Battleground States Hold Primaries for Governor and Attorney General
August 2nd was a busy day at the polls as voters in several states cast their votes during Tuesday's midterm elections. We have your coverage of what took place at the state level in Arizona, Kansas, and Michigan.
Incumbent Governor Laura Kelly (D) secured an easy win in last night’s Democratic primary with 94% of vote to defeat opponent Richard Karnowski (D). The Governor will be vying for reelection come November in what is shaping up to be a historically competitive race. Kelly is promoting herself as a moderate who has worked with Republicans in her first term. Kelly has highlighted her accomplishments on the campaign trail including job creation, new infrastructure projects, and overall economic development.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) secured his place in the general election after defeating Arlyn Briggs in the Republican primary with 81% of the votes. Schmidt has been the state’s chief law enforcement officer for 12 years and spent a decade in the State Senate, serving as the State Senate majority leader for five of those years. Schmidt has promised to be the “common sense conservative voice” for Kansas. His campaign is focused on his achievements as attorney general, including his many legal challenges against the Obama Administration and now the Biden Administration. He has also pledged to eliminate taxes on social security, pensions, and 401Ks.
This seat is being heavily targeted by Republican organizations and outside groups who believe a flip is possible. Governor Kelly’s win in 2018 was considered to be one of, if not the, biggest political upsets of the cycle. Kansans had not elected a Democratic governor since 2006 and Republicans have had control of both legislative chambers since 1993. Four years ago, Kelly capitalized on her opponent–this year’s Republican nominee for Attorney General, Kris Kobach–focusing on his polarizing positions and relentlessly tying him to former (and unpopular) Governor Sam Brownback (R). This year, she does not have the luxury of running against a conservative firebrand with a penchant for national headlines. The most recent public poll showed Schmidt with a 4 point lead, while the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball have rated this race as a toss-up.
The Republican primary for Attorney General was crowded as three candidates with lengthy legal and office experience vied for the nomination. Last night, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) secured 42% of the vote to advance him to the general election. Kobach served as the Kansas secretary of state from 2011 to 2019. Kobach campaigned on creating a legal team that would sue the Biden Administration, describing himself as the candidate who is qualified to take on the administration. Kobach has listed prosecuting voter fraud and removing fees on concealed carry licenses as his top priorities for the office. Chris Mann also advanced to the general election after running unopposed in the Democratic primary for Attorney General. Mann has experience as police officer and as a prosecutor in the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office and for the Kansas Securities Commission. Regardless of what could happen at the top of the ticket, Kobach goes into November as the frontrunner.
The real story of the night was the resounding defeat of a ballot measure: Kansas was the first state in the post-Roe era to ask voters to weigh in on a proposed amendment that would have eliminated the right to an abortion under the state constitution. (In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion was included within the state's bill of rights, regardless of any future federal action.) Not only did Kansans reject this measure by 17.5 points, they turned out in record numbers for a primary election. As of 9:30AM today, over 900,000 ballots have been counted. In 2018, just 457,598 Kansans voted in the primary election while 636,032 voted in the 2020 primary election.
Arizona is also considered a battleground state this year as candidates prepare to replace term-limited Governor Doug Ducey (R). It was a congested Republican primary, though former local news anchor Kari Lake (R) and former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson (R) led in polls and fundraising. Former President Donald Trump backed Lake ahead of the primary, while former Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Robson. Robson was widely seen as the establishment choice leading up to the primary.
As of this publication, the race is too close to call with Lake having secured 46% while Robson has captured 44% of the ballots that have been counted. These early results have been a surprise to some as most public polls had Lake leading Robson by large margins going into election day.
If Lake gets the nomination and if she were elected to the governor’s office, she pledges to complete construction of the border wall and expand the presence of law enforcement and National Guard. She plans to address homelessness by investing in both temporary and long-term facilities, banning urban camping, and developing treatment programs. Lake hopes to reinforce Arizona’s ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory and bolster Arizona’s Parents Bill of Rights law. Lake has raised nearly $2.5 million for her campaign so far. Former President Trump is outspoken in his support for Lake. At a rally in Prescott Valley, Trump took aim at Governor Ducey and stated that the difference between him and Lake would be “like day and night.”
If Robson edges out a win in the primary and were elected to the governor’s office, she pledges to roll out an economic relief plan to address inflation. The plan includes monthly rebates for working families and an Earned Income Tax Credit program for taxpayers earning $50,000 a year or less. She has pledged to address unlawful entry across the Arizona-Mexico border by increasing National Guard presence, call an emergency session of the Arizona Legislature (to do what - unclear), and sue the Biden administration for its termination of the border wall. Her campaign far outspent Lake dropping over $18 million by the time of the primary. Much of Robson’s funding has come from her family’s wealth; her husband, Ed Robson, amassed a fortune building retirement communities.
The Democratic primary saw a narrower field of candidates. Former Arizona State House of Representatives member Aaron Lieberman (D) unofficially withdrew from the race, leaving Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and former Director of the Arizona Department of Commerce Marco Lopez (D). Hobbs comfortably won the Democratic party’s nomination, receiving approximately 72% of the vote as of this morning. If elected governor, she plans to address Arizona’s economy by instating refundable tax credits for career and technical education opportunities, implementing a state-level child tax credit, and exempting over-the-counter medications from sales and use taxes. She pledges to improve the state’s bureaucracy by overhauling the Office of Equal Opportunity and creating roles of Chief Equity Officer and Civil Rights Policy Advisor. She is promising to work with the Department of Education in improving diversity in high-paying STEM jobs. She hopes to expand voting access for communities of color and restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. Hobbs’ campaign was damaged by a federal jury verdict in November 2021, when she was sued by Talonya Adams, a former member of her staff. Hobbs, then the Arizona State Senate Minority Leader, fired Adams in 2015 after she complained that she was paid less than her colleagues. After the verdict, Hobbs’ initial response shifted blame to Republicans in the legislature, but she later issued an apology acknowledging the harm caused to Adams and her family. The incident has been highlighted throughout the campaign by Hobbs’ primary opponent, Marco Lopez, who was endorsed by Adams.
All recent public polling gives the edge to Hobbs, though these have been hypothetical match-ups against Republican primary candidates. The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball have the Arizona gubernatorial rated as a toss-up.
Current Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) is also term-limited and unable to run for reelection. The Republican primary for Attorney General of Arizona saw a crowded field of six candidates. Although the majority of voters were undecided in the days leading up to the primary, a publicly available poll saw Abraham Hamadeh (R), Rodney Glassman (R), and Andy Gould (R) leading by narrow margins. Ultimately, Hamadeh secured the nomination after receiving a plurality of the vote. Hamadeh was endorsed by Trump as well as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). He is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and a board member of the Dean’s Council of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. He has experience in the courtroom as the former prosecutor of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. If elected, Hamadeh plans to enforce state border security laws, prosecute election fraud, and partner with local governments and private-public partnerships to ensure mental health resources are more accessible.
The Democratic primary for Attorney General of Arizona saw only one candidate on the ballot, former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes (D). Former Arizona state legislator Diego Rodriguez (D) initially jumped into the race, but bowed out after having trouble fundraising and facing pressure from his party. Mayes touts her experience in public service, not only as Corporation Commissioner but also while serving in Governor Napolitano’s Administration. If elected to office, Mayes pledges to coordinate with law enforcement to prosecute cartels engaged in drug, weapons, and human trafficking. She cites her experience as Corporation Commissioner as she describes plans to address consumer fraud and hold corporations accountable. Mayes promises to work with county attorneys to act against perpetrators of elder abuse and create a task force that will put a spotlight on the issue. She plans to work with Attorneys General from other states to share best practices in dealing with the fentanyl crisis in Arizona.
Michigan has been the scene of a tumultuous GOP primary as candidates lined up for the chance to challenge incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). Two original frontrunners were removed after they were caught up in a fraud scandal over ballot signatures. One of them, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R), is still running as a write-in. Another candidate, Ryan Kelley (R), was arrested by the FBI and is facing multiple misdemeanor charges for his role at the U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021. In the end, five candidates, including Kelley, appeared on the ballot. Former news anchor Tudor Dixon (R), businessman Kevin Rinke (R), and chiropractor Garrett Soldano (R) led in polls and fundraising.
Tudor Dixon secured the Republican party’s nomination, winning 40% of the vote. Dixon worked in steel sales from 2002-2017. In 2017, she began working as a news anchor for America’s Voice News and founded Lumen News, a conservative morning news program designed for grade school students. If elected to the governor’s office, Dixon pledges to use COVID-19 relief funds to finance a tutoring program that will help students catch up in math and reading. She aims to require schools to post their curriculums and materials online. Dixon plans to begin phasing out Michigan’s personal income tax. She also states that she will slash 40% of the state’s regulatory code. She pledges to ban sanctuary cities, keep cash bail for violent and repeat offenders, and increase criminal penalties for crimes committed during riots. Dixon is endorsed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Former President Donald Trump praised Dixon at a fundraiser for her campaign, although he declined to officially endorse any candidate for the primary.
Incumbent Governor Whitmer advanced in the Democratic primary as the party’s only candidate. Before taking office as governor in 2019, Whitmer served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2001-2006 and in the Michigan State Senate from 2006-2015. One of her biggest priorities as governor has been addressing the state’s infrastructure. Earlier this year she signed a bipartisan bill directing $4.8 billion into roads, bridges, drinking water, high-speed internet, parks, and affordable housing. Her first budget in 2019 directed several billions of dollars for infrastructure development, but she struggled with the Republican-controlled legislature to pass it and was forced to make concessions. Whitmer touts the fact that her education investment, the largest in state history, was made without raising taxes. She states that it has been her priority as governor to put money back in the pockets of Michiganders, citing refund checks and her push for the repeal of the state’s retirement tax.
The Cook Political Report rates the Michigan general election as a toss-up, while Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it as leaning Democratic. Much like Kansas, Republican groups and outside organizations are pumping money into this race. While Governor Whitmer is one of the Democratic Party’s endangered incumbents, she has maintained a strong lead in public polling: In hypothetical match-ups, she led all Republican primary candidates by a range of eight to 15 points.
Candidates for Michigan Attorney General will be advanced at the Democratic Party state convention on August 21 and the Republican Party state convention on August 27.
State Attorneys General (AG) have been getting more involved in a wider range of policy issues in recent years. If they aren’t touching your industry now, they may be soon. Stateside can help you navigate these developments through our Attorneys General practice. For more information or questions, contact Steve Arthur at email@example.com or 719-686-7466.