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Period Ending October 11, 2013

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

Senate

Minnesota: Former Sen. Rod Grams (R), who served one term in each house of Congress during the 1990s, passed away this week from cancer. He was elected to the Senate in the Republican landslide of 1994, but lost his re-election to businessman Mark Dayton in 2000. Dayton did not seek re-election in 2006, but was elected Governor in 2010. Grams attempted a political comeback in 2006, challenging then-Rep. Jim Oberstar (D) in the 8th District in the northeastern part of the state, but lost 64-34%. We extend our condolences to the Grams family.

New Jersey: Four more pollsters are confirming that the special election scheduled for next week has tightened. Rasmussen Reports (10/7; 1,000 NJ registered voters) finds results in the same range between Democratic Mayor Cory Booker (Newark) and Republican former Mayor Steve Lonegan (Bogota) as almost every other pollster. According to RR, Mr. Booker holds a 53-41% lead. This is the same result that Quinnipiac University (10/5-7; 899 NJ likely voters) found. Fairleigh Dickinson University (9/30-10/5; 702 NJ registered voters) posts Booker to a 45-29% advantage. Stockton College (10/3-8; 800 NJ likely voters) scores it 50-39%. All of the recent polling agrees that the race will be closer on October 16th than originally projected, but the outcome – a Booker victory – remains constant.

House

FL-13: Rep. C. W. Bill Young, the longest-serving Republican in the House (elected 1970), announced that he will not seek a 23rd term in the House next year. Since this is one of sixteen Republican-held seats that President Obama carried, expect a highly competitive general election. Despite the Tampa Bay regional trends now beginning to favor the Democrats, Republicans still command most of the key offices, so they have the better political bench. The St. Pete Times ran a quick flash poll (10/9; 810 FL-13 registered voters; 433 Republican primary voters; 367 Democratic), and found former Gov. Charlie Crist easily leading the Democratic field. Since Crist is highly unlikely to enter the congressional field, the ballot test not including him is more important. Those results show Pinellas County Commissioner and former congressional nominee Charlie Justice holding a 20-17% lead over 2012 nominee Jessica Ehrlich in the Democratic primary. County Commissioners Janet Long and Ken Welch follow with 13 and 10%, respectively. On the Republican side, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker jumps out to a big lead. State Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala have already said they will not run for Congress. Beverly Young, the Congressman’s wife, says she may attempt to succeed her husband. This will certainly be a 2014 "race to watch."

MI-3: Grand Rapids businessman Brian Ellis announced a Republican primary challenge to sophomore Rep. Justin Amash. Another potential candidate, state Sen. Mark Jansen, confirms that he is also considering entering the race. Earlier this year, Amash was contemplating running for the Senate but eventually decided to seek re-election. Based upon financial wherewithal of the challengers, this could become a competitive situation.

MI-14: State Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Detroit) announced that he is joining the congressional field of Democratic candidates vying for the opportunity to succeed Rep. Gary Peters (D). In addition to Sen. Gregory, state Rep. Rudy Hobbs (D-Southfield), ex-Obama White House aide Steve Dunwoody, and Lathrup Village Councilwoman Kelly Garrett are announced contenders. The winner of the Democratic primary will win the seat in the general election.

NH-1: Outgoing University of New Hampshire business school dean Dan Innis (R) has been planning to enter the 1st District congressional race for the better part of a year, and did not change course when former Rep. Frank Guinta (R) announced that he would seek a re-match with Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). Innis remained true to his word and officially announced his candidacy this week. The 1st District has defeated more incumbents than its re-elected since 2006, so the winner will be in a competitive battle with Rep. Shea-Porter.

NY-1: In addition to frequent candidate George Demos (R) state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R), a former congressional candidate, declared that he will challenge six-term Rep. Tim Bishop (D). The 1st District is relatively marginal in nature. In 2010, the seat hosted the closest race in the country, as Rep. Bishop claimed re-election by only 593 votes. With a campaign finance issue in the air surrounding Congressman, this Long Island campaign will be one to watch next year.

NY-24: Onondoga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci, who Republicans had hoped to recruit as a 2014 challenger to Rep. Dan Maffei (D), says he will not run for Congress next year. Rep. Maffei should again be vulnerable. He was first elected in 2008, but lost his first re-election to Ann Marie Buerkle (R) two years later. He returned to win a re-match in 2012, but scored well under 50% of the vote in doing so (Maffei: 47%; Buerkle: 42%).

Governor

Florida: The University of Northern Florida (9/30-10/8; 526 FL registered voters) polled the Sunshine State electorate and found Gov. Rick Scott (R) to be in much better shape than other survey research entities. According to their results, Scott trails former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), an unannounced candidate, only 40-44%. They also showed an improved Gov. Scott favorability index of 49:42% positive to negative.

Georgia: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the liberal activist group Better Georgia (10/7-8; 602 GA registered voters), finds state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, pulling to within a 40-44% margin of Gov. Nathan Deal (R) as the incumbent prepares for re-election. Mr. Deal's job approval has fallen to 34:41% favorable to unfavorable. Negative publicity surrounding a budding campaign finance investigation is contributing to his slippage in the polls.

New Jersey: Three new gubernatorial polls were released this week as we get closer to the November 5th election: Quinnipiac University (10/5-7; 1,144 NJ registered voters) gives incumbent Chris Christie (R) a huge 62-33% lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), while Stockton College (10/3-8; 800 NJ likely voters) finds a similar 61-28% advantage for the Governor. Rasmussen Reports (10/7; 1,000 NJ registered voters) finds a bit closer margin. RR projects Christie leading Buono 55-34%.

Rhode Island: Brown University has stepped into the polling arena, releasing a survey of Rhode Island voters (10/2-5; 638 RI registered voters; 433 Democratic primary voters). Testing the Governor’s Democratic primary between state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, the nomination electorate breaks 46-31% in Raimondo's favor. Looking at the general election, testing Republican Cranston Mayor Allen Fung against the Democrats, Taveras fares better in the ballot test pairings. The Providence Mayor holds a 41-33% lead over Fung, while Raimondo outpolls the Republican only 38-36%. Interestingly, an overwhelming 89.8% of the polling sample rates the economy as "not so good" or "poor". President Obama's job approval rating dropped to 41%, and retiring Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) only scores a 23% positive score.

Virginia: A group of polls were released in the upcoming Virginia Governor's race, all showing Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The six polls, from Public Policy Polling/Harper Polling, Christopher Newport College, Roanoke College, Hampton University, Emerson College, and University of Mary Washington, reveal margins of five to nine points. The key for the Democrats is to push turnout above the 42.4% level of 2009 that elected Republican Bob McDonnell. Republicans have a better chance of victory if overall participation drops below the '09 figure. McAuliffe needs a large African American turnout; Cuccinelli must improve his standing within the Republican base.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker (R) has finally drawn his first official Democratic opponent. Madison School Board member Mary Burke, whose father founded the Wisconsin-based Trek bicycle company, announced that she will challenge the Governor. In her announcement video, she concentrated solely on business issues and job creation, not the usual rhetoric from a Democratic candidate. Burke has the personal financial wherewithal to invest in her campaign, so she has to be considered a legitimate challenger despite coming from a small local elective office.

Mayor

Boston: A UMass Lowell poll (10/2-7; 375 Boston registered voters) gives City Councilor At-Large, and second place primary finisher, John Connolly (D) a 45-37% lead over state Rep. Marty Walsh (D) for their November 5th run-off election. Suffolk University (10/2-6; 600 Boston registered voters) sees it almost the same way: they project Connolly to a 41-34% advantage.

Seattle: It is apparent that Seattle voters will defeat the current incumbent, Mayor Mike McGinn. Two pollsters are forecasting almost identical huge leads for state Senator Ed Murray. Public Policy Polling and Survey USA project Sen. Murray to a commanding majority of the general election vote. PPP posts the challenger to a 52-28% lead over incumbent McGinn. Survey USA scores it 52-30%.