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Period Ending September 20, 2013

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

Senate

Michigan: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI-3) this week confirmed that he won’t run for the Senate next year. The statement was confirmation of the conventional wisdom. Never was there an active indication that the Congressman was preparing a statewide run. This is another indication that former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land will soon become the consensus Republican candidate. Rep. Amash is expected to seek re-election to the House.

Montana: Former Gov. Marc Racicot (R) officially announced that he will not run for the Senate, though he had not been characterized as a likely candidate. This further clears the way for Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL), but he has as yet to make a formal declaration for the Senate. Veteran incumbent and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D) is retiring. Lt. Gov. John Walsh continues to be the most obvious potential Democratic candidate.

New Hampshire: A new Public Policy Polling survey (9/13-16; 1,038 NH registered voters) shows an improving situation for former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). Earlier in the year he made public his considerations of moving to the Granite State to challenge Ms. Shaheen. Since then, not much has come of the idea though this poll might encourage him. According to the PPP data, the Senator has only a 48-44% lead over Mr. Brown. When paired with former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), who also made statements that he is considering the race, Shaheen’s standing swells to a 51-41% advantage. Against former Sen. Bob Smith (R), who has returned to the state from Florida, Sen. Shaheen leads 51-35%. Opposing state Sen. Jim Rubens, who officially became a US Senate candidate this past week, Ms. Shaheen’s margin is 50-33%.

West Virginia: As long expected, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) has now declared her candidacy for the US Senate. Since there has been little activity within Democratic circles to succeed retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D), Ms. Tennant should quickly become the party's consensus candidate. She will very likely oppose Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), who has been running even before Sen. Rockefeller made public his retirement decision. Capito is favored, but this race will turn competitive.

House

AL-1: The special primary election to replace resigned Rep. Jo Bonner (R) will occur next Tuesday, September 24th. All of the action is on the Republican side as nine candidates are vying to qualify for a November 5th run-off election. If no candidate receives an outright majority, a secondary election is held between the top two finishers, a virtual certainty in such a large field. Former state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne appears to have the best chance of qualifying for the run-off. Businessman and former congressional candidate Dean Young, conservative columnist Quin Hillyer, former Republican National Committee deputy chief of staff Wells Griffith, and state Rep. Chad Fincher appear to be the most competitive contenders.

CT-4: State Rep. John Shaban (R) joins 2010 Republican nominee Dan Debicella in what could lead to a primary for the right to challenge three-term incumbent Jim Himes (D). The Congressman defeated then-Rep. Chris Shays (R) in 2008, topped Debicella with 53% of the vote in 2010, and won re-election against lesser opposition last year with 59%. Rep. Himes begins this cycle as the clear favorite to win again.

IL-17: In a We Ask America poll (released 9/17; 1,496 IL-17 registered voters) former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) pulls to within a 44-45% margin of freshman Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) in the western Illinois congressional seat anchored in the Quad Cities region. Schilling unseated then-Rep. Phil Hare (D) 53-43% in the Republican landslide year of 2010. He then lost to Bustos 47-53% in 2012 with Illinois favorite son Barack Obama leading the Democratic ticket. Last month, Mr. Schilling announced that he would seek a re-match with Rep. Bustos. The initial poll suggests another tough election is on the horizon.

Governor

Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler officially became the third Republican to enter the Governor’s contest, joining former US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) and state Sen. Greg Brophy. The winner of the June 24, 2014 primary faces now vulnerable Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), assuming all three candidates qualify for the ballot at the Republican nominating convention.

Kansas: As expected, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) will run for Governor in 2014. This week, he announced his challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback (R). He is likely to become the consensus party candidate. Despite low job approval ratings, Gov. Brownback is an early favorite for re-election.

Illinois: Bill Daley, the former US Commerce Secretary and chief of staff to President Obama who was challenging Gov. Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary, abruptly withdrew from the race saying that his level of “commitment” is not what the people need. Early polls showed him running neck and neck with the Governor. The move is good news for Gov. Quinn, who will now evade a difficult primary. The eventual Republican nominee will likely benefit, too, because he will draw Gov. Quinn as his general election opponent, which is the party’s desire.

Massachusetts: Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), best known for losing to Republican Scott Brown in the 2010 special Senatorial election after Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away, announced that she will enter the open Governor's race in 2014. The campaign is expected to be competitive both in the Democratic primary opposing state Treasurer Steve Grossman and others, and against consensus Republican candidate Charlie Baker, the 2010 nominee who held Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to a six-point win. Mr. Patrick, though eligible to run for a third term, is retiring.

Nevada: Term-limited Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), never viewed as a particularly serious gubernatorial hopeful, announced that she will not challenge Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) next year. At this point, Mr. Sandoval has no formal opponent.

New Hampshire: The previously mentioned NH Public Policy Polling surveyed also tested Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), who will be seeking her first re-election. Like Vermont, New Hampshire Governors serve only two-year terms, the only two states to employ such a system. According to the PPP data, Gov. Hassan is in strong re-election position. Her closest early potential challenger, state Rep. George Lambert (R) comes within a 49-42% range. Hassan leads all others by double-digits.

New Jersey: A Rutgers-Eagleton poll (9/3-9; 568 NJ likely voters) gives Gov. Chris Christie (R) a 55-35% lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D) for the upcoming November 5th statewide vote. Gov. Christie has been in strong re-election position for more than a year.

Rhode Island: Though he has yet to formally announce his gubernatorial candidacy, Providence Mayor Angel Tavares (D) released results from his recent internal Garin Hart Yang Research Group poll (9/10-12; 400 RI registered voters). The data posts the Mayor to a 49-30% lead over state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, also a presumed but not announced, candidate. The eventual Democratic nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the general election. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) is not seeking a second term.

Virginia: A new Quinnipiac University poll (9/9-15; 1,005 VA registered voters) shows a much closer gubernatorial race than other surveys within a similar time frame. According to the Q-Poll, Democrat Terry McAuliffe edges Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 44-41%. The other studies give McAuliffe leads of five to seven points. Cuccinelli, in particular, has poor popularity ratings, 34:51% favorable to unfavorable according to this survey sample. McAuliffe scores 38:38%.

Wisconsin: Despite the Democrats not yet fielding a viable challenger against Gov. Scott Walker (R), the polling is still showing a close race. Walker, who won a recall election in 2012, is viewed as being in strong political shape for re-election, but the latest Public Policy Polling survey (9/13-16; 1,180 WI registered voters) shows very little movement from their previous polling. While Walker leads all prospective Democratic opponents, his advantage is small. Paired with state Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Gov. Walker scores a 47-43% edge. If state Sen. Kathleen Vineout is his general election opponent, Mr. Walker's spread is 47-41%. Against businesswoman and school board member Mary Burke, the Governor's margin is 48-42%.

Mayor

New York City: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio became the official Democratic nominee for Mayor despite not all of the votes being counted. Second place finisher Bill Thompson, who scored only 26% of the vote in comparison to de Blasio’s 40.3%, conceded the race and will not seek a run-off election. The development means that Mr. de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Metropolitan Transit Authority Board chairman, will square off in the general election. Despite the Democrats not winning a mayoral election here in 20 years, de Blasio will begin the general election cycle as a big favorite. The Marist/New York Times general election poll is the first to be released. According to the poll (9/15-16; 632 likely NYC voters), Mr. de Blasio is jumping off to a huge 65-22% lead, including support of 25% of the sample's Republican voters. Quinnipiac University (9/15-18; 891 NYC registered voters) also reported similar numbers. The Q-Poll yields a 66-25% de Blasio advantage.