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Period Ending December 13, 2013

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

Senate

Arkansas: The Polling Company/Women Trend, surveying for the Citizens United political action committee (12/6-7; 400 AR registered voters) finds, at the very least, a significant short-term Republican trend building in the Natural State. For the first time, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) has taken a lead beyond the margin of error over two-term Senator Mark Pryor (D). According to the data, Mr. Cotton has extended his advantage over Sen. Pryor to 48-41%. The Arkansas race continues to register as the Republicans’ best opportunity to defeat a Democratic incumbent.

Colorado: Public Policy Polling (12/3-4; 928 CO registered voters; 355 Republican primary voters) again foresees political trouble for first-term Sen. Mark Udall (D). According to the data, Udall leads 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Ken Buck, the Weld County District Attorney, by only a 46-42% margin. You will remember that Buck lost to then-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) despite the Republican wave forming around him. The Senator only has seven point leads over a trio of virtually unknown Republican state legislators.

Michigan: A new Public Policy Polling survey (12/5-8; 1,034 MI registered voters) shows consensus Republican Senatorial candidate Terri Lynn Land, the former two-term Secretary of State, now leading consensus Democratic contender Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) 42-40%. Previous polls had showed the race in tied status. Surveys have repeatedly projected this race to be close, despite almost unanimity of opinion that Peters is a decided favorite. For Republicans to have a legitimate chance to win the Senate majority, this Michigan campaign must continue in competitive fashion.

Mississippi: Sen. Thad Cochran (R) announced that he will seek a seventh term in the Senate next year. The 76-year old incumbent will face Tea Party backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the June 3rd Republican primary. Democratic former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) is contemplating running for his party’s nomination. Sen. Cochran was first elected in 1978 and became the first Republican Senator to represent a modern day Deep South state.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (12/5-8; 1,241 NC registered voters) again surveying their home state as they do every month, tests the Tar Heel State electorate about the upcoming US Senate race. For the second time in a row, their study reveals virtually identical numbers. The data again portends an almost even campaign among several Republican candidates and first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D) who is battling to win a second term. According to the poll, Sen. Hagan now drops behind two Republican candidates, again Tea Party backed physician Greg Brannon and, for the first time, radio broadcaster Bill Flynn by the same margin (43-45%). Paired with Charlotte area Baptist pastor Mark Harris and Army veteran Heather Grant, Sen. Hagan individually ties both candidates at 43% apiece. Interestingly, the only candidate Hagan leads is the man favored to win the GOP nomination, NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (44-42%).

Texas: Candidate filing closed in the Lone Star State, but not without a huge development occurring. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX-36) filed a late Republican primary challenge to two-term Sen. John Cornyn, citing the incumbent failing to support fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R) government shutdown strategy from two months ago. The primary is March 4th, and the Senator has a huge financial advantage over the Congressman. Reports suggest that the Cornyn war chest, irrespective of any outside independent expenditure, exceeds $7 million. This compares to Mr. Stockman’s reported $32,000 cash-on-hand. Stockman will hope to follow the model that Mr. Cruz established in establishing his long shot victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican nomination process, but the current effort seems to be a much longer shot than was the Cruz challenge.

House

MA-5 State Sen. Katherine Clark (D), scoring 66% of the vote, captured the vacated 5th Congressional District seat in a special election early in the week. She succeeds 36-year House veteran Ed Markey (D), who was elected to the Senate replacing Secretary of State John Kerry after the latter accepted his appointment from President Obama.

NY-13: State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who lost to veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel by just a little over 1,000 votes in the 2012 Democratic primary, announced that he will seek a re-match in 2014. Last week, Harlem pastor Michael Walrond entered the race. This will again be a competitive intra-party contest. Rep. Rangel was originally elected in 1970, and is the third most senior member of the House behind Michigan Reps. John Dingell (D-MI-12) and John Conyers (D-MI-13).

NE-2: Earlier this year, Omaha City Council President Peter Festersen (D) turned down national party overtures for him to challenge veteran Rep. Lee Terry (R). During the government shutdown, Festersen reversed course and announced he would run for Congress. Now, he again changes his mind. Earlier this week, Mr. Festersen once more took the position of wanting to remain on the City Council and will not run for federal office. Mr. Terry ran a closer-than-expected campaign in 2012, winning just 51-49% against an underfunded opponent, so it is no surprise that this race is high on national Democratic Party target lists.

NC-12: The confirmation of Rep. Mel Watt (D) to become the Federal Housing Finance Agency Director means a special election will soon be scheduled in this Charlotte-anchored district. Because the ensuing vacancy had been public knowledge for months, already eight Democratic candidates have stated their intentions to run. Seven of the eight have either current or previous elective office experience. No Republican has yet declared for the seat. If no candidate receives 40% of the vote in the special primary, a run-off contest between the top two finishers in each party will then be held. NC-12 is safely Democratic.

TX-36: The surprise entry of incumbent Rep. Steve Stockman (R) into the Senate race leaves this southeastern rural Texas district as an unexpected open seat. Six Republicans are in the race, two joining the field just hours after Stockman hopped into the Senate race. Doug Centilli, the veteran chief of staff to Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) is now a 36th District Republican congressional candidate, as is insurance executive Dave Norman who appears to be Mr. Stockman’s favored successor. The district is safely Republican. New candidates can still enter the race since the filing deadline has now been extended through December 16th because of the way Stockman withdrew his previously filed 36th District statement of candidacy documents.

VA-10: Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D) announced his candidacy against 17-term congressional veteran Rep. Frank Wolf (R) this week. The race has the potential of becoming competitive if Foust can prove himself as a credible fundraiser. Mitt Romney carried the 10th against President Obama in 2012, but by just one point, 50-49%. Mr. Wolf is the clear favorite for re-election and particularly riding a mid-term turnout model, the Congressman is not yet a major upset target.

Governor

Arizona: Susquehanna Polling & Research released the first published poll of the open Arizona Governor’s race (dates of November sampling period not released; 600 AZ registered voters; 245 AZ self-identified Republican voters). The pollsters paired two leading Republicans, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and state Treasurer Doug Ducey, against what appears to be a consensus Democratic candidate, former Clinton Administration official Fred DuVal. According to the results, both Republicans lead DuVal. Mr. Bennett scores a 38-33% advantage against the Democrat, while Mr. Ducey leads him 36-33%. In the Republican primary, albeit from a smaller than acceptable sample of 245 respondents, Secretary of State Bennett scores a substantial advantage over Treasurer Ducey 20-8%, with Mesa Mayor Scott Smith tallying six percent.

Colorado: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see Senate: Colorado above) also portends a close race for Governor. According to the study, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) leads ex-US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) 48-40%, and Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) 47-40%. Interestingly, it is little-known state Sen. Greg Brophy (R) who does the best. In that pairing, the Governor is ahead by only one point, 44-43%.

Maine: Maine-based Pan Atlantic SMS Group tested the Pine Tree State electorate (11/25-30; 400 ME registered voters) over the Thanksgiving holiday – a move that certainly brings the firm’s methodology into question – and again finds a virtually even race. According to the results, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) scores just a one point 37-36% lead over incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R). Independent attorney Eliot Cutler, who placed second to LePage in 2010, scores 18 percent.

Michigan: The same Public Policy Polling Michigan survey (see Michigan Senate above) also projects Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to be maintaining a lead, but one that is dwindling. The newest PPP numbers give the Governor only a 44-40% edge over former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7). A tight contest here, too, is widely expected.