5 things to watch in every state: Minnesota

This is a state that Donald Trump has said that he would compete in Minnesota.  That’s just not going to happen.  I don’t want to spoil the election for you.  But Trump is not going to win Minnesota.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball ratings has this race as a “Lean Democratic” seat.  Republican John Kline won re-election in 2012 with 54% of the vote winning by nearly 30,000 votes over Democrat Mike Obermueller.  They had a rematch in 2014, which was a more conservative year, Kline was able to win re-election by 42,000 votes.  Jason Lewis, a radio host in Minnesota, was able to win the Republican primary for this year when Kline announced he would not seek re-election.  Lewis is a conservative darling but has seen as vulnerable for the general election.  The Democratic Party nominated Angie Craig to run against Lewis.  Craig holds a significant fundraising advantage over Lewis.  In a more Democratic year, it seems like Craig would have a shot at the seat and flip this district.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District: Sabato’s Crystal Ball only has this race as “leans Republican.”  The most recent polling that I saw has the Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen up by 11.Paulsen won re-election in 2012 with 58% of the vote defeating Democrat Brian Barnes by 63,000 votes.  Paulsen won re-election again in 2014 by 66,000 votes.  I’m not sure how the Crystal Ball only has this as lean Republican but if Democrats are serious about flipping the House, this may be a district that they’re going to blitz for the last week.
  3. Minnesota State Senate District 17: There’s not that may State Senate Districts that are going to have problems for the Democrats who currently hold the State Senate. Democrat Lyle Koenen won re-election to the State Senate in 2012 with 55% of the vote winning the seat by just over 4,000 votes.  He is facing a new challenger in 2016.  Koenen is likely to win re-election in 2016 by a fairly similar margin.
  4. Minnesota State Senate District 44: Democrat Terri Bonoff won re-election to the State Senate in 2012 with 55% of the vote.  Bonoff chose not to seek re-election.  The Democratic Party nominated a new candidate in Deb Calvert and the Republican Party nominated Paul Anderson to run for the seat.  Even though bonoff likely benefitted from an incumbency advantage, it seems likely that Calvert is able to win election to the seat on November 8th.
  5. Minnesota State Senate District 58: In 2012, Republican Dave Thompson won re-election to the state Senate by 6,400 votes.  Thompson chose not to seek re-election in 2016.  The Republican Party nominated Tim Pitcher to run against Democratic Party’s Matt Little for the seat.  Thompson likely was advantaged by incumbency but it’s hard to say that even in a Presidential election year that a Democrat can take the seat.

5 things to watch in every state: Maryland

I can’t. I’m sorry. There’s not 5 things I’m interested in watching in Maryland.  There are only three.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives Maryland’s 6th Congressional District: Democratic incumbent John Delaney won election in 2012 over Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett.  Delaney faced a tougher than expected challenge in 2014 against the embattled Republican Dan Bongino.  Delaney only was able to win by slightly less than 3,000 votes.  Many of those votes probably did not show up as there was a turnout decrease from 1119,000 votes from 2012 to 2014.  George Gluck was a Green Party candidate on the ballot who was able to get 3,762 votes, as well. Delaney is running on a slightly more crowded ballot.  He is facing Republican Amie Hoeber and there is a Libertarian Party candidate and a Green Party candidate.  It’s probably going to be somewhat of a blowout for Delaney but since he very nearly lost in 2014, it’s worth watching.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives Maryland’s 8th Congressional District: This is a very Democratic district and is probably not worth watching, in all honesty, unless you have a lot of time and bandwith to be able to do so.  The reason it is on my list is because of the crowded Democratic primary that happened in this district earlier this year.  Jamie Raskin was able to win the Democratic primary with 33.6% of the vote.  He will very likely be elected with close to 60% of the vote, next Tuesday.
  3. Question 1: There is but one statewide ballot measure on the Maryland ballot.  The ballot question is to affirm that when an appointment is made to Attorney General and Comptroller, political parties are preserved.  So if an Attorney General is a Democrat and resigns, the Governor would have to appoint a Democrat to replace him or her.  The opposition to the ballot measure has mainly been from elected Republicans.  The reason for this is that there is a Republican Governor in Maryland but most other offices are Democrats so it would potentially take away power from the Governor.  If the situation was reversed, I am quite certain that Republicans would support the measure.

5 things to watch in every state: Michigan

Michigan, in 2008 and 2012, was a state that John McCain and Mitt Romney thought that they could win.  Donald Trump is banking on an ability to be able to win Michigan that he is spending precious time there.  I remain unconvinced, as the state is leaning to the left more and more.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan’s 1st Congressional District: This is listed in Sabato’s Crystal Ball as a Toss Up for a Republican District.  This is an open district as Dan Benishek (Republican) decided not to run for re-election.  He won re-election in 2012 y a small amount, less than 2,000 votes out of over 347,000 votes cast.  In 2014, a more Republican year, Benishek won again, this time defeating Democratic Party candidate Jerry Cannon by 17,000 votes.  The Democratic nominee in this district is Lon Johnson who is leading the Republican Jack Bergman in fundraising for the district.  There is both a Libertarian and Green Party Candidate running for the seat.  In 2014, the Libertarian candidate received 3,823 votes which was 600 votes more than Green Party Candidate so it would seem like it would help the Democratic challenger more than the Republican.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan’s 7th Congressional District: Republican incumbent Tim Walberg is running for re-election and is facing Democratic candidate Gretchen Driskell.  Walberg won re-election in 2012 with 53.3% of the vote beating Democratic challenger Kurt Haskell by 33,000 votes.  Somewhat surprisingly, Walberg did worse in 2014 by vote margin over his Democratic challenger.  He won 2014 by 27,000 votes.  He was hurt, in part by a Libertarian candidate and a U.S. Tax Payers Party candidate.  In 2016, Walberg does have a third party spoiler in Ken Proctor, a Libertarian Party candidate to help Driskell out, if possible.  If Gary Johnson can do well enough to get down party voters for Ken Proctor, the Libertarian Party candidate, then this district is going to be put in play.  I’m not sure how good Johnson is going to do.  I think Driskell needs a lot more help to be able to win the district.
  3. U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan’s 8th Congressional District: In 2012, Republican incumbent Mike Robers won re-election with 58.6% of the vote.  He won the race by over 20 points and 74,000 votes.  Rogers did not run for re-election in 2014.  The Republican candidate Mike Bishop won the election in 2014 with 54.6% of the vote with 30,000 votes more than Democrat Eric Schertzing.  Bishop is running for re-election in the district.  The Democratic candidate is Suzanna Shkreli.  Hurting her chances in the district are a Greeen Party candidate and potentially a Natural law candidate.  Shkreli would need a lot of help to be able to unseat Bishop and it doesn’t look like it is shaping up to be of much help.
  4. Michigan State House of Representatives 71st District: The Republican Party hodls the majority in the Stte House of Representativs.  The district is currently represented by Republican Tom Barrett.  He is running in a rematch facing former incumbent Theresa Abed.  Abed won in 2012 over the Republican incumbent.  Abed won by 3,000 votes in 2012.  In 2014, Abed ran for re-election.  Barrett defeated Abed in that election by a total of 148 votes.  Abed is having a rematch in a Presidential year, which should help her.  Also helping her, is the fact that there is a Libertarian candidate on the ballot in Marc Lord.  That should be enough to give the election to Abed.
  5. Michigan State House of Representatives 91st District: this is an election that is more or less the same election in the district that has been there since 2012. In 2012, Democrat Collene Lamonte defeated the Republican incumbent Holly Hughes by 333 votes.  Lamonte was helped by the Libertarian candidate Nick Sundquist being on the ballot.  Hughes was itching for a rematch in 2014 (note: no idea if this is true).  She was able to defeat Lamonte in 2014 by 53 votes.  There was an independent candidate Alan Jager on the ballot who received 1,959 votes.  An interesting tidbit is that in both 2012 and 2014 the winner did not win a majority of the votes. In 2016, we have another matchup of Lamonte vs Hughes with a Libertarian candidate on the ballot, as well. It seems like this should favor Lamonte in being to take back her seat.

 

5 things to watch in every state: Nebraska

Ahhh, my home state.  Even though we are a Conservative state, there is quite a bit to watch in this state. I wrote a voter guide for the state.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: Moderate Democrat Brad Ashford won election in 2014 against Republican incumbent Lee Terry.  District 2 had been a close election in every election except 2010 when Democrat Tom White got crushed by Lee Terry.  Jim Esch had twice almost upset Lee Terry (2008 was a lot closer than 2006) and John Ewing had very nearly defeated Terry in 2012, losing by 4,000 votes.  In 2014, with turnout much lower, Ashford managed to defeat Terry by close to 6,000 votes.  The Libertarian Party candidate Steven Laird received 9,021 votes.  Laird is on the ballot, again, in 2016 which will likely help Ashford.  Ashford’s opponent this year is retired Brigadier General, Don Bacon.  Bacon’s campaign strategy in this election has been to try to make Ashford seem more like a partisan than he really is and that Ashford doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Bacon, for whatever it’s worth, initially called for Trump to step down but then deleted that press release from his website.  He has since affirmed his support for Trump.  It’s a weird strategy, in my opinion, see below.  Currently, as we finished October for early voting, Democrats have a ballot advantage of 6.5 thousand ballots that have been returned.  Independents have returned 8,742 ballots as of 10/31.  In 2014, Ashford had a 10,000 vote lead in Douglas County.   This is to combat a more conservative Sarpy County.  The 2nd Congressional District also has a slight registration advantage for the Democratic Party.
  2. Presidential election, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: As most of you probably know, Nebraska can split their electoral votes based on Congressional districts.  In 2008, Barack Obama was able to win the 2nd Congressional District and for the first time, able to split the electoral votes in the state.  Can Clinton do the same?  As I stated above, Democrats are on their way to getting a 10,000 vote advantage in Douglas County. Clinton and the Democratic Party has decided to focus staff and resources here that were not focused here in 2012.  This is similar to the Obama pledge in 2008.  In order to really pull out the electoral vote split, they need to continue the “get out the vote” effort that they have started.  My personal opinion is that Trump and his abraisveness does not play well within the district, certainly, not as well as Mitt Romney.  For whatever reason, my belief is that Gary Johnson does fairly well here.  The reason being is that while there are a lot of Conservatives in Omaha, we do have a Libertarian streak within us.  The other thing to pay attention to is how Mormons in the city of Omaha will vote.  Since we’re dealing with a smaller population, there are tends of thousands of Mormons in the city who may end up flipping the district toward Clinton.  It’s a real shame that we’re very terrible at counting ballots so we probably won’t know early on in election night if it’s going to flip.
  3. Referendum 426: The Conservative Legislature in Nebraska voted to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska.  This was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts.  When it was sent back to the legislature, they voted to override the veto.  Beau McCoy and other Conservatives decided that they were so angered by this action that they would take this to the people.  Ricketts contacted State Senators personally to override his veto.  He spent time, donating, and his political clout to try to get State Senators who voted to override his veto out of the legislature.  Nebraska is a conservative state and it’s a confusing ballot question.  You can vote to retain which will retain the repeal.  If you vote to repeal, you are going to vote to repeal the repeal.  Confused, yet?  It’s very confusing.  I’ve written about why we should repeal the death penalty (vote to retain on the ballot question) and why I oppose the death penalty.  But I think the voters of Nebraska disagree with me and will vote to repeal the repeal.
  4. Nebraska State Senate District 7: This is a very Democratic district (I know, I know the Nebraska legislature tries to dress itself up as nonpartisan) and voted for Jeremy Nordquist in 2012 with 70% of the vote.  When he resigned to become the Chief of Staff to Brad Ashford, Governor Pete Ricketts decided to appoint Nicole Fox as his replacement.  Fox, a Republican, lost in the primary in 2016, losing by 20 votes to appear on the ballot for the general election.  The general election will pit two Democrats against each in the district, Tony Vargas vs. John Synowiecki.  Synowiecki is a former legislator for the district.  Vargas is an up and comer in politics.  I like both of these candidates and am interested if Vargas can end up winning after winning the primary election by so much.
  5. Nebraska State Senate District 31: This is my former legislative district in the state.  It pits fairly moderate Rick Kolowski.  Kolowski barely won the 2012 election, winning by less than 700 votes.  Kolowski’s opponent in this election is Ian Swanson.  Swanson is a young conservative who has been endorsed by most of the Republican Party in order to try to take back this Senate district.  Swanson’s qualifications are pretty sparse, to be honest.  If I’m interested in watching to see if the state senate will be even more conservative than before (which I am) than I am intently watching this election.
  6. Nebraska State Senate District 13: To a less depressing election for me to watch, we have State Senate District 13.  Jill Brown is running and facing Justin Wayne.  this is another election that I like both candidates so I can’t really decide who I would want to see win but I do want to watch it fairly closely.
  7. Nebraska State Senate, the interference of Gov. Pete Ricketts: The figure that looms large over Nebraska politics in this election and potentially going forward is Pete Ricketts. In District 23, Ricketts had a hand in propping up a challenger to Jerry Johnson.  Johnson voted to override a veto for a gas tax hike and providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.  Ricketts explicitly endorsed Les Seiler’s opponent Steve Halloran.  Ricketts targeted Seiler because Seiler voted to override his veto on the death penalty and the gas tax.  And in District 43, Ricketts also supported a challenger to Al Davis who voted to override Ricketts’s veto.  There are more than a handful of reports of Ricketts going out of his way to help challengers to legislators who oppose him.  I’m interested in watching this dynamic because Ricketts is effectively saying that he can’t work with these legislators if they oppose him.  It should come as no surprise that Ricketts backed away from his initial anti-Trump stance into a pro-Trump stance including a fundraiser for the nominee.  As Nebraska faces a $1 billion shortfall, we need legislators who are willing to stand up for their convictions and work for what is right without repercussions from who is essentially their boss.

5 things to watch in every state: Kentucky

Despite Kentucky’s federal elections, this is a Democratic state at the state and local level.  The Democratic Party just lost a gubernatorial election in 2014 when Matt Bevin ran on shutting down Kynect and somehow stopping the Medicaid expansion.  The Democrats were able to hold onto the State House of Representatives which forced Rand Paul to fund a Presidential caucus instead of having their typical Presidential primary election.  It appears that Donald Trump is not going to be such a drag on Senate races to really kill Rand Paul’s chances of getting re-elected.  In a real wave election, Paul would be a vulnerable Senate incumbent.

  1. Kentucky State House of Representatives, District 13: Democratic James (Jim) Glenn was re-elected in 2012 in this district with 50.8% of the vote over Independent candidate Bill Barron who received 49.2% of the vote.  The vote difference was 251.  In 2014, while Democrats were trying hard to retain the House, Glenn defeated Republican challenger Alan Braden.  Braden lost the election by just over 500 votes to Glenn.  How did Glenn do better in 2014 when a Republican was elected to the Governor’s mansion?  It’s possible that voters in the district do really support Democratic candidates better based on tradition.  But I’m not sure.  Like I said before, the Kentucky Democratic Party really focused on retaining the House in 2014.  It may have worked. At least in this district.
  2. Kentucky State House of Representatives, District 25: Democrat Jimmie Lee ran unopposed in 2012 and was re-elected.  In 2014, while Democrats were trying to retain the House, Lee lost by 248 votes to Republican Jim DuPlessis. Unlike in a lot of other elections when a Democrat lost in 2014, Lee is not running for a rematch.  The Democratic nominee in 2016 is Michael Dile.  Dile is going to try to unseat DuPlessis and break into the 248 vote firewall.
  3. Kentucky State House of Representatives, District 49: Democrat incumbent Linda Belcher lost her election in 2012 52.8-47.2 and lost by 1,105 votes in total to Republican Russell Webber.  Webber did not run for re-election in 2014.  Belcher decided to try to retake her seat in 2014.  She was able to do so by defeating Michael Nemes in 2014 by 737 votes.  Belcher is running for re-election in 2016 against a new Republican challenger, Dan Johnson.  It should be a fairly close election if the last two elections are any guide.
  4. Kentucky State House of Representatives, District 74: Demcoratic incumbent Richard Henderson ran unopposed in 2012.  In 2014, he was challenged by Republican David Hale.  Hale was able to defeat Henderson by less than 900 votes.  Henderson is not running for a rematch.  The Democratic nominee for 2016 in this district is James Davis trying to unseat Hale.  I’m not sure how Democratic leaning the district could be since I don’t have the data from 2012.  But I think Davis could have a good shot in a Democratic Presidential year.
  5. Kentucky State House of Representatives, District 91: The Democratic incumbent Ted Edmonds lost re-election in 2012 by 134 votes to Republican challenger Gary Herald.  Hearld ran for re-election in 2014 against a new Democratic opponent, Cluster Howard.  Howard was able to win the election by 14 votes (13,860 total votes cast).  Howard is running for re-election and is running in a rematch against Herald.  We have two elections decided by a total of 148 votes.  So I’m really excited for this.

5 things to watch in every state: Maine

Beside the University of Maine e-mailing me about going to their law school, there are a few elections worth watching there. I have it ranked in order of what I’m interested in.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Maine’s 2nd Congressional District:  This is a fairly Democratic leaning district, at least in the past.  Barack Obama won the district with 52.9% of the vote, winning by 8 points over Mitt Romney.  Bruce Poliquin, a Republican was able to win election in 2014.  Mike Michaud, the former Representative had decided to run for Governor losing to Paul LePage.  In recent polls in the district, voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District are increasingly frustrated with Poliquin for sitting out the Presidential election, as best he can.  His challenger Emily Cain, is the same one he faced in 2014 who he beat by 15,000 votes with 31,337 votes going to a third party candidate.  In a more Democratic year, it seems like Cain would have a better chance to defeat Poliquin.  But it depends on the next election.
  2. Presidential election, Maine’s 2nd Congressional District: Like I said, above, this district voted for Barack Obama twice.  In 2008 and 2012.  It’s very rare for a Congressional district to split the electoral votes (like Nebraska’s 2nd in 2008).  But Trump is trying for a split, here.  The appeal of Trump in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is his appeal to white non-college educated voters.  It seems like a stronger area for Trump to be able to get 1 electoral vote and have Maine split their electoral votes.  I’m pretty interested in watching to see if the electoral vote gets split.
  3. Question 5: Maine is trying to change their voting system.  Ralph Nader did run on a ranked choice platform in 2000 (weird to remember that, huh).  Ranked choice voting would also move the system to an instant runoff system.  What would happen, if passed, is that the voters would go through and rank their choices in order of who they would want to be elected.  Last place candidates would be eliminated until someone has a majority of votes.  In theory, you couldn’t run on an appeal to just your base because you would have to form a coalition to be able to convince some voters on the other side to at least rank your candidate fairly high.  I’m like 99% sure that this is on the ballot because Paul LePage was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 thanks to the third party spoiler campaign of Eliot Cutler.
  4. Question 3: This would more or less require universal background checks for gun sales and transfers with exceptions for family members.  The universal background check requirement, in theory, would close the gun show loophole in Maine.  Of course, the NRA and other gun rights activists are opposing the measure as an unprecedented attack on freedom.
  5. Question 2: This is a ballot measure to help fund public education in Maine.  This would pass an additional 3% tax surcharge on incomes above $200,000 to be earmarked for public education.  To clarify this, the tax would only be on the income that is above $200,000.  So if your income was $201,000, you would be taxed an additional 3% on that $1,000.
  6. Question 4: This ballot measure would gradually increase the minimum wage in Maine to $12/hour by 2020 and then index the minimum wage to inflation at that point.  Most of the opponents of the Amendment are Republicans and pro-business organizations.  Based on the polling, it looks like the Amendment will pass with flying colors and will lift many Mainers out of poverty or somewhat close to a better life.

5 things to watch in every state: Louisiana

  1. U.S. Senate race: I’m actually looking forward to this Senate race more than any other Senate race in the country.  I’m not really exaggerating by that much.  Thanks to a quirk in Louisiana’s electoral laws, there’s not a real primary election.  The primary election is the general election and everyone can run.  If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the general election, there is a runoff election held between the top two vote getters.  Louisiana is a conservative state.  So, why am I excited? There are 24 candidates running for Senate in Louisiana.  24!  Yea. Good luck getting 50% of the vote with that many candidates. The most recent polling that I’ve seen had Republican John Kennedy with 24% of the vote and Democrat Foster Campbell with 19%.  We haven’t gotten to one of my favorite parts, there are 8 Republican candidates running and all trying to get to the run off so they’re going to beat each other up along the way.  Also, David Duke is running.  How did I get that far in the paragraph without mentioning that? Ahhh. It’s all so glorious.  There’s a very good chance that two Democrats advance to the runoff.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives District 3: This is mainly because of the quirk of Louisiana election law that allows all of the candidates to show up on the ballot for the general election.  There are 12 candidates running for this seat including 8 Republicans.  If they split enough of the vote, there is a possibility that two Democrats can advance to the runoff.  I don’t think it’s very probable, but there’s always a chance.
  3. Amendment 2: The state legislature is no up for election, next Tuesday.  So we move on to the statewide ballot measures.  This ballot measure, if passed, would allow college boards to establish tuition and fee without getting legislative approval.  Most of the opposition for the bill has come from Democrats in the state Senate and State House of Representatives. If passed, it seems likely that college tuition would be raised at the Louisiana public colleges and universities.  The New Orleans Times Picayune argues that if passed, college boards could make some type of degrees more expensive than others.  I’m interested in watching if young voters show up to vote or parents of these children show up to vote.
  4. Amendment 3: This seems like ballot budgeting, which some oppose.  The Amendment, if passed, would allow corporations to no longer deduct their federal income taxes from the state income tax bill.  They would pay a flat tax of 6.5%.  This also decouples the corporate tax in Louisiana from the federal tax collections in Washington, D.C. Most of the opposition of the Amendment came from Republicans and the Amendment was offered by a Democrat.
  5. Amendment 6: This Amendment was more or less put forward because of poor budgeting for the state over the last few years and the governorship of Bobby Jindal.  The Amendment would allow it easier for the state to access money in some state accounts.  It would protect some state accounts from being tapped in the event of a budget downturn.  But it could be that voters and legislators are trying to be protected from making tough budget decisions going forward.

5 things to watch in every state: Kansas

What’s the matter with Kansas, an academic once opined in a book read by political science undergraduates everywhere before talking about economic populism and how people in Kansas were, more or less, voting against their own interests over the course of about 300 pages.  I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’s staff member, in which he told me that portions of Washington, D.C. were “coon city.”  That economic anxiety, I tell you.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District: One of the strange things about the Donald Trump candidacy is that he is mainly drawing support from white non-college educated voters.  But in more affluent districts with more college-educated voters, it will likely tip for Hillary Clinton.  This is one of the districts that could potentially flip.  Sabato’s Crystal Ball has it listed as “lean Republican.”  Kevin Yoder, the current Congressman, has not faced a serious challenge during his time in Congress.  In 2014, Yoder was re-elected with 60% of the vote.  He won in 2012 defeating just a Libertarian challenger.  Recent polling has Yoder with about a 4 point lead in his re-election bid.  If he fails, it will just be another example of how Kansas is leading the change in the Republican Party.  Conservative hero Tim Huelskamp lost in his primary in the 1st Congressional District against a more moderate member of the party.  There were a number of primary upsets in the state legislature.  This followed from a closer than expected re-election campaign from Governor Sam Brownback in 2014.
  2. Kansas State Senate District 1: Republican incumbent Dennis Pyle won the election in 2012 by less than 400 votes.  There was not a third party spoiler on the ballot to help either party.  The Democrat Jerry Henry is running against incumbent Pyle in 2016.  I’m interested in seeing that Pyle could get defeated if Trump does worse than expected in Kansas.
  3. Kansas State Senate District 5: Republican Steve Fitzgerald upset Democratic incumbent Kelly Kultala by about 800 votes in 2012.  Kansas wasn’t very close in 2012, in terms of the Presidential vote and while it doesn’t seem to be a close race in 2016, Trump is not performing well in “red states” and as we know the Republican brand has been hurt by Brownback’s policies.  If it’s going to be closer in 2016 or if there is any more residual anger toward the Republican Party, Democrat Bill Hutton should be able to upset Steve Fitzgerald.
  4. Kansas State Senate District 25: There was a small coup in the Republican Party at the state legislature level earlier this year.  7 Conservative members of the State Senate lost their primary challenges to more moderate members of the party.  Turns out, Brownback’s tax cuts were economically damaging (who could ave seen that coming, except literally everybody) and you can cut taxes to the point where it’s no longer popular.  Republican Michael O’Donnell won election to the State Senate in 2012 by less than 300 votes over Democrat Tim Snow.  This was, also, with a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot. O’Donnell did not seek re-election in 2016.  The Republican this year is Jim Price facing off Democratic opponent Lynn Rogers.  There is not a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot this year, so the Democrats do not have that bit of good news for them. It could potentially be a very close district.
  5. Kansas State House of Representatives District 3 : Eight Republican incumbents were defeated in the primary by more moderate challengers for the State House of Representatives.  I wish I had more time to be able to write how Kansas is going to force a Republican revolution, at some point.  Democrat Monica Murnan is challenging Republican incumbent Chuck Smith.  Smith won election in 2014 by 114 votes over Democratic incumbent Julie Menghini.  Menghini had won in 2012 by 417 votes over a Republican challenger.  I would assume that 2016 will be a more Democratic election year than in 2014.  114 votes is not going to be enough of a firewall against better turnout.
  6. Kansas State House of Representatives District 56: Republican incumbent Lane Hemsley was able to upset the Democratic incumbent in 2014 by 40 votes.  Virgil Weigel, who was running for re-election in 2014, had won election in 2012 by just under 400 votes in 2012.  This is another situation where the Republican is trying to hold onto a small firewall of 40 votes from 2014 in what should be a more Democratic Presidential year.
  7. Kansas State House of Representatives District 88: It looks like this district is one of the districts that seem to change hands every 2 years.  Democrat Patricia Sloop was able to defeat the Republican incumbent Joseph Scapa in 2012 by 441 votes.  Sloop, in a rematch in 2014, was upset by Scapa by 28 votes.  That’s really close…28 out of 5,202 votes.  There will not be another rematch in 2016 between Sloop and Scapa in 2016, which is slightly disappointing.  The Democratic challenger in this district is Elizabeth Bishop.  She is trying to defeat Scapa in 2016.  Again, we have another election where the Republican incumbent is trying to hold onto a voter firewall.

5 things to watch in every state: Iowa

I’m not going to lie, there are more than 5 elections, I am going to watch in this state.

  1. U.S. Presidential Election: Iowa voted for Barack Obama twice.  This state looks like the strongest swing state for Donald Trump, thus far.  How can that be?  This election cycle is mainly going to be decided on the turnout of the white non-college educated voters.  They are going for Trump and Iowa has a lot of them. Giving Trump a built in advantage in the state.  If you add that with the state not being that diverse, you get Iowa flipping back to Republicans after voting for Obama in the last two Presidential elections.  Iowa will give us an indication of how Clinton did with white non-college educated voters and give us a very good snapshot of the election.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Iowa’s 1st Congressional District: Bruce Braley was the Representative of the district and received 56.9% of the vote in 2012 in his re-election bid.  In 204, while he was busy losing the Iowa Senate race, his district flipped to a Republican, who won with 51% of the vote and about 6,500 more votes than the Democratic opponent. If we assume that the Presidential election is going to turn out more Democratic voters, then we might be able to assume the District flips back. If, on the other hand, Trump does better than expected in Iowa plus the incumbency advantage for Rod Blum, it may stay in Republican hands for this election and the forseeable future.
  3. U.S. House of Representatives, Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District: This district should probably be considered a safer Republican seat but if Iowa, somehow flips, and Trump does worse than what we’re currently expecting, then this seat might flip, too.  If Democrats want to take back the House, then this is probably a district that should be worth watching.  Republican Tom Latham was able to win re-election in the district in 2012 with 52% of the vote.  David Young who ran for the District as a Republican in 2014, won with 52% of the vote.  Young is running for re-election and has a Libertarian Party spoiler running against him, as well.  But Jim Mowrer, the Democrat, has to make up between 30-34 thousand votes to be able to put this one in play.  While it’s worth watching, I’m not sure it’s going to flip.
  4. Iowa State Senate, District 26: Now we’re on the State elections portion of the post.  This is my personal favorite, mainly because it cuts against the argument that your vote doesn’t count.  In 2012, Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm was able to defeat Republican Merlin Bartz by 126 votes (there were 30,934 votes cast).  Wilhelm is running for re-election in 2016 against Republican Waylon Brown.  Is it going to be another nail biter?  I don’t know but I am excited to find out. If Democrats want to hold onto their majority in the State Senate, they need this seat.
  5. Iowa State Senate, District 28:Republican Michael Breitbach won the election for this seat in 2012 (a Democratic year) by 34 votes (29,700 votes cast) against Democratic challenger and not Arrested Development TV anchor John Beard.  This time around, he is facing Jan Heikes.  And trying to help her out is Libertarian Party candidate Troy Hagerman.  We get to watch whether or not the Libertarian Party can spoil another election for the Republican Party.  This will give Democrats a better chance of holding the State Senate if they are able to pick up this seat, so it’s well worth watching.
  6. Iowa State Senate, District 30: This one is on the Republican Party’s radar.  They have decided to target this seat as part of their State Legislature drive.  It’s not that hard to see why.  Democrat Jeff Danielson won the election in 2012 by less than 700 votes.  If Donalt Trump is able to do well in the state, that could easily flip.
  7. Iowa State House of Representatives, District 7: While Democrats hold the Senate in Iowa, Republicans hold the state House of Representatives by a comfortable margin.  While it doesn’t look like they can take the House, making inroads will be critical.  Democratic incumbent John Wittneben lost his re-election bid in 2012 by 44 votes to Republican Tedd Gassman.  This is kind of an odd turn of events, seeing as Democrats generally did better in the 2012 election, so you would think that Wittneben would have been able to win.  But in 2014, Gassman was able to win re-election by a much more comfortable margin, about 1,700 votes out of 11,531 votes cast.
  8. Iowa State House of Representatives, District 15: This is an even weirder district than District 7.  Republican incumbent Mark Brandenburg won re-election in 2012 over Democratic challenger George Warren Yaple by 400 votes.  Brandenburg did not run for re-election in 2014.  John Blue won the Republican primary by 1 vote in 2014.  Blue, then went on to lose to Democrat Charlie McConkey by 75 votes.  McConkey is running for re-election in 2016.  The Republican challenger is Bill Riley.  This will be an interesting election to watch. If only, because a Democrat was elected in 2014.  This might flip back in 2016, or it is proof that the district has become much more liberal from 2012 to 2014.
  9. Iowa State House of Representatives, District 30: One of my favorite district playbooks.  Joe Riding, the Democrat won the 2012 election for this district by 720 votes (16,808 votes cast).  Riding was defeated by Republican Zach Nunn by about 1,600 votes (13,056 votes cast) in 2014.  There will be a rematch between Riding and Nunn in 2016.  If it is a better year for Democrats in Iowa than 2014, then I think Riding has a shot to win the re-match.
  10. Iowa State House of Representatives, District 55:  Democrat Roger Thomas was re-elected in 2012 with 7,781 votes beating his Republican challenger, Michael Kilmesh by 226 votes.  In 2014, Thomas did not seek re-election.  Rick Edwards ran for the Democratic Party.  He lost by 27 votes to Republican Darrel Branhagen (11,897 votes cast). After a close primary Democrat Pat Ritter became the nominee for the Democratic Party in this district.  Ritter will try to defeat Republican nominee Michael Bergan, which will likely be a close election.

5 things to watch in every state: Indiana

Oh, look, here’s a state that doesn’t really like extremism in a statewide manner, at least in Presidential election years, yet, somehow had their Governor be the Vice President to Donald Trump.

  1. U.S. Senate election: I feel dirty talking about this for too long.  I really don’t like Evan Bayh.  But I am a progressive and Bayh, at least will support a Democratic Senate Majority Leader, will likely be a vote for ending the filibuster, and will be a yes vote for most of the Democratic agenda (although he’ll lecture us all about how we’re doing it wrong, while doing the same things that he is criticizing other Democrats of doing).  But, this seat is seeming to be more winnable all the time.  That is important if Democrats are trying to take back the Senate.  Flipping Indiana will give Indiana two Democratic Senators.  Neither of which are terribly progressive.  But gives more credence to the idea of running moderates in more conservative seat to be able to win these seats. At any rate, I feel dirty rooting for Bayh because he will be touted in 2024, again, as a potential Vice President pick.
  2. Indiana Gubernatorial election: Before Mike Pence was selected by the Trump campaign to be his Vice Presidential nominee, there was speculation that Pence was going to be a private citizen in January.  Pence’s poll numbers in Indiana were not spectacular, by any measure.  The gubernatorial election was going to be a rematch between Pence and Democrat and mustache enthusiast John Gregg.  Gregg had only lost by 75,000 votes in 2012 to Pence.  After Pence was chosen as the Vice President nominee, Gregg got a different challenge in Indiana Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb stepping up as the Republican nominee.  In the polls in October of 2016, Gregg has been leading Holcomb.  It will be interesting how the elections hake out in 2016 for the Governor’s mansion, if only because we need more facial hair in politics.
  3. U.S. House of Representatives, Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District: In 2014, when I was highlighting races to watch, I found this Congressional District to be one of the ones that I thought could be had for the Democrats.  Then Ebola and the child migrant crisis happened and it never materialized. Some Democratic operatives are saying that the 9th Congressional District is the one that can be flipped more easily.  But I’m stubborn so I want to follow this race to the bitter end.  Jackie Walorksi was elected in 2012 by 4,000 votes over Democrat Brendan Mullen.  She won re-election in 2014 by 30,000 votes. Now either, it was a wave year or Walorksi had an incumbency advantage of 28,000 votes.  I’m not too sure that the incumbency advantage is really that large.  so I think it could be a lot closer in a Presidential election year, even if I think Joe Bock is a much stronger candidate than Lynn coleman.  And to be fair to the 9th district, Shelli Yoder is a much better candidate than Coleman.
  4. Indiana State Senate, District 30: Republican incumbent Scott Schneider won re-election in this district in 2012 by 900 votes.  He was almost the victim of a Libertarian Party spoiler candidate in F.C. Peterson who won 1,8880 votes in 2012.  Schneider is running for re-election against a new Democratic challenger, Pamela Hickman.  If Indiana has a chance of flipping from Republican to Democratic (which it definitely does, even if I don’t have the Presidential election listed here as one to watch), it’s possible that 2012 is a better year for Democrats than 2016.  If you add that in with a new found distaste for Pence and a Libertarian Presidential candidate who is running slightly stronger than in 2012, you have a nice little storm for Schneider to lose.
  5. Indiana House of Representatives, District 12: Surprisingly, there are a lot of elections in Indiana that I think are interesting and worth keeping a closer eye on.  This follows the traditional playbook of elections that I like to follow this cycle.  In 2012, a Democratic incumbent won re-election to their seat by a fair amount (in this case about 2,000 votes).  Then they lost in 2014 by a fairly small margin (421).  Then a Democrat runs in the district in 2016.  This time the Democrat is Maria Candelaria Reardon who is trying to win her seat back that she lost in 2014 to Bill Fine (whom she defeated in 2012).  Ahh.  It’s so delicious.
  6. Indiana House of Representatives, District 19: We have the same playbook as District 12.  Shelli VanDenburgh won re-election in 2012 by about 3,000 votes.  She lost in 2014 to Republican Julie Olthoff by 300 votes.  She is challenging her to a rematch in 2016.  This time, she has not only the Presidential election coatttails potentially helping her but also a Libertarian spoiler in Evan Demare to help her win back her seat.