Election Digest March 7, 2017

In States On


OH-Gov: On Tuesday, ex-Rep. Betty Sutton announced that she would run for governor of Ohio next year. Sutton is the second Democrat to kick off a bid to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. John Kasich, joining state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni in the primary; a number of other Democrats are also considering.

Sutton represented an Cleveland-area district for three terms, but Republicans drew her into the same conservative seat as GOP Rep. Jim Renacci in 2012. Sutton lost 52-48, running ahead of Obama’s 53-45 deficit here. (Renacci is considering running for governor, so we may see a rematch next November.) After that, Sutton received a federal appointment to serve as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., a position she resigned as the Obama administration ended. Sutton has good ties to labor, which could help her in a competitive primary.


MO-Sen: A number of Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill next year, and Attorney General Josh Hawley is the latest one not to say no. When asked by KBIA about speculation that he’d run, Hawley only chuckled and stated, “All I’m saying is I’d like to be left alone to do my job that I got elected to do.”

As we’ve mentioned before, Hawley was only elected last November, but he’s already shown that he’s very ambitious. In particular, Hawley likes to claim he was deeply involved in winning the Hobby Lobby case that allowed employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage if doing so violated the company’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” (Reality: He didn’t get anywhere near oral arguments before the Supreme Court and was the last attorney listed on the plaintiffs’ brief.)

WV-Sen: Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has a lot to worry about next year in a state that backed Trump by a brutal 68-26, but he doesn’t seem to care if he gets a primary challenge from the left. In fact, Manchin even told a call full of frustrated liberal activists, “What you ought to do is vote me out. Vote me out! I’m not changing. Find somebody else who can beat me and vote me out.” Manchin may believe that he has nothing to worry about in a primary, or that he may even benefit from another chance to show voters that he’s different from national Democrats, and Politico reports that even the senator’s intra-party critics acknowledge there aren’t many people in the state who could pose a real threat to his renomination.

Still, at least one Mountain State Democrat may be interested. Ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin tells Politico that he’s considering, though it’s unclear how serious he is about getting in. (Most of Politico’s article is paywalled.) Goodwin ran for governor last year and lost the primary 51-25 to conservative Democrat Jim Justice, who went on to win in November. Interestingly, his cousin, Carte Goodwin, was Manchin’s chief counsel during Manchin’s governorship, and Manchin appointed him to the Senate in 2010 after longtime incumbent Robert Byrd died; Goodwin did not run in the special election, which Manchin won. Booth Goodwin’s wife, ex-state tourism commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin, is currently running for mayor of Charleston in the May 2018 statewide primary, which will be held the same day as Manchin’s Senate primary.

Whoever emerges with the Democratic nod will be a major GOP target. Rep. Evan Jenkins is reportedly the NRSC’s preferred choice, and CNN reported back in January that he’d decided to run; however, Jenkins insisted that he was still deciding. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has publicly been coy about his plans, though he hasn’t ruled anything out. He seems to be more interested than he’s publicly let on, since Politico’s Daniel Strauss says that Morrisey has been talking to the NRSC and talked to national donors.

Morrisey recently told the conservative Washington Examiner that he has a while before the candidate filing deadline (which in past cycles has been in January), so there’s no sign when he’ll make up his mind. Morrisey considered running for governor last cycle but ended up deferring to then-state Senate President Bill Cole, who lost to Justice, and it’s very possible a similar thing will happen again this time.


MD-Gov: Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz reports that Alec Ross, who is described as a Baltimore tech entrepreneur who was also the State Department’s senior adviser for innovation under Hillary Clinton, is considering seeking the Democratic nod to take on GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. Ross himself hasn’t said he’s interested publicly, though a state senator who spoke to him recently says he thinks Ross is “seriously exploring.”

Kurtz says that Ross likely can’t self-fund, though he may have the connections to raise money. Ross sounds well regarded in political circles, but he’s going to need a lot to go right to win. Several other Democrats are considering, and Hogan has posted strong approval ratings during the first half of his governorship.

NJ-Gov: Ex-Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive, launched his first TV ads back in September of 2015, close to two years before this June’s Democratic primary. Murphy is returning to the airwaves with what his campaign calls a seven-figure cable buy.

After the narrator bashes “special interest politicians” as a picture of termed-out GOP Gov. Chris Christie and the Lower Trenton Bridge (which is not to be confused with the George Washington Bridge of Bridgegate fame) flash by, Murphy declares that he doesn’t owe them anything. As he goes to a diner, Murphy says he’ll use his economic knowledge to help the middle class, “curb Wall Street’s influence with a public bank,” and “end overpriced hedge funds managing public pensions.” Murphy has the support of New Jersey’s powerful Democratic establishment, while none of his primary opponents have anywhere near the amount of money he has available.


IL-13: Perennial candidate David Gill has announced he’ll run for this downstate Illinois seat once again, but as a Democrat rather than as an independent. Normally, we wouldn’t care much about a guy who has unsuccessfully run for Congress four times as a Democrat, and got thrown off the ballot last year after a judge ruled his independent campaign didn’t have enough valid signatures. However, Gill almost beat Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in 2012, so an independent bid could have done Team Blue some damage.

However, it’s not clear if Democrats will seriously target Davis next year. In 2014, Davis beat former Judge Ann Callis 59-41 during the GOP wave, and Democrats fielded a weak candidate last year. The state legislature drew this seat to try and elect a Democrat, but this area has only gotten redder and redder. While Obama won 55-44 in 2008, Romney narrowly took the district in 2012, and Trump carried it 50-44. Still, state Rep. Carol Ammons is considering jumping in, and Davis may be vulnerable in a good year for Democrats.

SC-05: This week, GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan became the first South Carolina member of Congress to make an endorsement in the crowded upcoming special election for this Rock Hill-area seat, and he threw his support behind ex-state party chair Chad Connelly. Duncan is close to ex-Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who resigned to become Trump’s Office of Management and Budget chief. However, most of Duncan’s 3rd District is located in the Greenville media market while only a small portion of the 5th is, so 5th district voters may not be very familiar with Duncan from local TV.


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