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Period Ending October 25, 2013

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

Senate

Hawaii: The Civil Beat organization commissioned a Merriman River Group poll (10/9-10; 549 HI registered voters) about the Hawaii Democratic Senate primary between appointed Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1). The data yields Schatz only a 38-36% lead. The Democratic primary won’t be held until August 9, 2014, but it will determine the winner of the general election because the race against the eventual Republican nominee will be a non-event.

Kentucky: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the United for Change organization, (10/14-15; 1,193 KY registered voters) gives Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes a 45-43% lead over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). This is a government shutdown poll that employed anti-McConnell push questions, so the results should be viewed with healthy skepticism.

New Hampshire: The University of New Hampshire, an active pollster but one never known as being particularly reliable, released numbers for the state’s 2014 US Senate race featuring first-term incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D). The poll (10/7-16; 663 NH registered voters) gives the Senator a very strong 57:22% job approval rating. It further shows her leading prospective candidate Charlie Bass (R), a former seven-term House member, 51-34%. She commands a 53-38% advantage over former state Sen. Jim Rubens (R).

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (10/4-6; released on or around Oct 20; 746 NC registered voters) produced another close survey for first-term incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D). Virtually all polls show her leading each of her virtually unknown Republican opponents, but not by strong margins. Against state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), Sen. Hagan is up 47-40%. Paired with physicist Greg Brannon (R), the Hagan margin is only 46-40%, and it expands to 46-38% when pitted against GOP pastor Mark Harris. Sen. Hagan’s job approval rating is an upside down 36:41%.

South Dakota: The Nielsen Brothers polling firm (10/2-6; 818 SD registered voters) tested the open SD Senate race earlier in the month, and just released the data this week. According to the poll, former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) leads ex-Tom Daschle aide Rick Weiland (D) 50-35%. Converting the South Dakota seat is a must-win for Republicans, if they are to have any chance of claiming the Senate majority in 2014.

House

AR-2: A surprise retirement announcement occurred this week, as two-term Rep. Tim Griffin (R), 45 years of age, is declining to seek a third term in 2014. The Congressman says he needs to spend more time with his young children, who are in their “formative years.” The 2nd District houses the Little Rock metropolitan area, and was represented by Democrat Vic Snyder for seven terms before Mr. Griffin won in 2010. Both the Congressman and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney scored 55% victories last year. Potential GOP candidates include state Sens. David Sanders, Jonathan Dismang, Jeremy Hutchinson, and former Senate Minority Leader Gilbert Baker, along with state Rep. Ann Clemmer, former Rep. Ed Garner and businessman French Hill. Democratic possibilities are former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who has now formally announced his candidacy, ex-Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, state Sen. David Johnson, state Rep. Tommy Thompson, and former state Rep. Linda Tyler. Incumbent Secretary of Education Shane Broadway is yet another Democratic possible candidate. This race will likely become highly competitive.

FL-2: The liberal House Majority PAC tested the voters in Florida’s 2nd CD through Public Policy Polling (10/21-22; 965 FL-2 registered voters) and conducted a slanted post-government shutdown poll. The push questions were highly negative against Rep. Steve Southerland (R), to the point that his eventual general election opponent, Gwen Graham, was not identified as a Leon County schools official but, rather, as former Governor and Senator Bob Graham’s (D) daughter. Even with the push questions and the name ID bump for Ms. Graham, and that 55% of the sample were registered Democrats, Southerland only trailed 41-44%.

FL-13: Rep. Bill Young, the longest-serving Republican in the House who had just announced he would not seek a 23rd term, passed away due to complications from back surgery. Mr. Young’s death creates a vacancy in his politically marginal western peninsula Tampa Bay district, one that will lead to a high level of special election competition. Gov. Rick Scott (R) will soon schedule the new vote necessary to replacing the late Congressman. The leading candidate is former 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D), Florida’s former Chief Financial Officer. The potential Sink candidacy provides the Democrats a strong chance of converting this seat. President Obama carried the district in 2012 by one percentage point over Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

IL-13: One of the closest 2012 races occurred in east-central Illinois, when Republican Rodney Davis scored a 46.5 – 46.2% victory against Democrat David Gill. A new Public Policy Polling survey, taken earlier in the month for Democratic college professor George Gollin and just recently released (10/7; 738 IL-13 registered voters), gives Rep. Davis a 40-35% lead over former District Judge Ann Callis (D), and a 41-33% advantage against the poll sponsor. It is clear that the marginal 13th District will again host a competitive campaign in 2014.

LA-5: The first round of voting occurred this past weekend in the special election to replace resigned Rep. Rodney Alexander (R). The Congressman left the House to accept a state appointment from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). As expected, state Sen. Neil Riser (R) placed first garnering 32% of the vote, but the race produced a surprising second place finisher in businessman Vance McAllister (R). Both Republicans under Louisiana’s jungle primary law will advance to the November 16th special general election. In all, fourteen Democrats, Republicans, and Independents were on the ballot. The top Democratic finisher was Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, placing third at 15%. Securing both run-off positions, the Republicans have clinched holding the seat.

MI-11: Democrats now have at least one candidate to challenge the winner of the Rep. Kerry Bentivolio-David Trott Republican primary. Former State Department official Bobby McKenzie announced his candidacy this week. It has long been expected that former Secretary of State Democratic nominee Jocelyn Benson would enter the race, but to-date she has not. Currently, Ms. Benson is the dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. This race will be highly competitive both in the nominating and general election phases of the campaign.

MN-2: Like in FL-2, the House Majority PAC hired Public Policy Polling (10/21-22; 825 MN-2 registered voters) to survey a House district and asked similar slanted questions against Education and the Workforce Committee chairman John Kline (R). Accusing Kline of using his Education Committee chairmanship to “hurt students and families”, the Congressman trails former state Rep. Mark Obermueller (D), who PPP still identifies as an existing state Representative, 38-42%. In 2012, Kline defeated Obermueller 54-46%. Though this particular PPP poll should be considered bogus, the 2nd District is marginal and a competitive 2014 general election is certainly within the realm of possibility.

NJ-2: Bill Hughes Jr. (D), whose father served 20 years in the House from southern New Jersey, announced that he will challenge Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R) next year. LoBiondo succeeded the elder Hughes in 1994, after losing to him two years earlier. The current Congressman has held the seat ever since. NJ-2 is one of sixteen seats that voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012, but simultaneously elected a Republican Congressman.

NM-1: Former Albuquerque City Councilman Mike McEntee announced his challenge to freshman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). The 1st District, which contains almost all of Bernalillo County, was for years a marginal seat but now plays decidedly for the Democrats. Rep. Grisham begins this race as a heavy favorite for re-election.

NC-2: It had been rumored for weeks that Chatham County Republican Chairman Jim Duncan was close to announcing a Republican primary challenge to two-term Rep. Renee Ellmers. Officially, Mr. Duncan has now made his decision public, and he will not enter the 2nd District congressional campaign.

OR-2: Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, himself has drawn a challenge from a Tea Party activist. Klamath County (population: just under 66,000 people) Commission chairman Dennis Linthicum will run in the Republican primary against the eight-term incumbent. The Congressman remains an overwhelming favorite for renomination.

Governor

Maryland: A Gonzalez Research & Marketing Strategies poll (10/1-14; 819 MD registered voters) tested the Democratic gubernatorial primary (Democratic voters’ sub-sample size not released). They found Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown leading Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Delegate Heather Mizeur 41-21-5%. Two-term Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. Several personal flaps surrounding Gansler that are just breaking will likely soon increase Brown’s advantage.

South Carolina: Washington, DC-based Clarity Campaigns (10/15-16; 760 SC registered voters) tested Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in her quest for a second term next year. The Governor defeated state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D) 51-47% in 2010, and has not registered particularly strong approval ratings ever since. According to this data, her job approval rating is only 40:35% positive to negative. On the ballot test, the Governor leads Sen. Sheheen, who has already announced that he is seeking a re-match, 44-40%.

Virginia: A new NBC News/Marist College poll (10/12-18; 1,082 VA registered voters) tells a familiar story. That is, Democrat Terry McAuliffe continues to lead Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Old Dominion Governor’s race. According to this poll, McAuliffe’s lead is 46-38%. Libertarian Robert Sarvis attracts eight percent. The biggest warning sign for the Republicans is Cuccinelli’s poor favorability ratings. An outright majority now has an unfavorable opinion of the Republican nominee (37:54%). McAuliffe isn’t particularly well viewed either (44:43%), but the situation is far more severe for the Cuccinelli camp. More than two dozen polls have been released for this race during the past eight weeks, all showing Mr. McAuliffe leading.

Mayor

Boston: A Sage Systems poll released October 17th, on behalf of the Environmental League of Massachusetts (626 likely Boson mayoral voters) reveals a tightening run-off election, which will be decided November 5th. According to the results, Boston City Councilor John Connolly’s (D) lead has dropped to 40-36% over state Rep. Marty Walsh (D), who finished first in the primary election. Among “definite” voters, the margin becomes even closer, with Connolly’s edge dropping to 32-29%. An even later poll, from MassInc (10/19-20; 503 Boston likely voters) shows Walsh drawing even closer. According to their data, Connolly’s lead is 41-39% with “leaners”, and 35-34% without.