Omaha provided the state with a major political upset last night. In the 2nd District Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders’-backed Kara Eastman, a non-profit organization executive, edged former US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha) and scored a 51-49% upset victory for the party nomination. She will now oppose freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion) in November. This will be a race to watch, but Mr. Bacon begins the general election as the favorite.
Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania choose congressional nominees tomorrow, setting the stage for several competitive general election contests.
In Idaho, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher is expected to defeat former Lt. Gov. David Leroy in the 1st District Republican primary. Mr. Fulcher, a former gubernatorial candidate, immediately becomes the clear favorite to replace Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) who is running for Governor.
Nebraska’s 2nd District Democratic primary is worth watching. There, former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), who current Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion) defeated in the 2016 election, is attempting a political comeback. He is facing more significant primary opposition than expected, however, from non-profit executive Kara Eastman who is attracting Democratic support from the former Congressman’s ideological left. The general election against Rep. Bacon will be competitive.
Little is happening at the US House level in Oregon, but the Pennsylvania primary, running in the new court-ordered districts for the first time, will dominate the political coverage tomorrow night. We can expect competitive primaries in ten of the state’s 18 new districts.
Some of the more interesting primaries include the open 5th District where a crowded Democratic primary will determine which Democrat succeeds resigned Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) in the new Delaware County seat. Resigned Rep. Charlie Dent’s (R-Allentown) new open 7th District features competitive primaries in both parties as a prelude to a toss-up general election campaign.
Crowded Republican primaries are on tap for open Districts 9 (Rep. Lou Barletta-R running for Senate) and 13 (Rep. Bill Shuster-R retiring). Tomorrow’s Republican winner will win the respective seats in November. The new open District 14, which contains 60% of the territory covered in the March special election that attracted national attention, is also worth watching. There, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg), who lost the special general to Democrat Conor Lamb, may win the Republican primary tomorrow night. He faces state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Robinson Township) in what is now a safe Republican seat. Rep. Lamb has chosen to run for re-election in District 17 where he will face three-term Republican incumbent Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) in what will be a toss-up general election campaign.
Of the four states holding primary elections tomorrow, two feature US Senate nomination contests.
In Nebraska, Sen. Deb Fischer (R) stands for re-nomination. She faces only minor opposition in the Republican primary, and is expected to sail through tomorrow’s vote. On the Democratic side, Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould is expected to win the party nomination. She has three opponents in tomorrow’s contest; the most significant of whom is retired state circuit judge Frank Svoboda. Sen. Fischer is a heavy favorite to win re-election to a second term in this reliably Republican state.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) has no Democratic opposition in the big Keystone State primary. Four-term US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) is a heavy favorite to defeat state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver/Washington Counties) in the GOP contest. While Sen. Casey begins the general election as the favorite to win a third term, Rep. Barletta will be a competitive Republican nominee.
All four states feature gubernatorial primaries. In Idaho, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) and Lt. Gov. Brad Little appear to be the strongest Republican candidates. The winner will likely face former gubernatorial nominee A.J. Balukoff (D) in the general election.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) faces only minor Republican opposition. The Democratic nominee is expected to be Republican-turned Democrat state Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha.
The Oregon Republican gubernatorial primary features a three-way race among state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), former US Senate candidate and businessman Sam Carpenter, and retired Blue Angels commander Greg Wooldridge. Polling gives Rep. Buehler an advantage in tomorrow’s nomination contest. The winner faces Gov. Kate Brown (D) in the general election.
Polling also finds state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) leading the Republican nomination battle in Pennsylvania. His chief opponents are businessman Paul Mango and former Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce president Laura Ellsworth. The winner faces Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf who is seeking a second term in office.
State Sen. Bob Krist yesterday announced that he will enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary in hopes of facing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) in this year’s general election. Mr. Krist is now a former Republican, leaving the GOP to enter this race, though Nebraska state legislative races are non-partisan. The Democratic field has appeared weak to date, so Sen. Krist could prove himself viable enough to win the nomination despite just newly coming into the party. In any event, Gov. Ricketts will remain a strong favorite for re-election.
Democrat Brad Ashford was elected to the US House in 2014, but Republican Don Bacon (R-Papillion) ousted him two years later. This year, Mr. Ashford is attempting his own political comeback. But, him winning the Democratic nomination may be more difficult that first thought. Non-profit executive Kara Eastman is showing some political strength. This week she received endorsements from Omaha City Council President Ben Gray and Douglas County Democratic County chair Crystal Rhodes, who is also a Nebraska Public Service Commissioner. The Nebraska primary is May 15th, and this one may be one to watch.
A new Public Policy Polling survey (11/10-12; 1,190 NE registered voters; automated) tested the Nebraska electorate, and Democratic candidate Jane Raybould claims the results portray incumbent Sen. Deb Fischer (R) in a vulnerable light. According to PPP, Sen. Fischer would only lead Ms. Raybould, a Lincoln City Councilwoman, 42-31%. The Senator’s favorability index is upside down at 35:45%. These latter numbers are not particularly surprising coming from PPP, since their favorability questions routinely return negative ratios regardless of the individual being tested. Such a poll, while clearly not bringing Sen. Fischer positive news, is not, in and of itself, a reason to move this race higher on any targeting list.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has drawn his first announced re-election challenger, but in a rather unexpected manner. Republican state Senator Bob Krist announced his challenge to Gov. Ricketts, but not the in the GOP primary…nor, will he run as a Democrat. Instead, Sen. Krist is forming his own political party under Nebraska election law and will attempt to qualify for the ballot as a general election third party candidate.
Mr. Krist says he wants to form a centrist political entity to attract moderate voters of all stripes. It will be interesting to see if the Nebraska Democratic leadership, unlikely to be particularly competitive against Gov. Ricketts, will field their own candidate in hopes of taking advantage of what could become a three-way race, or not file anyone and instead coalesce with Sen. Krist. This could become a race to watch.
Former Congressman Brad Ashford (D-NE), who defeated Rep. Lee Terry (R-Omaha) in 2014 but lost to current Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion) last November, is returning next year for a re-match. Months ago, Mr. Ashford and his wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, publicly stated that one of them would likely become a 2018 congressional candidate. Yesterday, the ex-Representative officially declared his candidacy. The 2nd District seat, which comprises the Omaha metropolitan area, is politically marginal so Bacon-Ashford II will be a race to watch.
Former one-term Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), who earlier in the year said he would not seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion), is slightly changing his tune. After her husband made his original statement, the ex-Congressman’s wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, said that she might become a candidate. Mr. Ashford clarified the situation this past week saying that either he or his wife will run next year. Both Rep. Bacon and Mr. Ashford are pro-business. Then-Rep. Ashford was a BIPAC Action Fund endorsed candidate in 2016.
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