Category Archives: Senate

Polls Show Kerry Down in Neb.; Dems Close in Ariz.

Two new Senatorial polls hit the public domain this week, with both good news and bad news for each party. In Nebraska, Public Opinion Strategies for the Deborah Fischer (R) campaign (June 17-19; 500 likely Nebraska voters) posts their client to a whopping 58-33 percent lead over former senator Bob Kerrey (D). Fischer, a Nebraska state senator, was the upset winner in the May Republican primary. Kerrey served two terms in the Senate but has been living in New York City over the past dozen years after he retired from politics the first time. This data is consistent with what was produced in immediate post-primary polling.

The surprising poll comes from Arizona, where Public Policy Polling surveying for the group Project New America (June 4-5; 791 likely Arizona voters), finds GOP Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) clinging to only a two-point, 43-41 percent, lead. This represents an 11-point net swing in Democrat Richard Carmona’s favor since their May 17-20 poll (Flake 48; Carmona 35).

The other point that should trouble the GOP brain trust, assuming this poll is not an outlier (a distinct possibility since the swing is large despite a political climate featuring seemingly little change), is a sampling universe slanting more Republican than the state as a whole. Prior to the last election, Republicans held a 36-32-32 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats and Independents. According to this PPP poll, the universe was comprised of 42 percent who self-identified as Republican versus 30 percent who called themselves Democrats, while only 23 percent professed their Independent status.

King Leading in Maine Poll

A new MassINC Polling Group political survey (June 13-14; 506 likely Maine voters for television station WBUR) gives Independent former governor Angus King a huge 50-23-9 percent lead over newly nominated Republican candidate Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill, respectively.

The Maine Senate race could become nation’s most important, because there are two scenarios where King alone would decide if Republicans or Democrats control the majority in the next Congress, should he be elected. To date, the former governor, though a liberal, has not committed to joining either party. Should President Obama be re-elected and Senate Republicans reach 50, King caucusing with either side would make that party the majority. The same would be true if Mitt Romney unseats the President and the Democrats claim 50 seats.

State Sen. Dill has the most difficult path to victory in the three-way scenario. According to the MassINC data, Democrats choose King 60-17 percent over the now-official Democratic nominee. Interestingly, his mark among Democrats is even better than within the Independent sample cell. Of those claiming to affiliate with neither party, King records 57 percent. Though his margin is strong, it is not insurmountable, particularly in a three-way race. Gov. Paul LePage (R) was elected from a similar configuration two years ago with just 37.6 percent of the vote. If the Senate majority truly reverberates on Maine’s outcome, then expect the race to become heated as Election Day nears.

Warning Signs in Va., N.D.

Two GOP Senate candidates who are probably re-assessing their respective post-primary campaign strategies are former Virginia senator George Allen and North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg (R-AL). Both easily won their nomination elections on Tuesday night, but even their individual landslide victory margins are arguably under-performances. Both men finished with 66 percent of the vote on June 12, but for two consensus party candidates, their base support number should have been higher. A better position from which to launch each general election campaign would have been in the 75th percentile.

Allen faces former governor Tim Kaine (D) in the Old Dominion, and the race has been in the toss-up category since the middle of 2011 and continues to languish with neither candidate showing any signs of breaking out. The Republican primary vote tells us that Allen still needs to tack right to completely firm up his GOP base for what promises to be a bruising general election in a presidential battleground state.

Rep. Berg, whose North Dakota electorate will likely support Mitt Romney over President Obama by a substantial margin, also needs to cement his political base to the maximum level in order to take advantage of what should be a regional GOP tide.

Berg’s 66 percent of the vote in his battle against frequent candidate Duane Sand also warrants attention, because in addition to the primary result, we now see a third general election poll that projects him to be trailing former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp. The latest survey, (Mason-Dixon Polling & Research; June 4-6; 625 registered North Dakota voters) gives the new official Democratic nominee a one point, 47-46 percent, razor-thin November edge. Additionally, the primary prediction done by Mason-Dixon actually placed Berg further ahead of where he finished on Tuesday. The poll showed him beating Sand 73-16 percent, but the actual result was 66-34 percent.

Warning signs, indeed.

A Look at Key June 12 Results

In addition to the Arizona election noted in our previous blog post, several key states hosted primary and run-off elections last night. Two Democratic run-offs were held in Arkansas, and freshman incumbent Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) and open-seat nominee Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) now have official Democratic challengers.

In the 1st District, a seat made even more Democratic in redistricting, District Attorney Scott Ellington slipped past state Rep. Clark Hall 51-49 percent, despite the latter having the financial advantage. This will be an interesting contest since the 1st District is even more Democratic, but Arkansas figures to be one of President Obama’s worst states. The evolution of this campaign will be worth watching.

In retiring Rep. Mike Ross’ 4th District, state Sen. Gene Jeffress romped to an easy 61-39 percent win, despite primary first place finisher Q. Byrum Hurst outspending him. Jeffress will now face Cotton in the general election. Despite the lopsided run-off win last night, this district is a prime GOP conversion opportunity.

In Maine, state Sen. Cynthia Dill (D) scored a strong 45-35-12 percent victory over former secretary of state Matt Dunlap and state Rep. Jon Hinck, respectively. Dill will face the GOP winner, former secretary of state Charlie Summers, and Independent former governor Angus King. In Dill, the Democrats have a candidate who will run a credible campaign, which, ironically, will help Summers. The only way the Republicans have a chance in a Maine statewide race is to win a close three-way race, and the groundwork is now laid for such a contest. King is still the overwhelming favorite, but it is the Dill campaign that will now help determine how this race progresses in November. This campaign has the potential of becoming quite interesting.

The North Dakota Republican electorate chose a congressional nominee different from the party-endorsed candidate. Former at-large congressional nominee Kevin Cramer upended public service commissioner and Republican convention-endorsed candidate Brian Kalk by a 55-45 percent score. Cramer will face former state representative Pam Gulleson who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. He now becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the open seat in the November election.

In South Carolina’s new 7th District, as expected, former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Commission Chairman Tom Rice advanced from the primary and will decide the Republican nomination in a June 26 run-off election. Bauer placed first with 32 percent of the vote as compared to Rice’s 27 percent, but the former’s margin may not be enough to hold the lead in the secondary campaign. On the Democratic side, former Georgia state representative Gloria Tinubu scored an outright 52 percent win over attorney Preston Brittain and three others. Tinubu resigned her seat in the Georgia legislature earlier in the year to come to South Carolina and run for the state’s new congressional district, an unusual situation to say the least. The Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite to win the seat in November.

Finally, in Virginia, former senator George Allen (R) was renominated with a somewhat disappointing 66 percent of the vote for the right to reclaim the seat he lost six years ago. The ex-senator defeated three minor GOP candidates. Allen will now face former governor Tim Kaine (D) in a general election campaign that promises to go down to the wire.

The Big June 5th Primary is Fast Approaching

Next Tuesday, six states go to the polls to nominate Senate and House candidates, and possibly recall a governor. On Monday, we’ll cover all of the hot California races. Today, we look at the other states voting on June 5.

Iowa: In a state promising to be a hotbed of presidential campaign activity in the general election, two, and possibly three, House seats will also be highly competitive. The contenders in Districts 3 and 4 are already set. District 3, anchored in Des Moines and Council Bluffs, will feature a general election incumbent pairing between veteran representatives Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4). The new 3rd is very marginal, and this will be a close race. But Tuesday’s primary carries no drama for either man. To the northwest is new District 4, featuring Rep. Steve King (R-IA-5) defending his position against Christie Vilsack (D), the state’s former First Lady. The seat leans Republican, so King is favored, but, as in District 3, Tuesday’s vote is already well-defined.

In the southeastern 2nd District, Rep. David Loebsack (D) faces Davenport state Sen. Joe Seng. Loebsack should hold, but he loses his Cedar Rapids power base to District 1 and adds Davenport, a city he has not previously represented but one in which Seng has served in local government as well as the state legislature. The 2nd has the chance of becoming moderately competitive in the general election particularly if Seng pulls a big upset over the incumbent on Tuesday.

Montana: A gubernatorial primary is underway for the state’s at-large open seat. Attorney General Steve Bullock is the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary. Former Rep. Rick Hill (R-MT-AL) is attempting a political comeback in this race after being out of office for 12 years. The Senate competitors are already set: Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL). In the open House race, former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Daines has the inside track to the Republican nomination, while the Democrats are in a battle among seven candidates led by state Sen. Kim Gillian and state Rep. Franke Wilmer.

New Jersey: The races here are quiet except for the 9th District Democratic pairing between representatives Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8). This race has been hotly contested for weeks and turned nasty on several occasions. Most believe Rothman has the slight advantage, particularly with official party endorsements in two of the district’s three counties. Pascrell needs a larger than normal turnout in Passaic County to snatch a close win. Surprisingly, the mayor of the district’s largest city, Paterson, has endorsed Rothman as has a member of the city council. These endorsements sting Pascrell because he was a former Paterson mayor before being elected to Congress. The representative does have former president Bill Clinton’s public support. A wild finish is guaranteed here.

New Mexico: In the Senate campaign, it appears that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and ex-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) are headed for their respective party nominations. This will be a highly competitive general election. In Heinrich’s open House race, a tight Democratic primary is evolving. Polls show state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County commissioner and former congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham to be in a virtual tie, with former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez trailing the duo. There is no run-off election in New Mexico, so this race will likely being decided on Tuesday by only a handful of votes. Republicans will nominate former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. The eventual Democratic nominee has the inside track for the fall election.

South Dakota: Little in the way of contests are occurring in South Dakota. There is no Senate race this year, and freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R) is positioning herself for a second term. For the Democrats, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth and former congressional aide Matt Varilek vie for the right to challenge Noem. Though South Dakota does feature a run-off, the two-way race guarantees that Democratic voters will choose a nominee on Tuesday night. Noem will be a big favorite in the general election.

Wisconsin: Finally, the long-awaited recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will be decided next Tuesday. Momentum had been swinging Walker’s way and he still seems to have more energy behind his candidacy than does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic opponent. At least one survey, however, the Lake Research poll taken for the Democratic Party, shows the race to be a tie. All others give Walker a slight lead. The race will turn on the rate of voter participation and both sides are gearing up for a major effort. The result here could be a harbinger for the general election, certainly in Wisconsin, but possibly nationwide, too. Arguably, this race will have the greatest effect on national politics of any June 5 campaign.

The plethora of California congressional races will be covered in our Monday report.

Dewhurst, Cruz in Run-off; Other Texas Results

The delayed Texas primary was finally held last night and featured a voter participation rate of approximately 20 percent. The vote was originally scheduled for March 6, but had to be twice postponed because of litigation over the state’s redistricting maps.

In the much-anticipated Republican Senate race, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who began the race as the prohibitive favorite, did in fact place first but fell about four points below the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a run-off election. Therefore, he and second-place finisher, former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, will square off in a July 31 secondary vote. Placing far behind these two were former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN college football analyst Craig James. Leppert and James are eliminated from further competition.

Dewhurst was spending wildly at the end of the race in hopes of attaining the majority plateau in order to make an outright claim upon the nomination. Overall, the lieutenant governor’s primary spending will likely top $20 million, of which $12 million came from the candidate himself in the way of a loan. In contrast, Cruz only spent in the neighborhood of $5 million. Forcing Dewhurst into a run-off was Cruz’s only hope at winning the nomination, since it was never feasible he could top the lieutenant governor for first place. In a one-on-one battle where turnout will be even lower than in the primary leads to a political situation where anything can happen.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and psychologist Grady Yarbrough will head for a second election. The winner becomes the sacrificial lamb to either Dewhurst or Cruz in the general election.

In the district congressional races, it appears, when all of the votes are finally counted and released, that eight-term veteran Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) may have lost the Democratic nomination to former El Paso city councilman Beto O’Rourke. The challenger was hovering around the 51 percent mark, which will be enough to win the nomination outright. Late votes could force a run-off if both fall just below the majority mark. O’Rourke was supported by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which concentrates on defeating long-term incumbents in both parties. This would be a major upset; Reyes will be the third non-paired incumbent to already lose in his or her own party primary.

In other congressional races, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX-4), at 89 the oldest member of the House, stared down two GOP opponents to secure renomination. Hall garnered 59 percent against a pair of opponents. In the Dallas area, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) easily avoided a run-off by scoring 64 percent of the vote against two opponents. Reps. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) also easily avoided run-offs against opponents who originally appeared to have the wherewithal to organize credible campaigns.

All other incumbents easily won their nomination battles including freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) who was a surprise winner in 2010. Because redistricting added 46 percent new voters, most of whom are Republican oriented, Farenthold has a strong chance of keeping this seat the rest of the decade now that he is the bona-fide incumbent in this newly constructed seat. He scored an impressive 80 percent of the vote last night. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25), who redistricting placed in the new heavy Hispanic 35th District between Austin and San Antonio defeated two opponents with 71 percent of the vote. He will now go onto an easy re-election campaign in the fall.

In the open seat races, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the San Antonio-based 20th District that retiring Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) is vacating, took one major step toward winning in the fall as he now becomes the official party standard bearer. He will easily win election in November.

In the new 14th CD, the seat presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, Republicans will feature a run-off election between state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris. The winner faces former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in what will be an interesting general election. The eventual Republican nominee should win here, but Lampson has proven strength in the Beaumont-Galveston area.

Turning to the four new seats that population growth awarded the state, former Secretary of State Roger Williams placed first in a field of 12 GOP candidates and will now face retired Army officer and Tea Party activist Wes Riddle. The winner of the 25th District Republican run-off, probably Williams, will claim the seat in November.

In the new Dallas-Ft. Worth-based 33rd District, as expected, former Dallas city councilman and state representative Domingo Garcia and ex-congressional aide (to then-Rep. Martin Frost, D-TX-24) Marc Veasey will also head to a secondary election, with the latter placing first by more than 10 points.

In the Brownsville area in South Texas, attorney Filemon Vela, the son of former US District Judge Filemon Vela, Sr. and Brownsville Mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela, placed first in the 34th District primary. He will face former Edinburg city manager Ramiro Garza. The run-off winner, very likely Vela, takes the seat in November.

In the new Republican 36th District, a three-way battle is still being finalized among financial advisor Stephen Takach, former US representative Steve Stockman, and state Sen. Mike Jackson. Takach seems poised to finish first. Because of the outstanding vote in Harris County, the only place Jackson showed real strength, he will probably edge the former congressman for second. The run-off winner claims the seat in November.

Turning to the state’s one strong general election challenger race, in the San Antonio-based 23rd District, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX-23) who has won and lost two different House seats, is very close to capturing the outright majority that would clinch yet another party nomination for him. State Rep. Pete Gallego is second hovering in the mid-30s percentile, and he will either lose or barely qualify for a run-off when all ballots are finally counted. The new Democratic nominee will now face freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R) in the general election. The 23rd is a tight district, so expect a highly competitive race in the fall.

It’s Neck and Neck in Massachusetts and Virginia

A Hartstad Research poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (May 8-10; 502 likely Massachusetts voters) was just released into the public domain and it again shows a dead heat emerging between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Harvard Law School professor and Obama Administration consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (D). The Hartstad results project the two to be tied at 46 percent. In fact, the data reveals that the race is even closer than the final tabulation says. Both candidates have 44 percent support with an additional 2 percent leaning their way.

The results here are almost identical to those in the Virginia Senate race where former senator George Allen (R) and ex-governor Tim Kaine (D) continue to fluctuate only a point or two through multiple polls.

Both of these races are ridiculously close. For example, since March 6, 2011, 18 Massachusetts Senate polls have been publicly released. Brown was forecast to be leading in nine of them, Warren seven, and two – like the Hartstad survey discussed above – returned a tie score.

In Virginia, 24 polls have appeared in the public domain starting from right after the 2010 election to the present. Kaine leads in 12 of those polls and Allen seven, with five ties. Since the end of April, three Virginia polls have been released. One shows Allen ahead 46-45 percent; another has Kaine up 46-45 percent; and a third has the two candidates tied at 46 percent. It doesn’t get any closer!

These two races, probably to be decided by just a handful of votes, could determine which party controls the Senate next January. The recount legal teams are already reserving hotel rooms in Boston and Richmond.