2018 Elections: Let The Primaries Begin

There are major primaries if three states, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana . Here are the more important races to watch.

West Virginia: Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 3rd Congressional District; Polls close: 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

We discussed this here yesterday how the fringe has become the new normal. There are three candidates for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia. The candidates are:

Ex-con and coal baron Don Blankenship who has garnered the opposition of not only the GOP leadership but also Donald Trump’s. They feel that Blenkenship’s nomination would be a sure win for Manchin. The GOP as threatened to withhold their support should he win. Democrats, natrually, would be delighted if Blankenship was the voters choice.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), a Democratic state legislator turned Republican congressman, is the candidate that would give the Democrats the most to worry about. Democratic PACs have spent nearly $4 million to derail his campaign. Republicans will also pick a replacement for Jenkins in his safely GOP seat.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is the third name on the ballot and the other candidate Democrats would prefer to face.

While there are claims that the race is a dead heat, according to FiveThirtyEight, the numbers rely on “the biggest tease in politics – internal polling.”

Flying under the radar is West Virginia’s open 3rd Congressional District (R+48), as per FivethirtyEight:

Although Trump carried the district by a whopping 49 points in 2016, it encompasses ancestrally Democratic “coal country”; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin won it by 34 points in 2012, and a Democrat represented the 3rd District as recently as 2014. Four Democrats are vying to be the next to do so, with the biggest name being state Sen. Richard Ojeda. Not only has Ojeda dramatically outraised the Democratic field, but he also has an Avengers-worthy origin story: After being attacked and brutally beaten two days before the 2016 primary, he surged to a shocking victory over an incumbent Democratic legislator, then won a 78-19 Trump seat in the general election. On the Republican side, three seasoned politicos have the resources to pull off a win: state Delegate Rupie Phillips, former state party chair Conrad Lucas and, most flush with cash, state House Majority Whip Carol Miller.

Indiana: Races to watch: U.S. Senate; 6th Congressional District; Poll closings: most at 6 p.m. Eastern, the rest at 7 p.m.

Indiana is the other GOP three-way race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Donnelly and is one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the country in 2018. This race has been called the one of the most expensive Senate races of 2018. The GOP candidates are:

Rep. Luke Messer, who has represented Indiana’s 6th CD since 2013, is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment conservative and the GOP favorite.

Rep. Todd Rokita has represented the 4th Indiana CD since 2011 and has been a nasty feud with Messer that has sunk to nasty name calling.

Their fight left the door open for a third candidate to emerge, wealthy businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun who has spent about $4.5 million in the race, mostly his own money. He has been caught in the crossfire of Messer/Rokita battle and criticized for his vote in favor of road funding legislation that increased the state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.

Politically, there is very little difference between the three conservative white men.

The other race to watch is the 6th CD which Messer currently holds. The seat was Vice President Mike Pence’s before he became governor and now his older brother, Greg Pence, is running for the seat.

His challenger is Jonathan Lamb, another wealthy businessman who has lent his campaign $800,000.

Pence is considered the front runner thanks to the $1.2 million that was raised with the help of his powerful brother and other GOP bigwigs; half of his fundraising haul has come from out of state. The seat is strongly Republican (R+39), so either candidate is a most likely to win.

Ohio: Races to watch: governor; Issue 1; U.S. Senate; 12th and 16th congressional districts; Polls close: 7:30 p.m Eastern.

Republican Gov. John Kasich is term limited. Here are the candidates for both the Republican and Democratic primaries with analysis from FiveThirtyEight:

A few months ago, it looked like Attorney General Mike DeWine had the Republican nomination locked up, but Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has whittled a 40-point polling lead down to 17 points since loaning her campaign $3 million in January. She has deployed the funds on an onslaught of TV ads attacking “D.C. DeWine” as insufficiently conservative. DeWine responded with a $4.7 million media broadside of his own: His campaign has tarred Taylor as a “phony conservative,” called her “unfit, unqualified” and even tweeted “#LockHerUp” over her alleged misuse of a state airplane. The race to the right has gone so far that Taylor has taken to disavowing the moderate Kasich administration (in which she serves) and reportedly claimed that Kasich had endorsed DeWine. (Taylor denies making the claim, and Kasich has reaffirmed his endorsement of Taylor.)

The Democratic primary also features a well-funded front-runner and a scrappy ideologue, and both candidates’ names are familiar to observers of national Democratic politics. The favorite is former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, fresh off a contentious stint as director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The underdog is former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich — yes, the same Dennis Kucinich who ran for president in both 2004 and 2008 touting a far-left policy platform that now looks ahead of its time.

Polling show Cordray with a 15 point lead over Kucinich but there are four other Democratic candidates on the ballot: state Sen. Joe Schiavoni; former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill; Larry Ealy and Paul Ray.

FiveThirtyEight sees Cordray as the strongest candidate for the Democrats in a “reddening state” R-8.

Ohioans will have another important decision with Issue 1, a ballot measure that overhauls Ohio’s congressional redistricting process.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution would require districts to be compact, limit the number of counties split between districts and give the minority party more leverage in passing a new map. Issue 1 has garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, so it hasn’t generated much campaign activity. But some reformers have complained that it doesn’t go far enough. For example, if a redistricting plan fails to pass with minority-party support, then the majority party can still unilaterally pass its own map (although it would expire after four years rather than the usual 10). Polls suggest the measure will pass easily.

All of Ohio’s congressional House are up for grabs. The ones to watch closely are the 12th Congressional District (R+14) and 16th Congressional District (R+17):

Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned to lead a local business group, has spent handsomely to promote his chosen successor, state Sen. Troy Balderson, in the GOP primary. But insurgent Republicans have other ideas. House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan supports diehard Trump follower Melanie Leneghan, who business-friendly Republicans worry could cost them the general election in this well-off, well-educated district. The conflict has sparked a $1.3 million TV ad war that has been joined by several super PACs. Veteran and economist Tim Kane is also on the air with his message eschewing career politicians, and state Sen. Kevin Bacon could also cause tremors with his high name recognition. But private polling agrees Balderson and Leneghan are one and two for now.

The Democratic primary has been much quieter. Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor is the front-runner and establishment favorite in a place where the local party’s support still carries tangible material benefits. Former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, a moderate, has a familiar name from running in two high-profile races in recent years (on the other hand, he lost them both), but the local party is not a fan. Also keep an eye on Indivisible activist John Russell, who has grassroots appeal but has also snagged some high-profile endorsers.

Ohio’s other open House seat is in the 16th Congressional District (R+17), where a fight similar to the one in the 12th is playing out on the Republican side. Anthony Gonzalez, who is a former Ohio State football star and briefly played in the NFL, has collected $1.1 million in contributions from the likes of House GOP leadership and old co-worker Peyton Manning. But Freedom Caucus founder Jordan has planted a flag in this district too, endorsing firebrand state Rep. Christina Hagan. Hagan has embraced Trump tightly — and, in turn, Trump associates like Anthony Scaramucci and Sebastian Gorka have embraced her — but she has raised less than $400,000 for the cycle. Meanwhile, Democrats, who have an outside shot at winning this seat in November, will choose between six candidates, with veteran and clean-energy researcher Grant Goodrich perhaps a modest favorite. [..]

Finally, Ohio’s 1st, 7th, 10th, 14th and 15th congressional districts — all Republican-held — will be races to watch in the fall, but there’s not much suspense about which Democrat will win their primaries. It’s a similar story in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. Armed with Trump’s endorsement, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci is the clear favorite in the Republican primary and is expected to give Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown a tough race in the fall. However, the nearly $2 million that investment banker Mike Gibbons has spent in the campaign could put a dent in Renacci’s margin. An April poll gave Renacci 21 percent, Gibbons 7 percent and “undecided” 65 percent.

We will have the results of the races later tonight.