Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Races Take Shape in Three States After No-Surprises Primaries

In Governor, House, Senate on August 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Connecticut

Not much competitive action in the Connecticut primary occurred last night, as none of the five House incumbents even faced a challenger. In the governor’s race former US Ambassador Tom Foley (R), who held Gov. Dan Malloy (D) to a 6,404 vote victory four years ago – which proved to be the closest governor’s election in the entire country during that year – scored a 56-44 percent Republican primary victory over state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. The latter is the son of the late former US Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-CT-4).

The Foley victory sets up a re-match between he and Gov. Malloy, in a race that could become exciting. Malloy’s job approval numbers have been down, revealing discernible weakness, and some early polling actually puts the challenger slightly ahead. The state’s strong Democratic nature is Malloy’s strongest asset as the general election officially begins.

Minnesota

In the Senate race, as expected, finance executive Mike McFadden cruised to a landslide victory in the Republican primary, defeating four Republican opponents, including state Rep. Jim Abeler, with an impressive 72 percent of the vote. McFadden now faces first-term Sen. Al Franken (D).

Since the nomination process is finally over, the race can now begin to take shape. Many on the Republican side believe the Minnesota Senate campaign is a sleeper race and could become competitive as we approach Election Day. If the Republicans catch a national wave, this seat could conceivably move toward the GOP. Sen. Franken, however, is the decided favorite and any such wave will have to be substantial in order to carry this challenger to victory.

In the open 6th District, also as expected, former gubernatorial nominee and Republican ex-state legislator Tom Emmer cruised to a 73 percent GOP nomination victory for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). The seat had played relatively competitively during Bachmann’s tenure, but that likely has more to do with the incumbent’s controversial nature than it does the district’s voting patterns. Emmer will now face local mayor Joe Perske (D) in the general election. The new GOP nominee has a decided edge for the fall campaign.

No surprises were found in the House races. In the 2nd District, 2012 nominee Mark Obermueller (D) again won the party nod and will get his re-match race with House Education and The Workforce Committee chairman John Kline (R-MN-2). The congressman is favored to again score a win well into the 50s.

In the governor’s race, defeating four Republican contenders with just 30 percent of the vote, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson captured the GOP nomination and will now challenge former US senator and first-term Gov. Mark Dayton (D). As we discussed in relation to the state’s Senate race, it will take a major Republican swath for Johnson to have any chance of unseating the Democratic chief executive.

Wisconsin

Results were also quiet in Wisconsin, with only one race worth watching. Retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI-6) leaves a seat he has held since winning a special election in 1979 and now will likely be replaced by state Sen. Glenn Grothman.

The senator defeated his legislative colleague Joe Leibham and state Assemblyman Duey Stroebel, and a minor fourth candidate by a 38-30-28-4 percent margin. Grothman has the inside track against the consensus Democratic candidate, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.

The 6th District seat, located between Milwaukee and Green Bay on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan side, is reliably Republican but Democrats have hope that Harris can become a competitive candidate.

The other races, including what should be a hot battle for governor between incumbent Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, were anything but competitive in last night’s primary.

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