The Kansas Republican primary for governor remains too close to call. As of Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jeff Colyer (R-KS) trailed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) 40.6%-40.5% — a raw margin of just 191 votes — but thousands of provisional ballots still have to be counted, which could alter the outcome. However, if Colyer’s deficit holds, it would be notable because it would mark the first primary loss for an incumbent governor in 2018. Granted, Colyer is a “successor incumbent,” having moved from the lieutenant governorship to the governorship.
From 1914 to 2016, presidential cycles featured a higher rate of straight-ticket outcomes than midterm elections, with 74% of presidential-Senate results going for the same party in presidential years. Midterm cycles showed more splits, with just 61% of presidential-Senate results won by the same party. In 21 of 25 midterm cycles that followed a presidential election in the 1913-2016 period, the share of split-ticket presidential-Senate results increased compared to the share in the previous presidential cycle.
Arizona and Iowa have few obvious things in common, but they do both have incumbent Republican governors seeking election in November. Another commonality is that the Crystal Ball now views both states’ gubernatorial contests as increasingly competitive, prompting ratings changes that move the Arizona race from Likely Republican to Leans Republican and the Iowa race from Leans Republican to Toss-up. In addition to these two changes, we are also shifting Illinois’ gubernatorial contest from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic, another downgrade for Republicans.
If he does, the former coal magnate will be just the latest in a long line of Senate primary losers to run in a general election.
As in other Republican primaries around the country, the Virginia primary for Senate features candidates racing to show the most support for President Donald Trump. All three entrants — Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R), state Del. Nick Freitas (R), and minister E.W. Jackson (R) — back the president, but offer contrasts in intensity of support and style. Stewart has claimed in the past that he was “Trump before Trump,” and served for a time as chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Virginia (he was later fired). Jackson rivals Stewart in the earnestness of his stated support for the president, including in an ad where Jackson says, “Unlike Tim Kaine, I’ll be a senator who stands with President Trump instead of against him.” Freitas has been a less vocal Trump backer, though a review of Freitas’ social media and media appearances suggests that he does back Trump. But Freitas’ campaign principally emphasizes his commitment to limited government (e.g. his campaign hashtag is #LibertyRising) and his overall conservatism. Understandably, Freitas has drawn endorsements from more libertarian-minded, small-government Republicans such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) as well as the libertarian-conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks.
In the aftermath of now-Rep. Conor Lamb’s (D) special election victory on March 13, a constant refrain has been the stated fear among Republicans that the result would precipitate more retirements among GOP members in the U.S. House. As the Crystal Ball has noted in the past, open seats held by the president’s party in midterm elections have typically seen large average swings toward the opposition, making retirements a serious concern for the party in the White House. Because of the strength of incumbency, political parties have a more difficult time retaining a seat it controls when its incumbent does not seek reelection. That is, “seat maintenance” becomes harder for the incumbent party, in part because it now has to defend an exposed seat. Looking ahead to this November, the number of additional Republican retirements could be a critical factor in determining whether the GOP maintains its majority in the House. As a result, we wondered the following: How bad is the GOP retirement picture compared to past midterm cycles going back to 1974, and how many additional Republican retirements might occur this cycle?
This past Tuesday marked the 75th time a Democrat and a Republican faced off in a special election for a state or federal office since President Donald Trump won the 2016 election. The result in District 35 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a solidly Democratic seat in the Pittsburgh area won easily by a Democrat, did not tell us much on its own. Yet taken as a whole, the 75 special elections and the regular elections in New Jersey and Virginia in November 2017 may offer some clues as to how the political environment is developing as we head toward November 2018.
On Tuesday, now-former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. As we discussed in our last newsletter for 2017, Franken’s resignation means that Minnesota will hold a special election for Senate this coming November, which will take place at the same time as the regular election for the state’s other Senate seat (a “double-barrel” election).
Sen. Al Franken’s (D) impending resignation due to sexual harassment allegations will create a vacancy in Minnesota’s Class II Senate seat, precipitating a special election in the North Star State next November. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced last week that he would name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) to the post, and Smith said that she intends to run in the 2018 special election for the remainder of Franken’s term (the seat is due to be regularly contested in 2020). Because Franken did not immediately resign, there was some speculation that he might reconsider leaving office — among others, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants Franken to remain in the Senate — but his spokesman said on Wednesday that Franken intends to resign on Jan. 2, 2018, and that Smith will be sworn into office on Jan. 3. This article is based on the assumption that Franken will indeed resign.
While November’s political spotlight will shine brightest on the gubernatorial contest at the top of the Virginia ticket between former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), there will also be many interesting races down-ballot in the Old Dominion on Election Day. Not only will there be elections for the commonwealth’s two other statewide offices — lieutenant governor and attorney general — but all 100 House of Delegates seats will also be up for grabs. The General Assembly’s lower house will probably look a little different after Nov. 7, but the question is, how different?