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Period Ending August 9, 2013

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

Senate

Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) officially announced his challenge to Sen. Mark Pryor (D) early in the week setting the stage for a tough campaign that could well determine which party controls the Senate in the coming 114th Congress. Three polls have already been released on the race, each showing something quite different. The American Federation of State Municipal and County Employees Union, AFL-CIO, published their poll of the race (7/23-27; 729 AR registered voters) and found Sen. Pryor to be leading 43-35%. Magellan Strategies conducted a re-elect push poll (7/30-31; 1,600 AR registered voters) solely about the Senator. Before the push questions were asked, 37% of the polling sample respondents said they would vote to re-elect Mr. Pryor, while 47% say they prefer a new person. After the negative push questions, the ratio soared to 30:59%. Finally, Harper Polling (8/4-5; 587 AR registered voters), surveying for the Arkansas Republican Party, finds Mr. Cotton taking the lead 43-41%.

Georgia: Public Policy Polling conducted a new Georgia survey (8/2-5; 520 GA registered voters; 260 "usual" Republican primary voters) and found a forecast for a tight general election, assuming the early going of this campaign is providing a long-term indication. According to the data, consensus Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, daughter of former US Senator Sam Nunn (D), pulls into a tie with two of the prospective Republican nominees and leads the others. Matched against Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) and former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David Perdue (R), Ms. Nunn registers a 41-41% and 40-40% tie with each man, respectively. She leads Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) 40-38%, and enjoys her best-projected finish against Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10), 41-36%. In the Republican primary, it is Mr. Gingrey with a lead beyond the margin of error, posting a 25% share of the small GOP sample. Rep. Broun was second with 19%; Rep. Kingston was third at 15%; Ms. Handel next at 13%; and Mr. Perdue in fifth place with only 5%.

Kentucky: On the heels of Public Policy Polling releasing figures last week showing challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), Kentucky's Secretary of State, leading Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) 45-44% in a Democratic push poll, the Grimes campaign released their own internal Mellman Group survey (7/20-24; 720 KY registered voters) that also gives the Democratic challenger a slight lead. In this poll, Grimes is up 44-42%. Meanwhile, Sen. McConnell launched his second television attack on Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin, again attacking him on his failure to pay business and personal property taxes, the latter on a home in Maine. Bevin responded with a six-figure buy attacking McConnell for "slinging mud".

Louisiana: Magellan Strategies also polled the Louisiana electorate (7/29-30; 1,800 LA registered voters) in the same push poll format as explained in the above Arkansas paragraph. For Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), 39% of the respondents favor her re-election versus 51% who say they would support a new person. After the negative push questions were asked the ratio expanded to 31% who would vote to re-elect Landrieu and 59% who would favor a new person. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) is Ms. Landrieu's likely general election opponent.

Montana: Denise Juneau, the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, became the third statewide elected Democrat to announce that she will not seek retiring Sen. Max Baucus' (D) seat. Aside from Ms. Juneau, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and state Auditor Monica Lindeen previously said they will not run for the Senate next year. The most likely potential Democratic candidates are now Lt. Gov. John Walsh and Baucus former state director John Lewis. Freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) is expected to run for the Republicans but has yet to announce his candidacy.

New Hampshire: The University of New Hampshire, not known for their polling reliability, nonetheless, went back into the field to test the job approval ratings of their federal delegation. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), seeking a second term next year, rates as the state's most liked member of Congress. According to their 7/18-29 poll of 516 New Hampshire adults – not even registered voters – Sen. Shaheen carries a major 53:23% positive to negative job approval ratio. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), not on the ballot until 2016, is also in positive territory, but holds a much weaker 41:32% index rating.

New Jersey: A new Quinnipiac University poll (8/1-5; 2,042 NJ registered voters) again confirms Newark Mayor Cory Booker is steaming toward a Democratic primary victory next week in the crucial vote to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). According to the results, Mr. Booker is well over 50%, claiming 54% of the primary vote. He has hovered around this number for the entire special election cycle. In second place way back at 17% is Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6). Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) follows with 15%, and state House Speaker Sheila Oliver falls all the way to 5%. The election is next Tuesday. The special general election is scheduled for October 16th. Interim Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R) will serve until a new Senator is officially elected.

House

HI-1: Two more Democrats, state Rep. Mark Takai and Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, joined the field of candidates attempting to replace Rep. Collen Hanabusa (D) in the US House. The Congresswoman is challenging appointed Sen. Brian Schatz in next year's Democratic primary. Already running are state Sen. Will Espero and Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang. On the Republican side, former Rep. Charles Djou has still not made an official decision as to whether he will run again.

IA-1: Perhaps the Republicans' best potential candidate to run in the Democratic leaning eastern state 1st Congressional District, open next year because of incumbent Bruce Braley's (D) run for the Senate, has decided not to run. State House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R) announced that he will seek re-election to his current position.

LA-5: Rep. Rodney Alexander (R), first elected in 2002 as a Democrat but who switched parties before the 2004 election, announced that he will resign from Congress to become Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) director of the Louisiana department of Veterans Affairs. Counting the two vacant seats currently in special election mode, the resignation brings the total number of open seats to sixteen, a far cry from the 2012 cycle's sixty-two. The northeast Louisiana seat will remain in Republican hands. Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here 61-38% in 2012. Gov. Jindal has scheduled October 19th as the replacement special primary election followed by a run-off vote, if no candidate breaks the 50% threshold, for November 16th. Candidate filing will already close on August 21st.

MI-1: Former Army General Jerry Cannon (D), who has also served as Sheriff of Kalkaska County, made official his congressional challenge to sophomore Rep. Dan Benishek (R). After winning big in 2010 with an eleven-percentage point victory over state Rep. Gary McDowell (D), the Congressman's victory margin dropped to just one point last November. Mr. Cannon could well prove formidable on the campaign trail, but the northern Michigan mid-term turnout model, drastically different than the voting pattern in recent general elections, should favor Rep. Benishek and the Republicans.

NH-1; 2: The aforementioned University of New Hampshire poll also tested the job approval ratings for Democratic Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster in their swing 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. Ms. Shea-Porter ranks a rather low 37:28% favorable to unfavorable. Freshman Rep. Kuster, from a more Democratic district, fares surprisingly worse. Her index is only 27:25%.

NY-21: Elise Stefanik (R), who worked in the George W. Bush White House on the domestic policy staff and handled debate preparations for 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), announced that she will challenge Rep. Bill Owens (D) in the marginal Upstate New York congressional district formerly represented by Army Secretary John McHugh (R). Stefanik, 29, returned to New York to work in her family's business after the presidential election concluded. This seat should be competitive in 2014, but it has eluded Republicans since McHugh vacated to join the Administration.

Governor

Alaska: Former Valdez Mayor Bill Walker, who had been publicly contemplating challenging Gov. Scott Parnell in the Republican primary, has decided to run as an Independent instead. Like Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Maine, Alaska is a state that has proven it will elect Independents to high political office. It remains to be seen if Mr. Walker can mount a strong campaign, but running as an Independent in this state is not a disqualifier from potentially winning as it is in some places.

New Hampshire: The UNH poll mentioned in the Senate and House sections also rated first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) on her job performance. The poll finds her to be in very strong shape, scoring a 58:18% positive to negative rating. New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states that limit their gubernatorial terms to two years, thus Gov. Hassan is again on the ballot in 2014. Her positive approval ratings suggest that she is in position to cruise to re-election for a second term.

New Jersey: The aforementioned Quinnipiac survey continues to show Republican Gov. Chris Christie with a huge margin as he heads for a second term victory in the November regular state election. According to the Q-Poll, Gov. Christie leads Democratic nominee Barbara Buono 58-30%.

Rhode Island: Now that vulnerable Gov. Lincoln Chafee has gone from being the nation’s only elected Independent state chief executive to joining the Democratic Party, John Robataille the Republican nominee who placed second to Chafee in 2010, now says he is re-considering his decision not to seek the office in 2014. Because of the three-way split in the last election, Chafee won a 36-34-23% victory over Robataille and then-state Treasurer Frank Caprio (D). Now, as a Democrat, the Governor will likely face stiff primary competition from current state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and possibly Mayors Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence and Allan Fung of Cranston. Robataille running on the Republican ticket would add a new dimension to the campaign. If a weakened Gov. Chafee manages to win the Democratic nomination, the general election could be worth watching.

Texas: State Senator Wendy Davis (D), who recently attracted national media attention for her filibuster of the state's new abortion-related legislation, said in a speech to the National Press Club that she will either run for re-election to her current position in 2014 or for Governor. She ruled out running for any of the other many statewide positions that will be contested next year, including an open race for Attorney General.