Meet the (likely) freshman class of the 116th Congress

Dentons’ public policy team probes the polls to give you a first look at the newest (anticipated) members of Congress in this special report.

Connecticut guv race’s GOP stunner

The following comes by way of Dentons 50 partner firm the Connecticut Group.

Tuesday’s primary results yielded one big surprise: Republican Bob Stefanowski upset the party’s endorsed candidate, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, and won the GOP nomination for governor.

Stefanowski, a former GE and UBS executive who self-financed his campaign, took to the airwaves and ran ads months before his opponents – a strategy that paid off. He cruised to victory tonight, defying expectations, and teeing up an unlikely matchup for November.

Stefanowski will face Democrat Ned Lamont in the governor’s race. Lamont won the Democratic primary for governor by a large margin over Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

A complete list of the primary results for the state’s constitutional offices is below.

Party-endorsed candidates indicated by *
Republican Primary Democratic Primary
Governor
*Mark Boughton
Tim Herbst
Steve Obsitnik
Bob Stefanowski✓
David Stemerman
Governor
Joe Ganim
*Ned Lamont✓
Lt. Governor
*Joe Markley✓
Jayme Stevenson
Erin Stewart
Lt. Governor
Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman
*Susan Bysiewicz✓
Treasurer
*Thad Grey✓
Art Linares
Treasurer
Dita Bhargava
*Sean Wooden✓
Attorney General
*Susan Hatfield✓
John Shaban
Attorney General
Paul Doyle
Chris Mattei
*William Tong✓
Comptroller
Mark Greenberg
*Kurt Miller✓

Primaries in Conn., Minn., Wisc.: what to watch for and expect as polls close

Primaries in three states on Tuesday will set the contours of some of fall’s highest profile gubernatorial  and US House contests, as both parties eye possible and long-pursued upsets in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Connecticut

CT-Gov (D & R): Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy decided not to seek a third term in the face of an ongoing economic crisis that’s made him incredibly unpopular, and Republicans have a real chance to score a pickup in the fall.

Five Republicans are competing here, and there’s no obvious frontrunner. The state party endorsed Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who has led the few polls we’ve seen. Boughton, along with businessman Steve Obsitnik and former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, are participating in the state’s public financing program, which gives them each $1.35 million for the primary but caps their spending at $1.6 million.

Two businessmen, David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski, are mostly self-funding their bids and are therefore not limited in how much they can spend. Stemerman has spent a hefty $6.2 million during his campaign, while Stefanowski has spent $2.9 million. Both Stefanowski and Stemerman have also aired commercials attacking one another while largely laying off their rivals. A survey earlier this month from the Democratic firm Tremont Public Advisors had Boughton leading Stefanowski 32-22, with Stemerman at 17.

Things are much more lopsided for the Democrats. The state party establishment, as well as a number of prominent unions, are supporting wealthy businessman Ned Lamont, who notably defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 primary before losing the general election to Lieberman’s independent campaign; Lamont also lost the 2010 primary to Malloy. The only other Democrat in the race is Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who spent several years in prison for corruption but regained his old office in 2015. Lamont has outspent Ganim $2.6 million to $600,000 during the campaign.

CT-05 (D & R) (50-46 Clinton, 54-45 Obama): Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced she would retire in the spring after news broke that she’d inadequately handled an abusive staffer.

Former Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman narrowly won the endorsement of the Democratic Party endorsement over former high school teacher Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. Glassman has the backing of several of Connecticut’s House members, but several unions and Sen. Chris Murphy are supporting Hayes, who would be the first black woman to represent the state in Congress. Glassman outspent Hayes $220,000 to $59,000 from July 1 to July 25 (which the FEC calls the “pre-primary period”), but Hayes had more money in the bank for the final weeks of the race.

This western Connecticut seat has been competitive territory in the past, and Republicans hope that retiring Gov. Dan Malloy’s unpopularity will give them an opening. However, none of the three Republican candidates have raised much money. The top fundraiser is retired psychology professor Ruby O’Neill, who outspent businessman Rich DuPont $57,000 to $33,000 in the pre-primary period. Former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos spent only $6,000 during this time, but he has the state party endorsement.

Minnesota

MN-Gov (D & R): Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is retiring after two terms, and both parties will fight hard to win this contest in the fall. The Democratic primary is a three-way race between Attorney General Lori Swanson, Rep. Tim Walz, and state Rep. Erin Murphy.

Swanson only entered the race in early June, but she brought plenty of name recognition with her. However, her campaign has faced some tough stories in the two months since. News broke in July that Rep. Rick Nolan, who is Swanson’s running mate, had hired a former employee for his 2016 re-election campaign even though the aide had previously left Nolan’s legislative staff after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. In the final week of the contest, former staffers at the attorney general’s office charged that Swanson had pressured government employees into doing political work for her. Two polls taken in July, before the Nolan story broke, showed Swanson leading the primary, but we have no new data since then.

Walz, who represents a competitive congressional seat in the southern part of the state, looked like the frontrunner throughout most of the race, and he and his allies have outspent the rest of the field. However, Murphy, who has been trying to run to the left of the pack, has Dayton’s support as well as the official endorsement of the state Democratic Party.

On the GOP side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is seeking to regain his old seat eight years after leaving office and embarking on an unsuccessful presidential bid. He faces Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who lost the 2014 general election to Dayton 50-44. Pawlenty has considerably more money and name recognition, and the few polls we’ve seen have shown him far ahead. Johnson, however, has the state GOP’s backing, and he’s tried to position himself to Pawlenty’s right. The former governor went up with a negative TV ad last month, so he’s at least taking Johnson seriously as a threat.

MN-01 (R) (53-39 Trump, 50-48 Obama): Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is leaving this competitive southern Minnesota seat behind to run for governor, and Republicans are hoping its sharp swing towards Trump will give them a big opening in the fall. The GOP candidates are state Sen. Carla Nelson and businessman Jim Hagedorn, who narrowly lost to Walz in 2016 in a race that had looked safe for Team Blue until election night.

Nelson outspent Hagedorn $126,000 to $93,000 during the pre-primary period, though he had more money left for the final weeks of the contest. Nelson does have the NRA in her corner, while Hagedorn has the party endorsement. Still, some Republicans are anxious about nominating Hagedorn, who has a long history of misogynist comments, birther ramblings, and comments about “ungrateful” and “dead Indians.” Whoever emerges will take on former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, who faces little opposition in the Democratic primary.

MN-05 (D) (73-18 Clinton, 74-24 Obama): Rep. Keith Ellison announced on the final day of candidate filing that he was leaving this safely blue Minneapolis seat to run for attorney general to succeed Lori Swanson, who herself had just announced a last-minute bid for governor. Several Democrats quickly entered the race for Ellison’s seat, and the main candidates look like former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, state Rep. Ilhan Omar, and state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray.

Kelliher narrowly lost the 2010 primary for governor to Mark Dayton. Omar, who would be the nation’s first Somali-American member of Congress, has endorsements from Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and the state party. Torres Ray would also make history as Minnesota’s first Hispanic member of Congress, but she’s raised considerably less money than her two main opponents.

MN-08 (D) (54-39 Trump, 52-46 Obama): Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan is retiring from a seat in the Iron Range in the northeast corner of the state. This area is ancestrally Democratic but shifted hard towards Trump, and Republicans are excited about St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, who faces no serious primary opposition.

There are three main Democratic candidates. State Rep. Jason Metsa and former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, who was Nolan’s campaign manager during his tight 2016 re-election campaign, have the most money and support from party elites. Radinovich, who has had the airwaves to himself, outspent Metsa $124,000 to $82,000 during the pre-primary period, and they both had a similar amount of cash left for the final weeks of the race. However, while retired Duluth news anchor Michelle Lee has raised and spent very little money or attracted much support from Democratic power players, she does have name recognition from her decades on TV.

Mining is one of the key issues in this contest. Mesta is the Democrat closest to mining interests and he has the backing of the United Steelworkers. Lee in particular has emphasized her opposition to local copper-nickel mining and its effects on the environment. Radinovich has tried to position himself in the middle on this issue while focusing more on healthcare.

Vermont

VT Gov (R): Gov. Phil Scott, a centrist Republican stock-car driver, was once one of the most popular governors in the country — beloved by Republicans, Democrats and independents. But then, in April, he signed three historic gun-control laws, drawing fierce protests from residents of this traditionally pro-gun state. In a Morning Consult poll conducted after the signing, Scott’s popularity among Republicans dropped by 26 percentage points, and he now has a -15 net approval rating with voters of his own party. That could be a problem on Tuesday, given that shopkeeper Keith Stern is challenging Scott from the right, specifically criticizing Scott for signing the gun bills. The Republican Governors Association is acting like this is a competitive race: It has invested more than $1 million in a PAC supporting Scott’s re-election.

If Scott does lose the primary, then Stern, a more mainstream conservative, would instantly become a heavy underdog in this dark-blue state. (Going by our new and improved partisan lean metric,1 Vermont is 24 points more Democratic-leaning than the country as a whole.) Although none of the Democratic candidates has lit the world on fire financially, the favorite in the Democratic primary is probably former Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO Christine Hallquist, who, if elected, would be the nation’s first transgender governor.

Wisconsin

WI-Gov (D): Democrats have a crowded contest to take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, the only statewide official running, has had decisive leads in the few polls we’ve seen, while his rivals have all been far behind.

However, former state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, who would be the first woman to serve as governor, spent considerably more money than the rest of the field during July, which could help her get her name out late in the race. Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell, who would be Wisconsin’s first black governor, has also spent a credible amount of money, and he’s backed by several unions. Attorney Matt Flynn, campaign finance reform activist Mike McCabe, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout are also in.

WI-Sen (R): Republicans have hosted an extremely expensive contest to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. In one corner is businessman and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson, who has benefited from over $10 million in spending from groups supported by conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein. In the other is state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who has received $2.5 million in air support from groups funded by Diane Hendricks, another conservative megadonor, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Nicholson has pitched himself as a conservative outsider, while Vukmir is much closer to the state GOP establishment and touts endorsements from both the state party and most of the state’s House delegation (including retiring Speaker Paul Ryan). Vukmir and her allies have taken aim at Nicholson’s tenure as president of the College Democrats of America, including his 2000 speech at the Democratic National Convention in support of Al Gore. Nicholson and his supporters have hit back against Vukmir for expressing past doubts about Donald Trump. A few polls in July showed Nicholson ahead, but we haven’t seen any fresh numbers in weeks.

WI-01 (D) (53-42 Trump, 52-47 Romney): Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring from this southern Wisconsin seat, and the GOP quickly closed ranks behind attorney Bryan Steil. Democrats are hoping to make a play for this district, and they have a battle between ironworker Randy Bryce and Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers.

Bryce entered the race last year with a strong announcement video promoting him as a blue-collar American who will stand up to the GOP, which helped him raise gobs of money. He also has the support of the DCCC, Bernie Sanders, and several unions. However, Bryce has attracted some bad headlines over the last year. Most notably, he only paid off some old debts, including $1,300 in child support and a $2,000 loan from almost two decades ago, well after he kicked off his campaign. Myers has raised considerably less money and generated much less attention, either good or bad.

A midterms deep dive: a Dentons elections report

We are less than 150 days from November’s general elections. Roughly half of the state primary election contests, as well as a few special elections, are behind us, and the contours of the campaign battlefield for the November general election are taking shape.

So it’s an excellent opportunity for an update on the battle for control of the US House and Senate, and a look at the key races for governor and attorney general, as well as seats in state legislatures around the country.

  • The GOP currently enjoys a two-seat majority in the US Senate and a 23-seat majority in the US House of Representatives. In the Senate, Democrats are defending 26 seats to the GOP’s nine. As mandated by the Constitution, all 435 House seats are on the ballot in November.
  • In the states, the GOP currently holds 33 governorships, the Democrats have 16, and there is one Independent. As a result of retirements, the GOP will be defending 26 governors’ seats while the Democrats will be defending only 10. Elections for state legislators will be held in 46 states. In addition, 35 of 50 attorney general seats will be contested this election cycle. In 43 states, the attorney general is directly elected and 30 of states states will hold elections for the position this November. Moreover, 4 of the 5 states where the attorney general is appointed by the governor will hold elections for governor. Main, the sole state where the attorney general is appointed by the state legislature, is also holding legislative elections this November. Of the 99 total state legislative chambers in the US, the GOP currently controls 67 of them.

A few truisms about midterm elections:

  • While President Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot this November, his presence will be felt and will surely influence many House, Senate and even state races, for better and for worse.
  • Additionally, the party out of power–that is, the party not in the White House–always has the edge on voter intensity and enthusiasm. Midterms are often very unkind to the party in the White House.
  • Finally, history has shown that the generic ballot question, which simply asks voters which party they would prefer to control Congress, is fairly reliable metric of how many House seats turn over to the other party in the general election. (The most recent Real Clear Politics polling average has the generic ballot ballot at D+7.6.)

The answers to the following questions will help inform the path forward:

  • Just how large a shadow will President Trump cast on the federal races, or will those races turn primarily on local issues not involving the president?
  • Will a relatively strong national economy cause voters to “vote their pocketbooks” and overlook both their concerns about the president’s tweets and their unhappiness with congressional gridlock in Washington?
  • How much of a role will the #metoo movement, and women generally, play in the outcome of the elections?
  • With Democratic turnout this fall expected to be close to historic levels for a midterm election, what, if anything, can the GOP do to fire up its base and get them to voting booths this fall?

What else do we know at the movement? We know that there are more women candidates running for office, from both parties, than at any time in our history. We know that Democrats are leading the fundraising race at the candidate level but are still struggling at the national committee level. We know that retirements at the federal level, especially for the GOP, are reaching historic proportions and that those open seats are particularly vulnerable to national political sentiment.

Above all else, we know that events–nationally, locally, and on the world stage–that are presently unforeseeable have the potential to upstage all that we think we know today.

For a deep dive into the map, polling, historical data, and anecdotal evidence for virtually every election this fall, download Dentons’ latest election report here.

Wisconsin drug take back initiative nets 63,000 pounds of unused meds

The following comes by way of Dentons50 partner firm Capitol Consultants

Attorney General Brad Schimel announced Wisconsin had become the national leader in drug take backs, netting some 63,541 lbs. of unused medications as a result of its Drug Take Back events on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at nearly 390 permanent drug collection receptacles located throughout the state.

Schimel also announced Wisconsin’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI), a statewide effort to address the decades-long accumulation of previously un-submitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) that were in the possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals, has completed inventorying all of these kits, collected those designated for testing, and submitted them to contracted laboratories for testing. Testing will be complete by the end of 2018.

Malloy vetoes ECS funding bill, prompting likely veto override session

The following state legislative speed read comes by way of Dentons50 partner firm the Connecticut Group.

Dannel Malloy vetoed his first bill from the 2018 regular session Friday, blocking a proposal that would have prevented he and future governors from making cuts to education-cost sharing (“ECS”) grants as a means of balancing budget shortfalls.

Malloy has used his ECS rescission powers in past years to reduce funding to some of the wealthiest municipalities in the state, which he argues can afford to absorb the cuts.

The bill–H.B. 5121, An Act Prohibiting the Executive Branch from Making Rescissions Or Other Reductions To The Education Cost Sharing Grant During The Fiscal Year–passed the Senate unanimously and received just 32 nay votes in the House, virtually ensuring that the governor’s veto will be overridden if the legislature deems it worthy to do so.

After turbulent Spring, here’s New York’s new landscape

Although New York State’s political waters are never calm, three major political events since the beginning of April have left things downright turbulent in Albany.

Namely, the entrance of Cynthia Nixon into the gubernatorial race, the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), and the resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. All three developments have had different political consequences, which the Dentons New York Public Policy Team has briefly summarized below.

Cynthia Nixon’s announcement of her gubernatorial candidacy seemed to take the Governor by surprise, although many in the Albany political world expected that a challenge would eventually emerge from the political left, where Cuomo has some serious vulnerabilities. Nixon’s entrance into the race has quickly pulled the Governor’s policies to the political left, in a clear effort to appease the liberal flank of the Democratic Party. In an interesting twist, the Working Families Party, which has historically been the de facto political organization of the left wing of the Democratic Party, endorsed Nixon for Governor. While unlikely to defeat the Governor, if she stays in the race on the WFP line beyond the democratic primary she could prove to be a drag on Cuomo’s reelection efforts.

In early-April, the Independent Democratic Conference, the 8-member conference of breakaway democrats who had worked in a coalition with the Republican majority conference since 2012, announced their decision to dissolve and return to the mainline democratic conference in the Senate. Senator Jeff Klein, the IDC leader, has since become the deputy minority leader under Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The reunification of the two democratic conferences removes a major barrier in the democrats’ effort to take the majority in the Senate after decades of Republican control. Governor Cuomo’s newfound enthusiasm and interest in supporting the Senate Democrats, combined with democratic reunification, the expected “blue wave” in November and a number of senate republican retirements, has many in Albany wondering whether 2018 is the year that Democrats will take the majority in the state senate.

Finally, in early-May, the New Yorker published a report alleging that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had physically abused at least four women during his tenure as Attorney General. These shocking revelations forced Schneiderman to step-down as Attorney General within just hours of publication and sent shock waves through the New York political world. Within days, elected Democrats began jockeying for position to succeed Schneiderman. Ultimately, a joint session of the legislature nominated Barbara Underwood, the state Solicitor General and acting Attorney General to finish Schneiderman’s term, leaving the slate clean for voters to decide each party’s candidate in the September primaries. New York Democrats coalesced around New York City Public Advocate Letitia (Tish) James at their convention last week, however others have expressed interest in primarying her including former Cuomo staffer Leecia Eve, former Gubernatorial and Congressional Candidate Zephyr Teachout, as well as former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — who is being urged to by some to run.

On the Republican side, the state convention process in mid-May nominated a slate of statewide candidates. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro received unanimous support from his party as the gubernatorial candidate to take on Cuomo. Republican leadership has high hopes for the 42-year old candidate, who is seen as a moderate Republican with a track record of success in traditionally blue areas of the state. Julie Killian, who just lost in an expensive special election for state Senate in Westchester, was chosen as Molinaro’s Lieutenant Governor running mate. Republicans also picked Manhattan attorney Keith Wofford as their candidate for Attorney General, becoming the first black Republican to receive his party’s nod for the position, and Jonathan Trichter, a former Democratic operative who recently switched his party enrollment, as their Comptroller candidate to take on Tom DiNapoli.