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Period Ending October 18, 2013

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

Senate

Alaska: As part of a series of polls, Harper Polling (9/24-25; 731 AK registered voters) provides another study showing Sen. Mark Begich (D) in a close contest for his first re-election. According to the results, Begich only leads Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) 43-42%, and former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan 43-41%. The Senator's job approval was an upside down 39:42% favorable to unfavorable.

Arkansas: Harper Polling (9/24-26; 622 AR registered voters) also looked at the Natural State race between Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4). They, like several other pollsters before them, found the Senator locked in a close race with Mr. Cotton. Their results yielded a 45-42% Pryor edge. The Senator's job approval rating was 45:40%. Talk Business-Hendrix College also surveyed the state (10/3; 603 AR registered voters) and found a similar result. According to their data, Sen. Pryor's lead over Rep. Cotton is a single point, 42-41%.

Louisiana: A third state in the Harper Polling series (9/22-23; 561 LA registered voters), Louisiana, also turned in close numbers for its impending Senate race. The results showed three-term Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) clinging to only a 46-44% edge over Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6). Her job approval score was just 45:43% positive to negative.

New Hampshire: New England College (10/7-9; 1,063 NH registered voters) conducted a statewide survey of the New Hampshire electorate and found Sen. Jeanne Shaheen continuing to post strong numbers. Sen. Shaheen received a 56:33% favorable to unfavorable job approval rating, and would lead former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2) 51-32%, if the two were to face each other in the 2014 general election. Bass has so far mentioned only that he is considering entering the race. Interestingly, while NEC tested former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in a Republican primary configuration against Bass and two other lesser-known Republicans (Brown would lead Bass 47-21%), they either did not question respondents about a Shaheen-Brown general election, or chose not to release the results.

New Jersey: As predicted Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) won the US Senate special election necessitated by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) in early June. Booker scored a 55-44% victory over ex-Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R). Mr. Booker will serve the remainder of Mr. Lautenberg’s (D) final term in office. He is eligible to seek a full six-year stint at the 2014 general election. Republicans did not seriously contest the special election, and Sen-elect Booker is already rated as a clear favorite for his 2014 election.

Oregon: St. Rep. Jason Conger is joining the field of Republican candidates running for the right to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Already in the race are Linn County Republican chair Jo Rae Perkins, and businessman Sam Carpenter. Sen. Merkley is a heavy favorite for re-election.

West Virginia: The final September Harper Polling entry comes from the West Virginia open seat (9/24-25; 640 WV registered voters) where Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) enjoys a wide 51-34% lead over Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Personal favorability was asked, and both women fared well. Ms. Capito scored 50:26%; Ms. Tennant 39:27% favorable to unfavorable. All four of the Harper polls were conducted before the government shutdown began.

House

AL-1: Wenzel Strategies (10/6-8; 412 AL-1 registered voters), polling for the Now or Never conservative political action committee, tested the AL-1 special election Republican run-off and found former state Sen. Bradley Byrne leading businessman Dean Young 44-37%. Byrne placed first in the September 24th primary, capturing 35% of the vote as compared to Young’s twenty-three percent. Since the first election, two of his former opponents, columnist Quin Hillyer and state Rep. Chad Fincher, have endorsed Mr. Byrne, as has the National Rifle Association. The run-off is scheduled for November 5th.

CA-21: John Hernandez, the 2012 Democratic nominee who fared poorly against then-Assemblyman David Valadao (R) (lost 42-58%), announced that he will seek a re-match in 2014. Democrats already have one candidate, however, so there will be a fight for the second general election ballot position. Last week, former congressional aide Amanda Renteria announced her candidacy. Though Valadao is strong in this Central Valley region, the 21st is one of sixteen seats President Obama carried in 2012 (54.6%) that is represented by a Republican, suggesting looming general election competition.

CO-6: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) conducted an internal poll of the suburban 6th District of Colorado during the week of October 7th. Their survey of 475 likely voters found Democrat Andrew Romanoff, the former state House of Representatives’ Speaker and a 2010 US Senate candidate, leading incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R) by a 43-42% count. The poll was taken during the government shutdown, which likely skews the results in the Democrats’ favor. Coffman, who fared poorly in the 2011 Colorado redistricting plan, won re-election in 2012 by only a 48-46% margin.

FL-13: Former 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D), the state’s former Chief Financial Officer, a statewide elected position in Florida, is giving positive indications that she will run for retiring Rep. Bill Young’s (R) open Tampa Bay-anchored congressional seat. Considering that she just recently said she would not again run for Governor in 2014, it is a bit of a surprise that she seems eager to hop into the congressional race. Ms. Sink says she will make a final decision within 30 days. If she enters the race, this campaign will become the top Democratic conversion opportunity in the country. Reports are now emanating from Florida that Mr. Young has been hospitalized due to complications from back surgery, and is in “guarded” condition.

LA-5: Voters will go to the polls on Saturday to begin the replacement process for resigned Rep. Rodney Alexander (R). The Congressman left the House to accept an appointment from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to join his Administration. He was originally elected in 2002 as a Democrat, but switched parties before the 2004 election. The top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the November 16th run-off election. Favorites include state Sen. Neil Riser (R), former US Rep. and current Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway (R), and state Rep. Jay Morris (R). Top Democrats include Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and state Reps. Marcus Hunter and Robert Johnson. Republicans are favored to hold the seat.

MA-5: State Sen. Katherine Clark won the Democratic special election primary for the right to replace now-Sen. Ed Markey (D), who vacated the seat earlier in the year upon winning the statewide post. Sen. Clark defeated Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, state Rep. Carl Sciortino, and state Sens. Will Brownsberger and Karen Spilka, 32-22-16-15-13%, respectively. She now faces Republican nominee Frank Addivinola in the December 10th special general election. Sen. Clark is the prohibitive favorite to win that race and serve the remainder of Mr. Markey’s final term in the House.

MN-3: The DCCC, as they did in Colorado (see CO-6 report above), also surveyed the Minneapolis suburban area (week of October 7; 502 MN-3 registered voters) and found Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) to be trailing a generic Democrat by a 37-43% margin. Like in Colorado, the poll is taken during the period of the government shutdown. Because Mr. Paulsen has no 2014 opposition at this time, the party operatives tested him against the generic Democratic Party label.

NE-2: Two weeks ago Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen (D) said that he would not challenge Rep. Lee Terry (R), but he’s now made an about face. Apparently, the DCCC’s internal government shutdown poll that yielded a 44-42% margin in favor of Festersen was enough of a positive result for him to reverse course and enter the congressional race. Rep. Terry, originally elected in 1998, won with only a 51-49% margin last November. Two years before he hit sixty-one percent. The initial Obama presidential year of 2008 produced another close call for the Congressman, as he claimed re-election with a 52-48% margin. The mid-term turnout model should help Terry but the Omaha seat is politically marginal, so this is likely to become a highly competitive race.

NH-1: New England College (10/7-9; 882 NH-1 registered voters), as part of their statewide survey, tested Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) against former Rep. Frank Guinta (R), who just recently announced that he will seek a re-match in 2014. Considering that the survey revealed 49% of the statewide sample blames Republicans for the government shutdown versus 30% who said the same about President Obama, Guinta only trailing Shea-Porter by a 42-43% margin has to be viewed as good news in the Republican camp. Expect yet another competitive race here next year.

NH-2: The same New England College poll (10/7-9; 569 NH-2 registered voters) as mentioned in the NH-1 item above tested freshman Rep. Annie Kuster (D), and found her to be in much stronger shape than her 1st District colleague (Ms. Shea-Porter). According to the District 2 results, Ms. Kuster would be favored over Republican former state Sen. Gary Lambert 46-26%.

NM-2: Public Policy Polling (10/7-10; 736 NM-2 registered voters), conducting a government shutdown survey for Progress Now New Mexico and the Center for Civic Action, found five-term Rep. Steve Pearce (R) with a 44:45% positive to negative job approval rating. He led a generic Democratic opponent 47-44%. Though attorney Leslie Endean-Singh and former Eddy County Commissioner Rocky Lara have both declared their intention to enter the Democratic primary in order to win the right of facing Rep. Pearce in the general election, PPP chose not to test either individual against the incumbent.

WI-1: It appears that Rep. Paul Ryan, the former GOP Vice Presidential nominee, is drawing a second Democratic challenger. Award winning filmmaker Amar Kaleka says he is forming a congressional exploratory committee and will likely announce his candidacy within the next few weeks. Already in the race is 2012 nominee and former Kenosha County Commissioner Rob Zerban, who held Ryan to a 55-43% win last year.

Governor

Maine: The Portland (ME)-based Critical Insights research group conducted a survey of Maine voters (9/27-30; 600 ME registered voters) and found a very tight race for Governor. According to the results, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) would lead Gov. Paul LePage (R), and Independent Eliot Cutler 33-30-24%, respectively, if the election were today. Gov. LePage, who was elected from a similar three-way configuration in 2010, sports an upside down job approval rating of 39:53%.

New Hampshire: The aforementioned New England College statewide poll also forecasts first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) to be in strong political position. She records a 58:25% favorable to unfavorable job approval rating, and leads Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas (R) 53-25% in a hypothetical gubernatorial general election. Gatsas is running this year for re-election to his current position, but is commonly tested as a 2014 gubernatorial opponent for Ms. Hassan.

Mayor

San Diego: Resigned Mayor Bob Filner (D) agreed to plead guilty to criminal harassment charges against several women. Filner is sentenced to three months of house arrest, three years of probation, and agrees never again to run for public office. In the special election race to replace him as Mayor, Survey USA released a new poll (10/7-10; 513 San Diego registered voters) finding that Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher leads GOP City Councilman Kevin Faulconer 32-28%. Two other Democrats, David Alvarez and Mike Aguirre, trail with 20 and 8%, respectively. The candidates are not identified by political party on the ballot. Unless someone scores an outright majority in the November 19th initial election, the top two finishers advance to a run-off within 49 days of the original vote.