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Period Ending May 31, 2013

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

Senate

Iowa: David Young (R), who just resigned as Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R) chief of staff, will now apparently attempt to serve with his former boss. Young is expected to soon declare his candidacy for the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) open seat. Already in the race is attorney Matt Whitaker (R). Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), considered as a possible candidate particularly when traveling to Washington to meet with Republican Party leaders, now says he, too, will not run. The Democrats are coalescing around Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1), making him their consensus candidate. This should become a competitive race, but clearly Mr. Braley begins as the early favorite.

Kentucky: A new Public Policy Polling survey (5/23-24; 556 KY registered voters) again looks at the Kentucky Senate race, testing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) as he prepares for re-election. So far this year, the polling results have shown Mr. McConnell burdened with an upside down approval rating, but performing at parity with potential Democratic opponents on ballot test questions. The same pattern occurs again in this poll, but his job approval ratings have improved. According to the PPP data, the Senator’s favorability index is 44:47% positive to negative. When paired with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), the race is forecast as a 45-45% tie. Ms. Grimes, however, is giving no indication that she will run. Regardless of the early polling report conclusions, the Democrats actually defeating McConnell remains a very formidable task.

Minnesota: Financial services executive Mike McFadden (R) officially launched his challenge to Sen. Al Franken (D), becoming the first Republican to do so. McFadden, the CEO of the Lazard Middle Market firm, has the ability to self-fund his race. In a poll we covered last week (Public Policy Polling (5/17-19; 712 MN registered voters)), McFadden fared as the best of potential GOP candidates, holding Franken to a 51-36% lead. The Senator won the closest election of the 2008 cycle, a 312-vote victory over then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R) from almost 2.9 million ballots cast, and taking eight months to settle. Franken begins the race as the clear favorite, but Minnesota can be a volatile political state.

Nebraska: Gov. Dave Heineman (R) announced that he will not seek retiring Sen. Mike Johanns’ (R) seat next year. Heineman had been viewed as a prohibitive favorite to win the Senatorial election, but said he believes campaigning for another office would take away from his ability to serve his final eighteen months as Governor. When he concludes his tenure in office at the beginning of 2015, Mr. Heineman will be the longest-serving chief executive in Nebraska history. Democrats are not likely to be competitive in the Senate race, but the Heineman decision now opens up what should be a hotly contested Republican primary. Among those considered most likely to run is ex-state Treasurer and Navy pilot Shane Osborn. Former Senatorial nominee (2006 against Sen. Ben Nelson (D)) and Chicago Cubs baseball team co-owner Pete Ricketts is a possible candidate. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Lee Terry (R-NE-2) will not attempt to succeed Johanns. Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-3) is unlikely to enter the statewide campaign.

North Carolina: State Labor Commissioner Cheri Berry (R), shown in a flat tie with incumbent Kay Hagan (D) in last week’s Public Policy Polling survey, says she will not run for the Senate next year. North Carolina remains as the most winnable seat for Republicans, but party leaders have been unsuccessful in recruiting a candidate. Despite the slow start, expect this to eventually become a highly competitive 2014 campaign.

House

CA-10: Wealthy local businessman Michael Eggman (D) announced his congressional campaign this week. He does so with the endorsement of neighboring Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), which suggests that Jose Hernandez (D), the former astronaut who held Rep. Jeff Denham (R) to a 53-47% win in 2012, is unlikely to run again. This race could become competitive but Denham is a clear favorite under a lower mid-term election turnout model.

CA-52: Former San Diego City Councilman and 2012 Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio (R) formally announced his 2014 congressional challenge to freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D). The move had been anticipated, as DeMaio had been positioning himself for such a run during the past several weeks. This is a very serious challenge. Mr. DeMaio carried the 52nd District precincts residing within the San Diego city limits by a 56-43% margin, even while losing the Mayor’s race to former US Representative Bob Filner (D). The non-city area of the district is even more Republican than the region DeMaio carried last November. These two factors, plus Peters’ winning percentage of only 51.2%, places this campaign near the top of the Republican target list.

MN-6: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) announced via video message that she will not seek re-election next year. Ms. Bachmann, who ran for President in 2012, says that neither her lagging approval numbers nor the FEC investigation into her presidential campaign are reasons for her retirement. After the presidential campaign, she was re-elected in what should be a safe Republican House seat with only a 50.5% victory percentage and 2012 nominee Jim Graves (D) is already back for a re-match. Since the 6th CD is a reliably Republican seat, the GOP is likely to be in stronger position with another candidate. This race now moves from Lean Republican to Likely Republican.

PA-13: Marjorie Margolies, formerly Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky who served one term in Congress twenty years ago and unceremoniously dumped for being the deciding vote for President Bill Clinton’s tax increase package, has formed a new congressional committee. Now that Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) has formally declared for the Governor’s race, Ms. Margolies, now 70 years of age, will apparently embark upon a political comeback. Unlike her previous district from two decades ago, the new 13th District is safely Democratic. Therefore, if she can win what promises to be a crowded Democratic primary, her ticket to Washington will again be punched.

Governor

Colorado: Last week, Steve Laffey, the former Mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island and ex-Ocean State US Senate candidate (he challenged then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee in the 2006 Republican primary), announced his campaign for Governor of Colorado, a state to which he moved in 2011. This week he’s already withdrawn. With former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) now in the Governor’s race Laffey believes his presence will lead to a divisive primary, something he says he wants to avoid. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is favored for re-election.

Iowa: Quinnipiac University polled the Iowa electorate (5/15-21; 1,411 IA registered voters) and tested Gov. Terry Branstad’s (R) approval ratings. Though no ballot test questions were included, his favorability index registers 49:31% positive to negative, including 28% of Democrats approving. The Independents give the Governor a favorable 50:28% job approval ratio. Branstad served four terms as Governor from 1983 to 1999. He won again in 2010. He is likely to seek an unprecedented sixth term in office next year.

Michigan: Former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7) made official his plans to challenge Gov. Rick Snyder (R) next year. Schauer served both in the state House and Senate, and unseated Rep. Tim Walberg (R) in 2008. Two years later, Schauer lost the re-match to Walberg. The Democrat did not run for Congress in 2012. Gov. Snyder’s job approval ratings continue to be on the low side, but the ballot test numbers project the race to be even. Michigan will be a competitive state next year, but the Snyder incumbency should give the Republican some advantage.

Pennsylvania: Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), who has been unofficially campaigning for Governor for months, this week made formal her bid to challenge incumbent Tom Corbett (R). Schwartz will likely have Democratic primary opposition, but the eventual party nominee will be strongly competitive against Corbett, possibly even favored. This will be a 2014 race to watch.

Rhode Island: Gov. Lincoln Chafee, is no longer the nation’s only Independent Governor. Late this week Mr. Chafee officially changed his party registration to Democrat and will presumably seek the party nomination for re-election. Chafee’s approval ratings are among the lowest in the nation (33:59% according to a late January Public Policy Polling survey). Capturing the Democratic nomination would virtually assure a candidate of victory in 2014, but Chafee will have a long, hard road to gain acceptance within his new primary electorate. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are likely Democratic candidates and neither appear willing to make way for Chafee now that he has changed parties once again. Before becoming an Independent, Chafee served in the US Senate as a Republican. Despite his incumbency, Chafee is rated as an underdog for re-election.

Virginia: Public Policy Polling again surveyed (5/24-26; 672 VA registered voters) the Virginia electorate about the upcoming 2013 gubernatorial campaign. They find former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffie leading Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) 42-37%, which is in the range of most other polls. This particular sampling universe featured 40% of the respondents describing themselves as somewhat or very conservative compared to 29% who said they are somewhat or very liberal. The party divisions were essentially even. Looking at the sample sector, 34% self-identified as Democrats, 33% called themselves Republicans, and 33% claimed to be Independents. All of the statistical data is consistent with Virginia voting patterns.