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Period Ending January 10, 2014

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

Senate

Iowa: Republican candidate David Young exited the Senate race in order to enter the 3rd Congressional District open race. In December, ten-term Rep. Tom Latham (R) announced that he would not seek re-election later this year, prompting Young’s move. For his part, Mr. Young said it was always his intent to run for the House and jumped into the Senate race only after Mr. Latham decided not to run statewide. With Young exiting, former US Attorney Matt Whitaker, state Sen. Joni Ernst, and radio talk show host Sam Clovis remain as the top GOP Senatorial candidates. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) is the consensus Democratic candidate. Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring.

New Mexico: As has been expected for months, former New Mexico Republican Party chairman Allen Wey announced his candidacy against first-term Sen. Tom Udall (D). Mr. Wey has the ability to self-fund but, irrespective of the money count, the challenger faces a very difficult task in generating a competitive campaign against Sen. Udall.

Wyoming: Liz Cheney, the ex-national television commentator and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, withdrew from her Republican primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi. Ms. Cheney sited a family health situation that drove the decision to end her campaign. The move virtually assures Sen. Enzi’s renomination and re-election. Wyoming is not a Democratic opportunity target.

House

FL-10: Former Orange County police chief Val Demings (D), who held Rep. Dan Webster (R) to a 52-48% win in 2012 and spent just under $2 million in the process, announced that she will enter the race for Orange County Mayor instead of seeking a congressional re-match. This is good news for Rep. Webster, and further secures his political position. It is commonly viewed that Ms. Demings is the strongest 10th District Democratic candidate.

FL-19: Rep. Trey Radel (R), back from his drug rehab leave of absence, has drawn his first serious Republican primary opponent. Dr. Paige Kreegel, a former four-term state Representative who placed third in the 2012 GOP open seat congressional primary with 18% of the vote, announced that he will challenge Rep. Radel for renomination. Considering his cocaine possession plea bargain, the Congressman is deemed highly vulnerable in the Republican primary should he choose to seek re-election. Also expected to enter the GOP race are 2012 second-place finisher Chauncey Goss (22%), the son of former Representative and CIA Director Porter Goss (R), and state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

IA-3: In a "one in, one out" story, Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz officially entered the open seat congressional race, while Christie Vilsack, the ex-congressional candidate and wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), declines to run instead endorsing former state Sen. Staci Appel (D). The Des Moines’ based 3rd District is open because 10-term veteran Rep. Tom Latham (R) is retiring.

ME-2: Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci (D), brother of former Gov. John Baldacci (D), will not run for the open 2nd Congressional District. This means the Democratic field consisting of state Sens. Emily Cain and Troy Jackson will likely remain in tact. The Democratic nominee will be favored to hold the seat in the general election, but the contest will likely become competitive.

MA-9: John Chapman (R), a former staff member to then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R), announced that he will challenge two-term Rep. Bill Keating (D) later this year. The southeastern 9th District can go Republican in statewide campaigns, but Rep. Keating begins this race as a near general election prohibitive favorite. Gabriel Gomez (R), who ran a relatively competitive special US Senate election against then-Rep. Ed Markey (D) – losing 45-55% -- says he will not run for the 9th District or any other office in 2014. Previously, speculation was growing that Mr. Gomez would challenge Rep. Keating.

MN-6: State Sen. John Pederson withdrew from the Republican nomination battle in the campaign to replace retiring Representative and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R). Former GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer, who lost a close race to Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2010, is the leading contender in this congressional race.

MT-AL: Former six-term Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), who relinquished his seat in 2012 for an unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Jon Tester (D), confirms he is considering running for his former position. Current at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R) is running for the open US Senate seat. Mr. Rehberg would be the favorite for the Republican nomination and the seat if he decides to launch a campaign.

NJ-3: Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R), the blind candidate who challenged then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker for the US Senate seat the latter eventually won, announced for the open 3rd Congressional District. Rep. Jon Runyan (R) is retiring after two terms. State Assemblyman David Wolfe (R) is already in the race and Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur (R) has already injected $1 million into his campaign. Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard is the lone announced Democratic candidate.

NY-4: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D), citing health concerns vis-à-vis her battle against lung cancer, announced that she will not seek re-election to a tenth term in office later this year. The seat favors the Democrats and her eventual successor as the party nominee will be at least the early favorite to hold the seat. Expect multiple Democrats and Republicans to soon come forward to challenge for the position. NY-4 is fully contained within Nassau County, anchored in the Hempstead region.

NC-7: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), the victor in the nation’s closest 2012 congressional campaign (a margin of 654 votes), this week made public his intention to retire from the House. Mr. McIntyre was originally elected in 1996, but received an unfavorable draw in redistricting. The southeastern NC seat now decidedly favors the Republicans, as Mitt Romney’s 59% showing against President Obama in the 2012 national campaign indicates. The leading contender is former state Sen. David Rouzer, the previous Republican nominee. Earlier, Mr. Rouzer announced his intention to seek a re-match with Rep. McIntyre, and he has been actively running for the past several weeks. Expect more action to occur in the Republican primary, now that the seat is open.

NC-12: Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has set the calendar for the special election to replace resigned Rep. Mel Watt (D). The seat will be vacant until the regular general election, as the Governor scheduled the special vote concurrently with the regular electoral process. This means the November winner will immediately assume the seat and serve the final two months of the current term. The race will feature a crowded Democratic field, with the eventual nominee sailing to victory in the general election.

PA-6: Six-term Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach will not seek re-election from his very marginal suburban Philadelphia district. Over his half-dozen congressional campaigns, Mr. Gerlach averaged 53% of the vote, including winning three consecutive 51-49% contests. The open seat contest will be highly competitive. Businessman Michael Parrish (D), who announced his candidacy just days before Mr. Gerlach’s retirement announcement, is the lone participant at the present time but will soon have much company.

VA-10: State Delegate Barbara Comstock (R) announced that she will seek retiring Rep. Frank Wolf's (R) northern Virginia district, as did state Sen. Dick Black (R), Frederick County Supervisor Richard Shickle, and television reality show participant Tareq Salahi (R). Also likely to join the GOP race is former congressional candidate Keith Fimian. The Republican nomination will likely be decided in convention format in early May. Democrat John Foust, also a Fairfax County Supervisor, appears well on his way to becoming the consensus Democratic candidate. He had announced for the office before Mr. Wolf made public his retirement plans. This race will likely be competitive in the general election.

Governor

Arizona: Mesa Mayor Scott Smith joined the Republican gubernatorial field of candidates this week. Already in the race are state Treasurer Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and state Senator Al Melvin. Former Clinton White House aide Fred DuVal is quickly positioning himself as the consensus Democratic candidate. The general election is projected as competitive. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is ineligible to seek a third term in office.

Georgia: A local Fox News/Insider Advantage poll (1/6; 529 GA registered voters) projects Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to a 44-22% lead over state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter (D). The poll is skewed in Deal's favor because the African American voter segment reports 25% support for Deal. This will dissipate to single digits as Election Day approaches. The fact that the Governor leads the race is not disputed, but a 2:1 margin is very unlikely.

Ohio: Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary despite Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald being viewed as the consensus party candidate. Portune is clearly the underdog in the race, but he appears committed to moving forward. The Democratic winner will face first-term Gov. John Kasich (R) in November.

Tennessee: TN Regulatory Authority director Sara Kyle (D), after months of indicating that she was considering challenging first-term Gov. Bill Haslam (R), now says she will not run against the state’s chief executive later this year. As the calendar forges into 2014, and without Kyle in the race, Gov. Haslam still has no prospective Democratic opponent.

Other Races

Virginia State Senate: In a much closer finish than expected in what should be a decidedly Democratic seat, state Delegate Lynwood Lewis (D) has only a 10-vote margin over businessman Wayne Coleman (R) of more than 20,000 ballots cast in the 6th District special election in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area. The seat gave President Obama 57% of its votes in 2012. A recount will occur soon. Democrats must win both this seat and the vacated Senate seat of Attorney General-elect Mark Herring (D) to hold the state Senate to a 20-20 tie. The Tidewater district was vacated because then-Senator Ralph Northam (D) was elected Lt. Governor.