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Period Ending August 8, 2014

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

Senate

Alaska: With the Republican Senatorial primary fast approaching on August 19th, two GOP primary polls were just released, one from Moore Information (7/29-31; 375 AK Republican primary voters) and the other from Public Policy Polling (7/31-8/3; 337 AK Republican primary voters), and they returned similar results. Both show former Attorney General and Natural Resources Department Director Dan Sullivan leading the GOP field. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 US Senate nominee Joe Miller follow in that order. MI gives Sullivan a 35-27-16% advantage; PPP, 35-29-20%. The winner challenges first-term Sen. Mark Begich (D) in November, a race that is clearly evolving into a toss-up campaign.

Hawaii: Primary day is tomorrow in Hawaii, and the long awaited Democratic nomination contest between appointed Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) will be decided. Most polls give Schatz an advantage, but Hawaii is typically the most difficult state to poll. The well publicized double hurricane situation involving storms Iselle and Julio could affect the voter turnout patterns. Who benefits from the different voter participation model remains to be seen.

Kansas Primary: Sen. Pat Roberts (R) won renomination to a fourth term earlier this week, but with just 48% of the vote among the GOP primary electorate. Dr. Milton Wolf, the Senator’s principle challenger, received 41% of the vote. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who won the Democratic nomination with a less than inspiring 53%, will challenge Roberts in the general election. Kansas’ strong Republican nature still favors a Roberts victory in the fall.

Michigan Primary: Though both Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) had no primary opposition, they are both now official party nominees. A new poll came forth right after the primary, however, from the Marketing Resource Group (7/26-30; 600 MI likely voters) giving Peters a 42-36% lead over Ms. Land, and 47-40% when “leaners” are included for both candidates.

Montana: Appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) suspended his campaign to win the seat in November and withdrew from the race. Revelations that he plagiarized his War College thesis became a stumbling block that he could not overcome, so the former military man and Lt. Governor exited the race while the Democrats still have time to replace him. The party leaders must now quickly convene a nominating convention, and do so before August 20th in order to qualify a candidate for the ballot. GOP nominee Steve Daines, the state’s at-large Congressman, now has ample opportunity to expand his already discernible lead. Move this seat to Likely Republican.

New Jersey: Quinnipiac University’s new poll (7/31-8/4; 1,148 NJ registered voters) returned numbers similar to the YouGov poll that we reported upon last week. The data shows Republican challenger Jeff Bell again to be within ten points of Sen. Cory Booker (D), 37-47%. But, this should not be taken particularly seriously for several reasons. First, Bell has little name identification statewide. Second, he has almost a non-existent campaign treasury in a state that is one of the most expensive in the nation to advertise. Third, Republicans typically poll better in New Jersey than they run. This race should still be considered Likely Democratic.

North Carolina: After a few weeks of seeing Sen. Kay Hagan (D) cling to a small lead over NC House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), a new survey is reporting opposite results. Rasmussen Reports (8/5-6; 750 NC likely voters) projects Tillis to be holding a 45-40% lead over incumbent Sen. Hagan. The poll did not include, however, the name of Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh, who has been scoring in high single-digits. This certainly could affect the poll’s conclusion.

Oregon: Despite Republicans being excited over the campaign of first-time Republican nominee Monica Wehby, a new poll doesn’t find her gaining any ground against Sen. Jeff Merkley (D). Survey USA (8/1-5; 564 OR likely voters) finds the first-term incumbent holding a healthy 52-33% advantage over Dr. Wehby.

Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander won an uninspiring 50-41% Republican primary victory over state Rep. Joe Carr on Thursday night, but his nomination now virtually guarantees his re-election in the fall. Winning a very tight Democratic contest, Sen. Alexander’s November opponent will be Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball.

Virginia: The Hampton University Center for Public Policy surveyed the Virginia electorate (7/27-30; 804 VA likely voters) and found, to no one’s surprise, that Sen. Mark Warner (D) has a strong lead over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie (R) in their 2014 Senate campaign. The numbers show Sen. Warner leading Mr. Gillespie and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis 53-28-5%.

House

Kansas Primaries: All three House incumbents who drew primary competition were successfully re-nominated. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4) trounced former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), 63-37%, and Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-2) was also a big winner in her Republican contest. The closest race came in the 1st District, where former school superintendent Alan LaPolice held two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) to a 55-45% win. All of these House members and the state’s other congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS-3), are expected to win easy re-election victories in the fall.

LA-5: A new poll gives scandal-tainted freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R) a lead against his jungle primary foes, but also proves he is a wounded candidate. According to Glasscock Consulting (released 8/6; 519 LA-5 likely voters) McAllister only pulls 27% support from the polling sample. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D) is second with 21%, before Republicans Ralph Abraham and Zach Dashel bring up the rear at 18 and 14%, respectively. The troubling point from McAllister’s perspective is that the combined opponents’ decided support percentage already exceeds 50% (53).

Michigan Primaries: As expected, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI-11) fell to attorney and GOP activist David Trott, by a huge 66-34% margin, which will end the incumbent’s tenure in office after one term in the state’s 11th District. Trott now becomes the favorite to defeat new Democratic nominee Bobby McKenzie (D) in the general election. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI-3) turned back a stiff and well-organized challenge from Grand Rapids businessman Brian Ellis (R), 57-43%. The open 4th District was billed to be a virtual tie, but it wasn’t. State Sen. John Moolenaar easily outdistanced businessmen Paul Mitchell and Peter Konetchy, 52-36-11%. In the Lansing area’s 8th District, former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) performed as predicted over state Rep. Tom McMillin, defeating him 60-40%.

In the three-way Detroit Democratic contest, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence nipped state Rep. Rudy Hobbs and former US Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) by a tight 36-32-31% margin, respectively. Ms. Lawrence will easily win the seat in November and replace Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14), who is running for Senate.

Other incumbent primary winners were Reps. Dan Benishek (R-MI-1), Fred Upton (R-MI-6), Tim Walberg (R-MI-7), and John Conyers (D-MI-13). In the open 12th District, lobbyist Debbie Dingell (D) won the Democratic nomination – which is tantamount to victory in the general election - to replace her retiring husband John Dingell (D), whose 59-year service tenure is longer than any other House member in US history.

Missouri Primary: Though their election drew little attention, Missourians also went to the polls early this week. Five of the state’s eight incumbents drew primary opposition, and all won landslide victories. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO-3; 79%), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-4; 75%), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-5; 82%), Sam Graves (R-MO-6; 77%), and Billy Long (R-MO-7; 62%) all sailed to renomination against less than credible candidates. All of the state’s incumbents are favored to win in the fall.

Tennessee Primary: The big Volunteer State news is the closeness of two Republican primaries involving sitting incumbents. Rep. Charles Fleischmann (R-TN-3) won a 1,469-vote victory (51-49%) over businessman Weston Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp (R). But the 4th District race was much closer. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) leads the preliminary final count by a total of 33 votes over state Sen. Jim Tracy in a campaign that saw almost 78,000 people vote. A recount here is a virtual certainty. All other incumbents won easily, including Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) who scored a 66% victory to all but secure a fifth term in office. Cohen, an Anglo, represents a district where the African American population tops 60 percent.

Washington Primary: The Evergreen State also uses the jungle primary system and, for the first time since they adopted the procedure, two members of the same party advanced to the general election. In the open 4th District, to replace the retiring Rep. Doc Hastings (R), Republicans Clint Didier, a former NFL football player, and ex-state Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse will square off in the general election. The two topped eight other Republicans, two Democrats, and two Independents. Didier placed first, securing 31% as compared to Newhouse’s 26 percent. With Washington’s vote-by-mail system that allows ballots postmarked on Election Day to be counted, only 75% of the precincts have been fully tabulated. The closest two primary results were Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) placing ahead of businessman Bob Dingethal (D), 48-39%, and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10) notching a 52-41% advantage over Pierce County Councilwoman Joyce McDonald (R).

Governor

Florida: Another new poll was released this week, and this time it is Survey USA (7/31-8/4; 576 FL likely voters) that shows former Gov. Charlie Crist’s (D) lead over incumbent Rick Scott (R) has dissipated. According to the S-USA data, Scott now leads Crist 45-43%.

Hawaii: The weather problems described above could also have a profound effect upon the political prospects for state Sen. David Ige’s challenge of incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D). With the vote coming tomorrow, multiple polls reveal large Ige leads against the Governor, and Abercrombie becomes the first 2014 sitting Governor to be seriously endangered in his fight for re-nomination. Should Abercrombie rebound to prevail, the general election doesn’t look much better. Largely due to the presence of former Democratic Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, now running as an Independent, ex-Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) leads both Abercrombie and Ige in early general election polling.

Kansas: Gov. Sam Brownback won his Republican primary victory with 63% of the vote, not an impressive figure but one that shows improvement over his previous standing. He now faces state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D). Polls currently favor Davis, but Kansas’ strong Red Republican history will give the Governor an eventual edge heading toward November.

Michigan: Though neither Gov. Rick Snyder (R) or ex-Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7) had primary competition another new poll was released into the public domain this week. A Marketing Resource Group poll (7/26-30; 600 MI likely voters) again forecasts a close contest between the two now-official party nominees. The first ballot test gave Gov. Snyder a 39-37% edge. When leaners were added, the incumbent’s already small lead shrunk even further to 45-44%.

Oregon: The aforementioned Survey USA poll (see Oregon Senate above) also tested the Governor’s race. They find three-term incumbent John Kitzhaber (D) holding a 48-36% advantage over state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R).

Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam (R) romped to an 88% victory in his Republican primary. He will now face Democrat Charles Brown in November, a candidate who does not even have a campaign website. Gov. Haslam is a lock for re-election in the fall.