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Period Ending January 17, 2014

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

Senate

Kentucky: Gravis Marketing, for the Human Events conservative news site, conducted a poll of Kentucky voters (released 1/14; 1,153 KY registered voters; 683 Republican primary voters via interactive voice response system) and found that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is leading Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) 42-37%. In the GOP primary the Senator held a 53-31% lead over investor Matt Bevin, his announced nomination opponent.

New Hampshire: Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) received some encouraging polling news from Public Policy Polling’s latest Granite State survey (1/9-12; 1,354 NH registered voters; 528 Republican primary voters). According to the data, Mr. Brown trails first-term incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) only 43-46%, and her job approval ratio has dropped to 44:43% favorable to unfavorable. In a supposed Republican primary, Mr. Brown easily tops a field of five candidates with 42% of the respondents’ support. Former Sen. Bob Smith and ex-state Sen. Jim Rubens trail with 11% apiece. Though rumors suggest that the former Massachusetts Senator will enter the New Hampshire contest, Mr. Brown has yet to publicly announce his electoral intentions for 2014 other than to rule out another political campaign in Massachusetts.

North Carolina: Another Public Policy Polling survey (1/9-12; 1,384 NC registered voters; 575 Republican primary voters) reports more bad news for first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D). According to their results Hagan now trails all five largely unknown Republican candidates by one or two points, her worst showing to date. In the Republican primary, state House Speaker Thom Tillis continues to lead the pack, but with only 19% of the respondents’ support. Hagan has been the subject of a major television ad attack campaign from Americans for Prosperity on the Obamacare issue, and her support of the measure is likely to be the focal point of the coming campaign.

Oklahoma: Saying the fact that he is battling prostate cancer is not driving his decision, Sen. Tom Coburn (R) announced that he will resign from Congress at the end of 2014. His current term runs through 2016. Mr. Coburn limited himself to two six-year terms, but will conclude his service after ten years. He previously served three terms in the House. The surprise announcement adds a special election to the 2014 cycle, meaning an impending Sooner State political shake-up. The three names immediately being mentioned as possible candidates are Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK-4), James Lankford (R-OK-5), and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1), along with Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R). The seat will remain in Republican hands. The special election winner will serve the balance of Mr. Coburn’s term, and then be eligible to run for a six-year term in 2016.

Virginia: Former Republican National Committee and Virginia Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie, as expected, announced his candidacy against Sen. Mark Warner (D). A poll conducted in November from the Polling Company/Woman Trend (11/19-20; 600 VA registered voters) gave the Senator a hypothetical 51-33% lead over Gillespie. Mr. Warner begins the race as a major favorite to win re-election, but the former RNC chairman is likely the strongest candidate the Republicans could recruit and will likely significantly close the gap.

House

CA-11: Rep. George Miller (D), the last of the Watergate era Democrats elected in 1974, announced that his 20th term in the House will now be his last. The Democrats will easily hold this San Francisco Bay Area seat, which gave 68% of its votes to President Obama in 2012. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who lost a congressional special election in 2009, says he will run for the open 11th. Other Democrats considering the race are Assemblywomen Joan Buchanan and Susan Bonilla.

CA-25: House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R) became the eleventh member since mid-December to announce that he’s leaving the House. The Congressman, first elected in 1992, previously chaired the Education and Workforce Committee. The move had been expected ever since 26th District nominee and former state Senator Tony Strickland (R) switched districts late in 2013 in anticipation of a McKeon retirement decision. The district is likely to remain in Republican hands. Current state Sen. Steve Knight (R) has also announced his intention to run.

FL-13: The special primary election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R) was held earlier this week and lobbyist David Jolly, a former Young congressional staff member, won the Republican nomination. He defeated state Rep. Kathleen Peters and former Navy Blue Angels pilot Mark Bircher 45-31-21%. He now faces former Florida Chief Financial Officer and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink in the March 11th special general election. Ms. Sink is the favorite to win the race and convert the seat to the Democratic column but a St. Pete Polls post-primary survey did post Mr. Jolly to a 47-43% edge. The 13th is one of only 16 districts that voted for President Obama (50-49% over Mitt Romney) and elected a Republican House member.

MT-AL: Last week, we reported that former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) was seriously considering launching a return bid for his former position. This week he announced that he will not do so, preferring to remain in the private sector in order to pursue his current business interests. The at-large seat is open because freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R) is running for the Senate.

NC-7: Former state Sen. David Rouzer, the 2012 Republican nominee who held Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) to a 654-vote victory, now has company in the open seat GOP primary. New Hanover County Commission chairman Woody White is opposing Rouzer for the Republican nomination. With Mr. McIntyre not seeking re-election, New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. (D) has also announced his candidacy. The eventual Republican nominee will become the prohibitive favorite in the general election.

NY-21: Rep. Bill Owens (D) joined the cavalcade of House members bypassing their 2014 re-election. The Congressman, first elected in a 2009 special election but never exceeded 47.1% of the vote in any of his elections, was again facing a close electoral battle in his Upstate New York congressional district. Former George W. Bush Administration staff member Elise Stefanik has been running for the Republican nomination well before Owens decided to retire. It remains to be seen if she has party opposition now that the seat is open. The open 21st becomes a prime Republican conversion opportunity.

PA-6: In a toss-up race that is likely to draw many candidates in both party primaries, Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) became the first elected official to announce for the seat. Previously in the race, prior to Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) announcing his retirement, is businessman Michael Parrish (D).

VA-8: Rep. Jim Moran (D) announced that he will not seek a 13th term in the House later this year, saying he is ready for the next “challenge”. The 8th District is safely Democratic, so the party’s eventual nominee will represent the constituency in the next Congress. Expect a multi-candidate Democratic field to contest for the nomination and seat.

Governor

Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution fielded a poll testing Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and state Sen. Jason Carter (D), his announced Democratic opponent. According to the data (1/6-9; 802 GA registered voters), the Governor leads Sen. Carter 47-38%. Mr. Deal’s job approval rating is 54:24%. Mr. Carter is the grandson of former President and Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

Iowa: Gov. Terry Branstad (R) officially announced his bid for an unprecendented sixth term in office. He was originally elected in 1982 and served consecutively through 1998. He then ran again in 2010, and his heavily favored this year. At the end of the next term, Mr. Branstad will have served almost a quarter century as Governor.

New Hampshire: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see New Hampshire Senate) produced solid results for first-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Her job approval records a 52:27% positive to negative ratio, and she leads all prospective Republican opponents between 20-26 percentage points on hypothetical ballot test questions. No individual has yet officially announced an intention to run.

Ohio: Former Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who is still the youngest person ever elected Mayor of Cleveland, is not ruling out a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald appeared to be the consensus candidate earlier in the cycle, but then Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune jumped in the race. If Kucinich enters, then the outcome becomes murkier. Rumors are surfacing in the Ohio press that Kucinich and Portune may team up on a slate in order to deny FitzGerald the nomination, but the Hamilton County local official denies such an arrangement is being considered.