New Jersey Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) yesterday became the second sophomore Republican to announce that he will voluntarily retire at the end of the current Congress. Like Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2), Runyun was a clear favorite to win a third term in the House but has decided to end his congressional career. The Garden State congressman indicated that he wants more time with his family and was quoted as saying, “politics shouldn’t be a career and I never intended to make it one.”
Rep. Runyan was elected to the House in 2010 after spending 14 years playing in the National Football League, most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles. He defeated freshman Rep. John Adler (D) 50-47 percent three years ago, and then scored a 54-44 percent re-election win against Adler’s widow in 2012. The former congressman tragically passed away five months after his defeat at the age of 51.
The 3rd District is one of the 16 seats that voted both for President Obama in 2012 and, simultaneously, a Republican congressman. This becomes the second such district to open, the other being the late Bill Young’s seat in Florida. Therefore, the open 2014 race here will likely be a toss-up. Maneuvering in both parties will quickly begin now that Runyan’s surprise decision has become known and accepted.
When former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) announced in July that he would not seek retiring Sen. Max Baucus’ (D) open seat, all eyes turned toward freshman at-large Rep. Steve Daines (R). Now, four months later, Daines confirmed in a formal announcement yesterday that he will become a Senate candidate.
His entry in the race gives the Republicans their strongest candidate. The move also sets up a likely general election match-up between he and Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D), who made public his own Senate bid last month. Former Republican and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, 77, also says he will run for the Democratic nomination; but clearly Walsh commands the inside track in the party primary. This Senate race is one of three states – South Dakota and West Virginia being the other two – where the Republicans begin as favorites to convert a Democratic seat.
The moves by Runyan and Daines open two more Republican House seats, and major action will unfold in each of the new contests. There are now 22 open seats, 15 of which are currently in Republican hands. Of the 22, six appear poised for serious political competition.
Virginia Attorney General
The see-saw Virginia Attorney General’s race is far from over, and the final conclusion remains weeks away. Despite all precincts reporting, the lead has continued to sway back and forth between state senators Mark Obenshain (R) and Mark Herring (D).
Late last night it appeared Obenshain would end the race between 1,000 and 1,200 votes ahead. This morning, something different transpired as Herring forged ahead by more than 700 tallies; but Obenshain again rebounded. In mid-afternoon, the Republican had claimed a 1,169 vote advantage. By evening, that lead had dissipated and Herring was up by just 32 ballots statewide. Moving deeper into the night, the margin had again switched and Obenshain apparently begins Thursday with a 681-vote advantage. This, of more than 2.205 million ballots cast.
Clearly this race is headed for a full re-count after the official canvass is competed. Expect weeks to pass before an official decision is rendered, at which point the declared loser’s legal challenge will assuredly begin.