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Period Ending June 27, 2014

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

Senate

Georgia: While the early public polling has been clearly in Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA-1) favor, a new Wilson Perkins Allen Research poll (6/20-22; 600 GA likely run-off voters) conducted for the David Perdue campaign finds the former Dollar General CEO taking a slim one-point lead. According to WPA, Perdue leads Kingston 45-44%. The run-off, expected to be tight, is scheduled for July 22nd.

Kentucky: A new Public Policy Polling survey conducted for the liberal Americans for Tax Fairness organization (6/20-22; 682 KY registered voters) finds challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) leading Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) by an aggregate two-point 48-46% margin. Those who say they are “strong” Grimes register 41%, as compared to the 37% who identify themselves as “strong” McConnell. Another 5 and 7 percent are considered “weak” Grimes and “weak” McConnell, respectively. Finally, an additional two percent apiece say they are “leaning” toward one candidate or the other. Concerning issues, tax equality cuts well for Grimes and the Democrats, while the coal/EPA regulations skew heavily toward McConnell and the Republicans. It is likely whatever partisan or issue trend becomes dominant before Election Day will go a long way toward deciding this close race.

Mississippi Run-off: US Sen. Thad Cochran stormed back after failing to win re-nomination in the early June Republican primary. The six-term Senator scored a close run-off victory early this week over state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran registered a 51-49% spread in a secondary election that actually saw 62,840 more voters come to the polls than had participated in the primary. This type of turnout pattern – where voting is higher in a run-off than the related primary - is rarely, if ever, seen. The Cochran strategy was to increase the turnout, even appealing to African American voters in heavy black regions. The approach proved successful, and Sen. Cochran survived by the barest of margins. He is now the heavy favorite to retain his seat in the general election.

North Carolina: The pattern of state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) dropping in support for his US Senate race while his legislature is in session continues according to a new Civitas Institute poll (6/18-19 & 22; 600 NC registered voters). According to the results, Sen. Kay Hagan (D), again with tentative support, leads Tillis 42-36%. When prodded, 36% rate themselves as “definite” for Hagan, while 30% do so for Tillis. Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh draws 9% on the ballot test. When pushed, only 5% say they are definitely for Haugh, which is most likely his projected vote range.

Oklahoma Primary: Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) defeated former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon and five others to win the Republican Senatorial nomination, and will succeed Sen. Tom Coburn (R) who is resigning the seat mainly due to health concerns. Lankford scored an impressive 57-34% victory, easily topping the 50% threshold necessary to avoid a secondary run-off election. No other candidate even ventured into double-digits. Because of Republicans’ strength in Oklahoma, the nomination battle was known to be determinative when the candidates filed to run. Lankford will cruise to election in November against the Democratic run-off winner between state Sen. Connie Johnson and Democratic activist Jim Rogers. Because he will only fill the unexpired portion of Sen. Coburn’s current term, Mr. Lankford will again be on the ballot in 2016 for the opportunity of winning a full six-year term.

House

CO-3: GOP Rep. Scott Tipton (R) easily won renomination, beating farmer David Cox, 75-25%. The Congressman will now face former state Lottery director Abel Tapia (D) in what could become a competitive race. Though the western slope 3rd District leans Republican, the voters here often elect Democratic candidates.

CO-4: As expected, the Republican primary battle for the seat being vacated by Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R) run for the Senate went to Weld County District Attorney and former GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck. Mr. Buck, who dropped down to the House race after originally entering the Senate contest, did so when Mr. Gardner made his move. Gardner shortly thereafter endorsed Buck as his successor in the House. In last Tuesday’s primary election, Mr. Buck easily defeated state Sen. Scott Renfroe, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, and former Cranston, RI mayor Steve Laffey. He now becomes a heavy favorite to defeat Democratic nominee Vic Meyers in November.

CO-5: In the third Republican primary match between Rep. Doug Lamborn and retired Air Force General Bentley Rayburn, the result proved to be the same. The Congressman was re-nominated but with just 53% of the vote, making this the third time that Lamborn has won in close fashion. Since the 5th District is solidly Republican, Lamborn will cruise to a fifth term victory in November.

MA-6: A new poll from the Emerson College Polling Society shows Republican Richard Tisei moving ahead of veteran Rep. John Tierney (D), who won two years ago in the face of a scandal where his wife went to federal prison for tax fraud. According to the Emerson data, Mr. Tisei, a former state Senator, leads the Congressman 45-40%. But, the poll has three fatal flaws. First, the sample size is only 253 registered voters, far below the minimum of 300 normally required to obtain at least a semi-accurate picture. Second, the survey period elapsed over seven days (6/12-18), much too long a polling window for such a small number of respondents. Finally, the information was accumulated through an Interactive Voice Response system, normally not as reliable as the live phoner interview approach.

NY-4: In retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D) seat, as expected Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice won the Democratic primary, but her 56-44% margin over county legislator Kevan Abrahams was not as dominating as predicted. Ms. Rice, however, is expected to cruise in the general election to hold the seat for the Democrats.

NY-13: Now saying that this will be his last term in office after originally winning in 1970, Rep. Charlie Rangel eked out a 47-44% Democratic primary win over state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in his Harlem-anchored congressional district. It was the second time in two election cycles that Rangel was able to win a close contest with Espaillat.

NY-21: In was promises to be a repeat of split elections that have thrown this North Country seat to the Democrats, former White House aide Elise Stefanik easily won the Republican ballot line, 61-39%, against 2010 and ’12 congressional nominee Matt Doheny. For his part, however, Mr. Doheny will still advance to the general election as the Independence Party nominee. This could again split the vote to the point that Aaron Woolf, appearing on the Democratic and Working Families party lines, could sneak in with less than a majority of the vote in the exact manner that retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D) did on three separate occasions.

NY-22: Rep. Richard Hanna won his Republican primary against Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney by a tight 53-47% margin but, in doing so, has secured his re-election. There is no Democratic or Working Families nominee in the general election. Ms. Tenney won the Conservative Party endorsement, but did not file enough nominating petition signatures to secure the ballot line, so Mr. Hanna’s name will now appear as an unopposed candidate.

OK-5: Coming largely from nowhere and spending only in the neighborhood of $200,000 on his campaign, businessman Steve Russell placed first in the open Republican primary. Finishing a close second was state Corporation Commission director Patrice Douglas, just three points behind. The two advance to an August 26th run-off election. State Sen. Clark Jolley, originally the early front-runner, and state Reps. Mike Turner and Shane Jett followed. The eventual Republican nominee wins the seat in November. Rep. James Lankford (R) is running for the Senate.

Governor

Colorado Primary Results: Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7) won a closely bunched Republican primary last Tuesday and earns the right to face potentially vulnerable Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in November. Beauprez garnered 30% of the vote, topping former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp, who received 27, 23, and 20% of the vote, respectively. Beauprez was the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nominee but lost badly, 56-41%, to businessman Bill Ritter. The latter would only serve one term, thus opening the way for Hickenlooper, then the Mayor of Denver.

Kansas: Gov. Sam Brownback (R) continues to record weak numbers as Kansas politics begins to ignite in anticipation of the state’s August 5th primary election. A new Survey USA study (6/19-23; 1,068 KS registered voters) finds Gov. Brownback trailing consensus Democratic candidate Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader, by a 41-47% margin. Though Kansas is strongly Republican, the split between the moderates and conservatives has been one of the most severe in the nation, thus partially explaining the Governor’s detected political weakness.

South Carolina: Public Policy Polling, surveying for the South Carolina Democratic Party (6/20-22; 698 SC registered voters), again finds a tight race, even after push questions are asked attempting to skew the race in state Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s (D) favor. According to the first ballot test, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) leads Sheheen 49-46%. A full ten percent for each candidate is recorded as “leaning” to their chosen candidate. After push questions that are designed to paint a negative image of the target, in this case Gov. Haley, the second ballot test provides Sheheen with just a three point lead, and Ms. Haley only drops to a 45% support level. The push question designed to move respondent toward her opponent claimed that Gov. Haley’s refusal to expand the Medicaid program cost the state “millions of dollars and 44,000 jobs.” Push question-driven or not, this race is hotly contested. Unaided, Sheheen pulls within three points of the Governor suggesting that this campaign could go down to the wire in November.