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Period Ending January 23, 2015

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


Sen. Marco Rubio: Always saying that he will not run for both President and US Senate in 2016, Sen. Rubio made a statement this week suggesting that he may be moving toward entering the presidential contest. In a response during an interview, he suggested several specific Florida Republicans who might be interested in succeeding him in the Senate should he enter the national campaign.


California: It was much quieter on the California Senate front this week. Only two significant developments occurred. First, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer (D), who publicly discussed running for the open Senate seat, decided not to do so. Secondly, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15), who during the previous week said he was considering jumping into the statewide contest, now says he will seek a third term in the US House, and then officially endorsed Attorney General Kamala Harris for the Democratic Senatorial nomination. It is becoming clear that Harris is unifying the northern California Democratic base, meaning the eventual race could develop into a Golden State North-South political rivalry. Such a battle should favor the southern California candidates since the region has a much greater population, but it is the northern California candidates: Harris, Gov. Jerry Brown, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who have won the major races since the beginning of the new century.

Colorado: Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has drawn his first official Republican challenger. El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Commissioner Darryl Glenn says he will enter the GOP primary for Senate next year. A much stronger Republican, possibly Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), is expected to emerge with the nomination, however.

Illinois: Previously remaining quiet about her statewide plans but allowing her staff to suggest that the Congresswoman is entertaining running for the Senate in 2016, two-term Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) this week personally confirmed her interest. Also reportedly looking at the race are Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and Bill Foster (D-IL-11). Sen. Mark Kirk (R) says he will seek a second term.

Louisiana: North Star Opinion Research conducted a poll for state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) to help determine for which office he should run. The survey (1/10-13; 600 LA registered voters) gives Kennedy favorable marks if he were to enter a 2016 Senate race…assuming Sen. David Vitter (R) wins the Governor’s office and is not on the ballot for re-election. In a proposed open Senate race with no appointed Vitter replacement running, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) would lead the jungle primary with 39% of the vote. Kennedy place second, and tops for Republicans, at 18%; Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) is third registering 13%; and Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4) posts only 7 percent. Of this group of prospective candidates, only Fleming has indicated a desire to run for the Senate.

Nevada: While Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) undergoes eye surgery as he recovers from his recent exercise-related injuries, former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) confirms that he is considering launching a challenge to the five-term veteran Senator. For his part, Sen. Reid says he will seek re-election and is actively looking to hire a campaign manager, despite retirement rumors swirling around him. Republicans are attempting to recruit Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) into the race, but he appears intent on finishing his second term as the state’s chief executive. Already, Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) and Joe Heck (R-NV-3) have said they plan to seek re-election in 2016 and will not challenge Sen. Reid.

Pennsylvania: Public Policy Polling is already in the field for the 2016 Senate races and begins with a survey of the PA Senate race, a campaign that will undoubtedly be hotly contested. The poll (1/15-18; 1,042 PA registered voters) finds Sen. Pat Toomey (R) leading his most likely Democratic challenger, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) by a 40-36% clip. Toomey defeated Sestak for the Senate in 2010 by a 51-49% margin. Pennsylvania Democratic Party leaders are reportedly searching for an alternative to Sestak because relations between the political establishment and the former party nominee are so poor. But, to date, no serious challenger to Sestak has yet come forward, and with the former Admiral and Congressman already raising money and establishing a campaign structure it looks doubtful that he will face a major primary opponent.

Utah: Former Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) joined the Washington, DC-based Patton Boggs law firm during the past week, which is one of the premier K Street lobbying entities. This suggests that Mr. Matheson will not be returning to Utah to challenge either Sen. Mike Lee (R) or Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in the 2016 campaign. As a Democrat who consistently won in strong Republican districts, he is the Utah Democratic Party’s first choice to run statewide in the next election.


CA-13: Rep. Barbara Lee (D) has been repeatedly mentioned as the leading option to become the first US Ambassador to Cuba under President Obama’s plan to create more normal relations with the communist island government. This week, however, Rep. Lee said she is not interested in the position and plans to continue her career in the US House.

IA-1: A lot of campaign action is already happening in this eastern Iowa congressional district. Last week, Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman and former congressional and Lt. Governor candidate Monica Vernon (D) announced her candidacy for 2016 against freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R). This week, advertising executive and former Saturday Night Live cast member Gary Kroeger confirms his interest in seeking the Democratic congressional nomination. Mr. Blum was a surprise winner in 2014, beating former state House Speaker Pat Murphy (D), 50-48%, in what is Iowa’s most Democratic seat. The district was open in 2014 because then-incumbent Bruce Braley (D) ran unsuccessfully for Senate.

LA-4: With Rep. John Fleming (R) saying he will run for the Senate in 2016, speculation is growing around who will succeed him in the House. This week the National Journal reports that Caddo County state Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R) is confirming his interest in vying for the Shreveport-anchored congressional district. We can expect a large jungle primary field that will be sorted out on Election Day 2016. A succeeding December run-off will undoubtedly occur.

NE-2: The Omaha congressional district will be the site of a highly competitive 2016 campaign as freshman Democrat Brad Ashford attempts to retain the largely Republican seat he won from now-former Rep. Lee Terry (R). The surprising event of the week is Ashford already receiving what could be a serious primary challenge. Former statewide candidate Scott Kleeb, who ran for the 3rd Congressional District in 2006 and US Senate in 2008, says he may move to the 2nd District to challenge Ashford for the Democratic nomination. Kleeb won his party nomination for both positions in his previous efforts and was highly touted, but fared poorly in each general election. It is likely national and state Democratic leaders will do everything possible to avoid a primary challenge for their new incumbent, considering the general election is guaranteed to be a hard fought affair.

NY-11: The Global Strategy Group, polling for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (1/16-18; 404 NY-11 registered voters), finds Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan jumping out to a big lead over Assemblyman Michael Cusick, reportedly the local Democratic Party leaders’ first choice as their nominee. The seat is headed to a late March special election – that has yet to be scheduled – in order to replace resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (R). The extensive poll finds Donovan with a 48-28% lead over Cusick, when leaners for both candidates are included. Cusick has yet to confirm he’s running, and data like this might give him second thoughts. Right now, it looks like this campaign is Mr. Donovan’s to lose.

NY-13: Former state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV (D) announced that he will run for the open congressional district from which veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) will retire next year. Powell, the son of former Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. whom Rangel defeated in the Democratic primary of 1970 after a highly publicized and stormy political career that ended in the former being denied his seat in the House, fined, and finally losing re-nomination, ran unsuccessfully against Rangel in 1994 and 2010. The Democratic battle to replace Rep. Rangel in this Harlem-anchored district will feature a large field of candidates and expects to be highly competitive. Giving only 5% of its vote to Mitt Romney in 2012, the NY-13 is one of the safest Democratic seats in the country.

NY-19: Two GOP state legislators are already expressing public interest in succeeding retiring Rep. Chris Gibson (R). State Sen. James Seward and Assemblyman Peter Lopez both say they are considering running for the open seat. With the tight Republican majority in the state Senate, it is a sure bet that New York GOP leaders will attempt to dissuade Seward from running for Congress in order not to risk his Senate seat.

PA-6: Michael Parrish, a Republican-turned-Democrat businessman who was looking to enter the 2014 open seat congressional race but yielded to former nominee Manan Trivedi (who never became competitive), is considering challenging freshman Rep. Ryan Costello (R) in 2016. Local Democratic Party leaders are said to be pushing the idea, and would be fully behind a Parrish congressional bid. The Philadelphia suburban 6th District is a marginal seat and was previously represented for six terms by ex-Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) who prevailed in multiple close re-election battles.


Kentucky: Gravis Marketing surveyed the Kentucky electorate (1/5-6; 608 KY registered voters) for the 2015 Governor’s race and released their findings this week. The leading Democratic candidate Jack Conway, Kentucky’s Attorney General, enjoys 8-13 point advantages over the lesser-known Republican candidates. Gravis, however, did not test the Republican most likely to win the nomination, state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott, who just recently became an official candidate. The Democratic field is in a state of flux, as well. State House Speaker and former Attorney General Greg Stumbo may still enter the contest, as could Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the woman who just lost to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R). Candidate filing closes next week on January 27th. The primary election is May 19th, with the general coming November 3rd.

Louisiana: The aforementioned North Star Opinion Research poll (see Louisiana Senate above) also tested the upcoming 2015 Governor’s race. The results of this question do show Sen. David Vitter (R) leading the October 24th jungle primary field, but with only 24% of the committed vote. State Rep. John Bel Edwards, the only Democrat tested, was second with 20%. State Treasurer John Kennedy, who sponsored the poll, was third posting 13%; Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne (R) fourth at 10%; and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) drew only 2 percent. The top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, would advance to a November 21st run-off election.