Thursday, October 29, 2015

Final Calls for Decision 2015

Election Day 2015—yes, it's a thing—is next Tuesday, and you can expect to read more about it in this space and on my Twitter feed before the winners are announced. In addition to countless mayors, ballot measures, and state legislators, statewide constitutional officers are on the ballot in three states this year: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi (though Louisiana doesn't vote next Tuesday, because Louisiana is weird). This blog is the only place on the internet where you'll find race ratings for these oft-forgotten, oft-important elections. Now that we're in the home stretch, here are my final race ratings for attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and more. You can also access the current ratings at any time by clicking on the "2015 Ratings" tab above.


Most observers believe that Democrat Jack Conway has opened up a small but perceptible lead for governor. I'm not ready to jump on board that train. This is still an off-off-year election—which leads to low, unpredictable turnout—and Kentucky is still a conservative state. Since downballot races often fall in line behind top-of-the-ticket results, I'm being cautious with my ratings here.
  • Attorney General: Leans Democratic (unchanged). The Republican Attorneys General Association (like the NRSC or RGA, but specifically for attorney-general races!) spent $2.2 million in Kentucky through October 2, mostly on a hard-hitting TV ad campaign tying Democrat Andy Beshear to the unpopular president. The onslaught appeared to budge the polls, as a September Bluegrass poll showed that Republican Whitney Westerfield had erased his deficit from the summer and moved into a tie. But then the RAGA announced it was pulling out of Kentucky, and Democratic outside forces fought back in a big way in October. The last three polls have made September's look like an outlier. Although the RAGA has since returned for a final Parthian shot, it may be too late for Westerfield.
  • Secretary of State: Leans Democratic (unchanged). Alison Lundergan Grimes looks like the safest Democrat in Kentucky; she hasn't been targeted to nearly the same degree, but she has taken her own campaign seriously by airing ads on television.
  • Treasurer: Tossup (unchanged). Republican Allison Ball has held a consistent lead in polls, but it's too small to mean anything. But she is now running television ads, which have correlated with other Kentucky downballot candidates grabbing polling leads. Hmmm...
  • Auditor: Tossup (unchanged). This race has turned late toward Democrat Adam Edelen, who has spent $608,949 to Republican Mike Harmon's $27,643—but it's still close enough that Election Day turnout will have the final say.
  • Commissioner of Agriculture: Leans Republican (unchanged). Despite leading, Republican Ryan Quarles has gone negative in a race with a surprising amount of fireworks. He's the only one spending in the race ($275,796 to $32,254).


Lots of downballot races came off the board in Louisiana on Saturday, when the state held its preliminary round of voting in its unusual jungle primary. As my original ratings predicted, Republican incumbents easily crested 50% and won reelection in the races for secretary of state, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and forestry, and commissioner of insurance. That leaves two constitutional seats, plus the suddenly exciting governor's race, on the runoff ballot on November 21.
  • Lieutenant Governor: Likely Republican (unchanged). In a mild surprise, Billy Nungesser defeated fellow Republican John Young for the right to face Democrat Kip Holden for lieutenant governor. The Nungesser/Young primary was nasty, but Nungesser is not nearly the scandal-ridden, widely despised candidate that David Vitter is, a fact that has made the governor's race competitive. Nungesser should easily pick up almost all of Young's support; their combined preliminary totals of 58.9% are more than enough to defeat Holden. However, Holden is the mayor-president of populous East Baton Rouge Parish, and he has a strong turnout operation in the African-American community. If Democrat John Bel Edwards performs particularly strongly in the governor's race, it's not totally insane to think that he could sweep Holden in with him.
  • Attorney General: Solid Republican (unchanged). As expected, this runoff is between incumbent Republican Buddy Caldwell and former Republican Congressman Jeff Landry. That means, of course, that Republicans are guaranteed to hold this seat. It's worth noting, though, that Caldwell was a Democrat until recently and many Republicans still don't trust him. Landry, a strong conservative, is considered the "true" Republican in this race. I'd say this race leans Caldwell, who should get the support of Democrats looking for a relative ally in the AG's office.


There has been only one public poll in Mississippi since April, but the state's obvious partisan lean makes up for it. No ratings have shifted in the last month, and all but one of the seats is forecast to go easily Republican.
  • Lieutenant Governor: Solid Republican (unchanged).
  • Attorney General: Likely Democratic (unchanged). Incumbent Jim Hood—who is famously the last statewide Democrat in the Deep South—has faced the attacks of super PACs and now allegations of impropriety. The sole poll, a Mason-Dixon joint conducted last week, puts Hood's lead at a narrow 50% to 44%. However, the Hood campaign has pointed to the survey's oversampling of Republicans and touts internal polling showing him with a 57%-to-35% lead.
  • Secretary of State: Solid Republican (unchanged).
  • Treasurer: Solid Republican (unchanged).
  • Auditor: Solid Republican (unchanged).
  • Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce: Solid Republican (unchanged).
  • Commissioner of Insurance: Solid Republican (unchanged).

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