Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Early Targets

Even this early in an election cycle, some obvious 2014 targets are evident. In the Senate, majority Democrats must protect 20 seats versus 13 for Republicans. The GOP will need to convert six Democratic states in order to re-capture the majority for the first time since 2006.

In the House, it’s much too early to tell how the cycle will even begin to unfold, but the 2012 winners who scored at or below 50 percent normally find themselves in vulnerable situations two years later. There are 20 winners who scored a bare majority or less in their win last month.

Here’s how we see things lining up:

The Senate

Already, there appear to be four potential toss-up campaigns on the horizon at the very beginning of the election cycle.

Two states already have announced challengers to Democratic incumbents that many believe are headed for retirement despite the senators themselves saying they are planning a re-election campaign.

West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) officially announced that she will challenge five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in the next election. With West Virginia now trending deep red and Rockefeller launching verbal attacks against the state’s dominant coal industry, this race must be cast as an early toss-up. Should Rockefeller — who will be 77 years old at the time of the next election — not seek another term, Capito will be considered the early favorite.

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) also has announced that he will run for the Senate in 2014. He will challenge three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D). Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), who was just re-elected to a second term, also has not ruled out a Senate run, meaning that she would first have to challenge Rounds in the Republican primary. Publicly, she is not closing the door on any 2014 option. A Johnson-Rounds campaign would also have to be rated as an early toss-up. The senator would be favored against Rep. Noem.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) stands for a second term after defeating veteran Sen. Ted Stevens (R) by a slim 48-47 percent count in 2008. Stevens was fighting a Justice Department legal onslaught that fell apart on the prosecutors but only after Stevens had already lost to Begich. As you know, the senator was later killed in an airplane crash. This campaign will be interesting. A strong challenger such as Gov. Sean Parnell (R), could make this a very tight campaign.

Considering that North Carolina was only one of two states that switched from supporting Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney last month, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will seek a second term and be rated in a toss-up campaign from Day One. There is no clear challenger on the horizon, but whomever the Republicans choose will be a serious contender.

The 2014 election cycle will be a long one, but count on these four Senate races grabbing a major share of the political attention for the next two years.

The House

Here’s a look at the 20 winners in 2012 who are right at or a bit below the 50 percent mark who could be vulnerable:

Below 50 percent

  • Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) – 47% (open seat)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) – 48% (open seat)
  • John Tierney (D-MA-6) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Benishek (R-MI-1) – 48% (incumbent)
  • Dan Maffei (D-NY-24) – 48% (challenger)
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) – 49% (open seat)
  • Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) – 49% (incumbent)
  • Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2) – 49% (open seat)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT-4) – 49% (incumbent)

At 50%

  • Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) – (incumbent)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA-52) – (challenger)
  • * Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) – (challenger)
  • Dan Schneider (D-IL-10) – (challenger)
  • Joe Heck (R-NV-3) – (incumbent)
  • Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) – (open seat)
  • Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) – (challenger)
  • Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) – (challenger)
  • Bill Owens (D-NY-21) – (incumbent)
  • Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) – (incumbent)
  • * Pete Gallego (D-TX-23) – (challenger)

* Italics: Seat will likely be re-drawn in 2013 redistricting.

Rounds to Challenge Johnson in South Dakota Senate Race

Sen. Johnson

Sen. Tim Johnson

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) yesterday officially announced a challenge to three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in the 2014 election. This action was expected, since Rounds formed a Senatorial exploratory soon before the November election. He served as South Dakota’s governor from 2003-2011. Because of the state’s term-limits law, Rounds was ineligible to seek re-election in 2010. He garnered 57 percent of the vote in his original campaign, and 62 percent four years later. Prior to his time as governor, Rounds served five two-year terms in the state Senate.

Due to Johnson’s physical condition after suffering a stroke in the latter stages of 2006, many have speculated that he will not seek re-election. Since the Republicans only fielded token opposition to him in 2008, the senator’s first real political test since enduring the unfortunate health situation will come in the next election.

For his part, Johnson issued a statement welcoming Rounds to the race and indicated that he will make a final decision whether to run again next year. Johnson said that he “feels great” and that he intends “to put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead.” Johnson has been in public office consecutively since his original election to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 1978. He went onto serve in the state Senate and the US House of Representatives before winning the Senate seat in 1996.

South Dakota is no stranger to hotly contested and notable Senatorial campaigns in its recent past. In 2002, Johnson nipped then-Rep. John Thune (R-SD-AL) by a mere 524 votes statewide. Two years later, Thune defeated then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D) 50.6 to 49.4 percent in the 2004 general election. Should Johnson decide to retire, former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) is most often mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate. The senator’s son, Brendan Johnson, who is the sitting US Attorney for the District of South Dakota, is also a potential future candidate for a statewide political office.

McIntyre Wins, Finally, in NC-7

Only one 2012 US House election remains unresolved, as the state of North Carolina has now certified Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) as the winner of their 7th Congressional District contest. After all of the ballots were finally recounted, McIntyre actually gained one tally and secured a now official 654-vote victory over state Sen. David Rouzer (R).

The North Carolina redistricting plan gave McIntyre a much more challenging seat, as thousands of Democratic voters in the Lumberton area were placed in a different district. The changes made the Wilmington-anchored southeastern North Carolina seat a very competitive one and will likely be so again in 2014.

The one remaining House seat to be decided will be finalized in southwest Louisiana (LA-3) on Dec. 8. There, two Republican incumbents face each other in a run-off election since neither captured a majority of the vote in the Nov. 6 statewide primary vote.

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7), originally elected in 2004, and freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) are vying for the new 3rd District. Since the new 3rd is comprised from 76 percent of Boustany’s current constituency and includes his home political base of Lafayette, he is regarded to be the favorite for the run-off. But, as we have repeatedly seen, anything can happen in a low-turnout election.

NOTE: Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D-IL-2) post-election resignation has caused a vacancy in his Chicago-anchored seat, which will be filled via special election early next year. The all-important Democratic primary is scheduled for Feb. 26, with the general election to be held March 19. A bill is making its way through the legislature to allow the governor to schedule the special general concurrently with the April 9 local and municipal elections, and is expected to pass. Current law requires all Illinois political vacancies to be filled within a 155-day period after the incumbent officially exits.

Virginia Governor Update

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling

In what will probably become the closest of the 2013 elections, significant action is already occurring in the open Virginia governor’s race. Since this state is the only one in the nation that still imposes a one-term limit on its chief executive, the odd-year election is always incumbent-less and thereby competitive. Next year’s campaign will be no exception.

Already, the Republican nomination situation is coming into focus. Clearly understanding that he could not win majority support in a statewide nominating convention against the more conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is again dropping plans to run for governor — this time with bad blood. Four years ago, Bolling stepped aside to give then-AG Bob McDonnell a clear shot at winning the nomination.

Objecting to the Republican Party of Virginia’s decision to replace a primary election with a convention, Bolling is not only exiting the governor’s race but says he will retire as lieutenant governor, too. “Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli,” he stated in a parting quote. Bolling’s reluctant action will now give Cuccinelli the opportunity of becoming the consensus Republican candidate.

On the Democratic side, former national committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who fared poorly in the party’s gubernatorial primary four years ago losing to eventual nominee Creigh Deeds 50-26 percent, is indicating he will be back for another run. Former one-term Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA-5) is also a potential Democratic candidate.

NOTES:

 
NC-7 Recount

Only one county remains to be re-canvassed in one of the closest House races in the country, the North Carolina contest between Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and state Sen. David Rouzer (R). When the recount began, McIntyre’s lead was 655 votes. Through the current portion of the almost completed process, the congressman has actually increased his lead by eight votes to a margin of 663 tallies. It is only now a matter of time before McIntyre is awarded an official victory. Expect this Wilmington-anchored 7th District to be a major Republican target in 2014.

New Hampshire Senate

Already, the first 2014 Senate poll has been conducted. Public Policy Polling (Nov. 14-15; 1,018 New Hampshire registered voters) surveyed a hypothetical pairing between first-term Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and former Sen. John E. Sununu (R). The results stake the incumbent to a 53-42 percent advantage. There is no indication that Sununu will run again, but PPP often tests the most well-known political figures against incumbents before a field of actual challengers comes to the forefront. Sen. Shaheen’s job approval is 51:36 percent favorable to unfavorable.

IL-2 Special on Schedule – Sort Of

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has set the special election to replace resigned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) for a Feb. 26 primary followed by a March 19 special general election, but the latter date will likely move. Illinois law requires a vacancy to be filled within 155 days of a vacancy occurring.

Quinn’s schedule falls within the current law’s parameters, but with local and municipal elections already scheduled for April 9, a move will be made to consolidate the two voting periods, per the request of local officials. Instead of asking a court to waive the legal requirements as first thought, Quinn will simply ask the legislature upon convening in January to change the special election law with an urgency clause. Such action will give him authority to move the special general election to April 9.

Since this is a heavily Democratic seat, the special general is irrelevant. What does matter is the Democratic primary, and that will stay on Feb. 26, since the municipal nominating contests are also that day.

Already, three candidates have announced their intentions to run. Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11), who challenged Rep. Jackson in the 2012 Democratic primary, officially joined the race over the weekend. Quickly following her public move was Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale along with state Senator-elect Napoleon Harris. All three are Democrats.

Many more candidates are expected to file before the end of December. Though the district is more than 62 percent African-American, Halvorson hopes a crowded field with no run-off election will allow her to coalesce the minority white vote around her and overtake the majority African-American vote, which will be fractured among multiple contenders. Halvorson scored just under 24 percent against Jackson in March of this year, meaning that she has at least a small base from which to begin this campaign.