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Period Ending March 6, 2015

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

President

C-PAC Straw Poll: As in the last two C-PAC straw poll events, Sen. Rand Paul (KY) placed first in the balloting among more than 3,000 participating conference attenders, taking 26 percent of the cast votes. Close on his heels is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 21%. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another favorite of the crowd, was third at 11.5%, just nipping retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson who attracted 11.4%. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in yet another disappointing ballot test performance, finished a poor fifth with only 8 percent. Though a straw poll is not indicative of the overall Republican electorate, it is a good test of a candidate’s organization and once again the Paul forces excelled.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: A Winthrop University (SC) poll (2/21-3/1; 1,109 SC adults) finds that 65% of the respondents, and 56% of Republicans, believe that home state Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) should not run for President next year. An NBC/Marist College poll earlier this month suggested that Graham would hold a slight lead in the South Carolina primary.

Nevada Poll: Gravis Marketing surveyed the Nevada electorate (2/21-22; 438 likely Republican caucus attenders; 324 likely Democratic caucus attenders) and finds Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) leading in another early poll. He posts 27% to Jeb Bush’s 19%. All other candidates finished in single-digits. The most disappointing finish belonged to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who scored only 3% preference. For the Democrats, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton again easily leads the field. Here, she posts 58%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a non-candidate, is second with 20 percent. The Nevada caucuses are important because they follow Iowa and New Hampshire on the nomination calendar. The state is one of four allowed to vote prior to March 1, 2016.

Senate

California: Fresno GOP Mayor Ashley Swearingen, who was considering entering the 2016 open US Senate race, announced at the end of last week that she will not. Saying she is more interested in an “executive position”, Ms. Swearingen was hinting broadly that she will enter the open 2018 Governor’s contest. She ran for state Controller this past November and lost to Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee on a 46-54% count.

Maryland: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), 78, announced that she will not seek a sixth term next year. Ms. Mikulski was originally elected in 1986, after spending ten years in the US House. The announcement will begin a major shuffling of the state’s political chairs, particularly in the Democratic Party, where many candidates are expected to step forward. From the federal delegation, Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-2), John Sarbanes (D-MD-3), Donna Edwards (D-MD-4), John Delaney (D-MD-6), Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) are all possibilities on the Democratic side. Mr. Van Hollen became the first individual to formally announce his candidacy. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced that he will not be a Senate candidate.

Several local Republican officials names are surfacing: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Anne Arundel County Exec Steve Schuh. Former Lt. Governor and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Prince Georges County Exec Rushern Baker, and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez are all potential Democratic candidates. This open seat campaign will take a long time to play itself out.

Missouri: Just as quickly as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2) indicated that he was considering launching a Tea Party-based Republican primary challenge to Sen. Roy Blunt, the threat ended. Now Akin says he has no plans to challenge the first term Senator and former House Majority Whip.

Nevada: The same Gravis Marketing poll (2/21-22; 955 NV registered voters) also tested the Silver State Senate race, featuring Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). Here, Gravis finds Sen. Reid trailing two Republicans in virtually tied ballot tests. Newly-elected Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) would lead Reid 48-46%. Former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) has a one-point 46-45% edge over the veteran Senate leader. Laxalt is unlikely to run, but Krolicki has already expressed interest in entering the race.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (2/24-26; 849 NC registered voters) tested Sen. Richard Burr (R) against former Sen. Kay Hagan (D). In this pairing, the incumbent Republican would lead Ms. Hagan 50-43%. Sen. Burr’s job approval is a tepid 32:37% favorable to unfavorable, but he has a better ratio than Ms. Hagan’s 38:54% positive to negative. Ms. Hagan lost her 2014 re-election campaign to freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R). The former Senator has not indicated that she will challenge Mr. Burr, but also has not ruled out a 2016 comeback attempt.

House

ME-2: Former state Sen. Emily Cain (D), originally favored in the 2014 open congressional contest but lost to Republican Bruce Poliquin 40-45%, says she will return for a re-match in 2016. The seat has a Democratic history, but Maine voters typically feature an independent streak. The presidential turnout should be a boost to Cain, but Poliquin has to be rated the early favorite for re-election.

MI-10: Seven-term Rep. Candice Miller (R), chair of the House Administration Committee, announced that she will not seek re-election in 2016. The eastern Michigan seat is rated safely Republican, so the coming political action will be in what promises to be a crowded GOP primary. Prior to her original election to the House in 2002, Rep. Miller served two terms as the Michigan Secretary of State.

MS-1: Last week, we reported that Aberdeen state Rep. Chris Brown (R) became the first official candidate to declare for the special election to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R). This week, Mr. Brown is now the first candidate to withdraw from the race. Filing closes March 27th, so a large Republican field of individuals is expected to declare. Republicans are heavily favored to hold the seat. The jungle primary is scheduled for May 12th, with the special general featuring the top two finishers irrespective of political party affiliation being held June 2nd.

NY-11: As expected, local Staten Island/Brooklyn Democratic leaders officially nominated New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) for the special election scheduled for May 5th. He will face Republican District Attorney Dan Donovan of Staten Island. The winner serves the remainder of the term for resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (R). Donovan begins this race as a big favorite. Under New York election law, the local county party officials select nominees in lieu of a primary election.

PA-8: Businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, who finished second in the 2014 Democratic congressional primary, announced that she will enter the open seat contest next year. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) has already made public his decision to retire. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D) is already a formal candidate. Both parties are expected to feature large candidate fields in what will be a competitive general election in this marginal seat.

Governor

North Carolina: The aforementioned Public Policy Polling survey (see NC Senate above) also tested the 2016 Governor’s race, featuring incumbent Republican Pat McCrory who will be seeking re-election. Though the Governor’s job approval rating is slightly upside down at 40:44% favorable to unfavorable, he maintains a slight lead over four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), 43-41%.

Mayor

Chicago: The Ogden & Fry survey research firm ran two flash polls for the Illinois Observer newspaper. The first, of 1,058 likely voters taken on February 25th, gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel only a tepid 43-39% edge over Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The second poll, conducted two days later of 979 likely voter respondents, produced the same result. Both men are Democrats. The run-off election will be decided on April 7th.