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Period Ending August 2, 2013

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


Alaska: A new Public Policy Polling survey (7/25-28; 890 AK registered voters) reveals that Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell is currently the strongest Republican to oppose first-term Sen. Mark Begich (D). According to the PPP results, Begich would lead Treadwell only 44-40% in a two-way, hypothetical general election contest. Against former Gov. Sarah Palin, the individual who places first in the Republican primary poll, the Senator holds a 52-40% edge. If Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R) were to run, Begich's lead is a less secure 46-39%. Finally, if former Republican Senatorial nominee Joe Miller were to win the 2014 party nomination, he would badly lose to Mr. Begich, 32-55%. Expect the battle for this seat to become a top tier Republican challenge race.

Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) is reportedly set to announce his challenge to Sen. Mark Pryor (D) next week. This promises to become one of the most important elections of the 2014 cycle, and will go a long way to determining which party takes Senate control at the beginning of the next Congress. The early rating must tilt toward Pryor, considering his successful statewide history here (54-46% over incumbent Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R) in 2002; unopposed in 2008), but there is a strong likelihood the race will quickly move into the Toss-up category.

Kentucky: Public Policy Polling, for the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America organizations (7/19-21; 1,210 KY registered voters), released new results in the Kentucky Senate race. For the second time, PPP has conducted a poll laced with anti-Mitch McConnell "push questions" and then publicized ballot test results showing the Senator to be in trouble. In this version, challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), Kentucky’s Secretary of State, leads the Senate Minority Leader 45-44%. This is contrasted, however, to a Wenzel Strategies poll (7/23-24; 624 KY registered voters) that posts the Senator to a 48-40% advantage.

Michigan: House Ways & Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) may be having a change of heart. Originally saying he would not run for the state's open Senate seat (Democratic Sen. Carl Levin retiring), Mr. Camp now acknowledges he is seriously considering the option. The conventional wisdom is that the mid-state Congressman would make a challenge to Democratic Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) more competitive. A just released Denno Research poll (7/23-24; 600 MI registered voters) shows the race between Mr. Peters and former two-term Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) to be a dead heat, however, with each candidate attracting 39% support. Ms. Land is non-committal as to how a Camp entry into the race would affect her candidacy.

Minnesota: State Sen. Julianne Ortman announced that she is joining the Republican primary to vie for the right of challenging first-term Sen. Al Franken (D). Already in the race is investor Mike McFadden and state Rep. Jim Abeler. The GOP field is surprisingly weak against Franken who, in 2008, won the closest election in the country, a post-election recount fiasco that took until July of 2009 to finally determine a winner.

North Carolina: In an expected announcement, sophomore Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2) confirmed that she will not challenge Sen. Kay Hagan (D) next year. Ms. Ellmers had never officially ruled out running for the Senate, but she was making no discernible moves to organize a statewide campaign. It appears that state House Speaker Thom Tillis continues to be the leading Republican candidate. The North Carolina race should become a top tier challenge campaign.

South Carolina: More Republican primary action is brewing against Sen. Lindsey Graham. In addition to western state businessman Richard Cash, who almost won the 3rd District Republican run-off against now-Rep. Jeff Duncan in 2010, Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of The Citadel, has announced her candidacy. State Sen. Lee Bright, who aligns himself with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), also says he will join the fray later in the year. Ms. Mace may have the potential of attracting significant financial support and that of major outside conservative organizations. Since South Carolina has a run-off law, the crowded field may not automatically help the incumbent. Though it is likely that such a candidate grid will almost assuredly allow Graham to place first, getting to a majority figure to avoid a run-off election is considerably more difficult.


AL-1: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has already scheduled the replacement election for resigned-Rep. Jo Bonner (R). The special primary elections are scheduled for September 24th; the run-off date is November 5th; with the general election pegged for December 17th. Eight Republicans, one Democrat, and two Independents have already announced their candidacies. The candidate filing deadline is Monday, August 5th. Republicans are favored to hold the seat.

IL-12: State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Carbondale) announced his challenge to freshman Rep. Bill Enyart (D), in the southwestern Illinois CD. Mr. Enyart is only the third person to represent this region in Congress since 1945. The race has competitive potential, but the freshman Representative must be considered a strong favorite at least in the early going.

MA-5: State Sen. Karen Spilka (D), one of three state Senators in the special election field to fill Sen. Ed Markey's (D) vacant House seat, released the results of her internal Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll (7/18-23; 405 MA-5 likely Democratic special election primary voters) that shows a very crowded Democratic field. According to the poll results, state Sen. Katherine Clark leads the group with 15%; Spilka was second at 14%; county Sheriff Peter Koutoujian was just three points from the lead at 12%; state Sen. Will Brownsberger was right behind posting 11%; and state Rep. Carl Sciortino, the first person to announce his candidacy, falls to last place registering just 4%. The special primary elections will be held October 15th, with the special general on December 10th. The winner of the Democratic primary will become the prohibitive favorite to win the succeeding vote.

WV-3: Democratic State Sen. Evan Jenkins held a news conference late this week and made two major announcements. He first officially left the Democratic Party and became a Republican, and then formally declared his intent to challenge nineteen-term Rep. Nick Rahall (D) in the southern West Virginia congressional district. Mr. Jenkins may first have to face 2012 Republican nominee Rick Snuffer, however, who held Mr. Rahall to a 54-46% victory. Mr. Snuffer has not ruled out another run. The 3rd District is becoming more Republican in voting behavior, hence this could become a highly competitive race despite Mr. Rahall's longevity in office.


Alaska: The previously sited Public Policy Polling survey also tested Gov. Scott Parnell (R) as he prepares to seek re-election. Despite only having a 44:42% job approval rating, the Governor performs well on the ballot test questions. Against former Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz, the man Mr. Parnell defeated in 2010, the Governor leads 51-38%. Paired with state Sen. Hollis French (D), Mr. Parnell's margin improves to 54-33%.

Arkansas: Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who challenged then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the 2010 Democratic primary that served as a prelude to her general election landslide defeat, has decided not to pursue his 2014 run for Governor. Earlier in the year, Mr. Halter had announced his candidacy, but now will back away from another intra-party challenge. The move should give former Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) a clear shot at the Democratic nomination. For the Republicans, ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3) appears to be the consensus candidate. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. With this and the Senate race, Arkansas will be a hotbed of political activity next year..

Job Approvals: Two different pollsters tested two wildly different Governors in two different parties and found exactly the same results. Quinnipiac University (7/15-17; 1,256 IA registered voters) surveyed Gov. Terry Branstad's (R-IA) job approval rating, and the Field Poll (6/26-7/21; 846 CA registered voters) measured Golden State Gov. Jerry Brown's (D-CA) standing. Both men scored an identical 51:33% favorable to unfavorable.

Maine: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Maine Education Association (7/11-16; 400 ME registered voters) finds Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to be leading Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Independent Eliot Cutler by a 40-31-26% count. LePage was elected (2010) in a similar three-way configuration that featured Cutler finishing second. Rep. Michaud has filed a gubernatorial exploratory committee but has not yet officially announced his statewide candidacy.

Michigan: The aforementioned Denno Research poll also tested the Governor's race. According to their results, incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leads former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7) 43-37%. DR suggests that the Governor's approval rating has improved six points since their last poll to 44% positive, largely due to his handling of the Detroit bankruptcy issue.

New Hampshire: State Rep. George Lambert (R) announced his candidacy against first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). Mr. Lambert becomes the first official Republican challenger. New Hampshire and Vermont are the only states that limit their gubernatorial terms to two years. Ms. Hassan was first elected in 2012. In recent years, the state has swung wildly between Democrats and Republicans in presidential years versus mid-terms.

New Jersey: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono, a state Senator, has chosen Service Employees International Union executive Milly Silva as her running mate for Lt. Governor. The move is an obvious attempt at rallying organized labor to her cause. At this point in the campaign, Gov. Chris Christie (R) is an overwhelming favorite for re-election.