Rumblings in the Midwest: Election News from Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri

ILLINOIS: A Kennedy Appears

The news regarding 2018 comes in waves through 2017. While several “blue state” Republican Governors, like Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, so far face scant opposition, the governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, isn’t so lucky. Today, Illinois businessman and son of Robert F Kennedy, Chris Kennedy, is joining the race for Governor. The second to officially announce, behind Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, he is the first wealthy entry on the Democratic side, a selling point for the Party:

Democrats have been looking to field a wealthy competitor as a counterbalance to Rauner, a wealthy former private equity investor who has used his resources to try to rebuild the state Republican brand. Rauner recently pumped $50 million of his personal money into his campaign account as a show of strength against any potential Democratic challengers, and aides promised there was more money to come.

Governor Rauner won despite trailing incumbent Pat Quinn in late 2014 polling by running up the score literally everywhere outside of Cook County, particularly in the voter-rich Collar Counties. Former Senator Mark Kirk lost his re-election bid last year after seeing his Suburban Chicago support collapse from 2010, and the Governor is determined to avoid a repeat of that.

WISCONSIN The Sleepy Superintendent Primary May Surprise

Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers faces his toughest election fight in the Spring, as John Humphries, a self-described progressive-turned-believer-in-Act 10, has drawn significant support from Wisconsin Republicans and activists. However, Mr. Humphries earlier opposition to the signature work of the Wisconsin Republican Government and his Walker recall petition signature. Some conservatives distrustful of Humphries have shifted towards Dr. Lowell Holtz, who has already received the endorsements of two sitting State Senators, nine State Representatives, and two County Parties. With just thirteen days to go and turnout expected to be low, the battle between Humphries and Holtz will likely be won in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, and we will be covering this fight live on February 21st.

MINNESOTA Nolan Closer to a Gubernatorial Run, MN08 a Prime ’18 Target

We reported earlier this year that the Congressman from Minnesota’s Eighth District, Rick Nolan, was contemplating a Gubernatorial run. Last week, he reiterated his intention to runand a former staffer laid out the justification for a Nolan nomination:

“The DFL suffered a devastating defeat in rural Minnesota in three of the last four elections. Democrats have lost 35 of 58 rural seats we once held,” [Justin Perpich] said. “The DFL is becoming a regional party. To win the governorship in 2018, the DFL needs a progressive who can win tough races. Rick Nolan is that candidate.”

The erosion of Democratic support in rural Minnesota is easy to see when looking at the Presidential results form 2016: President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by decades-high margins in the communities that constitute the First, Seventh, and Nolan’s own Eighth Districts. Republicans have made Nolan’s district a big target for 2018, which voted to re-elect him by only 0.6% last year.

MISSOURI Keep an Eye on Kander

It is my personal opinion that the single most vulnerable Senator in 2018 is Claire McCaskill, and while she insists she is not retiring, if she changes her mind there is one big Democrat likely lying in wait: Jason Kander. Mr. Kander ran a tough Senate campaign last year in a state that went overwhelmingly to Trump, losing to incumbent Republican Roy Blunt by low single digits. He launched a “voting rights group” yesterday with an impressive roster of Democratic names, including Zephyr Teachout and Dan Pfeiffer. Close connections with these leaders would push him to the front of the line in the event McCaskill decides she doesn’t want to face a likely loss to Representative Ann Wagner.

IOWA Wisconsin 2: Electric Boogaloo?

Since attaining total control of the State Government for the first time in decades, Republicans in Iowa are taking a cue from their neighbors in Wisconsin, and have proposed massive alterations to collective bargaining for public employee unions:

The changes would remove health insurance from mandatory contract negotiations for most public-sector union workers, and it would limit mandatory negotiations only to base wages, cutting out discussions over things like insurance, evaluation procedures and seniority-related benefits. Other changes are proposed to the arbitration and certification process for unions.

Unlike the changes under Wisconsin’s Act 10, which exempted firefighters and police officers in its introduction, these would apply to nearly all public employee unions in the state. Iowa, like much of the rest of the Upper Midwest, has shifted considerably in the last decade away from its more progressive support as Republicans have advanced into a plethora of statewide offices. A similarly aggressive measure was attempted in Ohio but soundly rejected by voters in 2011.