrats chose Kate McGinty as their candidate to run against GOP incumbent Pat Toomey.  Polls indicated a closer race against opponent Joe Sestak who sought a rematch against Toomey having lost in 2010 by a narrow margin.  McGinty was the favorite of the Democratic establishment and no doubt a late plethora of advertisements may have pushed the needle in her favor.

Wisconsin: A new poll from Loras has Russ Feingold up by nine points which is somewhat of an outlier since previous polls have Republican incumbent Ron Johnson trailing by less.  Remember that a Loras poll in Iowa had Bruce Braley winning in 2014 and they are based in Iowa.  Another poll from St. Norbert’s shows Feingold with a 10 point lead over Johnson.  Again, St. Norbert’s projected a 1-point Scott Walker victory only for him to win by 6.  So, when it comes to inaccuracy, they can join Loras in that category.

Updated Senate ratings chart:

R. Shelby- AL J. McCain- AZ (M. Rubio- FL) OPEN M. Kirk- IL
L. Murkowski- AK (D. Coats- IN)- OPEN K. Ayotte- NH R. Johnson- WI
J. Boozman- AR R. Paul- KY R. Portman- OH
J. Isaakson- GA R. Burr-NC
M. Crapo- ID P. Toomey- PA
C. Grassley- IA
J. Moran- KS
(D. Vitter- LA) OPEN
J. Hoeven- ND
J. Lankford- OK
T. Scott- SC
J. Thune- SD
M. Lee- UT
(B. Boxer- CA)- OPEN M. Bennet- CO (H. Reid- NV)- OPEN
R. Blumenthal-CT (B. Mikulski-MD) OPEN
B. Schatz- HI
C. Schumer- NY
P. Leahy- VT
P. Murray- WA