Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Razor-Thin Tennessee Results; Walsh; Hawaii, Tomorrow

In Election Analysis, Governor, House, Primary, Senate on August 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Tennessee – Statewide

Sen. Lamar Alexander won renomination last night in Tennessee, and while his margin wasn’t razor-thin, his victory percentage was unimpressive. Scoring just 50 percent in his own Republican primary, Alexander out-polled state Rep. Joe Carr’s 41 percent. The remaining five candidates split the outstanding vote.

But the closeness of the contest occurred on the Democratic side, in what will likely be a battle for the right to lose to Alexander in November. Attorney Gordon Ball has been projected the winner, leading attorney Terry Adams by just 1,911 votes statewide.

One thing is clear, however. The statewide turnout overwhelmingly favored Republicans. Approximately 645,000 individuals voted in the Republican primary as compared with just under 240,000 who participated on the Democratic side.

On the other end of the margin perspective, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) cruised to an 88 percent victory. He will face Democrat Charles Brown in the general election, who doesn’t even have a campaign website.

Tennessee – House

Two Republican congressmen are in dead heat contests in their attempt to win renomination.

In the 3rd District, Rep. Charles Fleishmann (R-Chattanooga) barely survived his Republican primary challenge with a 51-49 percent spread (1,469 votes) over Weston Wamp, the son of former Congressman Zach Wamp (R). In a calculated strategic move Wamp moved left in an attempt to draw Democratic voters into the open Republican primary, which obviously worked to at least some degree. The Fleischmann victory will stand as Wamp conceded the race late last night.

In the middle Tennessee 4th District, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg), long expected to lose as a fallout from several sex scandals and then being diagnosed with throat cancer, is in a virtual tie with state Sen. Jim Tracy. Both men have 45 percent of the vote, with an additional five candidates splitting the remaining 10 percent. The preliminary final count gives Rep. DesJarlais just a 33-vote lead amongst 77,477 tabulated ballots. It is probable this race will go to a recount, and is far from finished.

In other primaries, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) easily won renomination in the Memphis district with 66 percent of the vote against two candidates. He will capture a fifth term in November. First District Rep. Phil Roe (R) claimed 84 percent in his primary. Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN-2) scored a 60 percent win in the Knoxville seat. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN-6), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7), and Stephen Fincher (R-TN-8) all won easily, with percentages of 77, 84, and 79, respectively.

Montana

Sen. John Walsh’s (D) exit from his election campaign directly relates to plagiarizing accusations within his War College thesis, as the New York Times reported last week. The developments leave the Democrats in a difficult position. Trying to hold the seat that Max Baucus (D-MT) occupied since his original election in 1978, the party leaders must now quickly scramble to elect a replacement in a statewide convention before Aug. 20, in accordance with Montana election deadlines.

Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, always the Democrats’ first choice for this race but an individual who long ago said he would not run, reiterated in a Twitter communication after the Walsh announcement that he would not enter the race.

Names surfacing as potential candidates are former NARAL Pro-Choice America president and defeated congressional candidate Nancy Keenan, EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock, and former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger. The latter finished second in the senatorial primary, scoring 23 percent against Walsh.

All of these choices are sub-standard, so expect the party leaders to search elsewhere. Keenan and Schriock are too far left to sell in Montana, and Bohlinger is 78 years old and did not fare particularly well in the primary. A looming question is whether Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will now decide to jump in the race (doubtful) or if one of the down-ballot constitutional officers, such as new Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, or Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, will emerge.

All this is good news for at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R-Bozeman), the GOP senatorial nominee, who now has an opportunity to cement a polling lead that was already approaching double-digits.

Hawaii

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls to decide three key races in the Aloha State, and will have to traverse the after-effects of two hurricanes that are targeting the group of islands that together form Hawaii. It stands to reason that the severely inclement weather will depress turnout, but to what degree is uncertain.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) is in serious danger of losing his battle for renomination against state Sen. David Ige (D-Pearl City). Ige was first elected to the state House in 1986, and then won election to the Senate in 1994. He has been under-financed in this race for governor but leads in all polling, and in most instances by double-digits. Abercrombie has fought back hard, but failed to greatly improve his standing.

It’s important to remember that Hawaii tends to be the least accurate state to poll, and this coupled with how the weather will affect turnout certainly adds a high degree of unreliability to any prediction made for this primary election.

In the Senate race, most signs suggest that appointed Sen. Brian Schatz will successfully win the Democratic nomination over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1). Again, however, polling inaccuracy and weather could change the pre-election patterns. At least one poll put Hanabusa in the lead, but the typical campaign victory clues all favor Schatz.

Gov. Abercrombie appointed Schatz, then the state’s lieutenant governor, to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) at the end of 2012. The candidates are running to fill the unexpired portion of Inouye’s final term in office, and the winner will presumably run for a full six-year term in 2016.

In Rep. Hanabusa’s open 1st District US House seat, all of the action is likewise on the Democratic side. Originally, state Senate Pres. Donna Mercado Kim appeared to be the early front-runner, but now state Rep. Mark Takai is making a concerted run for the nomination and may have already overtaken her. A total of seven Democrats are in the race, including two state senators, one state representative (Takai), and three members of the Honolulu City Council.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Charles Djou is the heavy favorite to win the GOP nomination. He will be a decided general election underdog, however, to whomever becomes the Democratic nominee.

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