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Period Ending November 22, 2013

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

Senate

Colorado: Quinnipiac University (11/15-18; 1,206 CO registered voters) tested first-term Sen. Mark Udall (D) as he prepares for re-election and found a surprisingly tight series of proposed general election battles. Against Tea Party backed 2010 Senatorial nominee Ken Buck (R), who is running again, Sen. Udall leads only 45-42%. Against virtually unknown Republican state legislators Randy Baumgardner, Owen Hill, and Amy Stephens, Mr. Udall leads 44-39%; 45-39%; and 45-38%, respectively. Against businessman Jamie McMillan (R), the margin is also tight. Mr. Udall leads that pairing, 43-40%. More data will have to be analyzed here before this race can be moved into the competitive category.

Hawaii: Seeing that appointed Sen. Brian Schatz (D) and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) are virtually tied in Democratic primary polling, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1), who also served on the Honolulu City Council and in the state legislature, confirms that he is considering entering next year’s Senate race. Figuring that a bitter primary between the two Democrats, not decided until August 9th, might create chaos in the general election, Djou is weighing his options. Most observers believed he would jump into the open 1st District, since Hanabusa is committed to running statewide, but the Senate race is now a viable option.

Louisiana: According to a new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll (released 11/21; 600 LA voters who have cast ballots in three of the last four elections) 54% of the sampling universe are less likely to vote for three-term Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) because she supported the Affordable Care Act healthcare law. In a ballot test question against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) and retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness (R), Landrieu posts only 41% support. Cassidy is second with 34%, and Maness pulls ten percent. Under Louisiana election law, if no candidate receives an absolute majority in the first vote, which runs concurrently with the national general election in early November, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to a December run-off vote. According to this data, Sen. Landrieu could easily be forced into the secondary election.

Michigan: Despite Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) being considered nationally as the favorite to win retiring Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-MI) open Senate seat, the early polling continues to show a very tight race. The newly released Denno Research survey (11/12-14; 600 MI registered voters) again reveals a dead heat for next year’s general election. The actual margin is just 37-36% with Peters edging former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R).

Mississippi: The first poll of the impending Mississippi Senate race was conducted this week, and the results suggest GOP primary weakness for six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. Public Policy Polling (11/15-17; 502 MS registered voters; 422 self-identified Republican primary voters) finds the Senator scoring a job approval rating of only 45:42% positive to negative among members of his own Republican Party, and 44:40% within the electorate as a whole. In a ballot test against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, already a declared GOP primary candidate, Cochran’s lead is just 44-38%. In hypothetical general election match-ups, the Senator leads former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) 50-33%, Attorney General Jim Hood (D) 45-43%, and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) 50-37%. McDaniel, on the other hand, tops Childers 41-38%, trails Hood 41-43%, but rebounds against Musgrove 44-41%. Sen. Cochran has not announced whether he will seek a seventh six-year term, but promises to make his plans known “after Thanksgiving”.

Montana: Public Policy Polling (11/15-17; 952 MT registered voters) tested at-large Representative and announced Senatorial candidate Steve Daines (R) against two potential Democratic opponents and concluded that the Congressman has already opened up a strong lead. According to the PPP results, Mr. Daines leads Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) 52-35%. Against former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger (D), the Congressman’s margin is 51-36%. The Montana seat is a serious Republican conversion opportunity. Sen. Max Baucus (D) is retiring after what will be 40 years of congressional service at the end of the current term.

House

FL-13: As candidate filing closed for the upcoming special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R), state Rep. Kathleen Peters (R) announced her congressional bid as did retired Marine Corps General Mark Bircher (R). Former Young congressional aide and current lobbyist David Jolly (R), had previously entered the race. A new St. Pete Polls survey (11/18; 1,252 FL-13 registered voters; 582 Republican special election primary voters) gives Jolly a 39-17% primary advantage. Alex Sink, the former state Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee, is the lone Democrat to have filed. Ms. Sink is the favorite to win the special election, and convert this western peninsula Tampa Bay district to the Democratic column. In general election pairings, the new St. Pete Polls survey posts the former statewide official to a 49-35% lead over Jolly. She holds a 50-31% advantage against Rep. Peters.

FL-19: After agreeing to plead guilty to cocaine possession, freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R) announced that he is taking a “leave of absence” from the House. He did not indicate he is resigning his seat. We can now expect a serious Republican primary to ensue in this southwestern Florida district, anchored in Cape Coral and Ft. Myers. Already, both the 2012-second and third place finishers, consultant Chauncey Goss, son of former Congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss, and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, say they are considering running again.

FL-26: Former Miami-Dade County Commission chairman Joe Martinez (R), as expected, formally announced his congressional candidacy. He joins a field of four other Republicans who are vying for the right to challenge vulnerable freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D). The Congressman, on his third try for Congress in 2012, unseated scandal-ridden Rep. David Rivera (R) in what should be a marginally Republican district.

LA-5: Businessman Vance McAllister (R) swept to victory in the November 16th special election to fill the vacancy created when then-Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) resigned his seat to accept a state appointment from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). McAllister defeated fellow Republican Neil Riser, a state Senator, 60-40%, to win the right to serve the balance of the current term. McAllister has never before held office. His election is a rather stunning upset, since he defeated a total of six current and former elected officials in the primary and run-off, each of whom had an established political base. The northeastern Louisiana seat is safely Republican.

NC-6: Phil Berger Jr. (R), the Rockingham County District Attorney and son of Senate President Phil Berger (R), announced that he will enter the Republican congressional primary for the new open 6th District. Rep. Howard Coble (R) announced last week that he will retire after 15 terms in the House next year. So far, Mr. Berger is the top Republican to enter the race in what should be a safe district for the GOP. Democrats Laura Fjeld, an administrator at the University of North Carolina, and Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District Commissioner Danielle Adams are the two announced Democratic candidates.

Governor

Colorado: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey also tested Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who earlier surveys have identified as being vulnerable for 2014. This data shows the Governor in a bit better position than what was previously recorded. According to the PPP results, the Governor leads former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) 46-41%, a net four-point improvement from the organization’s August survey. He posts a 45-40% edge over Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), a 47-40% lead over northeastern Colorado state Sen. Greg Brophy (R), and 44-40% over former state Sen. Mike Kopp (R). Though these numbers are slightly better for Hickenlooper, the Governor approaches 50% in no pairing, and is clearly headed for a dogfight re-election contest.

Florida: The new Quinnipiac University survey (11/12-17; 1,646 FL registered voters) shows Gov. Rick Scott (R) trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) 40-47%, but the margin is closing. Previously, the Governor had been down 34-50% when Quinnipiac began polling the race in March. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has not ruled out joining the race. This contest will be one of the top Governors’ campaigns in the country.

Idaho: Republican state Sen. Russ Fulcher has scheduled an announcement tour next week for purposes of announcing a GOP primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Butch Otter. The Governor is expected to run for a third term. Aside from serving fourteen years as Lt. Governor, Mr. Otter held the 1st Congressional District seat for three terms beginning in 2001.

Mayor

San Diego: The resignation of disgraced Mayor and former Congressman Bob Filner (D) led to a special primary election that occurred this past Tuesday. Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer placed first with 43% of the vote. Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez edged Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the early race leader, for second position in a 26-24% margin. Once the final results are certified, the run-off election between Faulconer and Alvarez will be scheduled, probably for a date in early February.