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Period Ending November 13, 2015

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

Senate

Alabama: Candidate filing closed in the Yellowhammer State, the first political entity to have an official slate of 2016 office seekers. Sen. Richard Shelby (R) seeks a sixth term and has drawn both Republican primary and Democratic opposition. Of the four Republican opponents, only Shadrack McGill, a former state Senator, has won an election. The more serious challenger, however, may be military veteran and businessman Jonathan McConnell who has the resources to wage a credible campaign. Businessman Charles Nana is the lone Democrat to file. Sen. Shelby is expected to easily win both re-nomination and re-election.

Arkansas: Arkansas followed Alabama’s lead, becoming the second state to close candidate filing. In the Senate race, first-term incumbent John Boozman (R) will face former US Attorney Conner Eldridge (D) in the general election. Sen. Boozman drew minimal primary opposition, while Mr. Eldridge is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who had flirted with again running for the Senate, did not file his candidacy. The general election has competitive potential, but Sen. Boozman begins as a strong favorite to return to Washington for a second term.

Colorado: James Carville’s liberal political research organization, The Democracy Corps, surveyed four important US Senate contests. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted the polls during the October 24-28 period. The selected 400 respondents were from each of the four states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In Colorado, the pollsters chose Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) as the placebo Republican candidate, even though he is making no moves to run for the Senate. According to the poll results, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) would lead Rep. Tipton, but only with a 50-44% margin. Sen. Bennet was projected to be a major Republican target, but the GOP leadership has failed to recruit a top tier candidate.

Florida: In the Sunshine State, the Democracy Corps chose Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) and David Jolly (R-FL-13) as the eventual general election candidates, though neither winning their respective nomination is a sure bet. If the two were to square off, the hypothetical result gives Mr. Jolly a slight 44-43% edge.

Illinois: State Senator and former NFL football player Napoleon Harris, now a Democratic Senate candidate, released the results from a McKeon & Associates flash poll (10/20; 831 likely IL Democratic primary voters), placing him 12 points behind Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), but ahead of former Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp. The data finds Rep. Duckworth maintaining a 25-13-5% advantage over Harris and Zopp, respectively. The winner will face Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in what promises to be the Democrats’ best national prospect to convert a Republican seat.

Maryland: Republicans finally have a US Senate candidate for retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s (D) open seat. State House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga announced her candidacy this week. Should Ms. Szeliga win the GOP nomination, she will face either Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) or Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8). The Democrats are heavy favorites to hold this seat.

Ohio: The Democracy Corps actually produced unintended good news for Sen. Rob Portman (R). After four earlier polls showed him trailing former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research data found the contest to be tied at 47% apiece. Portman consistently scores better job approval numbers than ex-Gov. Strickland, who Gov. John Kasich (R) defeated in 2010, but the previous ballot tests have slightly favored the Democrat.

Wisconsin: While several other internal Wisconsin polls have shown former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) to have double-digit leads over Sen. Ron Johnson (R), the man who unseated him in 2010, the Democracy Corps GQR polling results find the Democrat’s lead is a lesser 51-46%. This campaign is expected to be close all the way to Election Day, exactly one year from now.

House

Alabama: As previously mentioned, candidate filing closed in Alabama and the entire House delegation drew competition. Only Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-AL-1) and Robert Aderholt (R-AL-4) will not have general election opponents. Mr. Byrne will face real estate developer Dean Young in the Republican primary, an opponent the Congressman defeated in the 2013 special election to originally win the seat. Rep. Aderholt faces only minor primary opposition. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL-3) drew both a primary and general election opponent, but he will be heavily favored in both elections. The entire delegation is seeking re-election and all are expected to return for another term.

Arkansas: Democrats are only contesting one of the state’s four congressional districts. Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), Steve Womack (R-AR-2), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4) all face only independent opponents and will all easily win another term. Freshman Rep. French Hill (R-AR-2) draws minor primary opposition, and will then face Little Rock School Board president Dianne Curry (D) in a campaign that could develop. At this early stage, however, Rep. Hill is the overwhelming favorite to win re-election.

CA-20: Twelve-term congressional veteran Sam Farr (D) announced that he will not seek re-election. The 20th District, anchored in Monterey County, is safely Democratic and will likely qualify two Democrats from the state’s June jungle primary to advance to the November general election.

MI-1: As expected, state Sen. Tom Casperson (R) announced his candidacy to succeed retiring Rep. Dan Benishek (R) in the northern and Upper Peninsula swing district. Democrats will make this seat a target, but Republicans will be at least slight favorites to hold.

MO-1: State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a previously announced Democratic challenger to Rep. Lacy Clay, released the results of a new Remington Research Group for the Missouri Scout political blog (11/5-6; 651 MO-1 likely Democratic primary voters), and they find the incumbent jumping out to a strong 53-19% lead over his main challenger. According to Remington, Rep. Clay holds a 51:19% favorability index. Sen. Chappelle-Nadal scores a much worse 29:23% favorable to unfavorable score.

NJ-7: Republican David Larsen has challenged Rep. Leonard Lance (R) three times, coming within a 46-54% margin of the incumbent in the 2014 Republican primary. This week, Mr. Larsen announced that he is coming back for a fourth attempt to defeat Mr. Lance, but is unlikely to be any more formidable than in the past. Expect Rep. Lance to secure a fourth term in the 2016 election cycle.

PA-16: Ten-term veteran Rep. Joe Pitts (R) announced that he will retire at the conclusion of this congressional session. The seat will likely remain in Republican hands, and state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R), commonly viewed as Pitts’ heir apparent, has already announced his candidacy for the open seat.

TX-15: Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D) has decided to retire after ten terms in the House. The 15th District, stretching from Seguin near Austin to the Mexican border, encompasses most of populous Hidalgo County. This district will remain safely Democratic after a contested party primary and run-off occurs early next year.

WY-AL: Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) became the fourth House member to announce a retirement this week, bringing the total open seat contingent in the House to 30, 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats. This seat will remain Republican, and it is conceivable that Liz Cheney, daughter to former Vice President and Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (R), will enter the race. She ran briefly for Senate in 2014, but exited early for health reasons.

TX Redistricting: The special three-judge panel that declared at least one central Texas district unconstitutional back in 2013 again announced that no re-draw plan will be adopted before the next election. This means candidates will again run under the current plan, the same districts that have been in effect since the 2012 election. This postponement of action decision is a benefit to Republicans who already control most of the districts in this region.

Governor

Louisiana: The Louisiana gubernatorial debate ended in accusations and name-calling from both Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) early this week. Two polls released early in the week from JMC Analytics and Market Research Insight gave Mr. Edwards majority support and double-digit leads over Sen. Vitter. Though Vitter and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) are internal political enemies, Edwards is doing a good job of tying his Republican Senator opponent to the unpopular Republican Governor. The latest released poll, from Marble Point Research, which conducted a more in depth survey with a better-selected 978-person sample on November 11, found the race to be closing to a 48-42% Edwards’ lead. Expect this campaign to tighten as we get closer to the November 21 Election Day, but Mr. Edwards and the Democrats are clearly positioned to score an upset victory.