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Period Ending June 12, 2015

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

President

Jeb Bush (R): Former Governor Bush, who is about to announce his presidential candidacy (June 15), has already made a surprising staff change. Campaign manager David Kochel moves to the position of chief strategist, and GOP political veteran Danny Diaz takes over as the top day-to-day operative. Diaz worked for President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, John McCain’s 2008 national bid, and the Republican National Committee.

Dr. Ben Carson (R): Despite shepherding a campaign that is off to a surprisingly strong start for a long shot candidate, Dr. Carson is now witnessing an exodus of four top staff members. Replacements will soon be announced. Meanwhile, the retired neurosurgeon continues to poll at parity with many well-known political figures and is certainly building political capital.

Florida: The St. Leo University Polling Institute (FL) conducted a survey testing the Republican electorate in what will be the largest Winner-Take-All primary (99 delegates) on the GOP nomination calendar. The poll, conducted May 25-31, only interviewed 146 likely Republican primary voters so it is unwise to base solid conclusions on such a small group of respondents. But, even this survey showed favorite sons Jeb Bush (30%) and Marco Rubio (24%) far ahead of their other competitors. No one else even topped double-digits. A scenario where just Bush and Rubio are running was also tested. In this configuration, it is Sen. Rubio with a 48-40% lead over the state’s former two-term Governor. But, could numbers such as these lead to other candidates skipping the Florida primary? Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) says he may do just that. If others follow suit, the Winner-Take-All option may produce undesired results for Florida Republicans who desire to vault their nominating event into national prominence.

Senate

Indiana: In an expected development, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN-4) announced his intention to seek re-election and not run for the state’s open US Senate seat. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3) and Eric Holcomb, the former Indiana Republican chairman and ex-aide to retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R), are the announced Senatorial candidates. Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9) remains a potential statewide entrant. Former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) is an official Democratic candidate.

Nevada: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) officially announced that he will not pursue the state’s open US Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). Republicans will continue their likely successful pursuit of Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) to become their nominee. Rep. Heck says he will soon decide about running statewide. Clearing the path for him, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson (R) also said he will not enter the Senate race. The development will likely pit Heck and former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) against each other in what will become a very long general election campaign.

North Carolina: Harper Polling surveyed the Tar Heel State electorate (6/3-4; 501 NC likely voters) and found results consistent with other recent polling. HP finds Sen. Richard Burr (R) leading former Sen. Kay Hagan (D), 49-42 percent. If state Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue were the Democratic nominee, Burr’s margin increases to 50-36%. Neither Ms. Hagan nor Sen. Blue have said they will enter the 2016 Senate race.

Ohio: Public Policy Polling (6/4-7; 859 OH registered voters) finds a tight Ohio Senate race. According to their data, Sen. Rob Portman (R) leads former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) by only a 43-41% spread. Both men have even favorability ratios. Portman’s job approval is 35:35% favorable to unfavorable. Strickland’s personal index is 39:38% positive to negative. Ohio’s political nature suggests this race will poll in toss-up range for at least another year.

House

AZ-2: State Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D), who previously filed a congressional exploratory committee for purposes of challenging freshman Rep. Martha McSally (R), will not proceed with his federal political plans because of a torn retina health issue. Replacing Wheeler may well be fellow state Rep. Victoria Steele (D) who is launching her own congressional exploratory committee. Ms. McSally unseated Rep. Ron Barber (D) in the closest US House race in the country last year, a 161-vote margin. Former Rep. Barber has already announced that he will not seek a re-match in 2016.

CA-10: Local agriculture businessman Michael Eggman (D), who scored 44% against Rep. Jeff Denham (R) last November, says he will return for a re-match in 2016. But, he is also looking to file papers to run for state Assembly. So, chaos looms in the Central Valley of California. Should Eggman actually run for Congress, the presidential turnout model should help him, but Denham must be rated the favorite.

CA-24: Retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D) has endorsed Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal (D) as her successor. The move is a blow to Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, who is also a Democratic candidate. This race will be competitive both in the jungle primary and the general election. The Republican most likely to qualify for the November vote is Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian.

IA-3: Former state Senator Stacy Appel (D), who for most of the 2014 election cycle was rated the favorite to win the seat in November but fell to now-Rep. David Young (R), says she will not seek a re-match next year. The 3rd District, anchored in Des Moines and Polk County, is a swing seat. An eventual Democratic nominee should get a presidential election year turnout boost. Young defeated Appel by a substantial 52-41% in 2014.

KS-1: Republican Alan LaPolice, who held Rep. Tim Huelskamp to a 55-45% GOP primary win last August will return for a re-match in 2016. Another potential candidate is physician Roger Marshall. There will likely be heavy competition in this sprawling western Kansas district, as Huelskamp has proven himself to be vulnerable.

MD-1: Speculation still persists that Rep. Andy Harris (R) has not fully ruled out a run for the state’s open Senate seat next year. If he stays in the House, he will now face a Republican primary challenge from former state Delegate Mike Simigiel. The Congressman will be a heavy favorite to win re-nomination should he forego the Senate race. MD-1 is the lone safe Republican seat in the Free State.

MD-6: GOP state Delegate David Vogt announced his congressional candidacy against sophomore Rep. John Delaney (D). Republicans need a new nominee this year because 2014 party standard-bearer Dan Bongino moved to Florida. The 6th District race was surprisingly close last November. Delaney, defending his seat for the first time, posted a surprisingly close 49.7-48.3% re-election victory margin. Rep. Delaney has still not ruled out entering the Senate race, but has made no discernible move to do so.

NC-3: North Carolina Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata (R), who was said to be considering a primary challenge to Rep. Walter Jones (R), said he will not run for Congress next year. This opens the door for 2014 Republican challenger Taylor Griffin to return. Jones survived the 2014 challenge only by a 51-45% count, so a re-match will be a serious contest.

OH-14: Another re-match appears likely in northeast Ohio. Former state Rep. Matt Lynch, is planning to again challenge Rep. David Joyce in next year’s Republican primary. In 2014, he held the Congressman to a 55-45% re-nomination victory. Rep. Joyce will likely perform better this time around.

Governor

Delaware: Though at-large Rep. John Carney (D) refuses to comment upon running for the open Governor’s race in the wake of former Attorney General and presumed gubernatorial candidate Beau Biden’s (D) death, the stage is well set for him to enter the race. Mr. Carney, then the state’s Lt. Governor, lost the 2004 Democratic gubernatorial primary to current incumbent Jack Markell (D). In anticipation of Carney running for Governor, local Democrats are beginning to make moves for what will be an open at-large House seat instead of a race for state chief executive.

Vermont: Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who won a third term by only a 46-45% margin, forcing the legislature to cast the final vote because no one received a majority vote, surprisingly announced he will not seek a fourth two-year term next year. The vacancy ignites what will be a competitive Democratic primary. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) confirms he is considering running for Governor. He would clearly be the favorite, if he chooses to run. Republicans will field a strong candidate, but the presidential election year turnout heavily favors the Democrats to hold the position.