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Five states will hold primary elections this Tuesday.
A Senate election and some primaries in the House races are on tap. I say “some primaries” because some district match-ups come November are already established through Virginia’s convention system. In the Senate race is the somewhat deranged looking Democratic incumbent (and Hillary’s running mate in 2016) Tim Kaine who faces no primary opposition. On the GOP side are state delegate Nick Freitas, E.W. Jackson and Corey Stewart. Freitas has the endorsement of the NRA and has some outside help from a PAC associated with Rand Paul. It would be great to take out the second half of the Clinton-Kaine ticket from 2016. Kaine sports a precarious 45% approval rating (against 35% disapproval), so there is something for the GOP candidate to build upon. However, in general election hypothetical match up polling (of which there are few), Kaine comes out on top by at least 20 points against any of the three Republicans. In GOP primary polling, Stewart appears the front runner although there are a ton of undecided voters.
The current House delegation favors the GOP 7-4, but with two Republican incumbents retiring, things could get interesting here. Republican Scott Taylor in the 2nd has been targeted by the Democrats and has drawn not only a primary challenge, but five Democrats to their primary. In the tumultuous 5th, Leslie Cockburn received enough votes in the Democratic convention to lock up her candidacy against GOP incumbent Tom Garrett. However, his rambling “I’m leaving…no, I’m running…no I’m retiring to deal with alcoholism” has left the GOP in a lurch. A team of Republicans will nominate a candidate although they may be reluctant to appoint a state legislator given their precarious partisan advantages in the both the House of Delegates and state senate.
Bob Goodlatte leaves the House in the 6th, but this is safe GOP territory, so no need for worry. One race to watch will be the 10th District where GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock faces not only a primary opponent, but 10 Democrats have entered the fray on the other side. This is one of those bell weather districts to watch in November.
A Governor’s race and seven House races (the GOP holds the current advantage 6-1) will be featured in South Carolina. In the Governor’s race, current GOP incumbent Henry McMaster ascended to the throne when Nikki Haley left for the UN. He is among five candidates in the GOP primary with Catherine Templeton being his biggest foe. Since South Carolina uses a runoff system (to be held on June 26th), there is always the possibiity McMaster will have to go through that process. Only one of six polls shows him gaining 50%+ of the vote. There are three Democrats on their primary ballot and no clear front runner so they too might have to go through the runoff process some June 26th. Regardless, most polling shows the GOP retaining this Governor’s mansion come November and with McMaster entering the race with a 50% approval rating in a state that approves of Trump 53%, this should be a safe race.
None of the GOP House incumbents appear at risk although there is some noise in the First where Mike Sanford may face some stiff primary opposition. Trey Gowdy is vacating the GOP-safe 4th district and with 12 Republicans in the primary, the only question is whether any can reach that 50% threshold.
Democratic incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp is considered vulnerable in 2018 and the GOP got their man when Rep. Kevin Cramer announced he would run for her Senate seat. Heitkamp has to walk a tightrope in red North Dakota where Trump has a 56% approval rating. Her approval rating is a respectable 47%. Scant polling shows a very tight general election race. Three Republicans will vie for the chance to take on Democrat Mac Schneider in November in the open House seat race.
An open gubernatorial race and one of two Congressional districts are drawing interest in Maine in 2018. That and ranked choice voting will occur for the first time after some legal wrangling cleared the way. Paul LePage, the incumbent GOP Governor, is term-limited and leaves with a 41% approval rating which mirrors Trump’s 42% in Maine. In some ways, LePage was Trump before Trump with his bombastic statements. Four Republicans will be on the ballot with businessman Shawn Moody running ahead at this point. On the Democratic side, state attorney general Janet Mills will be the likely winner in their primary. She and LePage have a history of animosity between them.
Bruce Poliquin is a rarity in New England- the only GOP member of the House from that region. He represents the 2nd District. Three Democrats are in their primary and Poliquin faces no primary opposition. This district has been targeted by the Democrats.
Nevada has an electoral trifecta this year and all the races are interesting. Brian Sandoval is term-limited as Governor and leaves office with a healthy 57% approval rating. On the GOP side, it appears as if state attorney general Adam Laxalt is the man to beat although state treasurer Dan Schwartz should not be counted out. On the Democratic side, it comes down to Christine Giunchigliani, vice chair of the Clark County Commission or Steve Sisolak, chairman of that Commission. In hypothetical polling, Laxalt beats Sisolak by a slender 3 points and the other by an average of 6 points. Being so popular, an endorsement from Sandoval would go a long way.
In the Senate race, GOP incumbent Dean Heller’s problems start with his dismal 37% approval rating (against 40% disapproval). In fact, it is below Trump’s 45% rating in Nevada and Heller, if you remember, was taken to task by Trump over Obamacare repeal. Heller faces token primary opposition. On the other side, most pundits believe House member Jacky Rosen will face Heller in November. Rosen has a fan in Harry Reid. In hypothetical match-up polling, Heller has his work cut out for him as Rosen leads by an average of 2.6 points indicating a very tight race in November. Of course, Rosen has to fight off Jesse Sbaih who is no stranger to Nevada politics and it should be interesting to see where Black Lives Matters activist Allen Rheinhart ends up in the voting.
Three of the four Congressional districts will have some drama. In the 2nd, GOP incumbent Mark Amodei will face Sharron Angle in a primary challenge while six Democrats are looking for the chance to take the GOP winner on in November. With Rosen leaving the 3rd for the Senate run, an open race has attracted 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats. The biggest name on the GOP side is Danny Tarkanian who, along with Angle, seem to run for every conceivable political office in Nevada. However, Scott Hammond has received the endorsement of the NRA on the GOP side while Susie Lee is considered the strongest on the Democratic side.
In the 4th District, Democrat Ruben Kihuen announced his retirement after allegations of sexual abuse and harassment arose against him. Steve Horsford, a former Congressman seeking his old seat, has received the endorsement of the powerful Culinary Union as well as Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Crescent Hardy is back to also reclaim his old seat for the Republicans. If one remembers, it was Kihuen who unseated Hardy who unseated Horsford after the 4th was created in the wake of the 2010 Census.
Next: We take a one week break before four primaries on June 26th- Maryland, Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma.