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Period Ending February 27, 2015

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

President

National Poll: Public Policy Polling conducted a small-sample national survey of Republican voters (2/20-22; 316 likely Republican primary voters) and found three surprises. First, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker put distance between himself and the rest of the field (25%); second, Dr. Ben Carson polled in second place with 18%; and, third, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could do no better than finishing third with just 17% preference. The small sample size means this particular survey is not of major consequence because the error factor is very high.

Senate

California: With continued lackluster showings in early polls, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) announced that he will not enter the open US Senate race next year. This strengthens Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who continues to gather endorsements and financial backers. Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) both re-iterated their interest in running. Becerra says he will make a final decision in summer or early fall, which is a probable indicator that he won’t run. Waiting that long will make it very difficult to catch Harris. Rep. Sanchez, on the other hand, says the Villaraigosa development speeds up her decision making process, and that might signal she will enter the race. Having a double-Democratic general election is a real possibility here, and a strong Hispanic southern California candidate would have the potential of faring well against Harris in the November election.

Missouri: In preparation for what could become a competitive campaign against Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), key allies of Sen. Roy Blunt (R) have formed a Super PAC to support the Republican incumbent’s re-election. Former Blunt chief of staff Gregg Hartley, Rep. Anne Wagner (R-MO-2) campaign manager Aaron Willard, and ex-Missouri Republican Party chairman Tom Fowler are among those serving on the Heartland Resurgence, Inc.’s Advisory Board. In a related development, former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), who so famously crashed and burned against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in 2012, says he is considering launching a Tea Party-based challenge to Blunt. Despite Akin being a former veteran House member, such a challenge would not be particularly serious.

Ohio: As had been predicted, former Gov. Ted Strickland made official his Senate candidacy this week. He joins Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will challenge first-term Sen. Rob Portman (R). Strickland won six non-consecutive terms in the US House and one as Governor. Current incumbent John Kasich (R) defeated him 49-47% in 2010. He also was defeated in his first re-election to the House, in the Republican landslide year of 1994. Expect a move to unite the Democratic field behind Strickland by attempting to convince Sittenfeld to withdraw. Certainly, a Strickland challenge makes this a top-tier Democratic challenger race, but Sen. Portman is certainly favored to prevail.

Wisconsin: Ex-Senator Russ Feingold (D) resigned his position at the State Department last week, a move most believe is a precursor to him launching a US Senate campaign. Mr. Feingold lost his Wisconsin seat five years ago (47-52%) to then-businessman Ron Johnson (R). A Johnson-Feingold re-match promises to be one of the most exciting Senate campaigns of the 2016 election cycle.

House

CA-21: Amanda Renteria (D), who challenged Rep. David Valadao (R) in 2014 and drew 42% of the vote, is unlikely to return for a re-match. She just accepted a position with the Hillary Clinton political organization, which will assuredly evolve into a top presidential campaign position. Since this is the most Democratic district to elect a Republican Congressman in the entire country, Rep. Valadao can expect another significant challenge in 2016.

FL-26: Former one-term Rep. Joe Garcia (D), who had lost two congressional races before being elected in 2012 after then-Rep. David Rivera (R) self-destructed, announced his future professional plans this week. In 2014, Garcia lost to now freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), 48-51%. Mr. Garcia announced that he has accepted a position with an investment banking firm and will not be running for public office, at least in 2016. Therefore, an anticipated re-match between he and Rep. Curbelo will not occur. The seat was drawn for a Republican, but President Obama did score 53% of the vote here in 2012, signifying that the 26th is a competitive South Florida district. It is likely the Democrats will field a strong candidate to take advantage of the presidential election year turnout model, but it won’t be former Rep. Garcia.

MS-1: Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has scheduled the special election to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R). The initial election will be held May 12th. All candidates will appear on a jungle primary ballot meaning, if no one garners a majority, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to a special June 2nd general election. The latter vote winner will serve the balance of the current term. The first candidate to officially announce is Republican state Rep. Chris Brown of Aberdeen. Five others quickly followed.

NY-11: Adhering to the federal court judge who ruled that the congressional special election would be scheduled by court order unless Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took action, the New York Governor announced late last Friday that the 11th District special election will be held May 5th. Republicans have already chosen Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan as their candidate. Democratic leaders have interviewed potential candidates but have not officially chosen a nominee. All potential candidates but New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile have removed their names from consideration, so the identity of their eventual standard-bearer is now obvious. Mr. Donovan begins the special contest as a heavy favorite.

Governor

Delaware: While Democrats await a signal that former Attorney General Beau Biden, the Vice President’s son who suffered major health problems including having a mass on his brain surgically removed, is beginning to make plans should he not seek the open Governor’s position. The state’s at-large Representative, John Carney (D) is quietly making it clear that he will run for Governor if Mr. Biden takes a pass. Should this occur, the at-large House seat would come open in the regular 2016 election cycle. Gov. Jack Markell (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. Democrats would be favored in both the gubernatorial and US House races.

Missouri: Gubernatorial candidate and State Auditor Tom Schweich (R) tragically committed suicide late this week. He was opposing former US Attorney Catherine Hanaway in the Republican primary and, if successful in winning the party nomination, would have likely squared off with Attorney General Chris Koster, the presumed Democratic nominee, in an open general election. Few details are emerging about the incident, but Mr. Schweich’s passing is confirmed.

Virginia: The election’s not until 2017, but Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced this week that he will run to succeed term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). This likely means he would face a Democratic primary against Attorney General Mark Herring. Virginia is the only state in the nation that limits its Governors to only one term in office.

Mayor

Chicago: Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) was forced into a run-off election this past week, as he scored only 45% of the vote in the primary election. He now faces Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) in the April 7th general election. Garcia attracted 34% of the primary vote. The campaign will likely turn on how the minority community performs. If they turnout and unite behind Garcia, then Emanuel, who underperformed in the minority communities based upon his previous electoral results, will be in serious trouble. This race is far from over.