Special Election Preview in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District

Today is the last special election of 2018 before the general election. Being an R+7 district, it should be a safely Republican seat, but as has been the case nationwide in other elections, Democrats are more enthusiastic and Democratic candidates are overperforming in districts and states where they haven’t, historically.  This district, which includes many of the state capital’s suburbs, hasn’t elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives since 1980. Donald Trump came to campaign on behalf of Republican Troy Balderson, though Ohio governor John Kasich – a longtime foil and critic – raised questions as to whether the President was invited or if he invited himself.

The final poll of the race before Election Day had Democrat Danny O’Connor up by one point, with seven percent undecided. One finding from this poll to keep an eye on: independents support O’Connor 56-28, a 2-to-1 margin.  O’Connor also leads among voters who are more excited and paying more attention to the election.  If these poll numbers are correct, it means he is surging at just the right time as the race is winding down. However, one caveat worth noting that was first pointed out by NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: this poll does not include Green Party candidate Joe Manchik, who got 3.6 percent of the vote in 2016.

Democrat heavy hitters are coming into the district for a last-minute push on O’Connor’s behalf.  Former vice president Joe Biden recorded a robocall, while Alabama senator Doug Jones sent out an email to his supporters urging them to make last-minute donations to the O’Connor campaign.

The  early vote numbers for Democratic-heavy Franklin County are in. Without making any formal conclusions yet until other ballots are counted, the numbers are looking good for O’Connor:

And as if all that isn’t enough to make Election Day interesting, Balderson made what can only be described as a last-minute gaffe that Democrats are aggressively pushing:

Ohio Dems email

Why does this matter? The district, which is mostly rural, includes a geographically small part of Franklin County – home of the state capital and Ohio State University – within its boundaries, which is the suburbs north of Columbus. According to the Washington Post, “a bit less than a third of the vote” in today’s election is expected to come from Franklin County.

No political strategist in his or her right mind would tell a candidate that writing off or dismissing any part of the district the candidate is seeking to represent, let alone one that could account for as much as one third of potential voters, is a winning message.

Conventional wisdom on this race is that it is unnecessarily close for a historically safe Republican district in congressional and presidential races. If O’Connor wins tonight, it will be considered another sign of a potential blue tsunami on Election Day, in addition to cutting by one the number of seats needed to flip the House of Representatives. If Balderson manages a narrow single-digit victory, Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief while Democrats will feel pretty good for coming close, but it will be another moral victory in a string of special election losses since 2017. (For the record, Democrats have won two out of ten special elections in that period – the two victories being Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district)

Polls close at 7:30 EST/6:30 CST.

Tennessee Democratic Candidate Calls for Medicaid Expansion

Here’s a fascinating look at how the politics of health care have shifted dramatically since the 2010 election when Republicans rode it to electoral victory.

Karl Dean, the former mayor of Nashville who is now the Democratic nominee in the Tennessee governor’s race, sent out an email urging supporters to support Medicaid expansion in the state, noting “We lost millions of dollars — federal funding paid for by our own taxes — that went to other states instead. We missed out on years of health care coverage for almost half a million uninsured Tennesseans and had several of our hospitals close.”

There are no new polls for the Tennessee governor’s race in the wake of last week’s primary. Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both rank the race as likely Republican.

Hillary Clinton Endorses Michigan Congressional Candidate

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed and recorded a robocall on behalf of Haley Stevens, who is running for the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 11th congressional district.  Stevens, the former chief of staff for President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force in the Treasury Department and a veteran of Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, is one of six Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in tomorrow’s primary. The winner will face off against the Republican nominee in November to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott.

The transcript of the robocall:

            “Hello, this is Hillary Clinton and I’m calling to encourage you to cast your vote on Tuesday for a fresh, new Michigan leader, Haley Stevens. Haley served as the chief of staff to the Auto Rescue, she helped save 200,000 Michigan jobs, and she knows how to support Michigan’s advanced manufacturing economy, especially through training opportunities. I’ve seen Haley in action. We can count on her to protect the gains we’ve made with Obamacare. So please, vote for Haley Stevens, on Tuesday. Thank you, very much.”

This is Clinton’s first primary endorsement of a candidate in the runup to the midterms, who has generally kept a low profile since the 2016 election. Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both rank the race as a toss-up.

Tennessee Primary Results

Tennessee held its primary election, where much of the attention was focused on the two statewide races that will be on the ballot in the fall.

GOVERNOR: Former Nashville mayor Karl Dean won the Democratic nomination, beating House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh by a whopping 56 points.  He will face businessman and political outsider Bill Lee, a dark horse candidate who beat Rep. Diane Black and businessman Randy Boyd.

The Republican race showed that money, connections and experience aren’t enough to guarantee victory. According to the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, Black is the fifth House Republican in this cycle to run for statewide office and lose in the primary. She spent $10 million of her own money on the race, was endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence and finished in a lackluster third place. Boyd spent $19 million of his own money on the race and finished a distant second.

SENATE: As expected, former governor Phil Bredesen and Rep. Marsha Blackburn won their respective parties’ nominations to compete for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Bob Corker. It would normally be a safely Republican seat, but because of the political climate, the choice of candidates, and the fact that it is an open seat, Tennessee will be one of the Democrats’ top opportunities to gain a seat in the U.S. Senate in an election cycle where the map favors Republicans.  According to the most recent poll of this race taken in mid-July by Emerson College, Bredesen leads Blackburn 43-37. Tennessee could potentially determine control of the United States Senate in November, so expect a lot of money and media attention on this race during the next three months.

ActBlue Clears $1 Billion Fundraising Mark In Runup to Midterms

money

The liberal sleeping giant has woken, according to fundraising figures for online fundraising platform ActBlue that the organization shared with USA Today.  This week, ActBlue blew past the $1 billion barrier in contributions for this cycle that it collects on behalf of Democratic candidates and organizations, with three months to go before Election Day.

To put that figure into perspective, it took ActBlue almost 12 years to raise its first $1 billion. ActBlue matched that feat in 19 months since the beginning of Donald J. Trump’s presidency in January of 2017. The average donation for this cycle has been $34.  The group expects donations to exceed $1.5 billion by the end of the year, which was twice the amount the organization raised during the 2016 election cycle.

“Small-dollar donors are funding the resistance,” ActBlue executive director Erin Hill told USA Today. “People initially said: ‘This can’t be sustained,’ but it very much is.”

Michigan Supreme Court Approves Redistricting Ballot Measure

Michigan voters will determine whether or not to create an independent redistricting commission this November, after a 4-3 state supreme court ruling allowed the measure to appear on the ballot.  The majority ruling, by Democrat-nominated justices Richard Bernstein and Bridget McCormack joined by Republican-nominated justices David Viviano and Elizabeth Clement, allowed the measure under the condition that “if it proposes changes that do not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of the government in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution.”

According to MLive, “The court’s majority decision concurred with a unanimous decision from the state Court of Appeals, which compelled the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to place the Voters not Politicians measure on the ballot after determining the initiative passed constitutional muster.”

If approved, Proposal 2 would amend Michigan’s constitution to create a 13-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of five independents, four Republicans and four Democrats, with conditions on who can serve on the commission in order to separate it from the political process.  The commission would be in place in time for the next redistricting following the 2020 census.

The anti-gerrymandering proposal was created by Voters Not Politicians, a statewide organization that collected more than 427,000 signatures from Michigan voters. Redistricting has been controlled by Republicans since the last census in 2011. The proposal had been opposed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Republican Party, and Attorney General and likely Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette.

“The court’s decision upholds our right as citizens to petition our government for positive change,” VNP founder and executive director Katie Fahey said in a statement. “Michigan voters are ready for a transparent redistricting process, where election district lines represent the people – not special interests. It’s time voters choose their politicians, not the other way around.”

National Democratic Redistricting Committee chairman Eric Holder tweeted, “This is a big win. Citizens will choose their representatives, politicians will not pick their voters – if the ballot measure is passed.”

There may be some political fallout for Justice Clement, who is on the ballot for re-election this year and could lose funding or support from the state’s Republican Party, according to the Detroit Free Press.  According to the paper, Clement – who had previously served as Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief legal counsel – had no prior judicial experience or judicial record prior to her appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Obama, Clinton Enter Election Season with Endorsements and Donations

Former President Barack Obama released a list of 81 congressional, state and legislative candidates in what his office calls a “first wave” of endorsements in the runup to the November elections.  Here is the full list:

California
Gavin Newsom (Governor)
Eleni Kounalakis (Lt. Governor)
Josh Harder (U.S. House, CA-10)
TJ Cox (U.S. House, CA-21)
Katie Hill (U.S. House, CA-25)
Katie Porter (U.S. House, CA-45)
Harley Rouda (U.S. House, CA-48)
Mike Levin (U.S. House, CA-49)
Ammar Campa-Najjar (U.S. House, CA-50)
Buffy Wicks (State Assembly, District 15)

Colorado
Jared Polis (Governor)
Dianne Primavera (Lt. Governor)
Phil Weiser (Attorney General)
Jena Griswold (Secretary of State)
Tammy Story (State Senate, District 16)
Jessie Danielson (State Senate, District 20)
Brittany Pettersen (State Senate, District 22)
Faith Winter (State Senate, District 24)
Dylan Roberts (State House, District 26)
Dafna Michaelson Jenet (State House, District 30)
Shannon Bird (State House, District 35)
Rochelle Galindo (State House, District 50)
Julie McCluskie (State House, District 61)

Georgia
Stacey Abrams (Governor)
Sarah Riggs Amico (Lt. Governor)
Matthew Wilson (State House, District 80)
Shelly Hutchinson (State House, District 107)

Illinois
J.B. Pritzker (Governor)
Juliana Stratton (Lt. Governor)
Kwame Raoul (Attorney General)
Sean Casten (U.S. House, IL-6)
Brendan Kelly (U.S. House, IL-12)
Lauren Underwood (U.S. House, IL-14)

Iowa
Deidre DeJear (Secretary of State)
Tim Gannon (Secretary of Agriculture)
Kristin Sunde (State House, District 42)
Jennifer Konfrst (State House, District 43)
Eric Gjerde (State House, District 67)
Laura Liegois (State House, District 91)

Maine
Louis Luchini (State Senate, District 7)
Laura Fortman (State Senate, District 13)
Linda Sanborn (State Senate, District 30)

Nevada
Jacky Rosen (U.S. Senate)
Susie Lee (U.S. House, NV-3)
Steven Horsford (U.S. House, NV-4)

New Jersey
Andy Kim (U.S. House, NJ-3)
Tom Malinowski (U.S. House, NJ-7)

New Mexico
Debra Haaland (U.S. House, NM-1)
Daymon Ely (State House, District 23)
Natalie Figueroa (State House, District 30)

New York
Antonio Delgado (U.S. House, NY-19)
Anna Kaplan (State Senate, District 7)

North Carolina
Wiley Nickel (State Senate, District 16)
Ron Wesson (State House, District 1)
Terence Everitt (State House, District 35)
Julie Von Haefen (State House, District 36)
Sydney Batch (State House, District 37)
Rachel Hunt (State House, District 103)

Ohio
Richard Cordray (Governor)
Betty Sutton (Lt. Governor)
Steve Dettelbach (Attorney General)
Kathleen Clyde (Secretary of State)
Zack Space (Auditor)
Aftab Pureval (U.S. House, OH-1)
Jill Schiller (U.S. House, OH-2)
Phil Robinson (State House, District 6)
Stephanie Howse (State House, District 11)
Mary Lightbody (State House, District 19)
Beth Liston (State House, District 21)
Allison Russo (State House, District 24)
Erica Crawley (State House, District 26)
Tavia Galonski (State House, District 35)
Casey Weinstein (State House, District 37)
Taylor Sappington (State House, District 94)

Pennsylvania
Madeleine Dean (U.S. House, PA-4)
Susan Wild (U.S. House, PA-7)
Tina Davis (State Senate, District 6)
Liz Hanbidge (State House, District 61)
Carolyn Comitta (State House, District 156)

Texas
Adrienne Bell (U.S. House, TX-14)
Colin Allred (U.S. House, TX-32)

How the endorsements break down by numbers:

OFFICE

Governor – 5

Lieutenant Governor – 5

Attorney General – 3

Secretary of State – 3

Secretary of Agriculture – 1

Auditor – 1

U.S. Senate – 1

U.S. House of Representatives – 22

State Legislatures – 40

Half of the endorsements are for state legislative candidates.  The significance of this is presumably twofold: to rebuild the Democratic bench that was decimated during his presidency, and to set the stage for the next census and redistricting after 2020. Curiously, he only endorsed three candidates for Secretary of State, who are the top elections official in each state and will be responsible for overseeing the 2020 primaries and presidential election.  President Obama also endorsed 22 candidates for the House of Representatives, three short of the number House Democrats need to win to flip control of the chamber.

STATE

California – 10

Colorado – 13

Georgia – 4

Illinois – 6

Iowa – 6

Maine – 3

Nevada – 3

New Jersey – 2

New Mexico – 3

New York – 2

North Carolina – 6

Ohio – 16

Pennsylvania – 5

Texas – 2

Almost half of his endorsements come from three states – California, Colorado and the perennially important swing state of Ohio. Also worth noting only one endorsement for U.S. Senate – Jacky Rosen. Claire McCaskill was an enthusiastic and early backer of his in the 2008 primary, but given that Missouri has become a more conservative state during the past decade, it is likely that being endorsed by Obama would be used against her by Missouri Republicans.

Onward Together, the political organization started by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made 26 donations to Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State, as well as congressional PACs, according to a review of the organization’s most recent campaign finance filing.  The donations, each worth $5,000 – the maximum amount permissible by federal law, totaled $130,000.

Here is the list:

  • Nelson Araujo (Nevada Secretary of State)
  • Jocelyn Benson (Michigan Secretary of State)
  • Sean Casten (IL-06)
  • Kathleen Clyde (Ohio Secretary of State)
  • TJ Cox (CA-21)
  • Jason Crow (CO-06)
  • Deidre DeJear (Iowa Secretary of State)
  • Deb Haaland (NM-01)
  • Josh Harder (CA-10)
  • Katie Hill (CA-25)
  • Steven Horsford (NV-04)
  • Mike Levin (CA-49)
  • Lucy McBath (GA-06)
  • Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23)
  • Katie Porter (CA-45)
  • Aftab Pureval (OH-01)
  • Harley Rouda (CA-48)
  • Talley Sargent (WV-02)
  • Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05)
  • Lauren Underwood (IL-14)
  • Scott Wallace (PA-01)
  • Susan Wild (PA-07)
  • Jennifer Wexton (VA-10)
  • ASPIRE (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus)
  • Bold PAC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus)
  • Congressional Black Caucus PAC

How the donations break down by numbers:

House of Representatives – 19

Secretary of State – 4

Congressional PACs – 3

The story was first reported by CNN.