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Period Ending October 4, 2013

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

Senate

Montana: Democrats now have a candidate to succeed retiring Sen. Max Baucus (D). Lt. Gov. John Walsh announced his intention to run for the Senate late this week. He was elected to his position on the same ticket as Gov. Steve Bullock (D) in the 2012 election. Therefore, the Senate campaign will be the first for Walsh in his own right. The Lt. Governor is a former state Adjutant General who commanded troops in Iraq as a member of the Montana National Guard. He will likely face at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R), who has still yet to announce his 2014 political plans. Sen. Baucus is retiring after 40 years of congressional service.

New Jersey: Echoing a Quinnipiac University poll that we reported upon last week, Monmouth University also tested the New Jersey Senate race and they, too, detect a tightening of the campaign. The survey (9/26-29; 571 NJ registered voters) shows Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) leading former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) by a 53-40% spread. The Q-Poll, taken within the same time frame, reported an almost identical 53-41% Booker advantage. The final result does not appear in doubt, but the Booker margin of victory could be smaller than first projected.

House

AL-6: Rep. Spencer Bachus (R), serving his eleventh term in the House, announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014. Mr. Bachus is a former House Financial Services Committee chairman. He leaves a heavily Republican suburban Birmingham district. The succeeding campaign will almost assuredly include a Republican run-off as the primary will feature a large number of candidates. The district will remain in GOP hands. This is the 18th open seat situation for the cycle, but Mr. Bachus is only the third member to retire. The others are running for a different office or will be accepting federal or state appointed positions.

CA-21: Freshman Rep. David Valadao represents the second-highest Obama percentage district of any Republican in the country. The Democrats have experienced recruitment problems here, but now they have a candidate for 2014. Former Senatorial aide Amanda Renteria (D), who formerly worked for both California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, announced a challenge to Valadao in this Bakersfield-anchored district. The fact that President Obama secured 55% of the vote in this district last year suggests that the 2014 race will be competitive.

IN-9: Former state Representative and local Mayor Bill Bailey (D) announced a challenge to sophomore Rep. Todd Young (R), in what can be considered a light swing district. Rep. Young is the first Republican to represent southeast Indiana since 1964. He was re-elected in 2012 with 55.4% of the vote. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district over President Obama in a 57-41% margin.

MA-5: Two internal campaign polls were released this week, taken during the same time period and showing an identical candidate placement order, but with wildly different vote projections. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Group (9/22-24; 400 MA-5 Democratic registered voters) forecast their client, state Sen. Karen Spilka to be trailing fellow state Sen. Katherine Clark by a single point, 18-19%. In third place is Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian with 15%. State Rep. Carl Sciortino and state Sen. Will Brownsberger follow at 11% apiece. The second poll, a GBA Strategies survey for the Katherine Clark campaign (9/23-25; 500 likely MA-5 Democratic voters) gives their client a substantial 27-18% advantage over Sen. Spilka. Sheriff Koutoujian is third here, too, with 16%, followed by Rep. Sciortino at 15%, and Sen. Brownsberger posting 12%. The GBA poll appears to have the tighter turnout screen and employs a larger number of respondents, suggesting that this may be the more accurate of the two. The special election is October 15th. The winner faces a Republican nominee in the December 10th special general vote. The seat is vacant because its former Representative, Ed Markey (D), was elected to the Senate earlier this year.

PA-9: Rep. Bill Shuster (R), chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, fares well against two Republican primary challengers in a new published poll. Harper Polling (9/30-10-1; 555 PA-9 likely Republican primary voters) finds the Congressman to be smashing his two opponents. Mr. Shuster leads the intra-party race 63-11-5% over retired Coast Guard captain Al Halvorson, and businessman Travis Schooley. The Congressman’s favorability index stands at 54:26% positive to negative.

Governor

Colorado: Former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp joined the ever-growing field of GOP gubernatorial candidates this week. Already, former US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), Secretary of State Doug Gessler, and state Sen. Greg Brophy are in the race. Polling shows a developing competitive contest against Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Florida: Public Policy Polling reported on their new Sunshine State poll (9/27-29; 579 FL registered voters), which again brandishes poor numbers for incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R). According to the respondents, Mr. Scott’s job approval rating is an anemic 33:55% favorable to unfavorable, and he trails former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), still an unannounced candidate, 38-50%. What may be a better reflection upon his weak standing, Gov. Scott tops virtually unknown state Sen. Nan Rich (D) only 37-36% in their head-to-head ballot test.

New Jersey: Monmouth University (9/26-29; 615 NJ registered voters; 498 reached through Interactive Voice Response) projects Gov. Chris Christie to hold a 56-37% lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D), yielding the following comment from Monmouth Polling Director Patrick Murray, "Christie’s level of firm support means the eventual winner is not in question. The only unknown is the final margin of victory." The Governor's favorability index is 55:35% favorable to unfavorable.

Texas: Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist who scored 19% of the vote in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary against both Gov. Rick Perry and then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, appears to be abandoning a race for state Comptroller and instead is looking to again run for Governor, but this time as an Independent. Such a move could cause some problems for presumptive Republican nominee Greg Abbott, the three-term Attorney General, who is the person most likely to suffer vote loss because of Medina’s presence. State Sen. Wendy Davis will likely become the Democratic nominee, as she officially announced her candidacy late this week. Ms. Medina entering the race will likely tighten this ensuing political battle. A Texas Lyceum poll (9/6-20; 800 TX registered voters) was released, and though its reliability could be questioned because of its long sampling period and high undecided voter score, Abbott notched an eight point lead over Davis, 29-21%.

Mayor

Boston: An Anderson Robbins poll (9/28-10/1; 800 Boston registered voters) conducted for mayoral candidate John Connolly (D) shows their client beginning the general election with a 44-32% lead over state Rep. Marty Walsh (D), the man who finished first in the Sept. 24th primary. Mr. Connolly, a Boston at-large City Councilor, finished a close second. The election is November 5th.

New York: Quinnipiac University again surveyed the New York City electorate (9/25-10/1; 1,198 NYC registered voters) and shows Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio to be crushing Republican Joe Lhota by a gigantic 71-21% margin. The spread and, heretofore, campaign developments suggest the contest is already over and the November 5th vote electing de Blasio will be just a formality.