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Period Ending August 15, 2014

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


Hawaii: The close 49-48% Senate election result that was sent into political overtime by Tropical Storm Iselle will culminate today. Election officials, upheld by a federal judge in rejecting a challenge from candidate Colleen Hanabusa, have opened voting on August 15th to two precincts on Hawaii’s Big Island. The storm forced officials to close roads in the Puna region, thus preventing some 8,200 people from going to the polls last Saturday. Later it was determined that approximately 1,500 of the group voted absentee. For the remaining 6,800+ voters, they can cast their ballots at precinct polling locations today. With Sen. Brian Schatz holding a 1,635-vote lead, the limited number of people allowed to vote does not give Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) enough potential voters to neutralize the deficit. Therefore, expect Schatz to be declared the official winner early next week. The Hanabusa legal challenges are likely not over, however. The fact that ballots were counted and results published before the final votes were cast gives Hanabusa a legitimate legal argument to pursue.

Iowa: A new Rasmussen Reports poll (8/11-12; 750 IA likely voters) confirms other findings that the Iowa Senate contest between Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) and state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) is very tight. According to the RR study, the two candidates are tied at 43%.

Kansas: Rasmussen Reports (8/6-7; 750 KS likely voters) conducted the first post-primary survey of Kansas likely November voters. They find a surprisingly close race developing between Sen. Pat Roberts (R) and Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the newly nominated Democratic candidate. RR forecasts Sen. Roberts to only a 44-40% edge.

Kentucky: Public Policy Polling (8/7-10; 991 KY registered voters) tested the Kentucky Senate race and confirms what other firms have found, that is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has a small lead over Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate nominee. According to the PPP data, McConnell leads 44-40% despite having a 37:54% unfavorable job performance ratio. But, Ms. Grimes is also upside down on her favorability rating. She posted a 41:45% ratio.

Minnesota Primary: Sen. Al Franken (D) and the man always thought to be his top Republican challenger were both officially nominated earlier this week. Franken had just token opposition in the Democratic primary, while finance executive Mike McFadden (R) swamped his Republican rivals with 72% of the vote. Sen. Franken is the clear favorite, and polls generally post him to double-digit leads, but potential exists for the campaign to close. A Republican wave could land this contest near the toss-up category.

Tennessee: Rasmussen Reports (8/11-12; 750 TN likely voters) also conducted the first post-primary survey of the Tennessee electorate. Despite an underwhelming primary victory, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) has a substantial 47-32% advantage over Democratic nominee Gordon Ball. The latter is not expected to mount a serious challenge, so it appears a safe bet that Sen. Alexander has already won his most difficult 2014 political contest.


American Crossroads: The conservative Super PAC just released a target list of five Democratic House incumbents where the organization will spend a combined $3.1 million in television advertising. The most money (approximately $750,000) will be spent against Sacramento County Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA-7). Six figure media buys will also be launched against Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA-52), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Enyart (D-IL-12), and Nick Rahall (D-WV-3). The biggest surprise is the inclusion of Rep. Enyart, signaling that challenger candidate (IL State Rep) Mike Bost’s campaign is beginning to establish a political foothold.

FL Redistricting: The Florida legislature responded to Judge Terry Lewis with a least-change map, designed to minimally fix the legal problems that led to the jurist declaring Districts 5 (Rep. Corrine Brown (D)) and 10 (Rep. Dan Webster (R)) illegal. The new map was passed by both legislative houses and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott (R). The map will return for Lewis’ approval, but there is a question as to whether he still has any jurisdiction. Because a new map has been passed into law, some legal scholars believe that an entirely new legal challenge must begin. There is still a question as to which map will be in effect for the 2014 elections, but the final decision will have to be made fast. Candidate filing has closed and the Florida primary is August 26th. Aside from the two districts in question, the map changes Districts 7 (Rep. John Mica (R)) and 9 (Rep. Alan Grayson (D)).

FL-2: After weeks of advertising, Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, daughter for former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham (D), finds a poll placing her ahead of two-term Rep. Steve Southerland (R). Pathfinder Opinion Research, for the Ocean Champions liberal Super PAC (8/11-12; 500 FL-2 likely voters), posts the challenger to a 45-43% lead over Rep. Southerland. The NRCC has just begun to strike back against Graham. Once the Republicans and Southerland begin to retaliate expect the Congressman to re-assume a small edge.

Minnesota Primaries: The Minnesota primary went according to projections, and now the general elections officially begin. In the open 6th District, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) retiring, former gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer, as expected, romped to a 73-27% Republican primary landslide victory over Anoka County Commissioner and former Lt. Governor candidate Rhonda Sivarajah. Mr. Emmer now faces local Mayor Joe Perske (D) in a race where the former becomes a huge favorite to capture the seat in November. In the 2nd District, former state Rep. Mike Obermueller, who was the 2012 Democratic nominee against Rep. John Kline (R), easily won his party’s nomination again. Mr. Kline is the clear favorite here, but the new 2nd District is more Democratic than the seat to which the incumbent was originally elected.

TN-4: The razor-thin Republican primary contest between Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Senator Jim Tracy continues on. The Congressman leads Sen. Tracy by 35 votes with only provisional ballots remaining. With most of the provisionals disqualified, it appears DesJarlais will have mounted a stunning comeback to win renomination to a third term. Expect, however, for Tracy to demand a recount since the outcome is so close.

UT-4: A new Utah-based Dan Jones & Associates/Cicero Group poll (8/7-9; 443 UT-4 registered voters) gives 2012 GOP nominee Mia Love, who lost to Rep. Jim Matheson (D) by less than 800 votes two years ago, a 44-32% lead over attorney Doug Owens (D), son of the late Congressman Wayne Owens (D-UT-2). Ms. Love is a strong favorite in this heavily Republican seat, so the data results, despite her having a double-digit lead, is a bit tepid for her.

Wisconsin Primaries: The Badger State also held its primary election during the week, and only one race had major competition…and a surprise ending. The open 6th District (Rep. Tom Petri (R), retiring) featured a potentially faulty Associated Press victory projection for state Sen. Glenn Grothman over his three Republican opponents. As the counting proceeded toward morning in Sheboygan County, the race changed and fellow state Sen. Joe Leibham pulled to within a scant 214 votes of Grothman, wiping out virtually all of his eight-percentage point lead. With only provisional ballots left to count, it is still likely that Mr. Grothman ekes out a win, but a recount request and legal challenge could be forthcoming from Leibham.


Connecticut Primary: The closest gubernatorial race of 2010 will go to re-match in 2014. Former US Ambassador Tom Foley, who lost to Gov. Dan Malloy (D) by less than 7,000 votes four years ago, won a 56-44% Republican primary victory earlier this week. He defeated state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, the son of the late former US Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-CT-4). Many believe the Foley victory is an under-performance and despite polls showing the re-match to be close or even tilting the ex-Ambassador’s way, it is quite possible that Gov. Malloy is stronger than he appears on paper.

Kansas: The aforementioned Rasmussen Reports survey (see Kansas Senate above) finds Gov. Sam Brownback (R), despite winning 63% in his Republican primary challenge, trailing Democratic nominee Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader, by a full ten percentage points, 41-51%. Polling has been signaling a Brownback weakness for weeks.

Minnesota Primary: Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson captured the Republican gubernatorial nomination and wins the right to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton (D). The Governor, who won a very close election in the 2010 Republican landslide, is heavily favored for a second term.

Ohio: Public Policy Polling tested the Governor’s race (8/8-9; 801 OH registered voters) in a quick flash poll and found Gov. John Kasich (R) leading Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) 50-44%. Most recent polls have given the Governor a lead beyond the margin of polling error.