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Period Ending September 5, 2014

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

Senate

Kansas: Democratic nominee Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney who is apparently convinced that he cannot win the developing three-way race, has withdrawn from the campaign and endorsed strong Independent candidate Greg Orman. With polling showing Taylor and Orman running neck and neck for second place and holding Sen. Pat Roberts (R) well under 50%, the new scenario of Orman basically becoming the Independent/Democratic candidate certainly increases the coalition’s ability to unseat the Senator. The day after this announcement, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach ruled that removing Taylor’s name was improperly requested, stating that he did not illustrate an inability to perform the duties of office if elected. There is now a great likelihood that the final ballot placement decision will be settled in court. It is also possible that Taylor may be allowed to exit the race but the Democrats would then have to file a replacement nominee.

Kentucky: A great deal is happening in the Blue Grass State Senate race, featuring good and bad developments for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). The bad news is his campaign manager, Jesse Benton, resigned when it became known that an Iowa state Senator admitted to accepting a $73,000 bribe to endorse then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) over Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) in the 2012 presidential contest. Benton was Ron Paul’s campaign manager. Conversely, new polling is giving the Senator small but increasing leads over Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), representing his best campaign standing to date. The CNN/ORC survey (8/28-9/1; 1,037 KY adults, 891 KY registered voters, and 671 likely voters) gives McConnell a 47-46% edge among RVs, and expands to 50-46% when just including likely voters. Such is a progression one would expect in a midterm election year. This poll, however, did not include Libertarian nominee David Patterson. Adding him could change these results. Rasmussen Reports (9/1-2; 750 KY likely voters) added a selection for “another candidate” and found a similar spread, however. The RR data projected Sen. McConnell to a 46-41-7% advantage.

Louisiana: Rasmussen Reports again surveyed the Louisiana electorate (9/2-3; 800 LA likely voters) and found Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) trailing Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) 41-44% for the upcoming jungle primary. Nine percent said they favor “another candidate.” If no contender receives an absolute majority, the top two finishers advance to a December 6th run-off election. Such an occurrence appears to be an eventuality in this race.

Michigan: EPIC-MRA, Michigan’s most prolific media pollster, conducted a rare holiday poll (9/1; 600 MI likely voters) but the sampling group alteration does not appear to break the pattern we’ve seen develop over the past several weeks. Thus, the holiday EPIC poll is similar to their last couple of releases. The data projects Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-14) to be holding a 45-39% lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R). But, Mitchell Research’s automated poll (8/27; 1,004 MI likely voters) finds a much closer result. The results show Peters holding only a 46-44% edge.

West Virginia: The Charleston-based R.L. Rapass and Partners poll for the Charleston Daily Mail (8/15-23; 401 WV likely voters) issued an analysis report on their latest survey. Like the other studies recently published, Rapass finds Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) pulling well ahead of Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, and considerably over 50%. The actual ballot test projects the Congresswoman to a 54-37% advantage. This race increasingly appears to be the Republicans’ best conversion opportunity in the nation.

House

AZ-1: House Speaker Andy Tobin is now the official Republican congressional nominee, meaning his 407-vote margin over rancher Gary Kiehne stands. Mr. Kiehne has conceded the contest and will not ask for a recount. Further back was state Rep. Adam Kwasman. Tobin will now officially challenge vulnerable Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) in what should be a top Republican conversion opportunity. Kirkpatrick has a huge resource advantage, but in a midterm year, this district becomes much more Republican.

CA-17: In another indication that Rep. Mike Honda is going to convincingly defeat challenger Ro Khanna in a Democrat vs. Democrat general election, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) weighed in on the race to officially endorse the Congressman. Brown is cautious about getting involved in races other than his own, so the fact that he feels safe to needlessly come to Honda’s aide when most other leading Democrats lent their support months ago should be taken as one more piece of evidence that Honda will win another term against the well-financed Khanna, who does enjoy significant backing from Silicon Valley leaders. The challenger is a former Obama Administration Commerce Department official.

FL-18: Ten days after the Florida primary, freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is wasting little time starting the official general election campaign. His political operatives launched two media ad flights and released a poll showing their candidate holding a commanding lead. His internal Frederick Polls survey (8/27-28; 400 FL-18 registered voters) posts the Congressman to a 54-33% advantage over former state Rep. Carl Domino, the newly nominated Republican candidate. The 18th should be a swing district, but all indications suggest Rep. Murphy is headed for a convincing re-election victory.

LA-5: The Glasscock Group published a poll of the 5th Congressional District campaign (released 9/3; 466 LA-5 registered voters) and finds incumbent Rep. Vance McAllister (R) trailing GOP physician Ralph Abraham 20-22% in the state’s jungle primary. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (D) follows with 15%. If no one receives 50%, something that appears certain according to this data, the top two finishers advance to a December 6th run-off election. The jungle primary is held concurrently with the general election on November 4th.

ME-2: Public Opinion Strategies released an internal poll (8/17-19; 400 ME-2 likely voters) for the Bruce Poliquin (R) campaign showing him trailing Democratic nominee Emily Cain, a state Senator, by a surprisingly small margin. The study gives Cain a 37-33% lead over Poliquin with Independent Blaine Richardson tallying 6 percent. Though ME-2 is reliably Democratic, the district has been known to shift to the GOP from time to time so this poll should be taken seriously.

MA-6: As the September 9th primary approaches, vulnerable Rep. John Tierney (D) is launching a heavy attack against his Democratic primary opponent, former Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton. Because Moulton received a contribution from former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-NH) White Mountain PAC, a donation that the Moulton campaign eventually returned, Tierney is accusing him of being a closet Republican - even while Moulton is running hard left. The attack will likely backfire because it isn’t true, therefore giving Moulton’s challenge even more credibility. A Moulton Democratic primary upset victory is a real possibility.

NY-11: Indicted Rep. Michael Grimm (R) continues to receive bad news. In the middle of attempting to repel a strong challenge from New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia (D), the judicial authorities have scheduled his fraud and tax charge trial to begin on December 1st. Continue to rate this seat as the top Democratic conversion opportunity in the country.

WA-4: In the Republican vs. Republican open seat general election, retiring Rep. Doc Hastings (R) officially endorsed one of the two candidates. The Congressman is urging voters to support former state Agriculture Department director Dan Newhouse over ex-NFL football player and statewide candidate Clint Didier. The latter enjoys strong Tea Party support, and placed first in Washington’s jungle primary.

Party Independent Expenditures: Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee hit the airwaves this week with independent expenditure ads. Republicans targeted Reps. Ron Barber (D-AZ-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-2), John Barrow (D-GA-12), and Nick Rahall (D-WV-3) along with open seat candidate Staci Appel (D-IA-3), and challenger Gwen Graham (D-FL-2). Democrats aired attack ads against Reps. Steve Southerland (R-FL-2) and Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), open seat candidates Paul Chabot (R-CA-31) and Tom McArthur (R-NJ-3), along with challengers Andy Tobin (R-AZ-1), Martha McSally (R-AZ-2), Rick Allen (R-GA-12), John Katko (R-NY-24), and Evan Jenkins (R-WV-3). As you can see, the parties are zeroing in, to a large part, on the same campaigns.

Governor

Alaska: Just before the Kansas Senate Democratic candidate attempted to end his campaign as described above, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott announced that he would terminate his bid for Governor, but run for Lt. Governor on a ticket with Independent candidate Bill Walker. As part of the deal, both the Independent and Democratic nominees for Lt. Governor would withdraw from the race. The Democratic State Party members approved the new ticket by an official vote of 89-2. The new unified ticket will be more competitive, according to polling, against Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, who appears vulnerable in a one-on- one race but easily wins a three-way contest. The new configuration brings more national attention to this campaign and makes the race highly competitive.

Arizona: Though originally saying they would not endorse newly nominated Republican candidate Doug Ducey, his defeated GOP opponents have now signed a joint letter offering their support. A Public Policy Polling survey (8/24-25; 588 AZ registered voters) finds both Ducey and Democratic nominee Fred DuVal, a former Clinton Administration official, tied at 35% apiece.

Florida: Survey USA (8/27-28; 580 FL registered voters) finds former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) popping back ahead over Gov. Rick Scott (R), 45-43%, but obviously well within the margin of polling error. The University of Florida also released a survey, posting Gov. Scott to a 41-36% advantage, but the poll was not properly weighted so these results should not be considered particularly accurate.

Massachusetts: With the state’s primary fast approaching next Tuesday, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (8/25-31; 1,624 MA registered voters) polled the Democratic gubernatorial contest and found Attorney General Martha Coakley staked to a commanding lead, 52-20-9% over state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former Medicare Administrator Don Berwick. Businessman and 2010 Republican nominee Charlie Baker is a lock to repeat as his party’s standard bearer.