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Period Ending September 27, 2013

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

Senate

Illinois: Many will remember Jim Oberweis, the dairy and investment magnate who has repeatedly run for state and federal office in Illinois. After two US Senate races and a gubernatorial campaign followed by a special election congressional effort, all ending in defeats, Mr. Oberweis was elected to the state Senate last November. Now, he may be looking to run statewide yet again. A new We Ask America poll (9/24; 1,434 IL registered voters) shows him trailing Sen. Dick Durbin (D) by a 50-39% margin, a strong enough range to prompt Oberweis to admit that he is considering such a challenge. Right now, the most significant Republican candidate appears to be Kane County School Board member Chad Koppie, hardly strong competition for the Senate Majority Whip.

Nebraska: Banking executive Sid Dinsdale announced his Senatorial candidacy, joining the Republican field of candidates. Mr. Dinsdale has the ability to self-fund his campaign. Already in the race are former state Treasurer Shane Osborn and Midland University President Ben Sasse. Sen. Mike Johanns (R) is retiring after one term. The eventual Republican nominee will be a prohibitive favorite in the general election.

New Jersey: Quinnipiac University (9/19-22; 948 NJ registered voters) adopted a likely voters screen for their latest Garden State survey, and found much better numbers for Republican candidate Steve Lonegan. Under this model, Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s lead is 53-41%. In their last study (August), the Q-Poll posted Mr. Booker to a 54-29% advantage. Though this model suggests an improved Lonegan position, the Democratic nominee is still in the driver’s seat for the October 16th special election

North Carolina: It looks like state House Speaker Thom Tillis has moved closer to becoming the virtual consensus candidate to oppose first-term Senator Kay Hagan (D). On the heels of state Senate President Phil Berger (R) announcing that he will not run statewide, state Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-Winston-Salem) also said he will not pursue the contest. This leaves Tillis facing only minor competition. The race should be among the most competitive in the nation, but Mr. Tillis still has to prove his viability as a major general election candidate.

West Virginia: Public Policy Polling (9/19-22; 1,110 WV registered voters) became the first pollster to test the West Virginia electorate since Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) officially declared her candidacy last week. According to the results, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) leads Ms. Tennant 50-36%. The WV seat is a must win conversion race for the GOP. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) is retiring after five terms.

House

AL-1: The special primary election to replace resigned Rep. Jo Bonner (R) was held on Tuesday of this week, and Democrats nominated former state Representative candidate Burton LeFlore, outright. He avoids a run-off election by scoring 70% of the vote. The Republicans will go to a November 5th secondary election, as the field of nine candidates has been winnowed to two, neither of whom came close to garnering majority support. Former state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne and businessman and former congressional candidate Dean Young advanced to the second election. More than 51,000 individuals voted in the Republican primary versus just over 4,300 for the Democrats. The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite for the December 17th special general election.

NH-1: Former Rep. Frank Guinta (R), who was defeated for re-election after one term in office, will seek a re-match against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). The voters of this swing district have defeated three incumbents, including both Shea-Porter and Guinta, since 2006. The other losing incumbent is former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R), who later entered the state Senate and is now the body’s Majority Leader. Not surprisingly, the third Shea-Porter/Guinta contest is projected to be close.

NY-24: While defeated Rep. Guinta has decided to make a play for his former House seat as described above, one of his colleagues in a similar position has chosen a different path. Former one-term Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) says she will not challenge Rep. Dan Maffei (D) next year. She unseated Maffei in 2010, but he returned the favor last year in a post-redistricting Syracuse district. President Obama just recently nominated Ms. Buerkle to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, a position to which she must now win Senate confirmation.

Governor

Arizona: Movement has occurred within the Republican gubernatorial field. Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced that he will become a candidate, while Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman withdrew his name from the contest and instead entered the state Treasurer’s race. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Florida: 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D), who lost to Gov. Rick Scott (R) by just one percentage point, says she will not see a re-match in 2014. The sudden death of her husband, attorney and former gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride, is a key factor that led to her decision. Ms. Sink is the state’s former Chief Financial Officer, an elected position in Florida. Now, the Democratic field is wide open for the return of Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist to seek the party nomination, if he so chooses. So far, Mr. Crist, who served as Governor from 2007 to 2011 and lost the 2010 US Senate contest to Marco Rubio (R), has not announced his political intentions.

Massachusetts: Newly-announced gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, the state’s Attorney General, has jumped out to a strong Democratic primary lead, topping her closest rivals by twenty points or more. Public Policy Polling (9/20-23; 616 MA registered voters; 324 “usual” Democratic primary voters) gives Ms. Coakley a 41-21-9% lead over Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA-7) and state Treasurer Steve Grossman. Five other Democratic candidates registered on the poll, but each drew under 9%. In a general election match-up with 2010 Republican nominee Charlie Baker, Ms. Coakley also begins with a significant lead. According to the early results, she would lead Mr. Baker 51-38%. Late in the week, even after hiring a pollster and media consultant, Rep. Capuano, as he did in the 2012 Senate race, backed away from running and will again seek re-election to the House.

New Jersey: The same tightly-screened Quinnipiac University poll designed to forecast the lower odd-numbered election year turnout (see Senate – New Jersey above) yields Republican Gov. Chris Christie (R) an even bigger lead than commensurate surveys. According to this data, the Governor has a mega 64-30% lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono (D).

Pennsylvania: The Democratic field keeps getting more crowded. Last week, we reported that Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski entered the race, joining Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), businessman Tom Wolf, and two former state environmental agency directors, John Hanger and Katie McGinty. This week, state Treasurer Rob McCord threw his hat into the ring. The Democratic primary is scheduled for May 20, 2014, and there is no-run-off scenario under Pennsylvania election law. The eventual nominee faces vulnerable Gov. Tom Corbett (R), whose job approval numbers continue to lag.

Texas: State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who gained national attention from fillibustering the Republicans’ abortion-related legislation that later became law, is telling supporters that she will announce her gubernatorial candidacy on October 3rd. It is likely she will quickly become the consensus Democratic candidate, but begin the general election as an underdog to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the consensus Republican candidate.

Virginia: More Old Dominion polls keep entering the public domain, all returning similar results. Rasmussen Reports (9/25; 1,050 VA registered voters) gives Democrat Terry McAuliffe a 44-38% margin over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Washington Post, in conjunction with survey research firm Abt-SRBI (9/19-22; 812 VA registered voters; 562 likely VA voters), detects a similar McAuliffe advantage of 49-44%. Marist College was also in the field during the same period (9/17-19; 546 VA likely voters) and finds the spread to be 43-38%, once again in favor of the Democratic nominee.

Mayor

Boston: “Beantown” voters went to the polls to begin the process of choosing a replacement for outgoing 20-year Mayor Tom Menino, the longest-serving chief executive in city history. The race was tight among the twelve candidates, with the top two finishers advancing to a November 5th run-off. As expected, two Democrats qualified for the final election. The first place qualifier is state Rep. Marty Walsh, who captured just 18.5% of the vote. His opponent will be at-large City Councilor John Connolly who attracted 17.2%.

Detroit: Businessman and former prosecutor Mike Duggan, who placed first via write-in campaign during the mayoral primary back in August, has opened up a huge general election lead according to a new poll. Michigan pollster EPIC-MRA (9/17-19; 400 Detroit likely voters) projects a 49-25% advantage for Duggan over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Mayor Dave Bing is not seeking re-election.