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Period Ending November 6, 2015

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

President

Debates: The next presidential debate is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10, and already controversy is brewing. Debate hosts Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal have bumped candidates Mike Huckabee and Gov. Chris Christie to the undercard debate, along with Rick Santorum and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Not being invited to either are Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former Governors George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. This leaves the main debate with eight participants, polling leaders Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump, Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Gov. John Kasich, along with ex-Gov. Jeb Bush. It will be interesting to see what moves Christie and Huckabee make to elevate themselves back onto the main stage. On the other hand, the two of them may increase ratings for the first debate, meaning that Jindal and Santorum may gain the opportunity for a needed bump.

Senate

Indiana: Four-term Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, who had been openly considering entering the Democratic primary for the state’s open Senate seat, said yesterday that he will not run. This means the likely Democratic nominee will be former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9). Republicans are favored to hold the seat of retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R).

House

House Leadership: Texas Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) was elected chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee replacing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R). Brady won the House Steering Committee vote after gaining a strong endorsement from the new Speaker, the former committee chairman. Mr. Brady was the next most senior member on the committee after Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), who was not a candidate for the post.

FL-9: SEA Polling and Strategic Design (released 11/4; 400 FL-9 likely Democratic primary voters), polling for state Sen. Darren Soto (D), finds the survey sponsor jumping out to a quick lead over the remainder of the Democratic primary field. The poll was conducted in what will be the new 9th District, after the Florida Supreme Court approves the statewide mid-decade redistricting plan later this month. According to this data, Soto commands 25% support followed by congressional aide Susannah Randolph with 6%, Dr. Dena Minning at 3%, and former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel only pulling 1% support. The 9th District is a safely Democratic open seat. Incumbent Alan Grayson (D) is running for the Senate.

FL-11: Three-term Rep. Rich Nugent (R), who voted against Speaker John Boehner at the beginning of the year and was then removed from the House Rules Committee, announced that he will not seek re-election. Later in the week, the man he supported for Speaker, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10), confirmed that he may seek re-election from what will be Nugent’s open central Florida district. Webster’s current Orlando-anchored seat would be unwinnable for him under the new redistricting plan. Rep. Nugent’s retirement means there are 26 open seats (14R; 11D) in the 2016 election cycle.

MT-AL: Denise Juneau (D), the state Superintendent of Public Instruction who considered entering the open Senate race last year, announced that she will challenge Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) for Montana’s lone congressional district next year. Ms. Juneau is ineligible to seek a third term in her current statewide post. Rep. Zinke will be favored for re-election.

NY-13: As long expected, state Senator and former congressional candidate Adriano Espaillat (D), who twice lost close races to Rep. Charlie Rangel (D), announced that he will make a third run for Congress in what will now be an open Harlem-anchored seat. He becomes the seventh Democratic candidate for a party nomination, an election that is tantamount to victory in November. Already in the Democratic race are state Sen. Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Keith Wright, former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, and ex-US Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook. Rep. Rangel is retiring, choosing not to seek a 24th term next year.

PA-2: Despite having no money in the bank and major federal criminal indictments hanging over his head, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) is running for re-election. Up until this week, only second tier candidates had announced their Democratic primary challenges. Now, state Rep. Dwight Evans (D), the former state House Appropriations Committee chairman and gubernatorial and mayoral candidate, announced that he will enter the race. Considering the Philadelphia incumbent’s plight, Mr. Evans should now be rated as the favorite to win the party primary and the seat. He was first elected to the state House in 1980, at the age of 26.

PA-8: State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D) released a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll (10/20-22; 401 PA-8 Democratic primary voters) that gives him a 36-21% lead over former congressional candidate Shaughnessy Naughton for the Democratic nomination. The 8th District is a competitive open seat because Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) is retiring at the end of the term. State Rep. Scott Petri and former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren are the leading Republican candidates.

Governor

Kentucky: In an upset, Republican businessman Matt Bevin defeated Attorney General Jack Conway (D), 53-44%, to win the open Kentucky Governor’s position. The Republican Governors Association, which pulled out of the race during the summer because the leadership said the Bevin Campaign was so poorly run, returned to spend about $2 million to help elect him. Polling was always showing the race close and Bevin clearly had momentum at the end. Final polls that showed Bevin down five points or tied clearly understated his support. Mr. Bevin begins his four-year term in early December. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear was ineligible to seek a third term, though his son Andy won a razor-thin contest for Attorney General.

Louisiana: Things continue to go poorly for US Sen. David Vitter (R) in his general election gubernatorial campaign against Democrat John Bel Edwards. This week, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), who finished fourth in the jungle primary, publicly endorsed Edwards, disparaging both Vitter and outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Three new polls, from JMC Analytics (10/28-31; 600 LA registered voters), Market Research Insight (10/27-28; 600 LA registered voters), and Triumph Campaigns (11/5; 1,818 LA registered voters) finds Edwards leading by varying degrees, but all beyond the margin of polling error. JMC finds Edwards up 52-32%; MRI scores it 54-38%; and the latest poll from Triumph, which could signal better news ahead for Vitter, finds the Senator trailing 41-49%. Mr. Edwards is in prime position to score an upset victory on November 21st.

New Hampshire: Former New Hampshire Securities Bureau chief Mark Connolly announced his gubernatorial candidacy. He will compete for the Democratic nomination against Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu is the only member of his party so far to enter the race. The Governorship is open because incumbent Maggie Hassan (D) is challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).

North Carolina: A new Elon University poll (10/29-11/2; 1,040 NC registered voters) finds Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) recording his largest lead against Gov. Pat McCrory (R), up 45-40%. In a presidential election year, this gubernatorial campaign is guaranteed to be very tight.