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Period Ending March 14, 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: The first published poll of the newly developing statewide campaign between Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R), from Rasmussen Reports (3/5-6; 500 CO registered voters), finds the two candidates locked in a virtual tie at 42-41% (tilting slightly toward the incumbent). Mr. Gardner’s emergence makes this political battle a national top tier campaign.

Georgia: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the liberal advocacy group Better Georgia (3/5-6; 580 GA registered voters; 324 Republican primary voters) produces good news for Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10). Tying consensus Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn (38-38%), Broun’s performance is the best showing for any of the Republican candidates that PPP tested. The outspoken conservative lawmaker also jumps out to a significant lead in the GOP primary. The data posts Mr. Broun to a 27-14-13-12-9% advantage over Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), businessman David Perdue, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, respectively. The seat is open because Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) is retiring after two terms.

Nebraska: The first 2014 public survey of the Nebraska GOP Senate primary was published this past week, and former state Treasurer Shane Osborn continues to command first place. According to the ballot test results, Mr. Osborn leads University President Ben Sasse and banker Sid Dinsdale, 35-24-9%. Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is retiring after serving one term. Nebraska has a plurality primary system, meaning there is no run-off after the May 13th primary. The eventual GOP nominee will be the prohibitive general election favorite.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (3/6-9; 884 NC registered voters; 392 Republican primary voters) conducted their monthly Tar Heel State survey and again found first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D) faring poorly. Continuing to track in the low 40s against a field of largely unknown Republicans, Sen. Hagan leads state House Speaker Thom Tillis by two points (45-43%), nurse Heather Grant by just one (43-42%), and is tied individually at 43% with both Pastor Mark Harris and physician Greg Brannon. Newcomer candidate Ted Alexander, the former mayor of Shelby, actually leads the Senator by a similar 45-43% count. Speaker Tillis no longer is the Republican primary sole leader. This survey finds him tied with Dr. Brannon at 14%, but ahead of Grant (11%), and Messrs. Harris and Alexander (both have 7%). Sen. Hagan is one of the most endangered incumbents in the country.

House

CA-36: Up until the final day for which to file for office, it appeared that Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R) would be the lone challenger to freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) in his Riverside County congressional district. But, at the last minute another candidate, and a major one, did file. State Sen. Ray Haynes (R), always mentioned as a possible candidate but never confirming that he would make the move, did file for the seat. This means he and Nestande will be battling for second place in the jungle primary and a ticket to the general election. The fall campaign should be highly competitive, and now the June election is just as energized.

FL-2: The Anzalone Liszt firm (3/2-6; 500 FL-2 registered voters), polling for the Gwen Graham (D) campaign, finds their client trailing two-term Rep. Steve Southerland (R) only 40-42%. Ms. Graham is the daughter of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham (D), hence she has residual name identification throughout the region. The northern Florida 2nd is a swing district that only leans Republican, so a Democratic conversion win is certainly possible.

FL-13: Republican David Jolly scored an upset victory over Democrat Alex Sink in the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R) on March 11th. Jolly, a Washington lobbyist and former aide to Mr. Young, attracted 49% of the vote versus Sink’s 47%. Libertarian Lucas Overby garnered 5%. The turnout of 183,627 voters was the highest of the seven special elections held since the end of 2012. The participation total more than doubled the average turnout of the six other specials. Mr. Jolly will be quickly sworn into office and stands for election to a full term during the regular election cycle. It is unlikely that Ms. Sink will challenge him again.

IL-13: As the Illinois primary draws near on March 18th, a new published poll provides a progress report about the Democratic primary battle in the Champaign-Springfield-Bloomington seat. According to a We Ask America automated survey (released 3/11; 1,136 IL-13 Democratic primary voters), former Judge Ann Callis leads college professor George Gollin 41-25%. The winner will likely face freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R), who is the House Republican with the lowest 2012 winning percentage (46.5%) in the GOP conference.

NY-22: Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R) has begun circulating nominating petitions for a potential GOP primary challenge to two-term Rep. Richard Hanna. Should she run, a significant intra-party campaign will result. The New York candidate filing deadline is April 18th, with a primary election scheduled for June 24th.

WV-3: A Tarrance Group poll (3/3-5; 405 WV-3 registered voters) portends very bad news for veteran Congressman Nick Rahall (D). According to the data, taken after outside conservative organizations have dropped more than $1.4 million in attack ads against him mostly targeting his support for Obamacare, the Congressman is trailing party-switching state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R) by a whopping 40-54% count. To make matters worse for Rep. Rahall, President Obama could score only 32% in this district while leading the 2012 Democratic ticket. The House Majority PAC, an outside organization that advertises heavily for Democrats, has just launched their own counter-attack for Rahall. The Congressman was first elected in 1976, and will move to fourth on the seniority chart of the 435 House members if he wins again this fall.

Governor

Iowa: Quinnipiac University (3/5-10; 1,411 IA registered voters) reports strong job approval numbers (55:35% favorable to unfavorable) for Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and a robust Iowa right track response of 71%, but the chief executive’s ballot test isn’t as convincing. Testing likely Democratic nominee Jack Hatch, a Des Moines state Senator who is virtually unknown statewide, the Governor leads 46-35% - a weaker margin than one would expect upon reviewing the approval data. Mr. Branstad is running for a sixth non-consecutive term, and is the longest-serving Governor in state history.

Maine: Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) released his internal Normington Petts Associates survey (3/3-6; 800 ME registered voters), and it shows very little movement from last year’s data. In the three-way race that includes Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Independent Eliot Cutler, Michaud continues to forge a lead but still cannot break the 40% threshold. According to the NPA results, Michaud leads 39-35-16% over Gov. LePage and Mr. Cutler.

Wisconsin: The new Rasmussen Reports poll (3/10-11; 500 WI registered voters) shows a tightening of the gubernatorial race between Gov. Scott Walker (R) and businesswoman and Madison School Board member Mary Burke (D). After the two campaigns each ran a wave of electronic ads, RR projects that the two candidates are tied at 45%.