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Period Ending February 20, 2014

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

Senate

Alaska: Karl Rove’s American Crossroads contracted with Harper Polling for a series of US Senate polls. Six of the seven tracked with the findings from other national pollsters, but the Alaska race featuring first-term Sen. Mark Begich (D) did not. Last week we reported that Public Policy Polling (1/30-2/1; 850 AK registered voters; 442 Republican primary voters) projected the Senator to as much as a 43-37% advantage in a hypothetical general election ballot test. But Harper’s study, conducted earlier in the month (1/20-22; 677 AK registered voters) found the Senator actually trailing both Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) and former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) 41-47%.

Arkansas: Here, Harper Polling (2/4-5; 500 AR registered voters), like other pollsters finds GOP challenger Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) topping two-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D). According to HP, Mr. Cotton enjoys a 42-36% margin. Even the polls showing the Senator leading or tied also place him in the low 40s at best. This is a bad sign for any incumbent upon entering the election year.

Kentucky: Two more polls were released this week in the Blue Grass State again portending a very tight race between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D). According to Survey USA (1/30-2/4; 1,082 KY registered voters), it is Democrat Grimes who has taken a 46-42% lead. But Wenzel Strategies (2/8-11; 1,002 KY registered voters) counters with their results that are more in line with what we have seen during the past few months from other pollsters. According to Wenzel, McConnell has a one-point 43-42% lead. The closeness of all polls indicate that this race is now solidly in the toss-up range.

Michigan: Harper Polling, for American Crossroads (1/19-20 MI 750 registered voters), also found what virtually every other pollster has about the Wolverine State Senate race between Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Democratic Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14). That is, the two candidates are in close proximity. According to these results, Ms. Land has a 42-37% advantage.

Montana: With Sen. Max Baucus (D) securing confirmation as Ambassador to China, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) appointed Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) as the new interim Senator. Harper Polling (1/20-22; 519 MT registered voters) tested the Montana electorate prior to Mr. Walsh’s appointment. The results showed Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) leading the new Senator 43-29%.

New Hampshire: Continuing with the Harper Polling surveys for American Crossroads (1/22-23; 513 NH registered voters), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) is projected as leading ex-Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) 40-35%. Mr. Brown has yet to make an official entry into the Granite State race but is tracking close to the first-term Senator and former Governor.

North Carolina: The final Harper Polling survey for American Crossroads (1/20-21; 778 NC registered voters) continues to signal bad news for first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D). According to these results, which are consistent with many other pollsters’, the Senator and state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) are tied at 44%. Public Policy Polling also surveyed the Tar Heel State (2/6-9; 708 NC registered voters) and finds Tillis leading the Senator 42-40%. But the surprise number involves newcomer Ted Alexander (R), the former Mayor of Shelby (pop: 21,366), who leads Ms. Hagan by a strong 45-38% margin.

Tennessee: A new North Star Opinion Research internal campaign poll (2/3-6; 600 TN Republican primary voters) for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) shows the two-term incumbent and former Governor commanding the GOP primary, 62-17%, over state Rep. Joe Carr (R). The Senator appears to be in solid shape for both the 2014 primary and general election.

Virginia: Harper Polling also surveyed the Virginia electorate, but this poll was conducted for the American Action Network. The data gives challenger Ed Gillespie (R) his best showing since officially entering the race on January 16th. According to the HP results, Sen. Mark Warner (D) holds a 44-38% advantage over Mr. Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman.

House

AR-2: Retiring Rep. Tim Griffin (R), who announced he would not seek a third term in Congress because he wanted to spend more time with his young children, has now decided to run for Lt. Governor. He says staying in Little Rock would allow him to continue his public service career while remaining close to home. Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) resigned, so the post is open. Three Republican state Representatives are already in the race. The consensus Democratic candidate appears to be state Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter.

CA-31: Rep. Gary Miller (R) became the 36th member to forego re-election to the House in 2014. The eight-term Congressman will not seek re-election to his San Bernardino County seat. Mr. Miller, who had represented an Orange County district during the previous part of his congressional career, was hurt in the redistricting process, being forced into a seat where he previously represented no one. In 2012, he captured the most Democratic seat in the country to elect a Republican congressman. Without Mr. Miller in the 2014 race, the Democrats are likely to gain this seat. Already running are Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, and ex-Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43). Two Republicans have already said they won’t run: Assemblyman Curt Hagman and former state Senator and 2012 congressional candidate Bob Dutton.

FL-13: A new Tampa Bay Times/News Channel 9 poll (Braun Research; 2/4-9; 603 FL-13 registered voters) gives former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) a 40-34% lead over Republican former congressional aide David Jolly. When leaners are added, the margin becomes 42-35%. The fact that Ms. Sink, with very high name identification and generally positive ratings only scores in the low 40s is cause for Democratic concern. The numbers suggest that Mr. Jolly has room to grow. Healthcare could become a major turnout driver for the March 11th special election. According to the TB Times poll, 81% of Sink supporters favor the Affordable Care Act, and 84% of Jolly backers oppose it.

NE-2: Democrats have been working hard to find a challenger to veteran Rep. Lee Terry (R), who won his 2012 re-election with only a 51-49% margin. When both Omaha City Council President Peter Festersen and attorney Dave Domina decided against challenging the Congressman (Domina entered the US Senate race, instead), the party was left searching. Despite originally saying he would not run for Congress, state Senator Brad Ashford (D) has now changed his mind and will enter the race. Despite Mr. Terry’s close finish in the last election, the midterm turnout model should help him greatly in 2014. With Republicans looking strong at the top of the Nebraska ticket, it will take quite an effort for Ashford to upend the incumbent House member.

PA-6: Despite the Democratic establishment already lining up behind businessman Michael Parrish in this open seat contest (Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) retiring), two-time candidate Manan Trivedi (D) announced that he will run again. Republicans are coalescing around Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello. This should be a highly competitive contest, as this Philadelphia suburban seat has been the site of three 51-49% Gerlach victories in the past five elections.

VA-10: State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) announced that he will enter the Republican primary for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R). Currently in the race is Delegate Barbara Comstock, commonly viewed as the leading candidate. Del. Marshall will likely attract Tea Party support away from Ms. Comstock in what is being referred to as a “firehouse primary”, because the number of polling places will not exceed two per county. The vote is scheduled for April 26th. The leading Democratic candidate is Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust.

WA-4: Veteran Rep. Doc Hastings (R), who came to Congress during the Republican landslide of 1994, will conclude his congressional service after 20 years when this Congress ends. With the two retirement announcements from this week, 37 seats will be open in the 2014 general election, not counting the seven members elected since the beginning of this 113th Congress. Mr. Hastings’ central Washington district is a lock to remain in Republican hands.

Governor

Arkansas: Rasmussen Reports surveyed the close open gubernatorial contest between former Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) and ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3). According to the RR data, Mr. Ross has jumped into the lead over Mr. Hutchinson, 44-41%. Previous polling had detected the Republican to be leading. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is ineligible to run for a third term.

Illinois: A Market Shares Corporation poll for the Chicago Tribune (2/5-8; 600 IL registered voters) gives businessman Bruce Rauner a 40-20-13-11% lead over 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and state Sen. Kirk Dillard in a Republican primary trial heat. The Illinois primary is March 18th. The winner faces vulnerable Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in the general election.

Rhode Island: Fleming & Associates, polling for WPRI television station in Providence (2/3-6; 503 RI Democratic primary voters) finds Providence Mayor Angel Tavares leading the field of candidates in the open gubernatorial campaign. Mr. Tavares has a 31-27-15% lead over state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and attorney Clay Pell, respectively, in a hypothetical Democratic primary ballot test. Mr. Pell, the grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and husband of former world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan, entered the gubernatorial campaign just last week. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) is not seeking re-election.

Other Races

San Diego Mayor: Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer scored a 54-46% victory over Democratic City Councilman David Alvarez in the battle to replace resigned Mayor Bob Filner (D). The latter was forced from office due to multiple sexual harassment accusations. San Diego, America's eighth largest city, now becomes the nation’s most populous municipality with an elected Republican chief executive.