The following Bottom Lines have been updated following this week's primaries in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennslyvania.
Republican primary voters opted to stay the course by nominating Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the hope that he will succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter. Little won the nomination with 37 percent to 33 percent for U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and 26 percent for developer Tommy Ahlquist. The Democratic primary produced a surprise when former state Rep. Paulette Jordan upset businessman A.J. Balukoff, who was the party’s in 2014 against Otter, taking 39 percent. Jordan took 59 percent to 40 percent for Balukoff. As the first Native American woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination and a favorite of progressives, Jordan is likely to get a lot of national attention and her fundraising may be better than expected. But, Idaho continues to be among the most solidly red states in the country, meaning that Jordan has a steep uphill climb. Little is heavily favored to win the seat. The race is in the Solid Republican column.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts easily won his party’s nomination in his bid for a second term. He took 81 percent of the vote against writer Krystal Gabel. State Sen. Bob Krist won the Democratic nomination with 60 percent to 29 percent for activist Vanessa Ward and 11 percent for University Of Nebraska-Omaha instructor Tyler Davis. Krist is an interesting candidate. Considered a moderate Republican, Krist first said that he would run as an independent. He then switched to the Democratic primary. It will be difficult for Republicans to paint Krist as a liberal, but that doesn’t mean Krist will be any more competitive than a card-carrying Democrat would be. The contest is in the Solid Republican column.
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown faced voters in 2016 for the right to serve the remainder of John Kitzhaber’s term. Kitzhaber resigned in 2015 in the wake of several controversies. Brown didn’t do as well as a Democrat might be expected to do in a presidential year, taking just over 50 percent. Brown must run for a full four-year term in 2018. She won the Democratic nomination with 83 percent in the May 15 primary. Republicans got the nominee they wanted in state Rep. Knute Buehler, who won a 10-way primary with 47 percent. Republicans tend to do better in statewide races in this Democratic-leaning state in mid-term election years, and strategists believe that Brown has handed them some potent issues on the heels of the state’s fiscal woes. Buehler is the underdog in the race, but it’s worth watching developments here. The contest is in the Likely Democratic column.
Gov. Tom Wolf has the dubious distinction of being the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent this cycle. In 2014, Wolf’s defeat of GOP Gov. Tom Corbett was one his party’s bright spots in an otherwise bad election year. A political newcomer, Wolf ran on the strength of his resume as a successful businessman and promised more transparency and ethics in government. Once in office, Wolf had to address a weak economy and stagnant revenues. Republicans started this contest with high hopes that they could build on their victories in the presidential and U.S. Senate races in 2016, but their primary proved to be nasty as the candidates pushed each other to the edge of the conservative spectrum in an expensive contest. State Rep. Scott Wagner won the GOP nomination with 44 percent to 37 percent for businessman Paul Mango and 19 percent for businesswoman Laura Ellsworth. While Wolf remains vulnerable, GOP strategists believe their battle has become more uphill. The contest is currently in the Lean Democratic column, but where it once seemed headed to Toss Up, it may well move in other direction if Wagner can’t prove himself to be a competitive challenger.
Image: Kate Brown Credit: Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian-OregonLive.com via AP