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Monday, May 21, 2018


May 22 primary watch

by Tom Sullivan

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

FiveThirtyEight previews tomorrow's primaries in Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky, and runoffs in Texas. One of the most prominent is the Georgia governor's race, but let's begin, as FiveThirtyEight does, with the barn-burner in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District:

Jim Gray and Amy McGrath are two of the most impressive Democratic candidates for office anywhere in the country. It’s just Democrats’ luck that they happen to be running for the same seat. McGrath jumped into the race for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District in August 2017 with a viral video that emphasized her barrier-breaking military career. But national Democrats reportedly still pushed Gray to run, and in December he kicked off a campaign that checked all of the national party’s preferred boxes: He is wealthy, so he can self-fund his campaign; he is well-liked locally as the mayor of Lexington, the 6th District’s largest city; and he has already won this district once before, as Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016 (he lost statewide but carried the 6th District 52 percent to 48 percent). That’s no easy feat in this district that’s 17 points more Republican-leaning than the country as a whole.
FiveThirtyEight describes state Sen. Reggie Thomas as the progressive alternative, but a long shot in a field of six. Projected turnout is 30 percent, the highest in nearly a decade.

Cook ranks the district itself "lean Republican." Like some other races, the two front running Democrats are not far apart on issues and it has the hallmarks an establishment vs. outsider matchup. (The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee urged Jim Gray to enter the race.) But it is the outsider, McGrath, who has raised more money. Maybe that video is why:

The runoff in Texas’s 7th Congressional District between Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, backed by the DCCC, and Laura Mozer, founder of Daily Action, is being called a battle at the heart of the Democratic Party. Fletcher topped Moser in the primary 29-24. The winner will face Republican John Culberson in a solidly Republican district. FiveThirtyEight explains:
Fletcher-Moser race actually bears more than a passing resemblance to last week’s Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd District: The two candidates agree on all issues except single-payer health care, but Moser speaks with the defiant tone of the #Resistance, while Fletcher is trying to appeal to both sides of the aisle.
The runoff contest is another proxy fight between progressives the party professionals. The DCCC's meddling in the primary (by releasing opposition research on Moser ahead of the primary) has already boosted her fundraising. It will have backfired completely if Moser wins tomorrow.

Moser has the backing of Our Revolution, the organization spun off from the Bernie Sanders campaign. Politico observes its candidates have had no major wins in 2018. Party insiders are already gnashing their teeth over the snub in Nebraska. Even so:
"Republicans were at each others' throats for years. All it got them was the House, the Senate and the presidency," said Nathan Gonzales, who analyzes congressional races for Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign guide. "Democrats can be divided and still win because they have a common enemy in Donald J. Trump."
In Georgia, all eyes are on the race for governor. Among Republicans, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is favored. Competitors have taken to desperate measures to gain attention:
The campaign has consisted of the candidates tripping over themselves as they run rightward. Cagle made national news when he threatened to eliminate a tax break for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines in retaliation for Delta ending its relationship with the National Rifle Association. (Cagle’s threat may have backfired by scaring away some business-friendly Republicans.) Kemp has aired some explosive ads, including one where he implicitly threatens his daughter’s suitor with a shotgun. And Williams has campaigned across the state with his “deportation bus,” a gray school bus that reads “fill this bus with illegals” on the side.

By contrast, the Democratic contest will be decided one way or the other on Tuesday, and the two candidates couldn’t be taking more different approaches. Stacey Evans believes that the key to a Democrat winning Georgia is persuading moderate Republicans like those in the rural trailer parks she grew up in or the Atlanta suburb she later represented in the state House. Former state House minority leader Stacey Abrams thinks it’s time to try a new strategy: turning out the hundreds of thousands of black voters who stayed home in 2014 and 2016. Whichever candidate wins on Tuesday, Democrats will most likely need to use some combination of the two strategies if they hope to prevail in November. Georgia is still pretty red, with a partisan lean of R+8.
Abrams has the advantage of having hundreds of thousands of black Georgia voters she can court. That's not the case in many places where Democrats struggle as much as they do in Georgia. Georgia is 31 percent black; Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District is 9 percent. Abrams is also favored to win tomorrow, with polls showing her with a 20-point lead over Evans.

Lastly in Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Clarke Tucker, a DCCC “Red to Blue” candidate, appears poised to win the Democratic primary. He holds a 30-point lead in polling over three progressive candidates. It's a start for Arkansas.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.