Herschel Walker Up Over Sen. Raphael Warnock; Rep. Jim Cooper to Retire

January 28, 2022

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • AZ-Sen: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) Heading for Another Close Race
  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker (R) Up One Over Sen. Raphael Warnock (D)
  • TN-5: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) to Retire
  • Redistricting: Action in AL; KS; SC; TN
  • MA-Gov: Labor Sec. Marty Walsh (D) Won’t Run for Governor
  • OH-Gov: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) Trails in GOP Primary


Arizona: The Data for Progress organization just released their major statewide poll in the Grand Canyon State of Arizona (1/21-24; 1,469 AZ likely general election voters; approximately 1/3 of which are likely Democratic primary voters; online & text). The DfP finds Sen. Mark Kelly (D) already falling into a tight battle with Attorney General Mark Brnovich, should the latter man win the GOP nomination. The ballot test projects Sen. Kelly holding a slight 49-47% edge but with a falling personal approval rating, 46:49% favorable to unfavorable.

Regarding Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the poll finds deep trouble within her own Democratic Party, but she performs well among Republicans and breaks even with Independents in terms of job approval (20:76% among Democrats; 47:48% from Independents, but 66:26% among Republicans). In a preliminary 2024 Democratic primary pairing with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), however, she would trail by a whopping 16-74%.

Georgia: Quinnipiac University released its first Georgia poll of the election season (1/19-24; 1,702 GA likely voters; 666 GA likely Republican primary voters; live interview) and finds Republican challenger Herschel Walker holding a slight 49-48% lead over Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in what will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation later this year. We can expect close polling in Georgia from today all the way through the November election.

Kentucky: With candidate filing officially now closed, the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy firm released the results of their new Kentucky statewide poll (1/19-22; 625 KY registered voters; live interview) and project Sen. Rand Paul (R) to be in strong position opposite his likely general election opponent, former state Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville). The ballot test gave Sen. Paul a 55-39% lead, with him carrying every region of the state with the exception of the Louisville metro sector.


CA-3: Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (R), who challenged Rep. Ami Bera (D-Sacramento) in 2016 and lost in a 51-49% margin, announced that he will run in the new open 3rd District that stretches from the Sacramento suburbs all the way down the Nevada border into Southern California via Inyo County. Sheriff Jones will at a minimum face state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay), businessman Jim Scott (R), and physician Kermit Jones (D) in the June 7th jungle primary. The seat leans Republican, and carries a R+8 rating from the FiveThirtyEight statistical firm.

CA-13: Fresno Democrat Phil Arballo, a financial advisor who raised over $5 million in his 2020 challenge to then-Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) but lost 54-46%, was a candidate in the current special election to replace the resigned GOP Congressman in District 22. With the new redistricting map virtually eliminating that seat, meaning the winner will likely serve only one six-month term, Arballo has left the special election and announced he will run in new District 13, a Lean Democratic seat that touches the Fresno area and stretches to the San Joaquin Valley. 

Mr. Arballo decided to run in CD-13 when Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) announced that he was moving into retiring Rep. Jerry McNerney’s (D-Stockton) 9th CD. The CA-13 race is expected to be competitive. In the beginning, Mr. Arballo will at least face state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) in the jungle primary scheduled for June 7th. 

NE-1: Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Lincoln) is now seeing his federal indictment for campaign finance violations and allegedly lying to federal authorities hurt him politically. Last week, state Sen. Mike Flood (R-Norfolk), a former Speaker of the unicameral legislative body, announced that he would challenge the Congressman in this year’s Republican primary. Over the succeeding weekend, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) both endorsed Mr. Flood’s challenge to Rep. Fortenberry, signaling a serious challenge ahead.

Ex-Gov. Heineman indicated that he is concerned about the Republicans winning in November against state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (D-Lincoln) should a politically crippled Fortenberry again become the party nominee. He also brought attention to the Lincoln Congressman being the only Nebraska member ever indicted. Gov. Ricketts supported his endorsement of Sen. Flood by saying the district would get “…the full-time attention it deserves.”

TN-5: On passage of the new Tennessee congressional redistricting map that would significantly change the Nashville area, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) quickly announced that he will not seek re-election later this year. Mr. Cooper is serving his 16th term in the House, winning his first election from the state’s east/southeastern 4th District in 1982, which he represented until he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1994. He returned to the House from the Nashville district in 2002 when then-Rep. Bob Clement (D-Nashville) left the seat to challenge then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R), the same man who defeated Mr. Cooper in his statewide bid. 

During his second tour of duty in the House, Rep. Cooper was not seriously challenged for re-election. It appeared he was preparing for a Democratic primary challenge this year, but such is moot now that the new 5th District becomes decidedly Republican. Rep. Cooper is the 29th Democrat not to seek re-election. Counting the Democratic and Republican retirements along with the new and created (through redistricting) open seats, the House will see a minimum of 50 new members coming into office at the beginning of 2023.

Redistricting: In a surprising move from an Alabama three-judge Republican panel, the enacted GOP congressional map was declared void this week because it did not create a second African American district as the Democratic plaintiffs claimed it could. Immediately the Republican legislative leadership announced they will appeal the decision. 

Upon filing their objection, the map would then go directly to the US Supreme Court, and the high panel must hear the redistricting challenges. As part of the ruling, the Alabama candidate filing deadline was moved from January 28th to February 11th. The court returned the map to the legislature ordering a new map by February 7th. If the GOP legislators follow through with their Supreme Court appeal, it is likely they will not respond to the court order.

In addition to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signing his state’s redistricting measures, state legislatures in Kansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee sent their congressional maps to respective Governors Laura Kelly (D), Henry McMaster (R), and Bill Lee (R). Gov. Kelly, because the map makes the Democratic 3rd District of Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Roeland Park) more competitive, is likely to veto the plan and send it back to the legislature. The Republican majority in the House may be a few votes short of having the 2/3 super majority to enact the map. 

Govs. McMaster (SC) and Lee (TN) are expected to sign the legislatures’ redistricting bills. The South Carolina map strengthens the politically marginal 1st District for freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Charleston), while the Tennessee plan will likely add one more Republican district to their state delegation at the expense of retiring Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).


Georgia: As shown above in the Georgia Senate post, Quinnipiac University released its first Peach State poll (1/19-24; 1,702 GA likely voters; 666 GA likely Republican primary voters; live interview), and their gubernatorial results are as close as what was found in the Senate race. Matched with consensus Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, the 2018 gubernatorial nominee and former state House Minority Leader, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) posts a small 49-47% lead. The Governor’s personal favorability, however, is upside down at 36:51%, while Ms. Abrams is better but certainly not stellar at 44:45% positive to negative. 

In the Republican primary, Gov. Kemp leads former Sen. David Perdue, 43-36% with ex-DeKalb County Executive Vernon Jones pulling 10% support. If Mr. Perdue were the Republican nominee against Ms. Abrams, the two would be tied at 48%.

Illinois: The Victory Research firm tested Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker (1/18-20; 1,208 IL likely general election voters) against five potential Republican opponents. Businessman Gary Rabine (R) fares best against the Governor, but even he trails by a huge 52-28% margin. Gov. Pritzker remains in strong shape in his bid for a second term. Other tested GOP candidates are state Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Louisville), Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan.

Massachusetts: US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, the former Boston Mayor, said that he will not return to Massachusetts to enter the open Democratic gubernatorial primary, choosing to stay in his present position. Earlier, Attorney General Maura Healey (D) said that she would run. Democrats are favored to convert this Governorship. Incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is not seeking a third term.

Michigan: Regular Michigan pollster EPIC-MRA (1/15-20; 600 MI likely general election voters; live interview) finds Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) leading former Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R) with a 46-41% margin according to the results of its latest survey. 

Though Gov. Whitmer has an edge on the outside of the polling margin of error, there are several negative points that should worry her. In a ratio of 35:45%, the respondents believe Michigan is on the wrong track. Her job approval stands at 45:52% positive to negative. Perhaps the worst part of the survey for Gov. Whitmer, however, is that President Biden’s job approval is a woeful 32:66% positive to negative, and the respondents rate the economy only 29:65% positive to negative. 

Ohio: A Fabrizio Lee research firm survey (1/11-13; 800 OH likely Republican primary voters; live interview) finds GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, one of the leading Covid shutdown Governors, in trouble against his Republican primary opponent, former Congressman Jim Renacci. According to the poll, Mr. Renacci would top Gov. DeWine in his quest for re-nomination by a surprising 46-38% margin. 

The Governor’s job approval rating among Ohio Republicans is a poor 48:49% positive to negative and his personal approval ratio is an even worse 44:52%, with 33 of the 52% saying very unfavorable. Mr. DeWine’s re-elect score is troublesome for any incumbent. A full 50% of his own party respondents say they definitely or probably won’t vote for DeWine. This race has been rather quiet to this point, but the May 3rd Republican gubernatorial primary has just become much more interesting.

On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley released her Clarity Campaign Labs poll that posts her to a 33-20% lead over ex-Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley in the battle for their party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Rhode Island: Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D), one of five Democrats challenging new Gov. Dan McKee (D) in the party primary, announced that he will end his statewide campaign and instead enter the open RI-2 congressional district race for the office from which veteran Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) is retiring. 

Mr. Magaziner’s departure leaves Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former Secretary of State Matt Brown, corporate CEO and Harvard University Board Member Helena Foulkes, and physician Luis Daniel Munoz in the nomination race. The Rhode Island primary isn’t until September 13th.