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Period Ending November 21, 2014

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

Senate

Illinois: Looking at a very difficult re-election campaign, and still recovering from the effects of a serious stroke suffered in 2012, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) says there is "no friggin' way" that he's retiring, and will seek re-election to a second term in 2016. Democrats are swirling around Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) as a potential candidate. The Congresswoman, originally elected in 2012 after losing in 2010, is a wounded Iraq War veteran having lost major portions of both legs in a helicopter crash. Rep. Duckworth has not commented directly on a possible run against Mr. Kirk for the Senate, but a member of her staff termed the idea "intriguing". Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL-8), who lost to Duckworth in 2012, says he can "guarantee" that Sen. Kirk will face a Republican primary from a conservative challenger. Illinois represents the Democrats best 2016 conversion opportunity.

Louisiana: Things continue to go badly for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). She has no television air support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, her Keystone Pipeline legislation died in the Senate by one vote with only 13 of her Democratic colleagues supporting her, and President Obama's immigration executive order will probably drive the final nail into her political coffin. The four run-off polls all show her trailing Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) by double-digit margins. The latest, from Vox Populi (11/16-17; 761 LA likely voters) gives Cassidy a 53-42% lead, and this is Landrieu's best showing of the run-off campaign. A Cassidy win on December 6th will give the Republicans a 54-46 advantage in the Senate. Rasmussen Reports also weighed in on the run-off campaign. Their new data (11/16-19; 1,000 LA likely voters) gives the Baton Rouge Congressman a similar 56-41% advantage.

Missouri: State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D), thought as possibly Sen. Roy Blunt's (R) strongest potential challenger in 2016, says he will not run for the US Senate. At this early point in the new election cycle, Sen. Blunt is drawing no opposition.

Nevada: Much of the political talk surrounds how many seats the Republicans will have to defend in the 2016 Senate elections (24 of 34), and who may challenge GOP incumbents. The opposite situation is occurring in Nevada where Republicans, fresh from a huge win in the state, hope to mount a strong challenge against incoming Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). But, it appears the top three Republican prospects, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Reps. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) and Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) are all taking themselves out of the discussion. Gov. Sandoval reiterated that he plans on serving the full four years of the second term he just won earlier in the month. Both Reps. Heck and Amodei made unequivocal statements that they would not be running statewide in 2016.

Ohio: Sen. Rob Portman's (R) 2016 re-election bid is drawing quite a bit of attention mainly because he is seriously considering a run for President. The Senator indicated that, if he were to enter the national campaign, he would not seek re-election to the Senate. Therefore, speculation is beginning to percolate as to who may run. One Democratic name that is being prominently mentioned, without the potential candidate dissuading such talk, is former Gov. Ted Strickland (D). The ex-Governor was elected in 2006, but defeated four years later by current incumbent John Kasich (R). Before being elected statewide, Strickland served in the US House for six non-consecutive terms.

Pennsylvania: Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who lost to Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010 and has been raising money for a 2016 re-match ever since, continues to move forward acting like a candidate. His road to the Democratic nomination just got easier this week. State Treasurer Rob McCord (D), who ran for Governor during this election cycle but fared poorly in the Democratic primary (17%), says he will not run for the US Senate in 2016. First-term Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) is a possible primary opponent to Sestak, however.

House

CA-7: Coming to the end of the outstanding races, freshman Rep. Ami Bera (D) was declared the winner against former Rep. Doug Ose (R). The latest reported margin is 1,432 votes. Ose led for almost the entire counting period, but once Bera headed him it appeared he would not relinquish the advantage. This campaign portends to be the most expensive US House contest in the entire country.

CA-16: Likewise in Fresno, another Democratic incumbent was able to score a close victory in political overtime. With still a small number of Fresno County absentee ballots remaining to count, Rep. Jim Costa (D) was declared the winner over farmer Johnny Tacherra (R), a candidate that did not even register on any national Republican target lists. The 16th appears to have produced one of the lowest turnouts in the entire state.

CO-6: Rep. Mike Coffman (R), fresh from a bigger-than-expected 52-43% win over former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) in a district that is not particularly Republican-friendly, is drawing political attention. Mr. Coffman's name is being mentioned as a potential opponent for Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who comes in-cycle in 2016. Already, Democratic former state Rep. Edward Casso has filed a 6th District congressional exploratory committee for 2016. National Democrats are reportedly attempting to recruit Romanoff back for another try in two years.

IL-10: In what could be the third contest between incoming Rep. Bob Dold (R) and outgoing incumbent Brad Schneider (D), the early signals suggest that the Democrat will be making a comeback after losing the seat two weeks ago. Rep. Dold was originally elected in 2010, but fell to Schneider in 2012 in a drastically re-drawn 10th Congressional District. Now with the seat back under his control, Rep. Dold will attempt to build a campaign to win in a presidential year, but at least he won't again have Illinois' favorite son Barack Obama leading his state's ballot.

NH-1: Speculation is already looming that outgoing Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) will attempt yet another comeback in 2016. Ms. Shea-Porter was first elected in 2006 as she upset then-Rep. Jeb Bradley. Two years later she was re-elected, again defeating Bradley. When the Republican wave came in 2010, then-Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R) swept her out of office. Two years ago, with President Obama at the top of the ticket, Shea-Porter returned the favor and sent Guinta packing. This year, riding another Republican wave, Guinta again took back the seat, marking the fourth time in five elections that the incumbent Representative was defeated. Now with a record of 3-2 in congressional races, Ms. Shea-Porter is apparently considering forcing a fourth campaign between she and Mr. Guinta. It appears the 1st District of New Hampshire is becoming the quintessential swing political entity.

Governor

Alaska: The nation's final gubernatorial campaign was finalized this week, as Independent candidate Bill Walker with his running mate, former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott, defeated incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell (R). The final vote count was 48-46% in favor of Walker, a margin of 4,004 votes from 243,597 total ballots cast. The Alaska vote was an unusual one in that an incumbent Democratic US Senator and a Republican Governor were both defeated in the same election. The Governor's race was even more unorthodox when seeing a Democratic nominee and an Independent candidate join forces in the middle of the general election campaign season. While clear that Parnell would win a three-way race, Independent Walker, a former Republican, and Democrat Mallott agreed to form a coalition ticket headed by the former. Mallott officially ended his campaign for Governor even after he had won the Democratic nomination to instead run for Lt. Governor. The previous Democratic and Independent Lt. Governor candidates both agreed to end their campaigns as part of the coalition deal.

At the end of the campaign, former Governor and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin (R) endorsed the Walker/Mallott ticket even though she originally chose Parnell as her own Lt. Governor and backed him in all of his previous races. She said her disappointment over Parnell dismantling her energy tax program was the impetus for her leaving his campaign. A campaign full of wild twists and turns ended with another one...a Republican Governor from a strongly Republican state being turned out of office in the midst of a landslide Republican year.

Louisiana: Preparing for the 2015 gubernatorial campaign, a race that US Sen. David Vitter (R) already says he will enter, much speculation is beginning to swirl. Should Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) lose the current run-off election, which appears likely, she could turnaround and run for the Vitter seat in 2016, which will likely have an appointed Senator seeking his or her first full term. Just another bit of political intrigue in what always is a unique political state.

Incumbent Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is making plans to announce his presidential campaign in January.

Wisconsin: Riding the wave of a bigger than expected re-election victory, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is reportedly preparing a presidential campaign announcement for the summer of 2015. An entrance from he, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), all joining Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) who is already virtually in the race, will mean the field will contain at least four sitting Governors.