At the Races: A Case of the Mondays

Busy day for annoucements, from North Carolina to California

Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., has picked up a top-flight GOP challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., has picked up a top-flight GOP challenger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted July 11, 2017 at 5:00am

Minnesota’s Rick Nolan Draws GOP Challenger

Minnesota Republican Pete Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner, announced his candidacy for the state’s 8th District on Monday.

House elections in the northern Gopher State district, represented by Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Rick Nolan, have been among the most competitive and expensive in the country for the last two cycles.

President Donald Trump carried the district by 16 points last fall, while Nolan barely won re-election against two-time challenger Stewart Mills, who hasn’t ruled out a third run.

Stauber is a top GOP recruit for a rural district that Republicans are hoping to pick up. A former professional hockey player with the Detroit Red Wings operation, he is currently a lieutenant in the Duluth Police Department and has been with the force for 23 years. He also served two terms as a Hermantown city councilor.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 8th District race Leans Democratic

Simone Pathé

Former Defense Official Taking On Michigan’s Mike Bishop

Elissa Slotkin, a former acting assistant defense secretary, on Monday announced a challenge to Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in Michigan’s 8th District.

Slotkin, a Democrat, left government service and moved back to her family’s farm in Holly this spring, where she now runs her own consulting firm.

She spent nearly 15 years working in defense and intelligence under both former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She began her career as a Middle East analyst for the CIA and served three tours in Iraq.

Democrats targeted this seat in 2014 and 2016 without success. Bishop won his second term last fall by 17 points. President Donald Trump carried the district by nearly 7 points.

Slotkin doesn’t have a budget yet, but thinks she’ll need to raise upward of $2 million for the whole campaign.

The Democrat could face a crowded primary. Environmental lawyer Darlene Domanik has already announced a campaign. Michigan State University professor Chris Smith and former Eaton County Commissioner Linda Keefe are considering running.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 8th District race Likely Republican

— S.P.

‘Reagan Democrat’ Enters Race Against Rohrabacher

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher received another challenger when lawyer Omar Siddiqui announced last week he would run in California’s 48th District.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Siddiqui is a lawyer who works in Costa Mesa but lives outside the district. He told the Orange County Register he was a Republican until 2009 but now describes himself as a “Reagan Democrat.” A Muslim, he said he agrees with Democrats on most social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights, but is more conservative on energy and fiscal policy.

So far, Siddiqui is the sixth Democrat to jump into the race and the third who was previously a Republican. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting the district, which broke for Hillary Clinton last fall despite re-electing Rohrabacher.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 48th District race Leans Republican

Eric Garcia

Rep. Steve Pearce to Run for New Mexico Governor

Rep. Steve Pearce on Monday became the first Republican to join the race for New Mexico governor, opening up his 2nd District seat, which Democrats were already planning to target in 2018.

Pearce is the second member of Congress from New Mexico to announce plans seek the state’s highest job. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched her campaign in December.

Incumbent GOP Gov. Susana Martinez is term-limited.

While Pearce is the only Republican running so far, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez may also be considering a run.

On the Democratic side, Lujan Grisham is competing against state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, former CBS and Univision media executive Jeff Apodaca, and youth alcohol-prevention advocate Peter DeBenedittis.

The race to replace Pearce in the 2nd District is already packed, with four Democrats already in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added the district to its target list in May.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican, while the governor’s race is rated Leans Democratic.

Kyle Stewart

 Vodka Distillery Owner Takes On North Carolina’s George Holding 

Democrats are hoping that the owner of a new vodka distillery in Durham, North Carolina, can help them pick up a suburban Raleigh district represented by Republican Rep. George Holding.

Democrat Sam Searcy announced his campaign for North Carolina’s 2nd District on Monday. The 40-year-old Holly Springs resident grew up in Hendersonville, where his father worked factory jobs and his mother was a special eduction teacher’s assistant.

He was the first person in his family to attend a four-year university, graduating from Appalachian State, and then went on to earn a law degree at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. He worked in compliance in clinical research in North Carolina’s Triangle region before recently joining with several business partners to open Graybeard Distillery.

Democrats are optimistic this might be the cycle to make gains in the Tar Heel State, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee putting four districts, including the 2nd, on its target list.

President Donald Trump carried the newly redrawn 2nd District by 10 points last fall while Holding won re-election by 13 points.

“George is not in one of those seats that’s always going to be safe Republican,” said Carter Wrenn, a North Carolina consultant who works for Holding. “If you have a bad year, with the tide against Republicans, that puts it in play.”

Army veteran Wendy Ella May, a delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at last year’s Democratic National Convention, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in May.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the seat Solid Republican.

— S.P.