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Period Ending February 28, 2014

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

Senate

Colorado: Major happenings unfolded in the Centennial State this week, as Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) decided he will challenge one-term Sen. Mark Udall (D). The Gardner entry persuaded Weld County District Attorney and failed 2010 Senatorial candidate Ken Buck (R) to run in the now open 4th Congressional District instead of continuing his statewide effort. State Rep. Amy Stephens (R) also dropped her Senate bid. Rep. Gardner joining this race makes the contest highly competitive. The Colorado Senate race will soon attain toss-up status.

Hawaii: Answering last week’s Ward Research poll, the Merriman River Group (2/12-15; 643 HI Democratic primary voters) for the Civil Beat political website finds appointed Sen. Brian Schatz (D) and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) to be in a flat 40% tie. The Ward Research data had forecast an eight-point spread in Ms. Hanabusa’s favor, 48-40%.

Iowa: Public Policy Polling (2/20-23; 869 IA registered voters; 293 likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) to be leading all potential GOP challengers, but by relatively slim margins that suggest a competitive race is forming. According to the PPP results, Rep. Braley leads former US Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) 40-34%, and scores identical 41-35% spreads against ex-Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs (R) and state Sen. Joni Ernst (R). In the Republican primary, it is Mr. Jacobs with a 20-13-11% lead over Sen. Ernst and Mr. Whitaker, respectively.

Kansas: A new Public Policy Polling survey (2/18-20; 375 Republican primary voters) finds veteran Sen. Pat Roberts facing a competitive Republican primary with physician Milton Wolf. According to these results, Roberts commands a 49-23% advantage over his GOP challenger. Though the Senator enjoys a rather healthy lead, he does show signs of weakness. The fact that he is below 50% on any primary poll is never good news for an incumbent, and when the polling sample members were asked whether they view Sen. Roberts as “being a Kansas leader” or a “DC insider”, by a margin of 42-34%, the group responded “DC insider”.

New Hampshire: Public Policy Polling (2/19-20; 686 NH registered voters), conducting a survey for the League of Conservation Voters, finds Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in better position than other recent polls. According to this data, the incumbent leads former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) 47-39%.

Texas: Voters go to the polls on Tuesday in the first-in-the-nation statewide primary election. Sen. John Cornyn (R) faces seven opponents, including US Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX-36). If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a run-off between the top two finishers, presumably Cornyn and Stockman, will occur on May 27th. Polling is suggesting that Cornyn is hovering around the 50% mark.

West Virginia: Rasmussen Reports (2/19-20; 500 WV registered voters) published their latest Mountaineer State data that forecasts stronger numbers for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) in her quest for the open Senate seat. According to this data, Ms. Capito leads Secretary of State Natalie Tennant 49-35%. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) is retiring.

House

AZ-4: Rep. Ed Pastor (D), first elected to the House in 1990 after spending 14 years on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, announced he will not seek re-election in the fall. His Phoenix-anchored seat is heavily Democratic, so the Congressman’s successor will be the next party nominee. Mr. Pastor becomes the 42nd House member to not seek re-election, in addition to the six seats that have been filled special elections since the beginning of 2013.

CA-21: A new Harper Polling survey (released Feb 2014; 517 CA-21 registered voters) conducted for the National Republican Congressional Committee finds freshman Rep. David Valadao (R) with a strong lead for the June 3rd jungle primary. The Congressman enjoys a 45-25-13% advantage over 2012 Democratic nominee John Hernandez and ex-congressional aide Amanda Renteria (D). The latter has secured the local Democratic Party organization endorsements. This is the second-most Democratic district with a Republican Representative in the nation. The top two finishing candidates, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election.

FL-13: With the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R) fast approaching on March 11th, a newly released Fabrizio Lee poll (2/17-18; 400 FL-13 registered voters) gives Republican lobbyist and former congressional aide David Jolly a 44-42% edge over ex-Florida CFO and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D). So far, more than 81,000 absentee ballots have already been returned, and Republicans account for 42% of those voted versus 39% attributed to Democratic registered voters. In 2012, however, when President Obama carried the 13th District by just one percentage point over ex-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) the GOP’s margin among returned absentee ballots was an even larger six points.

GA-12: Businessman Eugene Yu, who was an also-ran candidate in the Georgia Senate race, has withdrawn from the statewide contest and entered the 12th Congressional District campaign. Already running in the Republican primary for the right to challenge five-term Rep. John Barrow (D-Augusta) are 2012 congressional candidate Rick Allen, state Rep. Delvis Dutton, and former congressional aide and 2008 nominee John Stone.

MI-12: The longest-serving member in the history of Congress, Rep. John Dingell (D), elected to the House in a 1955 special election, announced that he will not seek a 30th full term later this year. Shortly thereafter, the Congressman’s wife, Debbie Dingell (D), declared her own candidacy in what should be a contested Democratic primary battle to succeed her husband. Mr. Dingell replaced his late father in the House. The former Rep. Dingell was originally elected in 1932. Also expressing interest in the race are state Sens. Rebekah Warren and Hoon-Yung Hopgood, and state Reps. Doug Geiss and Andrew Kandrevas. All are Democrats. The eventual Democratic nominee will hold the seat in the general election.

NY-21: It looks like the Upstate New York right-of-center coalition is up to their old tricks. The Independence Party has awarded its 2014 endorsement and ballot line to 2012 and ’10 Republican nominee Matt Doheny. Should former presidential aide and endorsed Republican candidate Elise Stefanik go onto win the Republican nomination, then another three-way race – the type that elected retiring Democratic Rep. Bill Owens two separate terms – could again present itself in the general election. The Democrats have coalesced around filmmaker and Brooklyn organic grocery store owner Aaron Woolf. Though this 21st District is nowhere near New York City, the party leaders maintain Mr. Woolf has strong ties to the northern state region. State Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D) and Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D), both reported to be considering entering the congressional campaign, each said they would not become congressional candidates.

Governor

Georgia: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the Better Georgia liberal advocacy group (2/19-20; 833 GA registered voters), finds the gubernatorial contest becoming much closer. According to this data, even with Gov. Nathan Deal’s (R) job approval improving to 45:36% positive to negative, the first-term incumbent leads state Sen. Jason Carter (D) only 45-42%.

Hawaii: The Merriman River Group poll discussed in the Hawaii Senate section also released figures in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Like the Ward Research poll published last week, this data also highlights political weakness in Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D). In reference to the Governor’s primary challenge from state Sen. David Ige, the results find both men tied at 37%. If only previous Democratic primary voters are screened, Mr. Abercrombie holds a 42-32% edge. Therefore, it is likely the Governor is still leading before the Democratic at-large electorate, but his margin is highly tenuous.

Illinois: A recent We Ask America survey (2/18; 1,323 IL Republican primary voters) confirms that businessman Bruce Rauner (R), advertising extensively on statewide television and radio, has a sizable lead for the upcoming March 18th primary election. According to WAA, Rauner attracts 35% of the primary voters’ support. The next closest is 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady (R), who has 14 percent. In third position is state Senator and former gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard (13%), followed by scandal-tainted state Treasurer Dan Rutherford (R), who has dropped to an 8% level of support. But Brady responded with his own internal poll (McKeon & Associates; 2/18-19) showing Rauner’s lead narrowing to 32-24%. According to a statement about the poll from Mr. Brady, “we believe that support for Mr. Rauner is declining as more Illinois voters become aware of his ties to Democrats, his business dealings and his positions on issues important to them.” The eventual Republican nominee faces vulnerable Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in November.

Iowa: The aforementioned PPP survey (see Iowa Senate above) also tested Gov. Terry Branstad (R), as he runs for an unprecedented sixth non-consecutive term in office. The Public Policy Polling data reveals that the Governor commands a 48-36% lead over state Sen. Jack Hatch (D). His job approval rating, however, is a much lower 45:40% favorable to unfavorable.

Kansas: A new poll from Public Policy Polling (2/18-20; 693 KS registered voters; 375 Republican primary voters) shows first-term incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) falling behind state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) by a 40-42% margin. The Governor’s job approval rating is a poor 33:51% favorable to unfavorable. Mr. Brownback’s favorability rating is among the poorest in the country.

Michigan: A new Target Insyght poll (2/18-20; 600 MI registered voters) posts Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to a 47-38% lead over former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7). Though a new firm on the Michigan political scene, Target is run by the Michigan Education Association’s former executive director.

Pennsylvania: Several polls were released this week pertaining to the Pennsylvania Governor’s race. Two were Democratic primary polls that both gave businessman and former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf big leads for the party nomination. Mr. Wolf has just recently run a major ad blitz, which explains his quick rise from obscurity. In the general election, Quinnipiac University (2/19-24; 1,405 PA registered voters) finds Mr. Wolf stomping Gov. Tom Corbett (R) 52-33%. All of the other Democratic candidates also lead the Governor, but by much smaller margins. Runner-up to Wolf in the Democratic primary polls, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) leads the incumbent 44-38%, for example. All of the others perform similarly to Schwartz when tested opposite Mr. Corbett.