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Period Ending May 22, 2015

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


Florida: In accordance with Republican National Committee rules, the Florida legislature and Gov. Rick Scott (R) enacted legislation to schedule the state’s primary for March 15, 2016, and they will opt for a Winner-Take-All (WTA) format. Florida, with 99 delegates, is the largest of what appears now to be just six Republican WTA states. Under party rules, a state may choose the maximum option but only if they hold their nominating event on or after March 15th. Florida officials had previously talked of moving to an earlier date.

Jeb Bush (R) and Mike Huckabee (R): Former Florida Gov. Bush announced he will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll event, and ex-Arkansas Gov. Huckabee quickly followed suit. The Iowa Straw Poll typically kicks off the Republican presidential campaign sweepstakes, but it began to lose luster in 2012. The big loser for candidates choosing not to participate is the Iowa Republican Party, which funds a large portion of its presidential cycle budget from the proceeds of this event.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R): Once again, Sen. Graham confirmed that he is moving toward entering the Republican nomination and this time stated that he will formally announce his campaign on June 1st, in his home state of South Carolina. He is a long shot candidate, but figures to do well in the important Palmetto State primary, which is fourth on the nomination calendar.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): Louisiana Gov. Jindal is also taking a definitive step toward entering the presidential race. Early this week, he formed a presidential exploratory committee, the first step toward officially becoming a candidate. But, the bad news for Jindal comes from his home state. The recent MarblePort Polling company survey (5/17-18; 1,064 LA registered voters) finds his approval rating dropping to a dismal 27:65% favorable to unfavorable rating in large part due to the state’s $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit.

Rick Perry (R): Former Texas Gov. Perry is set to launch his second presidential campaign. He has now scheduled the formal announcement for June 4th in Dallas.


Illinois: Andrea Zopp, the President of the Chicago Urban League and an elected member of the Chicago School Board, became a Democratic US Senate candidate this week. She will oppose Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) for the party nomination. The winner challenges first-term Sen. Mark Kirk (R), who is arguably the most vulnerable Republican incumbent seeking re-election in 2016. Zopp’s entry may be a signal that Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL-2), another individual considering the race, will not run. The two share a similar geographic and demographic political base, meaning both Zopp and Kelly in the race is likely not a good for either person.

Maryland: Former US Senate and congressional candidate Dan Bongino (R), who appeared on many lists as a possible candidate for either the open Senate seat or the 6th Congressional District (he lost a close 2014 race to incumbent John Delaney (D-Potomac), 48-50%), will not be on the Maryland ballot next year. Since Mr. Bongino just moved to Florida he is out of Maryland politics, but apparently may yet become a candidate. He reportedly is not ruling out a bid for the open 18th Congressional District, a Republican-leaning seat that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) is vacating to run for the Senate.


CA-17: Former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna (D), who held Rep. Mike Honda (D) to a 52-48% win last November and spent over $4.4 million in doing so, has scheduled a “special announcement” for May 30th. This is a clear sign that he is embarking upon a new challenge to the 73-year old incumbent. California election law allows members of the same party to advance to the general election, which is likely to again happen in 2016. Rep. Honda is certainly on a retirement-watch list, and Khanna’s decision to seek a re-match could possibly influence the eight-term Congressman to end his political career. If Mr. Honda does seek re-election, this will again be a race to watch though it will have no bearing on the House party division.

NH-1: Rep. Frank Guinta (R) is under increasing pressure to resign in the wake of a campaign finance situation involving receiving more than $350,000 from his parents. Guinta has denied wrongdoing, and paid the Federal Election Commission fine associated with the violation. There will be more coming from this because NH-1 is such a marginal district. The voters here have defeated four sitting incumbents, including Mr. Guinta himself in 2012, during the last five election campaigns so any further incumbent weakness could spell doom. Republican leaders such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte and the Republican state House Speaker and Senate President have called for his resignation, but not the New Hampshire Republican Party leadership.

NY-2: Rep. Peter King (R), who still says he’s “50-50” about running for President, has drawn what could be a credible challenger for re-election. Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D) announced that he will attempt to unseat Rep. King in the 2016 general election. The 2nd District gave 52% of its votes to President Obama in 2012, after he toppled John McCain (R) 51-48% here four years earlier. Therefore, the seat can never be considered safe for the GOP even with Rep. King’s presence.


Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence (R) ended speculation that he would enter the Republican presidential field and announced that he will seek a second term as Governor in 2016. Already in the race against him are former state House Speaker and 2012 Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian. Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who may be the strongest potential Democratic candidate, is also considering the race. On the Republican side, wealthy auto dealer Bob Thomas is likely to run, while Angie’s List co-founder Bill Oesterle has not ruled out launching his own primary challenge. Gov. Pence is favored for re-election, but must improve his political position to avoid a highly competitive battle.

Kentucky: As predicted, the Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary proved as close as predicted. Businessman Matt Bevin finished first, only 83 votes ahead of Agriculture Secretary James Comer. The latter has already requested a re-canvass, which won’t occur until May 28. Both men finished with 33% of the vote. Third place finisher Hal Heiner, the former Louisville Metro Councilor, was third with 27% and has conceded. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway easily won his primary, as expected, with 79% of the vote. He now can begin the general election campaign while the Republicans continue to battle each other without a clear winner until June at the earliest. Though Republicans do well in Kentucky at the federal level, they have not converted many of the statewide positions. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. Mr. Conway must be viewed as the early favorite to hold the state house for the Democrats.

Louisiana: A new poll taken over the May 17-18th period (1,064 LA registered voters) from MarblePort Polling for the Hayride political blog confirms other data that we have seen testing the jungle primary field. As in the other instances, Sen. David Vitter (R) leads the gubernatorial field with 38% followed by the lone Democrat, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, at 27%. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) scores 15%, while Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) continues to lag in the 5% range. The jungle primary is scheduled for October 24th of this year. If no one achieves support from an absolute majority, the top two finishers will run-off on November 21st.

Washington: Public Policy Polling surveyed the Evergreen State electorate (5/14-17; 879 WA registered voters) and found Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to be in relatively strong shape as he prepares for re-election. Though leading all four tested Republicans, he doesn’t break 50% against any. Perhaps not surprisingly, his 2012 gubernatorial opponent, then-Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) fared best. He trails Inslee only 38-43% after losing 49-51% three years ago. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) is the only congressional Republican paired against the Governor in this poll. Mr. Inslee would defeat the Congressman by a 45-34% count. Neither McKenna nor Reichert are expected to enter the race, however. The only announced Republican candidate, Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, trails the Governor 34-46%.