After a quiet July, we’re back in the thick of primary season in August.
GA-Sen (Runoff): When we last checked in, the primary for the Democratic nomination for the Georgia Senate race had gone to a runoff, with none of the five candidates clearing 50% in the July 15 primary. Bush-enabling DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones led the field with 41%; ex-State Rep. Jim Martin came in second with 34%. This makes it look like Jones has the edge, but Martin has a good shot at consolidating the anti-Jones votes that were dispersed among the four white candidates. A late June poll shows Martin with a much better shot at beating Saxby Chambliss in the general than Jones has.
KS-02: Nancy Boyda, who won an upset victory in this R+7 district in 2006, has had to sit and wait while Jim Ryun, the former Representative that she beat, and Lynn Jenkins, the Kansas State Treasurer, beat the snot out of each other in the primary. (Ryun was one of the most conservative members of the House; Jenkins is considered a moderate, at least by Kansas standards.) Ryun and Jenkins have raised a fair amount of money, but have had to spend it on each other, and an internal poll from June gives Boyda a sizable edge over each one. Still, this is a Lean D race and Boyda is widely regarded as one of our most endangered incumbents.
MI-13: Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is in a three-way fight with ex-State Rep. Mary Waters and State Sen. Martha Scott in the Democratic primary. She’s a long-time incumbent, but scandal involving her son, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is dragging her down, and a poll this week shows her in the lead but only with 33% of the vote.
MO-Gov: Representative Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman are vying for the Republican nomination to succeed Governor Matt Blunt, retiring at the ripe old age of 37 in the face of massive unpopularity. Polling gives the edge to Hulshof in the primary, but either one of them looks like a speed bump in the road for four-term Attorney General Jay Nixon, making this the Dems’ likelist state house pick-up.
MO-09: Kenny Hulshof is leaving behind this open seat in his quest to become Governor, giving the Dems a good shot at picking up this R+7 seat (represented by conservative Dem Harold Volkmer before Hulshof). There are competitive primaries in both parties. On the GOP side, most of the action is between State Rep. Bob Onder and State Tourism Director Blaine Luetkemeyer. (Although the presence of ex-football star Brock Olivo keeps things lively.) Onder is backed by the Club for Growth, Luetkemeyer is backed by Missouri Right to Life, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch couldn’t bring itself to endorse either of them.
On the Dem side, the leading contenders are State Rep. Judy Baker and former State House Speaker Steve Gaw. Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode and ex-State Sen. Ken Jacob are also viable candidates. Baker (from the university town of Columbia) seems about as liberal as is viable in this district, Gaw is a bit to her right (although he did come out strongly against retroactive immunity) while the others are pretty Blue Doggish. Baker, who was running before Hulshof dropped out, leads the money chase. In absence of any polls, though, the race on both sides is a big question mark.
TN-09: Representative Steve Cohen, who picked up Harold Ford’s old Memphis-based seat in 2006, is being challenged by another one of the 2006 contenders, Nikki Tinker. Regrettably, this race has been defined by identity politics: race, gender, and religion, rather than ideology (which is important, as Cohen, the white guy, is quite progressive, while Tinker, the African-American woman, is running to his right). The district’s 60% African-American composition gives an advantage to Tinker, but internal polling in May gave a huge edge to Cohen. At D+18, it’s safe for the Dems in the general.
TN-01, TN-07: Two members of Tennessee’s wingnut patrol face primary challenges from other wingnuts hoping to capitalize on discontent within the wingnut base. In TN-01, freshman Rep. David Davis (who won the last primary with 22% of the vote) faces a rematch with 2006 contender Johnson City mayor Phil Roe. And in TN-07, Marsha Blackburn is up against Shelby County Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood, who released an internal poll showing him within striking distance. These races don’t seem to be about much other than “my turn,” and Dems aren’t in a place to capitalize in these deep-red districts (R+14 and R+12), but they’re worth keeping an eye on.
CO-02: In this safe Dem (D+8) district based in Boulder, there’s a heated race to replace soon-to-be-Senator Mark Udall. State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, Board of Education chairman and Internet entrepreneur Jared Polis, and Colorado Conservation Trust executive director Will Shafroth are all strong candidates. Conventional wisdom seems to mostly focus on Fitz-Gerald and the self-funding Polis, but Shafroth has picked up the major newspaper endorsements. Polis may be a smidge to the left of the other candidates (he’s openly gay and a Responsible Plan endorser).
CO-05: Doug Lamborn is another freshman wingnut who ruffled a lot of feathers in his first election (to the extent that his predecessor, Joel Hefley, refused to endorse him). He faces off against two of his 2006 challengers, former Hefley aide Jeff Crank and ex-AF Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn. Crank and Rayburn originally entered into a gentlemen’s agreement where one would drop out based on polling to avoid splitting the anti-Lamborn vote, but that agreement collapsed, leaving Crank and Rayburn attacking each other instead. It’s probably all for naught anyway, as their joint internal poll gives a big edge to Lamborn. Whoever wins has a big edge against Dem Hal Bidlack in this R+16 district.
CO-06: There’s a crowded field of Republicans trying to pick up where the retiring Tom Tancredo leaves off. Mike Coffman, the Colorado Secretary of State, seems to be slight front runner against businessman (and son of long-ago Senator Bill Armstrong) Wil Armstrong, according to Armstrong’s internal polling. Armstrong, despite not having held office, boasts some key endorsements, including retiring Sen. Wayne Allard and Mitt Romney. Two state senators, Ted Harvey and Steve Ward, are also vying for the seat. Local activist Steve Collins will represent the Dems in the general in this R+10 district.
Look for the 8-19 primaries in Washington and Wyoming, and the 8-26 primaries in Alaska and Florida, in Part II.