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Period Ending January 16, 2015

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

President

Hillary Clinton: In what could be a significant blow to the fledgling Clinton campaign, the reported first choice to be the campaign manager, Guy Cecil, the former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and political director of the 2008 Clinton presidential campaign, has removed his name from consideration for the position. He pledges to be active in the forthcoming Clinton campaign, but not in the role of manager.

Sen. Rand Paul: Moving closer to formally becoming a presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced the hiring of Chip Englander to be his national campaign manager if, in fact, there is to be a campaign. Mr. Englander is fresh from a successful political venture in Illinois where he guided new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s victory over incumbent Pat Quinn (D).

Mitt Romney: Coming from his well-publicized meeting of some key former advisors in northern California, Mr. Romney is now publicly confirming that he is leaning toward running for President in 2016. Should he make the race, it will be his third attempt to secure the office while offering a direct challenge to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the establishment faction of the national Republican Party.

Sen. Marco Rubio: While continuing to attract national attention as a future presidential candidate, another school of thought suggests that Sen. Rubio will drop back and run for re-election in 2016 instead of risking his young career on a national campaign. Once securing a second Senatorial term, he could then run for Governor of Florida in 2018, and launch a 2020 or 2024 presidential campaign as a sitting chief executive. The Governor’s office will be open in four years because incumbent Rick Scott (R) will be ineligible to seek a third term. A further benefit to running for Governor is not risking the Senate seat as he would have to do for a 2016 presidential endeavor.

Sen. John Thune: In an interview with the Politico Magazine this week, South Dakota Sen. Thune confirmed that he is not running for President but will seek re-election to the Senate next year. The Senator said he is more interested in chairing the Senate Republican Conference and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the new Congress rather than making a long shot national run.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: This week Sen. Warren clarified often made comments that she is not running for President. The Senator’s latest statement says she will not be a candidate in 2016, but does not rule out a future attempt. All other signs, however, including appearances, fundraising, and others organizing on her behalf, point to her entering the current race at some point in time.

Senate

California: The open California Senate seat is attracting more attention than any race in the country at this early point in the election cycle. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) retirement announcement has set in motion Golden State political musical chairs for the first time in 24 years. Two formal announcements came this week. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made official his intention to continue in his current position. He bypasses the 2016 Senate race for what will likely be a clearer shot for the open Governor’s position in 2018 (Gov. Jerry Brown will be ineligible to seek another term), or another open Senate seat when Dianne Feinstein (D) is expected to retire. Announcing for the open Boxer seat is Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who will be a strong contender. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) both released formal statements saying that they are both “seriously considering” running irrespective of Harris’ candidacy. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) also reiterated his interest in exploring a Senate bid. Several Republicans such as Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen and state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez confirm they are considering entering the race.

Colorado: Last week we reported speculation around Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) as a potential Republican opponent to Sen. Michael Bennet (D) next year. This week, it’s fellow Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) who says he is not “closing the door” in reference to launching a Senate campaign. The Colorado race promises to be one of the most competitive of the 2016 election cycle.

Louisiana: Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4) continues to make it clear that he wants to either be appointed to, or run for, the Senate. Saying he is open to an appointment from David Vitter (R), if the Senator is elected Governor later this year, he further committed to running for the Senate in 2016 even if he is not selected for the interim appointment.

House

IA-1: Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman and former congressional and Lt. Governor candidate Monica Vernon (D) has wasted no time in declaring her political intentions for 2016. She announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R), who was a surprise winner in this eastern Iowa, largely Democratic district. This will be one of the top Democratic conversion opportunities in the country in the presidential year, when the turnout model is expected to be more favorable for them. It is likely the Democratic primary hwere will feature many candidates.

LA-4: With Rep. Fleming (see Louisiana Senate above) saying he will run for the Senate in 2016, Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District becomes the fifth open seat in the new Congress. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) has resigned due to his pleading guilty to federal tax evasion; Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13) has publicly confirmed previous statements that he will not run for a 24th term in 2016; Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA-8) is keeping his promise to serve no more than four terms, so he will also retire at the end of this Congress; and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY-19) said on the day he was sworn in for a third term that he will not run again for the House. Speculation is growing that Gibson will challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2018.

NY-11: Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan has secured the Staten Island Republican Party official endorsement in his quest to replace resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (R). The Staten Island nod is tantamount to nomination for the party-run special election. Local Democratic leaders stated that they will hold an official nominating convention in the Staten Island-Brooklyn district at a later date. State Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) is viewed as the favored Democrat. Former US Rep. Michael McMahon (D) originally expressed interest in running for the seat but has since dropped his desire to run. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to schedule the special election, but New York election law dictates that the vote will occur sometime in late March.

PA-8: Former Lt. Governor Jim Cawley (R) has accepted a new position to head the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, thus virtually shutting the door on succeeding retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) in the swing Bucks County congressional seat. Cawley was believed to be the local Republican Party leaders’ first choice to run. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D) declared his candidacy last week to become the first official 8th District candidate.

Governor

Missouri: Ending speculation that she would run for the open Governor’s position in 2016, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) announced instead that she is choosing to remain in her current position. Her next election comes in 2018. The move gives Attorney General Chris Koster, a Republican-turned-Democrat, a wide open shot at the party nomination. Former US Attorney and state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway is the lone announced Republican candidate. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

North Dakota: Speculation also surrounds first-term Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and her intentions about running for Governor. Based upon her statements made this week, it appears much more likely that Sen. Heitkamp will run. In-cycle during 2018, she would not have to relinquish her Senate seat to run for Governor next year. It is unclear whether incumbent Jack Dalrymple (R) will seek a second full term. He succeeded then-Gov. John Hoeven (R) when the latter was elected to the Senate in 2010, and then won a full term in his own right two years later.

West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) confirms that he is seriously considering running for his former position in 2016, that of Governor. The Senator went on to say, however, that if more is accomplished during this congressional term he may remain in his current position. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is ineligible to seek another term.