Election Preview: 2018 Connecticut Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Elections: August 14th, 2018
General Elections: November 6th, 2018

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Governor Dan Malloy (D-CT)

In April 2017, Governor Dan Malloy (D) announced he would not seek a third term. According to a February Morning Consult poll, Malloy had a 23-percent approval rating, the second lowest of any governor. In lieu of his low job performance, more than 20 candidates have expressed interest to run as his successor.

In the Democratic primary, eight candidates are seeking the nomination in a muddled field with no clear favorite. However, three candidates have strong resumes that could make them viable contenders. Susan Bysiewicz, a three-term Connecticut Secretary of State and 2012 U.S. Senate primary candidate, is the only candidate of either party to previously hold statewide office. Former State Senator Jonathan Harris jumped into the primary in late February 2018. An experienced political operative in Connecticut, Harris served as the state’s executive director of the Democratic Party during Malloy’s reelection bid in 2014, and then oversaw the State Department of Consumer Protection. Harris has gained support from almost 85 Democratic organizations and 60 individual leaders across different sectors.

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Former CT State Senator Jonathan Harris

Businessman and 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont is also seeking the Democratic nomination. Lamont came out as an early supporter of Barack Obama in 2008, serving as his campaign’s co-chair in Connecticut. He sought the 2010 Democratic nomination for governor but was unsuccessful.  He’s advocated for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, establishing paid family and medical leave rules, and strong protections against workplace harassment.  Others seeking the nomination include Sean Connolly, a former state Commissioner for Veterans Affairs and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve; Steve Cassano, Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate; Joe Ganim, Mayor of Bridgeport; Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and State Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney.

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Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton

In the Republican primary, another crowded field has made it difficult for a favorite to emerge. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a 2014 gubernatorial candidate with an impressive record, has good chance of winning. Before becoming mayor, Boughton represented his district in the state house while also serving six years in the U.S. Army Reserve. While she has not officially announced her candidacy, Antonietta “Toni” Boucher has expressed interest in running. She’s a member of the Connecticut Senate where she has worked on education and transportation committees as deputy minority leader. Another strong candidate is Bob Stefanowski, a former General Electric division chief, and Chief Officer of the European Corporate Financial Services Branch. He advocates for phasing out income tax, and state tax, reduce spending, and enacting a taxpayer bill of rights.

Other GOP nominees include Mike Handler, 2014 State Treasurer nominee; Tim Herbst, Shelton Mayor; Mark Lauretti, attorney; Peter Lumaj, private citizen; Eric Mastroianni, businessman; Stephen Obsitnik, state representative; Prasad Srinivasan, hedge fund manager; New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart; and former United States Comptroller General David Walker.

Inside Elections has categorized the 2018 gubernatorial race as “lean Democratic,” while the Cook Political Report has said it’s a “toss-up.”

Election Preview: Michigan Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Date: May 15, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

After two terms as Michigan’s chief executive, Republican Rick Snyder will leave office with some of the lowest approval ratings in the United States. His handling of the Flint water crisis and financial mismanagement have plagued his administration. His performance has opened the door for Democrats, while some potential Republicans look to distance themselves from his tenure. The gubernatorial race in Michigan could become one of the tightest races in the 2018 midterms. Republicans have controlled state executive offices and the state legislature since 2011, while Democrats have held the state’s two Senate seats since 2001.

In the Democratic primary, Gretchen Whitmer, a former state senate minority leader from 2011 to 2015, remains the favorite. She has received endorsements from the United Auto Workers, the Michigan teamsters, the Michigan Education Association, the American Federation of State Council and Municipal Employees (the Great Lakes State has nearly 400,000 organized labor members). Whitmer’s campaign message is centered on workers’ rights, childcare and fiscal responsibility. Her closest challenger is Abdul El-Sayed, a Rhodes Scholar, medical doctor and former director of the Detroit Health Department. The 33-year-old is running to the left of Whitmer with a campaign focused on investments in the economy, education, and the environment. However, issues over El-Sayed’s state residency could upend his candidacy. Michigan law stipulates that a gubernatorial candidate must remain a qualified voter in the state for four years before an election. As a professor at Columbia University in New York City in 2014, El-Sayed said he maintained legal residence by owning a condominium in Michigan.

Trailing behind El-Sayed is William Cobbs, a retired Xerox executive and navy veteran who wants to improve education and the state’s infrastructure. Also running is Shri Thanedar, a businessman and entrepreneur who owns and manages several companies. He’s already contributed $6 million to his own campaign and wants to help small businesses grow by ending corporate welfare.

In the GOP race, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley have emerged as the two favorites. Snyder has already endorsed Calley, while President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have backed Schuette. Calley has begun touting his work to cut corporate taxes, while Schuette has pledged to create jobs. Snyder’s endorsement will certainly help Calley with fundraising opportunities. However, the attorney general has the support of a Republican president whose economic message resonated with the region’s blue collar workforce. Schuette leads in early polling, but his margin remains slim.

Also running in the GOP primary is State Senator Patrick Colbeck, Dr. Jim Hines, retired General Motors employee Earl Lackie, and Afghanistan Army veteran Evan Space.

According to a January poll among 600 voters by The Detroit News, Whitmer leads Schuette by seven points in a hypothetical matchup. In a matchup with El-Sayed, Schuette lead 37 to 33 percent. Furthermore, 62 percent of voters said they knew Schuette, compared to 42 percent for Calley. In the Democratic side, 35 percent knew Whitmer’s name, compared with 34 percent for El-Sayed.

According to the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections, the general election is considered a toss-up.

Election Recap: 2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Primary

Illinois gubernatorial candidates Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker will square off in the November general election after clinching their party’s respective nominations Tuesday night. Pritzker easily took the Democratic field, defeating his closest competitors by a 20-point margin. As the incumbent, Governor Rauner, narrowly fended off a challenge from his political right by State Representative Jeanne Ives. Rauner took 51.6 percent of the vote, while Ives had 48.4 percent, making it far tighter than pollsters had originally predicted. The Governor performed well in Cook County, while Ives picked up support in the counties outside Chicago and in rural regions.

However, Rauner’s primary performance could spell trouble. Illinois has a strong base of Democratic support, and a low-recognition candidate like Ives demonstrates the Governor’s political vulnerability.

Pritzker, who faced allegation surrounding his offshore banking accounts, as well as private FBI tapes, had outperformed expectations. With the support of powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and an energized Democratic base, Pritzker sailed to victory with 45 percent of the vote among five other candidates. State Senator Daniel Biss captured around 27 percent, while Chris Kennedy had 24 percent.

Rauner versus Pritzker, a multimillionaire and a billionaire, respectively, has the ability to become the most expensive gubernatorial race in American history. They have already flooded the Land of Lincoln with a combined $150 million in campaign cash, less than seven months before the general election (the record was set in 2010, when Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman after they raised a combined $280 million to run for Governor of California).

For more information on the Illinois gubernatorial race, check out our primary preview.

 

2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Primary Preview

Primary: March 20, 2018

General Elections: November 6, 2018

The 2018 Illinois gubernatorial contest may become the most expensive governor’s race in American history. A multimillionaire incumbent and multibillionaire challenger have already flooded the Land of Lincoln with $180 million in campaign cash ahead of the primary. With eight months left until the general election, the current rate of spending will likely break the record before November (the record was set in 2010, when Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman after they raised a combined $280 million to run for Governor of California).

Meanwhile, Illinois has serious budget issues, with nearly $9 billion in past due bills.

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Governor Bruce Rauner

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will seek re-election under dismal circumstances. He’s among the most unpopular governors in America, with a 31-percent approval rating, according to a February Morning Consult poll. Rauner defeated Democrat Governor Pat Quinn in 2014, after riding a business-friendly message focused on streamlining government. Rauner, a former private equity manager worth several hundred million dollars, has delivered on few campaign promises since then. He’s also antagonized the state’s financial woes by vetoing legislation from the Democratic-controlled state house. In 2015, he tried to close a $1.5 billion budget gap by cutting a number of government programs, which angered many Democrats. Currently, the Illinois credit rating remains one level above junk.

Fortunately for Rauner, his missteps might not cost the him office. According to a February poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, Rauner leads State Representative Jeanne Ives, 51-31 percent. With a sample of 259 Republican voters, more than 18 percent remained undecided.

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State Representative Jeanne Ives

Ives, a three-term assemblywoman from the western Chicago suburbs, has crafted a campaign targeting social conservatives in down state Illinois. She’s criticized Rauner for failing to deliver on spending cuts or holding government agencies accountable. In a controversial television advertisement, a pro-Ives group attacked Rauner on policies ranging from transgender bathrooms to sanctuary cities. The Republican Party has increased its presence in rural Illinois in recent years, which could benefit Ives. However, Rauner has far outspent Ives, raising more than $103 million, with more than half coming from his own fortune. Conversely, Ives has only reached $3.8 million, placing her in an uphill battle.

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J.B. Pritzker

The top Democratic nominee, J.B. Pritzker, is a multi-billionaire scion from a powerful Chicago family.  Pritzker has been a major figure in Democratic fundraising circles, while his older sister, Penny Pritzker, served as President Barack Obama’s Commerce Secretary during his second-term. With a personal wealth of $3.5 billion, Pritzker has used more than $63 million of his own money for the campaign. Yet his finances have become a point of contention: A March news story highlighted his offshore bank accounts, he has not yet released his tax returns, and he was caught on an FBI wiretap in 2008 discussing campaign funding and available statewide offices with former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich. Blagojevich, was sentenced to 14 years in jail on federal corruption charges after he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat in 2008.

Pritzker also maintains a close relationship with Michael Madigan, Illinois House Speaker and Chairman of the State Democratic Party. Madigan is the longest-serving leader in any federal or state legislative body in U.S. history. He’s among the most powerful politicians in Illinois, known for steamrolling opponents and wielding heavy influence over legislation. His shadow looms large in this primary, even though allegations connecting him to impropriety have emerged.

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State Senator Daniel Bliss

In the SIU poll, which sampled 472 voters, Pritzker has 31 percent support among Democrats, with nearly a quarter undecided. Trailing behind the billionaire is State Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston, a progressive candidate who wants to collect tax money from financial transactions on the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. He once ran a Super PAC for Madigan, whose funding apparatus gave Biss more than $220,000 to help him win in 2010. However, his liberal bona fides have come under fire after he cosponsored a bill limiting the growth of retirement annuities for state employee pensions. The Illinois State Supreme Court struck down the legislation on constitutional grounds in 2015. Biss said he regrets the co-sponsorship but he still wants to reduce debts in the state retirement system. With roughly $5 million in campaign funding, he falls well short of Pritzker’s resources.

With 17 percent in the SIU poll, Chris Kennedy has emerged as a dark horse contender. As the son of Robert F. Kennedy, and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Chris has made gun control and mental health a centerpiece of his candidacy. He also wants to reform the state property tax system, calling it “a racket” in public. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois from 2012 to 2015. He was President of Merchandise Mart Properties, a commercial management firm based in Chicago.

Three other candidates have received single digit polling numbers: Bob Diabler, a Madison County school superintendent located west of St. Louis; Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence group Cease Fire Illinois; and Dr. Robert Marshall, a radiologist and Vietnam veteran who wants to divide Illinois into three separate states—Chicago, Chicago suburbs and rest of the state.

The Cook Political Report has categorized the general election as a toss-up, while Inside Elections has it tilting towards Democrats.

 

 

Pennsylvania Special Election Recap

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Conor Lamb

Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory over Republican Rick Saccone in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, held Tuesday, March 13th. Less than 600 votes separate the two candidates in a race where more than 227,000 votes were cast. Saccone has not yet ceded the race, while absentee ballots continue to trickle in.

Republican Party officials have already said they will request a recount. They’ve also sought to impound all voting machines citing voter irregularities.

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Rick Saccone

This special election—like others before—was billed as a litmus test for the GOP ahead of the 2018 midterms in November. The district, which encompasses part of Pittsburgh’s suburbs and stretches into rural southwestern Pennsylvania, supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in the 2016 election. Registered Democrats have a large presence, but the district was considered safely Republican for more than a decade. Republican congressman Tim Murphy held the seat since 2003, until allegations surfaced of an extramarital affair and texts urging his mistress to have an abortion appeared in the media. Murphy resigned from office in October 2017.

Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and U.S. Attorney, campaigned as a moderate Democrat who supported gun rights and promised to protect social safety nets. Throughout his campaign, Lamb said he wouldn’t support Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, while promising to back the President when it benefited the district. As a state representative, Saccone ran as a staunch supporter of the Trump agenda. The former Air Force officer had become known in the region for his firebrand conservatism.

Lamb outspent Saccone by nearly a five-to-one margin. According to pre-special election FEC filings, Lamb spent $3.1 million while Saccone doled out roughly $615,000.  Outside groups spent more than $13 million, with more than 80 percent supporting Saccone.

A new court-ordered congressional map will eliminate the 18th district in November. As a result, Saccone and Lamb could run again in separate districts during the 2018 midterms.

DMGS will continue to monitor this and provide updates as they develop.

Election Preview: 2018 Ohio Gubernatorial Primary

 Primary Election: May 6, 2018

General Election: November 6, 2018

Republican Governor John Kasich will leave office at the end of 2018, as rumors of a potential 2020 presidential bid swirl. Governor Kasich’s pending departure creates an opportunity for several candidates in both parties to serve as chief executive of a bellwether state.

Two contenders have emerged in the Ohio Republican Primary, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor.  According to a January poll form the 1984 Society, a nonprofit bipartisan group of former Ohio Senators and Senate employees, DeWine leads Taylor by 40 points in the GOP primary. The poll included a sample of 800 likely voters with 32 percent undecided. DeWine’s strong showing comes after U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci dropped out in December to pursue a Senate seat. Meanwhile, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ended his campaign in November to join the DeWine ticket as the Lieutenant Governor.

DeWine has served in public office for more than 40 years.  As a former Senator, Congressman, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and State Senator, DeWine’s name recognition will certainly prove advantageous in the primary. DeWine and Husted have already locked up large swaths of donors and support, netting $10.8 million in cash. Moreover, the Ohio Republican Party endorsed his campaign in February during their central committee meeting.

During her speech to the committee, Taylor called the conference “Mike DeWine’s living room” and said “This absolutely represents the good ole’ boy career politician establishment that wants to have things their way.”

As her speech illustrates, Taylor has positioned herself as a conservative outsider competing against a well-established Republican. She has tapped Cincinnati businessman Nathan Estruth to serve as her running mate and has enlisted Axiom Strategies, a public affairs company founded by Jeff Roe. Axiom gained notoriety working with Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016. While her chances remain slim, Axiom could prove valuable for identifying funding sources outside Ohio.

Taylor could also out flank DeWine from the right. The Attorney General has a long record of policy decisions, including some controversial stances on guns which Taylor could expose. She is also making hay over DeWine’s refusal to debate (the Democratic party has hosted four debates, while the GOP has provided none). An early endorsement from Kasich could turn Trump Republicans against her and without an open forum to attack DeWine’s record, it will become difficult to close the gap.

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Cordray and Sutton

In the Democratic primary, four candidates from diverse backgrounds have emerged, but none have become the clear cut favorite. Richard Cordray, the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, led all Democratic nominees with 24 percent in the 1984 Society poll, while 54 percent remain undecided. Prior to the poll, Cordray announced that former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton would join his ticket. Sutton was viewed as Cordray’s biggest challenger, but the move did little to separate him from the pack. As a former Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer, Cordray worked in President Barack Obama’s administration and has a personal relationship with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. His campaign has focused on kitchen table issues like jobs, consumer protection, and wages.

If Cordray does win the nomination, he faces a big challenge in defeating DeWine. According to the 1984 Society poll, Cordray is down 21 points to DeWine in a head-to-head matchup, with only 23 percent undecided.

Ohio_Tara Samples and Dennis Kucinich
Kucinich and Samples on the Campaign Trail

Trailing behind Cordray in the Democratic race is Dennis Kucinich, with roughly 16 percent. The former Cleveland Mayor and congressman has strong ties to Northeast Ohio, where much of the Democratic vote in Ohio is concentrated. His progressive record hinges on a populist economic message that could attract Democrats who voted for Trump. His liberal credentials could also prove beneficial in a midterm energized by the base. Kucinich has tapped Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples to serve as his running mate.

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State Senator Joe Schiavoni

While he only has four percent in the 1984 Society poll, State Senator Joe Schiavoni remains a strong contender with a high ceiling. His campaign has focused on reforming charter schools, protecting worker rights, maintaining Medicaid expansion and implementing gun control measures. He is also pushing for more reliable internet access in rural Ohio.

A 38-year-old Democratic lawmaker from the Youngstown area, Schiavoni has blue collar appeal in an area popular with Trump. Schiavoni, a former Golden Gloves champion, is the only Democrat to serve in statewide office during Kasich’s second term. Moreover, being a candidate outside the “party establishment,” Schiavoni has portrayed himself as a fresh face for a party seeking relevance in Ohio again (Republicans have controlled the Governor, state house and senate since 2010). Yet, spreading his campaign’s message will require more exposure and resources. Schiavoni has selected Stephanie Dodd, a former member of the Ohio Board of Education and operator of a nonprofit that specializes in fundraising and event planning, to serve as his running mate.

Trailing behind Schiavoni is Ohio State Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, a pro-life Democrat from Chagrin Falls. O’Neill wants to legalize marijuana and use the tax revenue to re-open state mental health hospitals. O’Neill created controversy in December when he posted on Facebook that he had slept with 50 women throughout his life. He currently has three percent support.

During a March 7 debate in Toledo, all of the Democratic candidates attacked Cordray as the party favorite for his decision to accept $200,000 from lawyers and lobbyists. Kucinich and O’Neil also attacked his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Schiavoni then went after Kucinich for meeting with Syrian Dictator Bashar Al Assad in 2017 after he had used chemical weapons to kill his own people. The former mayor defended the visit saying it was in the interest of peace.  All the nominees said they would veto any right-to-work legislation. Kucinich and O’Neill called for full legalization of marijuana, while Cordray said Ohio should only take that step with a statewide vote.

Every candidate said they would work with Trump when he is right and oppose him when he is wrong.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections has labeled the race as leaning Republican.

 

Election Recap: Texas Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: March 6th, 2018

Primary Runoff: May 22nd, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018 

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Andrew White

Texas gubernatorial candidates Lupe Valdez and Andrew White finished first and second, respectively, in the state’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, March 7th. Because neither candidate finished with more than 50 percent, the two will have a run-off to determine who will receive the nomination before the general election. Valdez, a former Dallas County Sheriff, captured 42.9 percent of the vote, while White, an investment banker and the son of former Governor Bill White, received 27.4 percent. Several other Democratic candidates finished far behind Valdez and White.

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Lupe Valdez

Valdez put up big numbers in the Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio areas. She collected all the southwestern counties where her campaign ran Spanish-language radio advertisements. White performed well throughout the Gulf Coast and Houston regions. Prior to the primary, White was buttressed by newspaper endorsements from The Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News and The San Antonio Express-News. Valdez has countered with support from the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Texas Democrats cast more than a million ballots, the highest primary total since 2002. The turnout fueled hopes for a blue wave in November, but the Democratic gubernatorial nominee will have an uphill battle usurping Republican Governor Greg Abbott. In the GOP race, Abbot received more than 90 percent support, with the closest challenger garnering only eight percent. The first-term governor remains one of the most popular in the country. Abbot currently has more than $41 million to help stem a Democratic challenger in the general election.

Meanwhile, Valdez’s campaign has only netted $125,000 since December. White has raised more than $1.5 million, much of which remains in his war-chest for the run-off primary later this spring.

Read more about the Texas gubernatorial primary and other races by visiting our Capitol Commentary Blog.