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Period Ending April 3, 2015

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

President

Sen. Rand Paul: With Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) already officially in the presidential race, Kentucky Sen. Paul is scheduled to join him early next week. The announcement is planned for April 7th in Louisville.

Sen. Marco Rubio: Sources close to Florida Sen. Rubio indicate that he will formally announce for President on April 13th from a venue in Miami. It is also assumed he will make official his decision not to seek re-election to the Senate, thus opening a major battleground seat.

National Poll: A new national Public Policy Polling survey, that features a sampling universe of only 443 Republican primary voters, shows a very crowded GOP field. Gov. Scott Walker (WI) leads with 20%, followed by Jeb Bush at 17%. In third place, enjoying an announcement bump is Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) posting 16%. Tied for fourth with 10% apiece are Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and neurosurgeon Ben Carson (MD). In single-digits, but close behind, are Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR), Gov. Chris Christie (NJ), and ex-Gov. Rick Perry (TX). The sample size is woefully small for a national poll, thus making these results questionable at best. But, finding all of the candidates bunched so closely together does give more credence to the possibility that the nomination will be decided in an open, or brokered, convention.

Senate

Illinois: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) officially announced her Senate candidacy early in the week, setting up a highly competitive battle against incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Kirk. Arguably, considering Illinois’ solid Democratic voting history in presidential election years, this is likely the Republicans’ most vulnerable seat. On the other hand, Sen. Kirk’s approval numbers are the best of his career to date, so the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion. It will be interesting to see if the Democratic Party leaders can clear their primary for Duckworth, especially with at least two other members of the House delegation expressing public interest in running. The IL-Senate race is a toss-up campaign that will attract a great deal of attention throughout the entire election cycle.

Indiana: Sen. Dan Coats’ (R) state director and former Indiana Republican chairman Eric Holcomb announced that he will attempt to succeed his retiring boss. Many more potential candidates are expected to soon follow his lead, but the Indiana state controversy has deflected the political spotlight away from the US Senate campaign. Little changed this week except for Holcomb’s announcement. All of the potential candidates categorized as “considering” the race are all still doing so. Democrats want former Senator and Governor Evan Bayh to hop back into political competition, but he continues to maintain that he is disinclined to do so. More on this race will develop when the hotbed of state political activity begins to cool.

Nevada: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) surprise retirement decision sets off a major open seat race in his home state of Nevada. The Senator has already endorsed former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto who has yet to confirm that she will seek the post. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-1) and former Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) are expressing interest in running. Republicans will field a strong candidate and are certainly pressuring Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), and Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) and Joe Heck (R-NV-3) to reconsider previous statements about not challenging Sen. Reid. Now that the incumbent is out, renewed speculation is brewing around the Governor and the two veteran GOP House members. The Nevada seat will be one of the very few contested Democratic seats in the 2016 election cycle. An early poll (Gravis Marketing; 3/27; 850 NV registered voters) finds the potential Democratic candidates in the stronger position. Only Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval would defeat all of the Dem contenders.

House

IL-8: On the heels of Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) announcing that she will run for Senate, two Democrats, one a former congressional candidate, immediately announced their candidacies for her open House seat. State Sen. Mike Noland and former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi will oppose at least each other in the Democratic primary for what should be a safe seat in the general election.

IL-10: Former Rep. Brad Schneider (D) confirmed that he will seek a re-match with Rep. Bob Dold (R) next year. Schneider had been indicating that he would run, and this week made a formal announcement to that effect. This will be the third consecutive battle between the two men. So far, each has one victory. Expect another toss-up battle under a presidential election year turnout model, which should help Schneider but maybe not as much as before. Illinois favorite son Barack Obama leading the Democratic ticket for the last two presidential elections gave the entire slate of state party candidates an abnormal boost.

IL-18: Former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17), who represented about 20% of the 18th District prior to redistricting, has decided not to enter the special election to replace resigned Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria). Mr. Schilling then endorsed establishment-backed Darin LaHood, the local state Senator and son of former US Rep. and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The younger LaHood so far has the field all to himself. He also reports raising over $210,000 since March 18th.

MS-1: Candidate filing has closed for the special election scheduled for May 12th. A dozen Republicans and one Democrat will be on a jungle primary ballot. If no one receives an absolute majority on 5/12, the top two finishers, irrespective of party affiliation, will advance to a June 2nd special general election. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the seat. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) passed away earlier in the year, thus necessitating the special election process. Former Rep. Travis Childers, the Democrats’ first choice, did not enter the race.

NV-4: At an early point in the 2012 election cycle, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D) declared for the open 1st District seat that then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) was vacating to run for Senate. He apparently had Sen. Harry Reid’s backing, but later withdrew in favor of former Rep. Dina Titus (D) who would go on to easily win the seat. Now it looks like Sen. Kihuen is back, saying he will challenge freshman Rep. Cresent Hardy (R) in the neighboring 4th District next year. Mr. Hardy was a surprise winner in 2014, defeating then-Rep. Steven Horsford (D) 48-46%. With Mr. Horsford already saying he will not pursue a re-match, the Democratic nomination is open for the taking. Sen. Kihuen will be the first of many candidates vying for the opportunity to claim this seat back for the Democrats in next year’s regular election.

TX-23: In Texas’ lone swing congressional district, former Rep. Pete Gallego (D) who fell to Republican Will Hurd last year, says he will return for a re-match. The 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, was created in a 1960s redistricting plan. Thus far, the six people who have held the seat since its creation have all eventually lost. Rep. Hurd will stand for his first re-election in 2016.

Governor

Louisiana: State Rep. John Bel Edwards won the Louisiana Democratic Party’s official endorsement for this year’s gubernatorial campaign. Since the Landrieu family is supporting the state party’s official action, as publicized by former Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) positive comments about the development, it is now obvious that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) will not enter the race. This means that we are likely to see a run-off election between Sen. David Vitter (R) and Mr. Edwards, though several other Republicans will be on the jungle primary ballot including Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and Public Utilities Commissioner Scott Angelle. Rep. Edwards is the only announced Democrat, and now armed with the party’s official backing he may be able to force any other potential party candidate from entering.

Mayor

Chicago: A new Chicago-based Ogden & Fry poll (3/27; 1,101 Chicago registered voters) confirms a building trend, that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pulling away from challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for the April 7th run-off election. The O & F data posts Emanuel to a 48-34% lead. In a follow-up poll conducted the next day (3/28; 904 respondents), when the undecided response was not accepted, Emanuel led 58-42%. The Mayor’s heavy campaign spending and demanding that Garcia explain how he will fund his major new plans for the city has led to a reversal of political fortune, thus putting Emanuel back in the favorite’s position heading into Election Day.