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Period Ending May 23, 2014

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

Senate

Arkansas Primary Results: Two-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) were unopposed in their respective Senatorial primaries. The general election campaign promises to be one of the most intensely contested in the nation.

Georgia Primary Results: The myriad of pre-primary polling correctly predicted the Senate Republican outcome. Data detected businessman David Perdue as likely to finish in the first position. He did so with 30% of the vote. The data also showed a close battle for the second run-off slot between Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) and former Secretary of State Karen Handel. This, too, proved accurate, as the Congressman notched 26% as compared to Ms. Handel’s 22 percent. The polling also predicted that Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) and Paul Broun (R-GA-10) were falling well behind. They both finished with 10% apiece. The Perdue-Kingston run-off is July 22nd. Mr. Perdue ran well in the more populous northern and central sections of Georgia, while Kingston was dominant in the southern part of the state. On the Democratic side, foundation executive director Michelle Nunn easily won her party’s nomination with 75% of the vote. Some people, however, believe that her capturing ¾ of the Democratic vote was a bit of an under-performance when citing that she was the consensus candidate. They make the point that one of every four Democrats chose not to support her despite every major Democrat endorsing her and the entire party is behind Ms. Nunn’s candidacy.

Kentucky Primary Results: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell scored a landslide Republican primary victory over conservative activist Matt Bevin. Though 60% can be considered quite low for a winning percentage within an incumbent’s own party, the negativity of the campaign and the money spent against McConnell dictated his showing would be under that of an average incumbent. The Senator now faces Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in the general election. This could become the premier campaign in the country. Both sides will invest all that they have to win. Polling has shown the McConnell-Grimes contest to be a dead heat for months. The Senator’s job approval numbers are terrible, but Republicans will also wrap an equally unpopular President Obama and his Administration’s hated coal policy around Grimes.

Louisiana: After several polls showing Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) lagging in the low 40s, a new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research survey for the liberal Senate Majority PAC (5/5-8; 600 LA registered voters) gives the Senator a 48-29-8-7% advantage over Republicans Bill Cassidy (US Rep; R-LA-6), Paul Hollis (state Rep) and Rob Maness (retired military officer), respectively. But, the news isn’t all good for Ms. Landrieu. In a hypothetical run-off between she and Rep. Cassidy, the two are tied at 49 percent. If no one registers a majority of the vote in the Louisiana jungle primary held concurrently with the regular general election on November 4th, the top two finalists, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to a December 6th run-off election.

Nebraska: Just two days after the Nebraska primary, Rasmussen Reports surveyed the Cornhusker State projected November electorate (5/14-15; 750 NE registered voters) and finds favored Republican nominee Ben Sasse out to an early 51-34% lead over Democratic attorney Dave Domina. Sasse should score an easy general election victory to win the six-year Senatorial term.

Oregon Primary Results: As expected, surgeon Monica Wehby won the Republican primary over state Rep. Jason Conger, and will now face first-term Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). State issues could go a long way to driving general election turnout, so this race is generally regarded as an emerging campaign for Republicans. Merkley is the clear favorite, but the Oregon Senate race is one to watch.

House

Arkansas Primary Results: Nominations in the state’s two open districts were decided in the May 20th primary, thereby averting run-offs for both parties. In the 2nd District, Republican businessman French Hill attracted 55% of the vote against two opponents, thus clinching the GOP nomination. He will face former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Hill will be favored in the general election, though the 2nd District, anchored in the state’s largest city of Little Rock, is a competitive CD. In the southwestern 4th District, GOP state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman won the nomination outright even after being outspent by energy executive Tommy Moll. Westerman now will oppose James Lee Witt, the consensus Democratic candidate. Mr. Witt is former President Bill Clinton’s Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and he has the strong support of Arkansas’ national favorite son.

Georgia Primary Results: The House open seat primaries all advanced to run-off contests. In the open 1st District (Jack Kingston), state Sen. Buddy Carter and Tea Party backed physician and ex-Army Ranger Bob Johnson will advance to the July 22nd run-off. The winner will easily carry the seat in the fall general election. In District 4, incumbent Rep. Hank Johnson won a 55-45% Democratic primary victory over DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown. In open District 10 (Paul Broun) another run-off will occur, this time between Mike Collins, the son of former Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA-3), and radio talk show host, pastor, and former congressional candidate Jody Hice. The two almost tied in the GOP primary, as the pair finished within 270 votes of each other, with Hice placing first. In the northwestern open 11th District (Rep. Phil Gingrey), a Republican run-off will commence between state Senator Barry Loudermilk, who has now earned the Club for Growth’s support, and former US Representative and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr. Loudermilk finished first with 37% of the vote, as compared to 26% support for Barr. No Democrat even filed for this race, so the winner of the July 22nd run-off automatically wins the seat in November. Finally, businessman and former congressional candidate Rick Allen won his 12th District Republican primary contest outright, and will not have to engage in a costly secondary election. He wins the right to challenge five-term Rep. John Barrow (D), who has mastered winning this conservative district.

Idaho Primary Results: Both of the state’s sitting House members faced primary challenges. In the 1st District, Rep. Raul Labrador (R) easily turned back four Republican opponents, scoring 79% of the vote. The 2nd District challenge to Rep. Mike Simpson (R), however, had taken on national importance. It is here where the Tea Party and outside conservative organizations hoped to take out whom they termed a key “establishment” Republican incumbent. Though attorney Bryan Smith raised strong money and had early outside air support, his effort lost steam at the end and he fell to Simpson 38-62%. The Congressman will now take on former Rep. Richard Stallings (D) in the general election.

TX-4: Rep. Ralph Hall (R) who, at 91 years of age is the oldest member of the House, appears to be rebounding in his Republican run-off against former US Attorney John Ratcliffe. According to a new Gravis Marketing survey for the Human Events (5/15; 656 TX-4 likely Republican run-off voters by Interactive Voice Response system), Mr. Hall has a 46-38% lead over Mr. Ratcliffe. Normally, when an incumbent is forced to a run-off in the south, the challenger prevails, but Hall is fighting hard to survive. In the primary, Rep. Hall received 45% of the vote in the March 3rd balloting, followed by Ratcliffe’s 29 percent. The run-off will be held May 27th. Mr. Hall was originally elected to the House in 1980 after spending ten years in the Texas state Senate.

NE-2: Rep. Lee Terry (R), who scored a surprisingly small 53-47% victory against an under-funded Republican political opponent in the May 13th primary, received some more bad news this week. Former Republican state Sen. Chip Maxwell, saying there is no true conservative in the general election, has entered the race as an Independent candidate. If Maxell begins to attract a percentage that approaches ten, Mr. Terry could be in serious trouble for re-election. The Congressman was originally elected in 1996, but has had several close calls as his Omaha-anchored district continues to trend in a more marginal voting pattern.

NY-13: A new Siena College poll (5/15-20; 578 NY-13 likely Democratic primary voters) finds Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) holding a 41-32% lead over his tough challenger, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D). Two years ago, a scandal-tainted Rangel just slipped past Espaillat 44-41% in a crowded field. Though Rep. Rangel is in better position today, he is far from politically secure and this race will be highly competitive on June 24th.

Pennsylvania Primary Results: The Keystone State was also filled with key primary campaigns, all of which chose nominees because Pennsylvania has no run-off system. In the Bucks County 8th District, Iraq War veteran Kevin Strouse (D) will now face three-term Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) in a marginal political district. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R) won his primary, but with only 53% against two under-funded opponents. Despite almost half of his party voters choosing another candidate, Mr. Shuster should easily win again in November. In the hard fought open Montgomery County 13th District, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, despite spending less than his opponents but being backed strongly by organized labor, easily defeated former Rep. Marjorie Margolies and state Sen. Daylin Leach. Margolies, who served one term in the early 90s is Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law. She received heavy backing from the Clintons, but it wasn’t enough to even get her close. The only other incumbent to have any primary challenge, Pittsburgh Rep. Mike Doyle (D), racked up an 84% win in his 14th District campaign.

Governor

Arkansas Primary Results: As expected, ex-Reps. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Mike Ross (D) will square off in what should be a highly competitive gubernatorial contest in the fall. Neither man had major primary oppostion, so this week’s electoral result was hardly a surprise.

Georgia Primary Results: Gov. Nathan Deal (R) scored a 72% primary win against two opponents. He will face state Sen. Jason Carter (D) in November, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. The Governor begins the fall campaign as a solid favorite for re-election.

Idaho Primary Results: The surprise of primary evening was Idaho Gov. Butch Otter having a close call in his Republican primary. Otter, seeking a third term as Governor after serving four terms as Lt. Governor and six years in the US House, scored only a 51-45% victory against state Sen. Russ Fulcher. He should now have clear sailing in the general election, but the closeness of the primary suggests that he will have to better solidify his base Republican vote or risk losing significant support to most likely an Independent general election candidate.

Oregon Primary Results: As expected, state Rep. Dennis Richardson scored a big Republican primary win, obtaining 65% of the vote against five opponents. Richardson wins the right to challenge three-term Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who could be vulnerable. The state has been in chaos, particularly over the Obamacare funding issue at which Oregon peformed worst in the nation, thus suggesting that Mr. Kitzhaber could have some problems come November. The Governor served two terms from 1995-2003, and then was elected again in a close 2010 campaign.

Pennsylvania Primary Results: Businessman and former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, as polling predicted, won a landslide victory over US Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), state Treasurer Rob McCord, and former state EPA Director Kate McGinty. Mr. Wolf garnered 58% of the vote, and now stands as the favorite against unpopular Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Wolf is well positioned to convert this state house to the Democratic column.