Election 2016: A look at the final stretch in key states

Home Blog ELECTION 2016: A LOOK AT THE FINAL STRETCH IN KEY STATES

Election 2016: A look at the final stretch in key states

With less than two weeks until Election Day, candidates and their surrogates are traveling across districts, states, and the country, working to persuade voters. NBC’s latest Electoral College map projects that Clinton is on pace to secure 287 Electoral College votes, 17 more than required to become the 45th President of the United States Senate Democrats need only five net gains to become the majority party, while House Democrats need a 30 seat pickup to lead their chamber. Most non-partisan political prognosticators are predicting a victory for Clinton, a more divided Senate and smaller majority for Republicans in the House. Regardless of your political affiliation and thoughts on the candidates for President, it’s important to vote. Though the presidential race may be garnering the lion’s share of the attention, outcomes of the down-ballot state and local races also significantly affect everyone. Visit the Power in Cooperation Election Center to find out more about your candidates and details about how, when, and where to vote.

Here’s some Election Day insight for states with significant oil and natural gas operations:

Alaska

If there is any question that Alaska is home to independent thinkers, this election may put that to rest. A recent Alaska Dispatch News poll showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton in the state, 36 percent to 31 percent. This is not that surprising as Alaska has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964. However, what does stand out is 24 percent of respondents chose neither major party candidate and, instead, answered Gary Johnson (L) or Jill Stein (G). That is 16 points higher than the combined average for Johnson and Stein according to the Real Clear Politics national average. In 2012, Johnson and Stein were also on the presidential ballot in Alaska, but only garnered a combined 3.5 percent of the vote, while Mitt Romney (R) defeated President Obama by 14 points, 9 points more than Trump leads Clinton in the state.

Voters in Alaska will also cast ballots on whether to retain their single, at-large member of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of their U.S. Senators, or change their Washington delegation by voting for new representation. At this point, all signs point to Election Day being a good day for Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski (R). The same Alaska Dispatch News poll also found that Murkowski leads her Democratic opponent, former member of the Alaska House of Representatives Ray Metcalf, by 38 points. Murkowski is also outperforming Donald Trump in the state by 14 points. Murkowski joined her Alaskan colleague, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, in denouncing Donald Trump’s presidency and eventually called for Trump to step down from the ticket.

Similar to Murkowski, Alaska’s U.S. House Representative Don Young (R) is also very likely headed towards re-election. The Alaska Dispatch News poll shows Young with a healthy 14-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Steve Lindbeck.

While there is no gubernatorial race in Alaska this year, as we’ve mentioned in our previous updates, there are state Senate and state House elections. Currently, Republicans hold an eight-seat majority in the state Senate and a seven-seat majority in the state House. While Democrats are hopeful to make gains in both chambers, it is unlikely that they will.

Key Dates for Alaska Voters – General Election 
Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 10/29
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8 (postmarked)
Early Voting Period: 10/24-11/8
Election Day: November 8

Colorado

In the latest Gravis Poll, Clinton currently leads Trump in Colorado by 5 points. For proponents of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s (D) re-election, this is good news. In the same poll, Senator Bennet currently leads his Republican opponent and El Paso County District 1 Commissioner by 10 points, and is outperforming Clinton by four points. Both the Cook Political and Real Clear Politics Senate ratings show Bennet headed towards re-election.

The same cannot be said for four-term U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-06), whose district lies just east of Denver and is anchored by Aurora. Once a Republican stronghold district, CO-06 is now a bellwether district in a bellwether state. Political operatives in Washington and across the country will look to Coffman’s race on Election Night, as it could be a primer for national upsets throughout the evening.

The big question, however, remains in the state legislature where both the House and Senate are up for grabs, though the state House will more than likely remain under Democratic leadership. As we have mentioned before, Republicans control the state Senate by just one seat. Democrats, on the other hand, control the state House of Representatives by three seats, 34-31. Come election night, all eyes will be on the race in Senate District 19— representing Arvada, just northwest of Denver. Incumbent Laura Woods (R) is on the frontlines against Rachel Zenzinger (D), who she defeated in 2014 by less than 1,000 votes. Other target Senate districts include Districts 25 and 26, which are both open seats with outgoing Democrats. If Republicans lose District 19 and are able to pick up either District 25 or 26, they will retain the Colorado State Senate majority.

Colorado has some of the highest percentages nationally of Latinos and young college graduates, who appear to support Clinton’s campaign. With a stumbling Trump infrastructure in the state and Clinton leading in the polls and among key demographics, we are likely to see Bennet re-elected to the U.S. Senate, while Democrats become the new majority in the state Senate and retain their majority in the House. If this is the case, Democrats will make Colorado a “trifecta state,” where one party controls both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governor’s mansion.

Key Dates for Colorado Voters – General Election
Registration Deadline: 10/31
Absentee Ballot Request: Deadline: 10/31
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Period: 10/24-11/8
Election Day: 11/8

Montana

While television airwaves are saturated throughout the county and cable news outlets have non-stop coverage of the latest breaking news from the Trump or Clinton campaign, something significant is happening in Montana: one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country is heading into the final stretch.

According to a recent Mason-Dixon poll conducted for Lee Newspapers, Montana’s Democratic incumbent governor, Steve Bullock, leads his Republican challenger, tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte, by just 2 points, while 6 percent of voters remain undecided. At this point in the cycle, this race is all about turnout and the presidential candidates are not helping much in the state. Beyond pure turnout, the other key factor that will decide this election will be the 6 percent of undecided voters and independents; traditionally, these voters break late, often within the last week of the election, and they could easily tip the scales one way or another.

In a not-so-highly contested race, however, is Montana’s freshman at-large member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan Zinke (R). In a recent Lee Newspapers survey of registered and likely voters, Zinke led his Democratic opponent, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, by 13 points. Zinke also outperformed Trump in the same poll by 3 points; and Trump leads Clinton in the state by 22 points. In order for Denise Juneau to really contend on Election Day, she would need a major influx of independent support, which currently leans towards Zinke. All current signs point to Zinke’s re-election on November 8.

As we have mentioned in prior updates, Republicans currently hold a majority in both the Montana Senate and House of Representatives. In the Senate, Republicans have a nine-seat majority, 29-20, with one seat currently vacant. In the House, they have an 18-seat majority, 59-41. Neither of these chambers is expected to undergo dramatic leadership shifts this cycle. Why does this matter? Let’s jump back to the governor’s race. If Gianforte wins on Election Day, Montana will become a “trifecta state”—in which one party controls both chambers of the state legislature along with the governor’s mansion.

Key Dates for Montana Voters – General Election
Registration Deadline: 10/11 (Allows “Late Registration” up to day of election)
Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 11/7
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Period: 10/11-11/7
Election Day: 11/8

New Mexico

If there is a swing state that doesn’t get as much attention as it should, New Mexico is it. The state voted for President Reagan in 1980 and ’84, George H. W. Bush in ’88, Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96, Al Gore in ’00 and then switched in favor of George W. Bush in ’04, and favored President Obama in both ’08 and ’12. However, unless something drastic changes, the state is likely to continue to develop into a Democratic stronghold based on its current demographics. According to a recent SurveyUSA/KOB-TV poll, Clinton leads Trump in the state by 13 points. Former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson garnered 14 percent of the vote. Barring any drastic surprises, the bulk of New Mexico voters will be supporting Hillary Clinton for President.

This year’s focus in New Mexico, however, is not on the presidential race, or any contest for federal office. The big race is in the state legislature, where Republicans will be defending their four-seat majority in the state House while Democrats will bank on Clinton’s popularity to hope to win the magic number of 36 seats and regain control of that chamber.

The races to watch come November 8 include:

  • New Mexico House District 4 –incumbent Republican Sharon Clahchischilliage (R-Kirtland) will defend her seat against Democratic Challenger GloJean Todacheene.
  • New Mexico House District 15 –incumbent Republican Sarah Maestas Barnes (R- Albuquerque) will defend her seat against Democratic challenger Ane Romero.
  • New Mexico House District 30 –incumbent Republican and House Majority Floor leader Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) will defend his seat against Democratic challenger Natalie Figueroa.

If Democrats are able to win these three seats without losing any currently held seats, they will unseat the Republican House majority, giving the new Democratic controlled state legislature the power to stall any legislative priorities of Republican Governor Susana Martinez.

Key Dates for New Mexico Voters – General Election
Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 11/4
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Period: 10/11-11/5
Election Day: 11/8

North Dakota

North Dakota has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968, and 2016 is not likely to be any different. While there has not been much recent polling in the state on the presidential contest, Trump led Clinton in a mid-September poll conducted by DFM Research, by 11 points. While Trump’s lead is not surprising, what’s interesting is the fact that Trump hasn’t surpassed the 50 percent threshold, as 16 percent of the poll’s respondents said that they were undecided.

However, the big focus remains on the gubernatorial race. This is arguably the most important race for the oil and gas industry, as North Dakota’s governor will lead the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the sector. There are twelve gubernatorial races nationwide this year, seven of which are open seats—or no incumbent—and North Dakota is one of them. According to Cook Political Report, one of the nation’s leading political handicappers, five of the open governors’ races are competitive and rated as “toss-ups.” North Dakota’s election, though, is rated solid/likely Republican. You can find out more about the candidates for governor by going to our Elections Center.

Key Dates for North Dakota Voters – General Election 

Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 11/2
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Period: 11/3-11/5
Election Day: 11/8

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has been one of the quieter states this election cycle. While Trump is projected to easily defeat Clinton in the state, the only major race on the federal level is U.S. Senator James Lankford’s (R) first regular election following his win in the 2015 special election to replace former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R). Lankford is expected to win on November 8, assuming nothing drastic happens in the final weeks of the campaign.

Both the Oklahoma State House of Representatives and the Oklahoma State Senate hold elections this year; however, large Republican majorities in both chambers—a net 30 seats in the Senate and 41 seats in the House—ensure that neither chamber is likely to flip to a Democratic majority following the election.

Key Dates for Oklahoma Voters – General Election
Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 11/2
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Window: 11/3-11/5
Election Day: 11/8

Texas

Texas’s 38 electoral votes have been a consistent topic of discussion throughout this presidential cycle. Texas was a Democratic stronghold until 1980, when Ronald Reagan carried the state, with Texas voters failing to elect a Democrat for president ever since. This is not an ordinary year, however. With one of the more “establishment” candidates in recent history in Hillary Clinton (D) and one of the more unorthodox candidates in Donald Trump (R), Texas’s Electoral College votes appear to be up for grabs. Even now, the latest poll in Texas conducted by CBS News and YouGov shows Trump with only a 3-point lead on Clinton in the state. Real Clear Politics changed their assessment of the state this past weekend and now rates the Lone Star State a “toss-up.” Republicans rely heavily on the state’s electoral votes and it would be a major blow for them to see them fall in the Democrats column on November 8.

In a similarly tight race is U.S. Representative Will Hurd, who represents the 23rd District, which spans an area from San Antonio to El Paso. Hurd is in one of the toughest elections a sitting Republican House member faces this cycle. Currently, Cook Political Report, one of the leading political handicappers in the country, rates the race in the 23rd District as a “toss-up.” In the last decade, four different individuals have represented the 23rd District, including Hurd’s opponent, former U.S. Representative Pete Gallego (D), who Hurd defeated in 2014 by just 2 points.

As the regulatory body for the oil and gas industry, the open seat on the Texas Railroad Commission remains one of the most important statewide elections this year. This year, a new commissioner will be elected to the three-person body. Presently, Republican and former Texas State Representative Wayne Christian has a large cash advantage heading into the final weeks of the campaign. According to financial reporting earlier this month, Christian has $130,000 in cash available for the final weeks. That’s compared to the $40,000 for Libertarian Mark Miller and $1,195 for Green Party candidate Martina Salinas. According to the state’s campaign finance filings, Democrat Grady Yarbrough has raised no money.

Key Dates for Texas Voters – General Election
Absentee Ballot Request Deadline: 10/28
Absentee Ballot Return Deadline: 11/8
Early Voting Period: 10/24-11/4
Election Day: 11/8

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