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Period Ending March 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

Alaska: There has been a lot of recent activity in the Alaska Senate race, and the new Rasmussen Reports poll (3/19-20; 750 AK registered voters) now gives us the probable reason. According to their new data, Sen. Mark Begich (D) has fallen behind Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) 43-47%, and is tied (44-44%) with former Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan. The only candidate Begich leads outright (49-38%) is 2010 Republican Senatorial nominee Joe Miller, who lost in the general election to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign after she was deposed for the Republican nomination.

Georgia: Businessman David Perdue (R), according to a Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll for Atlanta News Channel 2 (released 3/26; 600 GA likely voters), has taken the Republican Senate primary lead over his four intra-party opponents. According to the L/RS results, Perdue captures 21% support among the polling respondents, followed by Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) and Paul Broun (R-GA-10) who are tied at 15 percent. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) places fourth with 13%, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) has dropped to last place, taking 10 percent. The Georgia primary is May 20th. The ensuing run-off between the top two finishers is scheduled for July 22nd. Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D), is the consensus Democratic candidate.

Iowa: The open Senate race has been relatively quiet in the early campaign season, but Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1), the consensus Democratic candidate, is attracting attention for his attack against a popular Iowa politician against whom he isn’t even running. On the campaign stump before a trial lawyers organization meeting in Texas, Braley expressed his continued commitment to fighting tort reform initiatives, but then went further to attack senior Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R), a man who racks up strong victory percentages from the swing state since defeating an incumbent in 1980. Saying that “…you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said, not knowing he was being filmed. He later issued a mild public apology to Sen. Grassley via Twitter. Immediately, an outside group called New Priorities for Iowa hit the airwaves with an ad featuring the clip of Braley’s comments.

South Dakota: The candidate filing period closed in the Mount Rushmore State earlier this week. Here, former Governor Mike Rounds faces state Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden, state Rep. Stace Nelson, and two others in the Republican primary. Democrats filed only one candidate, former congressional aide Rick Weiland. The ex-Governor is heavily favored for the party nomination and to succeed retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in the fall.

Virginia: Quinnipiac University (3/19-24; 1,228 VA registered voters) tested the upcoming Senate race and found incumbent Mark Warner (D) in strong political position, leading former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie (R) 46-31%. Sen. Warner has a strong 55:33% job approval rating, and a 49:30% personal favorability index.

House

CA-17: In what promises to be a year-long Democrat vs. Democrat California general election, challenger Ro Khanna, a former Obama Commerce Department official, launched his first television ad of the season. Whenever two candidates have few, if any, ideological differences, as is the case between he and veteran Rep. Mike Honda, the challenger normally talks about ethics, pay raises, and pensions. Such is the case with Khanna, but he overstates his argument. Saying he won’t accept “money from corporations or lobbyists”, Khanna is showing that he may not understand that accepting direct funding from incorporated entities is illegal, a law that was first enacted in 1907.

GA-11: In a race that will be effectively decided in the Republican nomination process, a new internal campaign poll indicates that the May 20th primary will result in two candidates progressing to the July 22nd run-off election. State Sen. Barry Loudermilk’s Conquest Communications survey (3/20-24; 600 likely GA-11 Republican primary voters) finds he and former Rep. Bob Barr are tied, but with just 12% apiece. The next closest candidate has four percent. Loudermilk is attracting key Tea Party support, whereas Mr. Barr, who previously served four terms in Congress, was the 2008 Libertarian presidential nominee.

HI-1: Former Rep. Charles Djou (R), who won a 2010 special congressional election but then failed to win a full term in November of that year, announced that he will run for the open 1st District again this year. Mr. Djou, a former state legislator and Honolulu city councilman, challenged Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) in 2012, drawing within a 44-53% margin. Ms. Hanabusa is vacating the district to challenge appointed Sen. Brian Schatz in the statewide Democratic primary. Early polling and campaign activity suggests that state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is the leading 1st District Democratic contender within a crowded field of candidates. The eventual Democratic nominee will begin the general election as the favorite, but Djou has already proven that he is a strong candidate who will run competitively.

Missouri: Candidate filing closed in Missouri, and with no Governor or Senate races on the ballot, the eight congressional races lead the ticket. All incumbents are seeking re-election, and it appears no one has a serious challenge. Expect 100% congressional incumbent retention in the Show Me State.

SD-AL: In the candidate filing for the state’s lone House district, at-large Rep. Kristi Noem (R) appears well positioned to secure a third term. She will face retired Army officer Corinna Robinson (D) in a campaign that will generate little in the way of competition.

TX-4L: The Club for Growth and the Madison Project, two key conservative organizations, have endorsed former US Attorney John Ratcliffe in his Republican run-off battle with veteran Rep. Ralph Hall. The Now or Never PAC hit the airwaves with a negative spot attacking Mr. Hall over his age. The Congressman is 90 years old. The ad mistakenly says he is the oldest ever member of Congress, which is untrue. Mr. Hall is the oldest member to serve in the House, but Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) was the oldest to ever serve in Congress. He retired from the Senate in 2003 at 100 years of age.

Governor

New Mexico: A new Public Policy Polling survey (3/20-23; 674 NM registered voters; 327 Democratic primary voters) tested first-term Gov. Susana Martinez (R) against a series of candidates. The most serious Democratic candidate is Attorney General Gary King who comes within a 42-47% margin of Ms. Martinez. Her job approval rating registered 52:40% favorable to unfavorable. Gov. Martinez, should she win re-election this year, will likely be a serious Republican Vice Presidential prospect in 2016.

Wisconsin: A new Marquette Law School survey (3/20-23; 801 WI registered voters) confirms what other recent polls are reporting. That is, Governor Scott Walker (R) continues to hold a significant lead over businesswoman and Madison School Board member Mary Burke (D). This data gives Walker a 48-41% advantage. His job approval ratio is a dead even 47:47% positive to negative.