Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Entering Primary Season’s Final Stretch

In Governor, House, Senate on July 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

As we enter the primary season’s final stretch, 19 states still have yet to choose their 2014 nominees. The first nine days of August will bring voters to the polls in a half-dozen states with much to be decided.

August 5

The most active day is the first Tuesday in August. Four states are holding primaries, featuring one key Senate nomination battle.

In Kansas, Sen. Pat Roberts (R) faces a GOP challenge from physician Milton Wolf. Roberts has made several mis-steps during the campaign, including admitting that he doesn’t own property in his state, possessing a Virginia personalized license plate that identifies him as the Kansas senator, and saying that he returns home, “every time he has an opponent.” Despite the gaffes, Dr. Wolf appears to be a flawed candidate and is not likely to deny Roberts renomination.

In the 4th Congressional District, two-term Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) confronts a challenge from the man he succeeded in the House, former-Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R). A new poll places the ex-congressman just seven points behind the incumbent, but all signs still point to a Pompeo victory on Aug. 5. The resource advantage is heavily in the incumbent’s favor.

But the big story of the evening likely comes from the Wolverine State of Michigan. Though the Senate and governor’s nominations are sewn up, a great deal remains contested at the congressional level. In the Grand Rapids-anchored 3rd District, two-term Rep. Justin Amash (R), with heavy support from the Club for Growth, defends his seat against a strong challenge from businessman Brian Ellis. The latter has attracted major support including the US Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Right to Life organizations. The outcome is expected to be close.

In central Michigan’s 4th District, state Sen. John Moolenaar and businessman Paul Mitchell battle for the right to succeed retiring House Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-Midland).

In the open 8th CD, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) retiring, former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has the inside track to the Republican nomination against state Rep. Tom McMillan. The Democratic nominee will be Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing.

For the Wayne-Oakland County 11th District, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford) is on the verge of losing the party nomination to the better funded and prepared local attorney David Trott. Bentivolio won the seat two years ago when then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) was unexpectedly disqualified from the ballot. Expect the incumbent to be unseated here.

Traveling to one of the Detroit seats, Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-Bloomfield Township) 14th District successor will be chosen in this Democratic primary. The top candidates appear to be former Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence. The Democratic nominee will carry the seat in November.

Turning to Washington, the main race is the battle to succeed retiring House Natural Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-Yakima). Four candidates are battling to advance to the general election. Washington has a jungle primary format, meaning the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to November. The main question revolves around whether two Republicans will qualify or if a Democrat sneaks through to the general election.

August 7

In the nation’s only Thursday primary, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) faces a Tea Party-infused Republican primary challenge from Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr. Energized by Chris McDaniel’s showing in Mississippi, it is this race that’s becoming the top remaining Senate intra-party contest. Alexander is expected to prevail – the fact that six challengers on are the ballot will help the incumbent because the anti-Alexander vote will be split several ways – but the margin will be interesting.

The two main House challenges come in Districts 3 and 4. In the Chattanooga-based 3rd CD, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) again faces businessman Weston Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R). With support from a strong former candidate who challenged Fleischmann in 2012, the congressman is favored to prevail. Scandal-tainted Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R), however, may find a different fate. Here, state Sen. Jim Tracy is his top challenger but will six candidates opposing DesJarlais allow the vote to be split in such a way that the incumbent wins with a small plurality?

August 9

The only primary on this day occurs in Hawaii. There, Gov. Neil Abercrombie is in a surprisingly difficult Democratic primary with state Sen. David Ige. Abercrombie’s approval ratings are poor, even among Democrats, so this challenge is real despite the disparity in campaign resources that greatly favors the governor.

The Senate Democratic nomination will also be settled. Appointed Sen. Brian Schatz defends his seat against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu). This is the top Democratic senatorial primary in the country. Schatz has run the stronger campaign, but the outcome is unclear in this notoriously difficult state to poll.

The open 1st District features a seven-person Democratic primary. The winner faces former Rep. Charles Djou (R) in the general election. State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is viewed to be the favorite, but state Rep. Mark Takai has positioned himself to score an upset.

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