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Period Ending November 14, 2014

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

Senate

Senate Overview: The lone uncalled race has been decided. Republican Dan Sullivan defeated Sen. Mark Begich (D) even before all Alaska absentee ballots have been counted. After the first 20,000 ballots were recorded Begich only moved 623 votes closer to Sullivan, meaning that he was still more than 7,300 votes behind. Mathematics and location of the remaining votes clearly indicated that the incumbent had no chance of overtaking his challenger. Mr. Begich now becomes the fourth Democratic incumbent to lose his Senate seat. The Republican victory means that the new Senate party division will feature at least 53 members of the GOP.

Louisiana: The Louisiana run-off election between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) is in full swing. The December 6th secondary election was made necessary because no candidate received an outright majority in the first vote. The run-off will determine the 100th Senate seat, with the current party division now standing at 53-46. Each candidate is running television ads, and Landrieu and Cassidy both are maneuvering to pass the Keystone Pipeline bill in the lame duck session in order to take credit for bringing additional energy jobs to the region. Because the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has cancelled their reserved television time, the Republicans are overwhelming Landrieu with ads in the first part of the run-off campaign. Based upon the primary vote, the national mood, and the Democrats’ inability to turn out their lower intensity voters, Rep. Cassidy is viewed to be the favorite.

A new Magellan Strategies poll (11/12; 1,917 LA registered voters via automated telemarketing) conducted for the Cassidy campaign underscores the premise and gives the challenger a whopping 57-41% advantage in the December 6th run-off. In another piece of good news for Cassidy, third place finisher Rob Maness (R) who attracted a sizable 14% of the November 4th vote has endorsed the Baton Rouge Congressman, thus uniting the Republican forces.

Senate Political Committees: The leadership elections brought new chairmen to the respective party campaign organizations. Republicans chose Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker to lead them into the tough 2016 election cycle as National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman, while Democrats went with Montana Sen. John Tester to command the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In the next cycle, Republicans will have to defend 24 seats compared to the Democrats risking only ten.

House

House Overview: Races are being called, and if the Republicans capture both Louisiana congressional run-offs as expected, the party will reach 247 seats in the chamber, which is the largest Republican majority since the 1928 election.

AZ-2: By a scant 161-vote margin, Republican challenger Martha McSally has apparently unseated Rep. Ron Barber (D). Since the election is within 200 votes, an automatic recount will occur as proscribed in Arizona election law. The votes are first electronically recounted; and then random precincts are chosen to match the second count with the original numbers. Expect a long legal battle here. Republicans have the advantage because their candidate is leading going into the recount, and with the House under GOP control, the final arbiter is the chamber itself since the body must seat the winner.

CA-7: This Sacramento County race now appears to be the most expensive in the nation, in terms of combined internal and outside spending. After leading freshman Rep. Ami Bera (D) for all of the counting period, ex-Rep. Doug Ose (R) fell behind the incumbent by 711 votes as counting progressed late in the week. A total of approximately 19,000 ballots remain to be counted, but it is looking more like Bera will politically survive by the slimmest of margins.

CA-16: The closest California election looks to be in the Fresno Valley. Now that many Fresno County absentee ballots have been added to the count, Rep. Jim Costa (D) has taken a 741-vote lead over challenger Johnny Tacherra (R). But, an equal number of ballots, approximately 2,300 in each region, remain in both candidates’ strongholds. While Costa has a slight advantage, the outcome is still unclear. It appears we will not have a clear winner until every vote is counted.

CA-26: Pulling ahead by more than 3,000 votes in the absentee ballot counting, Rep. Julia Brownley (D) was declared the official winner over state Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R). Brownley now wins her second term in the House from the Ventura County seat.

CA-31: Early in the week, former Navy officer Paul Chabot (R) conceded a 51-49% defeat to Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) in the San Bernardino County district. This is a Democratic gain since retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R) is the incumbent.

CA-52: In San Diego, the hard-fought battle between Rep. Scott Peters (D) and former City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R) ended with a political overtime victory from the absentee ballot count. Rep. Peters scores the 51-49% victory, which dashed what many believed was the Republicans’ best opportunity to gain a House seat in the California delegation. As a result, despite the record-setting Republican national cycle, the party is likely to lose a seat in the Golden State congressional delegation.

NY-13: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) reiterated this week what he had stated during his primary campaign. He again repeated that his 18th term, which will begin in January, is going to be his last. Mr. Rangel indicated that he will not seek re-election in 2016. This will set up a free-for-all within the Democratic primary since NY-13 is one of the safest Democratic seats in the country.

NY-25: Former Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter (D) has been declared the official winner of the 25th District contest. She defeated political neophyte Mark Assini (R) in what will be a less than a 1,000 vote margin in her bid for a 15th term.

PA-8: In a rather surprising move, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R), at age 51, says he also will not seek re-election in 2016. Originally elected in 2004, the Congressman said he would serve only four terms. Defeated in 2006, many believed that the pledge would not be carried through. But, Mr. Fitzpatrick in fact confirmed that the new term will be his last as he intends to uphold the four term-limit pledge that he made twelve years ago. The 8th District is marginal, so we can expect active primaries on both sides in addition to a hotly contested general election.

Governor

Alaska: The only unsettled Governor’s election remains in Alaska as absentee counting progresses at a laborious pace. Through the first 20,000 counted absentee ballots, Independent challenger Bill Walker actually expanded his lead over Gov. Sean Parnell (R), now moving to a 4,004 vote advantage. Though much closer than the Senate race that was called for Sen-Elect Dan Sullivan (R), this campaign appears destined for the Independent column. Expect Mr. Walker to unseat the Governor when all of the ballots are finally tabulated. The election officials hope to have all races certified on Nov. 28th, the day after Thanksgiving.

Vermont: Though the election count is complete in the Vermont Governor’s contest, the process is not yet finalized. Because the race between Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) and Republican challenger Scott Milne ended in a 46-45% split with neither reaching 50%, the legislature must make the final decision. Though the overwhelmingly Democratic chambers are easily expected to vote for Shumlin, Milne is making the argument to the members that the majority of their districts voted for him. He has few political cards to play, and this move will also come up short. Expect Gov. Shumlin to be re-elected when the legislature convenes in January.