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Period Ending May 1, 2015

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

President

Iowa Poll: Public Policy Polling conducted new surveys to better read the likely Iowa caucus electorate. The polls (4/23-26; 462 IA Republican likely caucus attenders; 469 IA Democratic caucus attenders) found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) to be leading their respective partisan processes. Mr. Walker held a 23-13-12-10-10% advantage over Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), respectively. Four more tested and potential candidates: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), and former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) all received support figures in the single-digits. Eight more potential candidates, including 2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, were not included in the poll.

For the Democrats, Ms. Clinton has a commanding 62-13% lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I). The other potential Democratic candidates, ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), and ex-Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee, all polled in single-digits. Vice President Joe Biden (D) was not tested.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I): Vermont Sen. Sanders, originally elected Mayor of Burlington on the Socialist Workers Party ticket, has served in both the House and Senate as an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Now, he has officially entered the Democratic nomination process for President, making his announcement at the end of this week. Sanders is a long shot at best, but could find himself as Hillary Clinton’s top opponent should former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) not catch fire.

Senate

California: Though Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) promised to announce her decision whether to run for the Senate this week – she did not – two Republicans did take the plunge. Former state Assemblyman and Senator Phil Wyman, who won nine elections to the legislature but lost seven others for the legislature, Congress, and statewide office, announced that he will run for the US Senate next year. Ex-California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro will also join the growing list of candidates. Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is the early favorite to hold the seat for the Democrats. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) is retiring after four terms.

Florida: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16), whose name had been frequently mentioned in conjunction with the open 2016 Senate race, is taking a pass. The Congressman announced that he won’t run for Senate, but will instead seek re-election to a sixth term in the House. Now that he and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-17) are both out of the race, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL-1) continues to express interest but nothing more, it is likely that Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera are the two most likely Republicans to enter the race. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is already an announced Democratic contender. Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) continues to say he is likely to become a Senate candidate but later in the year. The Florida seat is open because Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is running for President and projects to be highly competitive in the general election.

Utah: Just as quickly as former Mitt Romney aide Alex Dunn (R) expressed interest in challenging Sen. Mike Lee (R), he changed his mind and won’t run. Centrist Republicans have been attempting to find a primary challenger to Lee, but have come up empty after repeated tries. So far, Sen. Lee has successfully recruited individuals into his camp who were previously thinking about running against him. Right now, the Senator is an overwhelming favorite to win re-election, and continues to make strong behind-the-scenes moved designed to pave the way for an easy second term run next year.

House

CA-24: Political Consultant Laura Capps (D), daughter of retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D), announced that she will not seek her mother’s seat. The younger Capps cited family reasons for her decision. It had originally appeared that her announcement of candidacy was imminent. Democrats already have two strong declared candidates for the marginal seat, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal and city of Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. Republicans are beginning to fall in line behind state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. Businessman and former UCLA football player Justin Fareed is also an announced candidate but a weaker player considering losing the 2012 Republican congressional primary. The 24th CD has toss-up potential as an open seat.

MD-1: Former state Delegate Mike Smigiel has formed a congressional campaign committee to ostensibly challenge Rep. Andy Harris (R) in next year’s Republican primary. But, this may be a move more designed for an open seat because rumors continually persist that Harris may enter the Senate race. If so, Smigiel would have a head start on the rest of the field. Should Harris seek re-election, a Smigiel challenge would not be considered particularly serious.

PA-9: Within the context of the flap surrounding House Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R) dating a woman who lobbies issues under his panel’s jurisdiction, former US Senate candidate Tom Smith (R) confirms he is considering launching a 2016 primary challenge against the Congressman. Mr. Smith won a five-way Republican primary in 2012 but lost to Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) 54-45%. Businessman Smith is a former Democrat turned Tea Party leader who has the ability to self-fund his campaign. He would be considered a serious Republican primary opponent for Shuster.

WV-2: Businessman Ken Reed (R), who placed second in a field of seven Republican open seat candidates last year, says he will return to challenge freshman Rep. Alex Mooney (R). Reed attracted 23% compared to Mooney’s 36% in the former’s first attempt for public office. Mr. Mooney, a former Maryland state Senator and Republican Party chairman, moved to West Virginia to run for the open 2nd District seat when then-Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) launched her successful Senate campaign. After winning the GOP nomination, Mooney then defeated former West Virginia Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey by a tight 47-44% margin.

WV-3: In November, state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R) defeated 38-year congressional veteran Nick Rahall (D), so the Democrats plan to heavily target this district in 2016. They are making an all-out effort to recruit term-limited Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) into the race against freshman Jenkins. The Governor remains non-committal about any future electoral plans, but this would obviously be a recruitment coup if the party leadership successfully coaxes Tomblin into the race.

Governor

Indiana: Former state House Speaker John Gregg (D), who held current Gov. Mike Pence to a 50-47% open seat victory in 2012, says he will seek a re-match next year. It is likely Gregg will face primary opposition possibly from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and/or ex-Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9), so there is no guarantee he will actually have another chance to oppose the Republican chief executive. The Governor, himself, could draw Republican primary opposition from former Angie’s List co-founder and CEO Bill Oesterle.

Louisiana: For months, it has been obvious that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) was not going to enter the open Governor’s race, but the door was never completely closed. Now, it has finally shut. Mayor Landrieu made public his intention not to run statewide late this week. Though the Louisiana Democratic Party has officially endorsed state Rep. John Bel Edwards for Governor, Landrieu did not follow suit. He is holding any formal endorsement until later in the year. It is clear the Mayor would have been the Democrats’ strongest candidate, but it now appears that Mr. Edwards will be his party’s lone representative in a field of at least three Republicans. Sen. David Vitter is the favorite to advance to the run-off election and capture the Governorship.

Mississippi: Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted a survey (4/21-23; 625 MS likely voters) for the upcoming 2015 Governor’s race. The results show incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) with huge individual leads over two Democratic contenders, attorney Vicki Slater and physician Valerie Short. Against Ms. Slater, Gov. Bryant’s margin is a hefty 61-30%. Paired with Ms. Short, the incumbent scores an even better 63-28%. These numbers confirm previous analyses that Bryant is safe for re-election.

New Hampshire: 2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee Walt Havenstein, who held incumbent Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) to a 52-47% win, announced he will not seek a re-match in 2016. On the other hand, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R), son of former Gov. John Sununu and brother to ex-US Senator John E. Sununu, says he is leaning toward making the race. Gov. Hassan is a possible challenger to Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, so the Granite State game of political musical chairs is well underway.