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Period Ending December 20, 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: Adding to The Polling Company/Women Trend survey for the Citizens United political action committee (12/6-7; 400 AR registered voters) as reported last week that yielded Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) a 48-41% lead over two-term Senator Mark Pryor (D), Public Policy Polling, conducting a study for the United for Change liberal political organization (12/13-15; 400 AR likely voters) shows the race tied at 44% apiece.

Iowa: Quinnipiac University surveyed the Iowa electorate about the state’s upcoming open US Senate race (12/10-15; 1,617 IA registered voters) and found a surprisingly tight race in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). According to the poll respondents, by a margin of 46-41%, the Republicans are the preferred party to control the Senate in the next Congress. In terms of ballot test results comparing several Republican candidates with consensus Democratic candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1), former US Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) fares best, trailing the Congressman 40-43%. David Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), trails 36-44%. State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) is down 38-44%. Tea Party activist and former statewide candidate Bob Vander Platts (R), who is not a candidate, still pulls to within 40-46% of Rep. Braley.

Mississippi: Two Republican polling firms simultaneously commissioned Mississippi Republican electorate polls but produced radically different results. The firms, Gravis Marketing/Human Events (released 12/18; 691 MS Republican registered voters) and Harper Polling (12/17-18; 710 MS Republican and Independent voters) project seemingly conflicting results compared with each other and themselves. The more conservative sampling universe found in Harper, in terms of Tea Party impressions, gives Sen. Cochran, the perceived less-conservative candidate, a 54-31% lead over state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). The Gravis survey, whose polling sample views the Tea Party less positively, actually forecasts that McDaniel, the Tea Party candidate, has already pulled into a 40-40% tie with the veteran Senator.

Montana: Stories are breaking that President Obama will soon tab retiring Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) as the new US Ambassador to China. Upon his appointment and confirmation to the post, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock will have the power to appoint an interim replacement. According to further reports, Mr. Bullock is poised to appoint Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) to the Senate for the purposes of enhancing his ability to defeat Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) in the upcoming open seat campaign.

New Hampshire: The New Hampshire-based American Research Group (12/13-16; 549 NH registered voters) tested Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) against two Republican former Senators. Against ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown who has relocated to the Granite State, Ms. Shaheen leads 48-38%. If former Sen. Bob Smith, who has just returned to again establish residency, were to run the current incumbent’s advantage is 50-32%.

Texas: The first poll of the new Lone Star State Republican primary battle between Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX-36) was released into the public domain. The Wilson Perkins Allen survey research firm (12/11-13; 762 TX Republican primary voters) gives the Senator a whopping 50-6% lead over his new challenger. For his part, Mr. Stockman was quoted as pointing out that though he is way behind, half of the Republican electorate is not yet voicing support for Mr. Cornyn.

House

AL-1: As expected, former state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne (R) easily captured the special general election in southwest Alabama early this week, garnering 71% of the vote against Democratic nominee Burton LeFlore. Mr. Byrne will serve the balance of resigned Rep. Jo Bonner’s (R) final term in office and will be eligible to seek a full term in the regular 2014 election.

IA-3: Veteran Rep. Tom Latham (R), first elected in 1994, announced that he will retire at the end of the current Congress. With President Obama carrying the Des Moines-based district with a 51-47% margin, this open seat will be highly competitive. Expect crowded candidate fields for both parties. The initial rating draws a Toss-Up characterization.

NJ-5: Democratic state Sen. Bob Gordon, who was publicly considering launching a run against veteran Rep. Scott Garrett (R), says he will not run for Congress next year. The 5th District is strongly Republican and Mr. Garrett is a heavy favorite to win a seventh term next year.

NY-13: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D), at 83 years of age and after surviving a close 2012 primary challenge, announced that he will seek a 23rd term in office next year. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the man who held the Congressman to a 44-42% Democratic primary victory in the previous election, has already indicated that he will run again, so another competitive campaign is forecast for this Harlem anchored seat. Mr. Rangel ranks third in the House in seniority, behind only Michigan Reps. John Dingell (D-MI-12) and John Conyers (D-MI-13).

TX-36: Candidate filing was extended in this district because Rep. Steve Stockman (R) withdrew his candidacy to run for the Senate. The new entrants include former congressional candidates Brian Babin and Ben Streusand, in addition to former Pasadena Mayor John Manlove, and ex-Seabrook Mayor Robin Riley. The total list of Republican candidates balloons to twelve, virtually assuring a GOP run-off. The nature of the district means the eventual GOP nominee will hold the district.

UT-4: Seven-term Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, holding one of the most Republican districts in the country, announced that the will not run for re-election in 2014. He alluded to be considering a statewide race in 2016, when the Governor’s office may be open and Sen. Mike Lee (R) comes up for re-election. Republicans will likely convert this seat. Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), who came within one point of defeating Mr. Matheson in 2012, was already campaigning for a re-match. She is the early favorite to win this open seat contest.

VA-10: Veteran Rep. Frank Wolf (R) also announced his retirement this week, after serving what will be 34 years in the House at the conclusion of the current Congress. The open seat race has the potential of becoming competitive because the northern Virginia region is trending more Democratic, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district over President Obama by a mere one percentage point, 50-49%. Expect active nomination procedures in both parties. The mid-term turnout model should give Republicans a slight boost.

Governor

Florida: A leaked Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates poll for the Gov. Rick Scott campaign (11/24-26; 1,000 FL registered voters) shows a tightening race between the Republican incumbent and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D). According to this survey, Crist maintains the lead, but it is reduced to 49-45% over Mr. Scott. The Governor’s job approval score is 46:48% favorable to unfavorable, still upside down but improving considerably.

Ohio: Public Policy Polling (12/6-8; 1,011 OH registered voters) again produces data that suggests Gov. John Kasich’s (R) bid for re-election will be a tight one. According to their latest survey, Kasich leads Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) by only a 40-38% margin.

Pennsylvania: Quinnipiac University also surveyed the Keystone State Governor’s race (12/11-16; 1,061 PA registered voters), featuring possibly the weakest Republican incumbent, Tom Corbett. Though the Governor still trails in all scenarios against potential Democratic nominees, the margin is closing. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) continues to perform best, leading Mr. Corbett 45-37%. The Governor does best against state Treasurer Rob McCord (trailing 39-42%) and Allentown Mayor Ed Palowski (behind 39-41%).

Rhode Island: As has been expected for months, state Treasuer Gina Raimondo announced her candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and will oppose Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Cranston Mayor Allen Fung is the leading Republican candidate. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, originally elected as an Independent but later switched to the Democratic Party, is not seeking re-election.

Other Races

Virginia Attorney General: More than a month after the November general election, the razor-thin Old Dominion Attorney General’s contest has finally ended. When the recount process began giving Democrat Mark Herring an ever-growing lead beyond his 165-vote certified victory margin, Republican Mark Obenshain conceded the race. The Democrats will now control all three of Virginia’s constitutional offices for the first time in more than four decades. Mr. Herring will replace outgoing Attorney General and defeated gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R).

San Diego Mayor: In a rather unique local electoral system, the San Diego City Council schedules a special election run-off after the primary election isolates the top two finishers. Though the primary election was November 19th, the Council has finally taken action and scheduled the run-off election between Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Democratic Councilman David Alvarez for February 11th. Polling has already tightened in this race, projecting a close finish.