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Period Ending August 7, 2015

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

President

Debates and Forums: The Republican debate schedule has begun. A New Hampshire forum featuring 14 GOP presidential candidates was sponsored by the Manchester Union Leader news publication. The first debate, under Fox News sponsorship, was controversial in that the organization decision makers invited only ten of the 17 candidates. The remainder, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, the latter who won eleven states in the 2012 presidential contest, were subrogated to a secondary format.

Polls: WMUR-TV in Manchester and the University of New Hampshire combined to produce another of their Granite State Polls. The survey sampled 722 adult New Hampshire citizens, 276 of whom say they will vote in the Democratic primary. Though the sample is statistically too small to be relevant, they publicized that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-Vermont) is closing the gap with Hillary Clinton, trailing the former Secretary of State and First Lady only 42-36%. Elsewhere, though Clinton’s favorability ratios are poor, she still places in the 50s against Sanders and the other candidates, holding the Vermont Senator to the low 20s. Other Republican polls, such as the Fox News survey (7/30-8/3; 475 likely Republican primary voters) that went a long way to helping decide which of the candidates were invited to their debate, found Donald Trump extending his lead over the rest of the field. He posted 24% compared to Jeb Bush’s 14%, and Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) 9 percent.

Senate

Arizona: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) had been mentioned as a potential challenger to Sen. John McCain (R), but that idea has now been extinguished. Two elements factored in her announcement that she would not seek re-election in favor of running for re-election. First, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) formally declaring herself a Senate candidate in late May made Sinema also running less of an option. Secondly, when the US Supreme Court rejected the Republican lawsuit against the constitutionality of congressional redistricting commissions, thus preserving the map in its present form, made seeking re-election the prudent course of action for the second term lawmaker. Rep. Sinema will be heavily favored for a third term.

Illinois: Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin entered the Democratic US Senate primary this week. He joins Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) and former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp in the nomination campaign. The winner faces Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in the general election with bright prospects of ousting the first-term incumbent. Now featuring two Chicago African American candidates, Rep. Duckworth’s chances of winning the nomination grow because the black vote will be largely split.

Maryland: Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) ended speculation about furthering his political career. To no one’s surprise, Ehrlich stated that he will not run for President, nor his state’s open US Senate seat. Mr. Ehrlich was never expected to enter the race for either position.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Katie McGinty, who recently resigned as chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf (D), announced that she will challenge ex-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) for the party nomination. Democratic leadership figures such as the party state chairman and Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA-1) have been publicly hunting for a new candidate, and found McGinty. Whether she can replace Sestak is open to question. She, herself, ran for Governor in 2014 but only placed fourth of four candidates, attracting less than 8% of the Democratic vote. Upon her announcement, however, the United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, formally endorsed her effort. The winner faces Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in what is likely a Democratic must-win campaign.

House

Florida Redistricting: Republican legislative leaders unveiled a map that will form the basis of what the legislature will eventually adopt. This particular draw would likely concede the now open 13th District, the focal point of the state Supreme Court’s action, to the Democrats most probably in the person of former Gov. Charlie Crist. That action is countered in north Florida. Rep. Gwen Graham’s (D-Tallahassee) 2nd CD becomes almost 25% more Republican, thus dooming her to defeat. It is expected that she will now jump over to the Senate race. Rep. Dan Webster’s (D-Orlando) 10th District would now go to a Democrat, but that is countered because the GOP will probably convert Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) open 18th CD. Other districts are marginally changed and could become more competitive, but those incumbents from both parties should win further terms. The legislature expects to send Gov. Rick Scott (R) a finalized plan by August 24th. The new lines will take effect for the current election cycle.

In other FL redistricting news, Rep. Corinne Brown (D-Jacksonville) has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the process of breaking up her district. It is yet unclear whether this action will delay the implementation of the new map beyond the 2016 election schedule.

AZ-1: Republican-turned-Democrat former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran announced his candidacy for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s (D) impending open seat. He likely joins state Sen. Barbara McGuire, who is still expected to enter the Democratic primary. Republicans Ken Bennett, the former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, and businessman and ex-congressional candidate Gary Kiehne have entered the GOP primary. The 1st is a marginal district that can be won by either side. O’Halleran served two terms in the AZ Senate before losing the 2008 GOP primary to a more conservative candidate. After his defeat, he switched parties and is now attempting to win office as a Democrat.

ME-2: Last week Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci (D), brother of former Governor and US Rep. John Baldacci (D), announced he would run for this seat next year. This week, state Sen. Troy Jackson (D), who lost the 2014 Democratic primary to then-state Sen. Emily Cain, said he will not try again next year. Cain, despite her disappointing loss to now-Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland) in the general election, is running again. Mr. Poliquin begins his quest for re-election as the favorite, but there is no doubt this will be a competitive seat next year.

SD-AL: State Rep. Paula Hawks (D) made formal her plans to challenge three-term Rep. Kristi Noem (R) in the statewide congressional race next year. Noem has easily repelled two challengers in her pair of re-elections, and is well poised to do so again next year. In a presidential year, with South Dakota being immediately conceded to the Republicans, Hawks would seem to have little chance for victory.

Governor

Louisiana: Triumph Campaigns, a Mississippi-based survey research firm, conducted their second poll of the Louisiana statewide elections (7/27-28; 1,543 LA registered voters). The strong respondent sample finds Sen. David Vitter (R) clinging to first place in the jungle primary format, topping state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) 33-32%. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) round out the field. Angelle posts 12% in third place; Dardenne 11% in fourth position. The top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election if no one secures a majority of the vote. Though Vitter’s lead over Edwards is small, the dynamics will greatly change when he faces him head-to-head in the general election. The primary is this October 24th, with the run-off scheduled for November 21st. Should Sen. Vitter be elected Governor, he will appoint his own successor to serve the balance of his current term. The Senate seat will stand for election in 2016.

Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant (R) won an easy re-nomination campaign early in the week, securing 92% of the vote against his lone Republican primary opponent. A surprise result occurred on the Democratic side, as truck driver Robert Gray, who raised nor spent any money, ran no advertising, and made no campaign appearances won the party nomination over two other candidates without a run-off. He faces Gov. Bryant in the general election, but with very little chance to win.