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Period Ending January 24, 2014

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

Senate

Louisiana: GOP Sen. David Vitter formally announced this week that he will run for Governor in the state’s 2015 election. Mr. Vitter was first elected to the Senate in 2004, and re-elected in 2010 with 56.5% of the vote in the state’s jungle primary, thus avoiding a secondary run-off election. Prior to his winning the Senate seat, Mr. Vitter spent five years in the US House. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term late next year, so the gubernatorial post will be open.

Michigan: Rasmussen Reports (1/14-15; 500 MI registered voters) polled a sampling of Michigan voters and found Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land leading Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14), 37-35%. The two, who are both consensus candidates in their respective parties, have been polling in dead heat territory since the race began.

Montana: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its confirmation hearing for Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) to be US Ambassador to China on Tuesday, January 28th. He is expected to easily gain committee approval, meaning a vote on the Senate floor will soon be forthcoming. Upon Mr. Baucus’ resignation from the Senate, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will then appoint an interim Senator until the seat is filled in the next election. It has been widely speculated that Bullock will appoint Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D), who is the leading Democratic Senatorial candidate. The Governor, however, has made no public statement relating to this situation. The other main Democrat in the race, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, says he end his campaign if Bullock appoints Walsh.

Nebraska: Attorney David Domina (D), who was thought to be preparing a challenge to Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE-2), instead announced his campaign for the state’s open US Senate seat. Should he win the party nomination, Mr. Domina will be a huge underdog to the eventual Republican candidate.

Oklahoma: The resignation announcement from Sen. Tom Coburn (R) has already set the political wheels in motion. Officially entering the open seat Senate campaign is sophomore Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5). State House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) has filed an exploratory committee. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK-4) both say they are considering the race. Gov. Mary Fannin (R), Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4) all say they will seek re-election to their current positions. On the Democratic side, ex-state Senator and Lt. Governor nominee Kenneth Corn says he is considering running. Former Lt. Governor and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Jari Askins, and ex-US Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) both say they will not run for the Senate. Former Gov. Brad Henry and ex-Attorney General Drew Edmondson have made no public statements revealing their intentions.

Virginia: The first polls for the new Virginia Senate race between first-term incumbent Mark Warner (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie have been published. Both show strong leads for Sen. Warner, but the margin is not insurmountable for Gillespie. Rasmussen Reports (1/17-18; 1,000 VA registered voters) gives the Senator a 51-37% lead. Christopher Newport University in Hampton Roads, VA, through the Wason Center for Public Policy (1/15-22; 1,023 VA registered voters), pegs the Senator to a much stronger twenty-point advantage, 50-30%.

House

CA-11: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D) is fast becoming the consensus Democratic candidate for the open seat being vacated by 20-term veteran Rep. George Miller (D). Viewed as his two strongest opponents, both state Assemblywomen Joan Buchanan (D) and Susan Bonilla (D) said they will not run for Congress, and each endorsed Mr. DeSaulnier. The 11th is heavily Democratic, so the Republican candidate in a general election will have little chance of prevailing. It is possible two Democrats could qualify for the general election in this district, so it is possible another strong Democrat could forge a competitive general election.

FL-10: After 2012 Democratic congressional nominee Val Demings, the former Orange County Police Chief, decided to run for Orange County Mayor instead of seeking a re-match with Rep. Dan Webster (R), the party became in need of a candidate to fill the void. Former Eustis City Commissioner Bill Ferree (D) announced he will challenge the sophomore Congressman and former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Mr. Webster defeated Ms. Demings 52-48% in the last election.

FL-13: The special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R) is picking up steam. Candidate Alex Sink (D), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the House Majority PAC have together allotted to spend over $2.7 million to switch this seat to the Democratic column. Republican nominee David Jolly released an internal McLaughlin & Associates poll (1/16-19; 400 FL-13 registered voters) that posts him to a 43-38% advantage over Ms. Sink, the former Florida Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee. The poll, like one published earlier, over-sampled Republicans, thus casting doubt upon the survey’s reliability factor. Regardless of the methodological flaw, it appears that the GOP candidate is in a competitive position. The special election is scheduled for March 11th.

KS-3: Former state Sen. Kelly Kultala (D) announced that she will oppose sophomore Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) later this year. Mr. Yoder did not have a Democratic opponent in his first re-election in 2012, when he racked up a 68% victory against a Libertarian Party nominee.

MD-2: After saying publicly for months that he was considering entering the race for Governor, six-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) announced that he will bypass the statewide race and seek re-election to his congressional seat. He will have little trouble in securing a seventh term.

MA-6: Former state Senator Richard Tisei (R), who held scandal-tainted Rep. John Tierney (D) to a 46-45% victory in 2012, formally announced this week that he will seek a re-match. Most people believed that Tisei was going to win the previous election, especially when Tierney virtually suspended his campaign in October. The Congressman’s wife had been convicted of federal tax fraud in a case relating to her brother’s offshore Internet gambling business. This year, Mr. Tierney faces Democratic primary opposition from former US Senate candidate Marisa DeFranco, and Marine Corps veteran Seth Moulton.

NC-6: Despite the open 6th District being heavily Republican, Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis (D) announced that he will run for the seat this fall. On the Republican side is Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., son of state Senate President Phil Berger (R), and Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny, among others. Rep. Howard Coble (R) is retiring after 15 terms.

OK-5: Rep. James Lankford (R) leaving this seat to run for the Senate has prompted state Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, state Sen. Clark Jolley, and former state Sen. Steve Russell, all Republicans, to enter the open seat race. Many more will follow. The 5th District is anchored in Oklahoma City.

VA-8: The first two candidates have officially come forward to enter the open seat race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). State Delegates Patrick Hope and Charniele Herring, both Democrats, officially announced their congressional bids. Many more individuals, particularly on the Democratic side, will soon announce their candidacies. The Arlington-Alexandria anchored district will remain in Democratic hands.

VA-10: State Sen. Dick Black (R), who just recently announced his intention to run for the open 10th Congressional District seat, has decided not to pursue his federal campaign. This makes state Delegate Barbara Comstock the early favorite for the Republican nomination. The eventual nominee will likely face Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D) in the general election. The northern Virginia 10th District is marginal in nature. Rep. Frank Wolf (R) is retiring after serving what will be 17 full terms.

WV-3: Nineteen-term veteran Rep. Nick Rahall (D) is facing a serious Republican challenge from state Sen. Evan Jenkins this fall, but now he has Democratic primary opposition, too. Iraq War veteran Richard Ojeda announced he will oppose the Congressman for renomination. With the 3rd District bending decidedly to the right, Mr. Rahall will face a very competitive political year.

Governor

California: After seeing one Republican opponent, former Lt. Governor and state Senator Abel Maldonado, leave the race, a new individual has entered the campaign to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown (D). Former US Treasury Assistant Secretary Neel Kashkari (R) announced his candidacy, joining Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) as a credible challenger to the Governor. Mr. Brown should sail to re-election, however, for a fourth non-consecutive term.

Florida: Public Policy Polling’s latest survey (1/16-21; 591 FL registered voters) shows a major swing back toward Gov. Rick Scott (R). In their last poll, conducted in September, former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) led Mr. Scott 50-38%. Now, after the Scott support forces unleashed a major negative ad campaign against Crist, the Republican incumbent has reduced his deficit to 43-41%. Most evident is Crist’s favorability ratio. In September, PPP detected Crist to have a 43:42% favorable to unfavorable rating. In the January study, he is now upside down by ten full percentage points, 36:46%. Gov. Scott’s job approval, however, continues to be dismal. His approval ratio registers only 34:51%. This will clearly be a tough contest all the way to Election Day.

Hawaii: In 2010, former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI-1) romped to a 58-41% win over then-Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) in their open seat race. This week, Mr. Aiona rather surprisingly stated that he is “seriously considering” a re-match with the first term incumbent, and is “close” to filing his nomination papers. Gov. Abercrombie appears to be in strong political position for re-election.

Massachusetts: The WBUR-TV/MassInc poll (1/16-19; 504 MA registered voters) returned some interesting information in the impending Massachusetts Governor’s open seat contest. According to the results, Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) leads 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker 39-29%, but the GOP candidate leads every other Democrat in the race by that same ten-point spread, or more. The next strongest Democrat, state Treasurer Steve Grossman, trails Baker 33-23%.

Other Races

Virginia State Senate: The second of two special elections that will decide the state Senate’s majority party was held this past week, and Democrat Jennifer Wexton racked up a surprisingly easy 53-37-10% win over Republican John Whitlock and Independent Joe May. Perhaps the most notable statistic is the high turnout figure. More than 21,000 people voted in this stand-alone special election on a snowy and cold day. Now, the Democratic majority revolves around state Delegate Lynwood Lewis holding his nine-vote lead through a recount process. Mr. Lewis and Republican Wayne Coleman faced each other in a January 7th special state Senate election in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area and the Democrat scored a 50.00 to 49.96% victory.