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Period Ending March 7, 2014

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

Senate

Kansas: With Sen. Pat Roberts (R) focused on his primary challenge from physician Milton Wolf, Shawnee County (Topeka) District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) announced that he will seek the Democratic Senatorial nomination. Unless Wolf surprisingly upsets Roberts in the GOP primary, the Senator should have little trouble securing a fourth term in the general election.

Minnesota: Survey USA released a poll of the Minnesota electorate just as March began (545 MN registered voters), and they find first-term Sen. Al Franken (D) in relatively strong political shape, hovering around the 50% mark against all potential Republican opponents. Mr. Franken, in a 2008 race that took eight months to decide, won a 312-vote victory of more than 2.4 million ballots cast against then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R). This poll suggests the 2014 campaign will not nearly be as close. According to the data, Sen. Franken leads state Sen. Julianne Ortman (R) and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg (R) by identical 49-41% margins. Against wealthy businessman Mike McFadden (R), the Senator’s advantage increases to 50-40%.

Mississippi: Former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1), who won a 2008 special congressional election but was swept from office in the 2010 Republican landslide, announced his US Senate candidacy as the Mississippi candidate filing deadline closed. The 2014 Democratic nomination may be more valuable than normal should veteran Senator Thad Cochran fall in the Republican primary to state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

New Hampshire: Suffolk University released its first poll (2/27-3/5; 800 NH registered voters) of the hypothetical New Hampshire Senate campaign between first-term incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D) and ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). The results give Sen. Shaheen her largest advantage in months. According to Suffolk, she leads Mr. Brown 52-39%.

South Dakota: A new Rasmussen Reports survey (2/25-26; 500 SD registered voters) projects former two-term Gov. Mike Rounds (R) to be holding a 51-31% lead over former congressional aide Rick Weiland (D). Sen. Tim Johnson (D) is retiring after three terms. The South Dakota seat is one of the top three Republican conversion national targets.

Texas: Sen. John Cornyn (R) won a majority of the vote in the March 4th Texas Republican primary, meaning he advances directly to the general election. The Senator defeated seven other Republicans, including Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX-36), in garnering just under 60% of the vote. On the Democratic side, North Texas dentist David Alameel was forced to a run-off with Lyndon LaRouche supporter Kesha Rogers. Alameel tallied 48.6% of the vote, just below the outright majority percentage needed to avoid a secondary election. He is the favorite to win the May 27th run-off vote, but will be a decided underdog against Sen. Cornyn in the fall.

House

AZ-7: Rep. Ed Pastor’s (D) retirement announcement will leave a hotly contested Democratic primary to succeed him. Already declaring their candidacies are state Sen. Steve Gallardo, state Rep. Ruben Gallego, and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. As many as six more current or former Phoenix area Democratic office holders are reportedly considering the race, in addition to Mr. Pastor’s daughter, Laura Pastor. The eventual Democratic nominee (Aug. 26) will become the prohibitive favorite to win the general election.

CA-17: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the liberal advocacy organization Democracy for America (2/13-16; 270 CA-17 likely primary voters), tested the jungle primary among Rep. Mike Honda (D), Obama former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna (D), and physician Vanila Singh (R). It is possible that two Democrats could qualify for advancement to the general election but this poll shows that Dr. Singh could nip Khanna for second place. According to the results, Rep. Honda takes 45%, followed by Singh with 29%, and Khanna at 26%. The poll has a very low sampling number, and both Honda and Khanna are heavily funded. Therefore, this primary race is far from being over.

FL-13: The special election to replace the late Bill Young (R) continues to poll in toss-up territory. The PMI polling group, surveying for the Red Racing Horses political blog (2/25-27; 391 FL-13 registered voters) finds former congressional aide and lobbyist David Jolly (R) forging ahead of favored ex-Florida CFO Alex Sink (D). The results give the Republican a 44-42% lead, well within the margin of error. The special election is next Tuesday, March 11th.

MS-4: Mississippi candidate filing closed and former Rep. Gene Taylor, who served for 21 years as a Democrat in the House before losing in the 2010 Republican landslide, announced that he has joined the GOP and will challenge the man who unseated him four years ago, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R). Before this, Mr. Taylor had always eschewed Republican overtures to change parties. In a new primary setting, Rep. Palazzo must be viewed as a clear favorite since the most difficult election for any party switcher is the first one before a new partisan electorate.

North Carolina Filings: Candidate filing concluded in the Tar Heel State, and six of the ten House members seeking re-election will face May 6th primary challenges. Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2), Walter Jones Jr. (R-NC-3), Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5), Bob Pittenger (R-NC-9), and Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) will battle opponents from their own party. If no candidate receives 40% of the vote, the top two finishers advance to a July 15th run-off election. Open seat campaigns will occur in Districts 6, 7, and 12, where incumbents Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) are retiring. Ex-Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC-12) resigned his seat in January to accept an appointment as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority from President Obama. A special election to fill this Charlotte-anchored seat will be held concurrently with the regular election schedule.

Texas Results: Twelve House members faced primary challenges, and all received at least 60% of the vote with the exception of 90-year old veteran Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX-4). The venerable Representative, seeking his 18th two-year term, will now face former US Attorney John Ratcliffe in a May 27th congressional run-off election. Mr. Hall placed first with just under 46% of the vote, as compared to his challenger’s 29%. An incumbent failing to secure renomination in the primary election is always a bad sign for the office holder. The other congressional run-offs will occur in Districts 23 and 36. In the former, ex-Rep. Quico Canseco (R) and retired CIA official William Hurd (R) will advance to the secondary election. The two virtually tied on March 4th, with both securing approximately 40% of the vote. In the open 36th, former congressional candidates Brian Babin (R) and Ben Streusand (R) will meet in the two-person election. The pair topped ten other candidates to advance. The winner will become the next Congressman from the southeast Texas CD.

Governor

Arizona: Two polls were published this week, one from consensus Democrat Fred DuVal’s campaign, and an independent study from Public Policy Polling (2/28-3/2; 870 AZ registered voters; 403 Republican primary voters). Both showed virtually the same result. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) has a slight lead over DuVal, 37-33%, while former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith (R) does a bit better, ahead of the Democratic former Clinton Administration official 39-33%. Mr. DuVal leads the lesser known Republicans, including state Treasurer Doug Ducey. His best performance is a 37-33% posting over attorney Christine Jones (R). The race promises to be tight. Secretary Bennett has a 20-16-12% lead over Ms. Jones and Mr. Smith in the PPP Republican primary survey.

Colorado: Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7) changed the face of the Colorado campaign for Governor by filing candidate papers, signaling that he will run again for the top statewide position. Mr. Beauprez lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to then-Lt. Gov. Bill Ritter (D) by a lopsided 56-41% margin. He attempts to return in what should be a better Repbulican year in the Centennial State. Gov. John Hickenlooper (R) has polled in vulnerable territory for several months. Mr. Beauprez must first win a crowded Republican primary that includes Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former US Representative and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), both of whom have been running for months.

Connecticut: Quinnipiac University (2/26-3/2; 1,878 registered voters) shows first-term Gov. Dan Malloy (D) tallying tepid polling numbers. Against 2010 GOP nominee Tom Foley (R) - the man Mr. Malloy nipped in the closest gubernatorial campaign in the nation that year - the results are again close, as the two are tied at 42% apiece. Gov. Malloy performs better against the other Republican candidates: 43-37% against state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney; 44-35% over Danbury Mayor Mark Broughton; and 44-34% if Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti were his general election opponent.

Minnesota: The election cycle’s first released public poll for Gov. Mark Dayton’s (D) re-election bid (Survey USA; released 3/2; 545 MN registered voters) finds the incumbent in strong political position. According to these results, Gov. Dayton leads all four little-known Republican challengers with margins from 53-32% to 51-34%.

Texas: As expected, Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) easily secured their respective party nominations in the Texas primary and will face each other in the November general election. Mr. Abbott secured 91.5% of the Republican vote; Ms. Davis tallied 78.4% among Democrats. No Democrat has won a Texas statewide general election since 1990. The first post-primary general election campaign poll (Rasmussen Reports; 3/3-4; 500 TX likely general election voters) posts Mr. Abbott to a 53-41% advantage over Sen. Davis.