August primary season continues today with nomination elections occurring in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming.
The Alaska primary is not a major event because the general elections are basically set. Here, Independent candidates have the option of coalescing with a major party, which has a major effect upon the state’s politics. This Independent/Democrat situation is likely to occur in the Senate race, as favored candidate Al Gross, an Anchorage surgeon, will run as an Independent but coalesce with the Democrats. Therefore, regardless of what happens in today’s primary, Dr. Gross is likely to have ballot position in the general election.
Sen. Dan Sullivan* (R) is seeking a second term. Several early polls found a tight race, but the latest survey, from the Alaska Survey Research firm (6/23/7-7; 663 AK likely voters), found the Senator running ahead of Dr. Gross by 13 percentage points, 53-40%. At a commensurate time, Public Policy Polling (7/7-8; 1,081 AK voters via automated response device) found a five-point spread, with Sen. Sullivan holding only a 39-34% edge.
The latter PPP poll is suspect because Sen. Sullivan, as an incumbent, has an abnormally low ballot test standing, especially when comparing it to the Alaska Survey Research data. Additionally, when asked about President Donald Trump’s job approval, the nation’s chief executive scored a 46:49% favorable to unfavorable rating. Also asked of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), her ratio was a surprisingly poor 29:55%. Yet, when asked whether the respondents have a higher opinion of President Trump or Sen. Murkowski, by an inconsistent 48-45%, the sampling universe answered Sen. Murkowski.
Sen. Sullivan remains a favorite for re-election, but this race could develop and become of some interest. It is a sleeper race for the Democrats that could come home if a political tsunami forms.
At-large Rep. Don Young* (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House who was originally elected in a 1973 special election, seeks a 25th term and can expect another competitive race. Should Rep. Young be re-elected he will serve a total of 50 years in the House upon completing the succeeding term. That would still place him almost a decade behind the all-time seniority leader, the late Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who served 59 years.
All signs point to a re-match between Rep. Young and Independent Democrat and education reform activist Alyse Galvin, who held the veteran Congressman to a 53-46% win with the latter candidate outspending the incumbent by about $600,000. In this election, Ms. Galvin has already raised more money, $2.26 million, than she did for her entire 2018 effort. In contrast, Rep. Young has brought in a lower $1.36 million, but that too is more than he raised two years ago.
It’s not particularly surprising that polling finds a close race again here. Such has been the case several times during the past decade, but Rep. Young always has pulled ahead at the end to win another election. Two polls gave Ms. Galvin a two- and one-point edge over Mr. Young in May and July, exactly the same as we saw directly before the 2018 election. In fact, the Alaska Research Service found Rep. Young trailing Ms. Galvin by a percentage point in the Oct 26-29 survey, just before he recorded the seven-point victory. Needless to say, Alaska has proven one of the more difficult places to poll in the United States.
With no Senate or gubernatorial campaign on the Florida ballot this year, we look to the 27 US House districts. Of those, we see action in eight CDs today, with two of them almost assuredly choosing congressional successors in two open Republican districts.
In the northern Florida 3rd District, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) is serving his fourth and final term in the House. Back in 2012, he pledged to serve no more than four terms to coincide with the state’s “Eight is Enough” (meaning years in office) term limit law for state legislative candidates.
This race could be a free-for-all finish tonight among the 10 Republican candidates in this 56-40% Trump ’16 district, as raised money is relatively evenly distributed among the top four candidates. Dr. James St. George, however, has added $600,000 of his own funds to the race. The other top candidates appear to be businessman and former congressional staffer Judson Sapp, who has many endorsements from the Florida delegation, former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase, and an ex-Yoho House staff member, Kat Cammack. Tonight’s winner virtually punches his or her ticket to the succeeding Congress in January.
The other open seat comes in southwest Florida, where two-term Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples/Ft. Myers) is retiring. This is another multi-candidate Republican primary for a seat that is even safer than the aforementioned Yoho district (Trump ’16: 60-37%).
This contest has a combination of wealthy self-funders, Marine Corps veteran and businessman Casey Askar who has invested over $3 million into his campaign, and local physician William Figlesthaler who has added $2 million of his own funds. Following are two local officeholders, state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral), and state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples). These four appear to be the top candidates, one of whom will prevail tonight and head to Washington as a member of the new House of Representatives.
The other major attraction tonight is in the state’s 15th District, anchored in the city of Lakeland. Here, freshman Rep. Ross Spano* (R-Dover) has been under investigation for accepting improper loans to his 2018 campaign. The controversy was one major reason that Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin (R) joined the race. Late last week, St. Pete Polls released a Republican primary survey (8/12; 594 FL-15 likely Republican primary voters) revealing a one-point contest, with the Congressman posting 42% as compared to Mr. Franklin’s 41%. The poll obviously suggests that we could see an upset here later this evening.
Other interesting Florida races could develop for the general election including challenges to Reps. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) and Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota). Both Tampa Bay area House members will face well-funded general election competition. Attorney Amanda Makki (R), who has raised over $1.2 million through the July 29 pre-primary financial reporting period, could oppose Mr. Crist, while Rep. Buchanan is assured of battling state Rep. Margaret Good (D-Sarasota). She is unopposed in tonight’s primary and has already raised $1.8 million for her challenger campaign.
Additionally, we will again see tough general election political battles in South Florida, as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) challenges freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami), while a re-match is occurring in the adjoining 27th District between first-term Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Miami) and former Spanish language news personality Maria Elvira Salazar (R).
In the state’s 25th District, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart* (R-Miami) is the only member of the Florida delegation who is already re-elected. Because no one is opposing the nine-term incumbent in either the primary or the general election, his name will not even appear on the ballot as he is already declared the winner.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is retiring after serving four terms and his successor appears to be former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R). The latter woman served four terms in the US House before deciding not to seek re-election in 2016. Previous to her federal service, she was elected to both houses of the state legislature and won two elections as State Treasurer.
Originally, Ms. Lummis entered the Senate race expecting to oppose at-large Rep. Liz Cheney* (R-Wilson/Jackson) and begin in an underdog role. Rep. Cheney, however, decided to stay in the House since she is on the leadership track, and Ms. Lummis was quickly transformed into the front runner.
Ms. Lummis has nine Republican opponents today, but only two have raised over $100,000 and both are far behind the former Congresswoman’s $1.84 million in campaign receipts.
The Republican primary appears to be Ms. Lummis’ race to lose, and if she is successful tonight becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election from a place that was President Trump’s strongest 2016 state. It appears Ms. Lummis is a lock to return to Washington, and this time as a member of the Senate.
Rep. Cheney has minor opposition both in the Republican primary and general election and will breeze to winning a third term in November.
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