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Period Ending January 30, 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: Originally planning to announce her presidential vehicle around the present time but postponed to early spring, the Clinton organization spokespeople are indicating that a more formal presentation of the former Secretary of State and First Lady’s 2016 intentions will now occur in the summer. With little in the way of early opposition, even from sitting Vice President Joe Biden who is planning an active run, Ms. Clinton has the luxury of waiting to officially enter the campaign fray. The person who once appeared on the horizon as her greatest early threat, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), has said repeatedly that she will not become a presidential candidate in this election cycle.

Sarah Palin: Coming from a roundly criticized Iowa speech before a group of that state’s conservative activists, former Vice Presidential nominee and Alaska Governor Palin is saying that she is seriously considering a 2016 presidential run. She now becomes the 26th Republican to say she is at least entertaining the thought of running nationally next year, and possibly the 18th who could reasonably be expected to enter the race.

Gov. Scott Walker: Wisconsin Gov. Walker launched his political action committee, Our American Revival, and released a two-minute video outlining what will clearly be his approach to the 2016 presidential campaign. Adopting a “local vs. Washington” theme, Gov. Walker’s rather hard-hitting video message directly targeted President Obama and Hillary Clinton, but made it clear that Washington Republican leaders are also in this realm. Gov. Walker is attempting to jump into the first tier of candidates, breaking away from the pack of lesser-known Republican contenders.

Senate

Arizona: It appears that Sen. John McCain (R) will face a well-organized primary challenge before moving to the 2016 general election. Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-5) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-6) are entertaining thoughts of challenging McCain, who has already indicated he plans to seek a sixth term. The two GOP Congressmen held a meeting this week and agreed that only one will run, understanding that both jumping into the race would virtually assure McCain of re-nomination in a state that does not employ a run-off electoral system. Either man could give the Senator a serious run. Mr. Salmon is a former Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Florida: Now that Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is sending clear signals that he may leap into the presidential contest and not seek re-election, many Florida pols are making it known that they would consider a statewide run to succeed him. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and former House Speaker Will Weatherford are two names that Sen. Rubio mentioned as possible successors. Attorney General Pam Biondi is another person who would consider a run. She is also a potential gubernatorial contender in 2018. Within the US House delegation, Reps. Jeff Miller (R-FL-1), Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), John Mica (R-FL-7), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) have all indicated that they are not ruling out a race for Senate. For the Democrats, House members Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) are among the federal officials expressing interest. In an open configuration, this would be a highly competitive race. The presidential voter turnout model makes such a contest even closer because of Florida’s history in such elections.

Illinois: Adding her name to the growing list of US House Democrats considering launching a challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk (R) is Chicago area Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL-2). Last week, we reported that Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) and Bill Foster (D-IL-11) all were expressing interest in running. The 2016 Illinois Senate race is likely the Democrats’ top national conversion opportunity.

Ohio: Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D) announced that he will challenge Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year. Other Democrats are certain to join the race. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) took a step closer to launching a statewide bid by publicly changing his statements about the abortion issue, now aligning himself closer with the official Democratic Party position. Previously, Ryan had been one of the stronger pro-life Democrats. Former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who lost his position to current incumbent John Kasich (R) in 2010, also has not ruled out a challenge to Sen. Portman and promises a decision within the next few months.

House

MN-2: House Education and the Workforce chairman John Kline (R) has just drawn two 2016 opponents, one from each party. Engineer David Gerson is challenging the Congressman from the right in the Republican primary. St. Jude Hospital executive Angela Craig (D) announced her campaign this week. It is unclear whether Gerson will force a primary after the state Republican convention nominates Kline. Normally, the party conclave decides the nominations in Minnesota. It is also unknown how strong first-time candidate Ms. Craig will prove. The 2nd District, located in the southern Minneapolis suburbs, is a swing seat but Rep. Kline has consistently run ahead of the typical Republican voter trend. He begins as a heavy favorite for a re-election in the mid-50s percentile.

MN-7: Rep. Collin Peterson who, as a Democrat, represents the second-strongest Republican seat in Minnesota has been on the retirement speculation list during the last two election cycles, and has waited until just before the candidate filing deadline to commit to running. The GOP challenged him in 2014, but he easily turned back the relatively strong challenge, 54-46%. This week, Rep. Peterson said he is already planning to run for re-election, which should end retirement talk and likely keep this seat away from the GOP until 2018 at the earliest. Mr. Peterson was first elected in 1990.

NY-11: Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has still yet to schedule the special election to replace resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (R) much action continues to occur in the Staten Island/Brooklyn congressional district. The man thought to be the leading Democratic contender, state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, is now out. After polls were released showing him trailing presumed Republican nominee Dan Donovan by 20 points, Mr. Cusick thought better of entering the race. New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) in turn said he is considering running, but defeating Mr. Donovan in this special election appears to be an increasingly difficult task. State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is also a potential Democratic nominee. The local Democratic Party will choose the candidate for the special election in lieu of a direct primary system.

Governor

Kentucky: Candidate filing closed on the 2015 gubernatorial race, and it appears that Attorney General Jack Conway has little in the way of opposition for the Democratic nomination. The same is not true on the Republican side, as four individuals officially filed as candidates. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, former state Supreme Court Justice Will Scott, ex-Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, and businessman Matt Bevin who challenged Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) in the 2014 Republican primary, will vie for the GOP nomination. The primary is scheduled for May 19th. The general election contest will be held November 3rd.

Missouri: As expected, Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich (R) announced his 2016 gubernatorial candidacy this week. He is expected to be a major contender. Already in the Republican primary race is former US Attorney and state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Republican-turned-Democrat Attorney General Chris Koster is the lone announced Democratic contender so far. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is ineligible to seek re-election to a third term.

North Carolina: Though saying he will formally announce at a future date, four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) publicly committed to challenging Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in 2016. Mr. Cooper was first elected AG in 2000 and has been frequently mentioned as a candidate for higher office. In the past, he has always retreated to seek re-election, however. Winning the state four times for a major office, Cooper is widely believed to be a strong candidate, meaning the McCrory re-election bid will be a highly competitive one. The presidential election turnout model should also help the eventual Democratic nominee in this increasingly political marginal state.