Category Archives: Senate

Sullivan Loses in Okla.; Other Incumbents Fare Well

The big story of yesterday’s Oklahoma primary voting is the defeat of six-term Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK-1), who fell to military reserve pilot Jim Bridenstine by a substantial 54-46 percent margin. Sullivan becomes the fourth non-paired incumbent to fail in a renomination bid during this election cycle. Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-OH-2), Tim Holden (D-PA-17), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) are the other three.

In the open 2nd District of Oklahoma, both parties will feature Aug. 28 run-off elections. The Republicans will battle between businessman Markwayne Mullin (42 percent) and state Rep. George Faught (23 percent). Democrats will likely have a close contest between former district attorney Rob Wallace (46 percent) and Tulsa County Farm Bureau President Wayne Herriman (42 percent). Rep. Dan Boren (D) is retiring. This may be the Republican’s best conversion opportunity in the country.

Turning to South Carolina, the general election candidates are now set in the Palmetto State’s new 7th District. Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice was a strong 56-44 percent winner over former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer in the Republican primary. Rice is a prohibitive favorite now in the general election. In the run-off campaign that lasted just four official days after the Horry County court ruled that the Democrats must hold a secondary vote, former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu easily beat back attorney Preston Brittain, 73-27 percent. The run-off was challenged because votes for a withdrawn candidate were not originally included in the final tally.

In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch, as expected, was an easy 67-33 percent winner in his Republican primary battle with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Hatch will now cruise to re-election to a seventh term in November.

Another incumbent turned back a serious primary challenge with ease. Three-term Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5) repelled self-funding opponent Robert Blaha by a strong 62-38 percent margin despite the challenger spending more than $720,000 of his own money. Lamborn, who has had trouble solidifying what should be a safe Colorado Springs district, appears to be building the kind of strength one would expect to see from a now veteran incumbent.

Finally, in New York, a series of primaries produced no surprises. Embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), challenged by four Democrats, again survived the onslaught but with only 45 percent of the vote. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was his closest challenger with 40 percent; former Clinton Administration official and 2010 congressional candidate Clyde Williams only recorded 10 percent of the vote.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D) was a 58-31 percent winner over New York City Councilman Erik Dilan. Velazquez will now represent the new 7th District, which contains 71.2 percent of her current constituency. Neighboring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9) was an easy winner in her primary with a huge 88 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, two individuals won open-seat New York City races that effectively punches their ticket to Congress. State Assemblywoman Grace Meng was an easy Democratic primary winner and will succeed retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman in the new 6th District. In Brooklyn, Democratic state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will replace retiring Rep. Ed Towns in the new 8th District.

New York City attorney Sean Mahoney won the right to challenge freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) in the new 18th District. Mahoney won despite the district being anchored in Westchester County. As expected, Rep. Bill Owens (D) will defend his marginal district against 2010 nominee Matt Doheny (R). And, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R) will face Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in a new district that heavily favors the Republicans.

Finally, in the US Senate race, conservative Wendy Long easily defeated New York City Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9), who had no legitimate chance of remaining in the House post-redistricting. Long, also officially carrying the Conservative Party line, will face Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in a long shot November challenge effort.

Voters Choose Candidates Today in Utah, S.C., N.Y., Okla., Colo., Primaries

Voters in five states go to the polls today to nominate US Senate and House candidates.

• In Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is encouraged by a new poll (June 12-19; 500 eligible Utah voters) from Key Research, a local Utah-based firm, in conjunction with the Utah Data Points research and information blog. According to the data, Hatch leads former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist (R) 51-22 percent among eligible GOP primary voters and 56-25 percent among those self-described “likely” voters.

South Carolinians in the new 7th Congressional District will choose both a Republican and Democratic nominee in the run-off vote. The Democrats now have an official run-off election after a local Horry County court judge ruled that votes cast for a withdrawn candidate do count, meaning candidate Gloria Tinubu, who was originally declared the victor, is now forced to a run-off with second place finisher Preston Brittain. The Republican race is between former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice, the latter of whom Gov. Nikki Haley (R) just publicly endorsed.

• In New York, Democrats are looking at eight contested primaries, including those for incumbents Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13). Republicans have just one seriously contested primary, that in the new 27th District for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Kathy Hochul (D).

• Both Democrats and Republicans in Oklahoma will vote in the first round of polling in the open 2nd District (Rep. Dan Boren (D) retiring). Run-offs, to be held on Aug. 28, are likely for both parties.

• Finally, Colorado will also hold a primary. The only race of any significance is the Republican intra-party challenge to Rep. Doug Lamborn in the Colorado Springs-based 5th District. Wealthy businessman Robert Blaha is running a major self-funded effort against the incumbent, dropping more than $700,000 of his own money into the race even before the end of March.

We will provide results and analysis on Wednesday morning.

Florida Senate Race Changes Shape

Things are heating up in the Florida Senate challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). Former interim Sen. George LeMieux dropped out of the Republican race earlier in the week and, in a statement released early Wednesday, indicated that he believed the national Republican Party had thrown its support behind Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14).

Former governor Charlie Crist (R-I) appointed LeMieux to the Senate in 2009 to fulfill the unexpired term of Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after his abrupt resignation. Crist went on to run for the seat in 2010 without party affiliation and lost to freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The developments again reveal the power political establishment backing has over candidates, even those with relatively high familiarity with voters. The other late breaking development here, and the two are related, is the emergence of former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL-15), who just recently and surprisingly indicated that he is entering the Senate race. While Mack is still heavily favored over Weldon, the campaign is just now reaching the cusp of the stretch drive for the Aug. 14 primary when many things change. Aside from Weldon, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister is also in the Republican race.

In a poll released yesterday, Quinnipac University found that Sen. Nelson has a slight 43-39 percent edge over Rep. Mack, but the young Republican congressman appears to be the prohibitive favorite for his party nomination. The poll, conducted June 12-18, prior to LeMieux’s departure, surveyed 1,697 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points. Mack polled the strongest among the GOP contenders, with the others trailing Nelson in double digits: 47-32 percent (LeMieux); 45-34 percent (McCalister); and 47-31 percent (Weldon).

Nelson’s slight lead over Mack is a net five point increase for the senator compared to the virtual tie Quinnipiac found in their May 24 poll (Mack leading 42-41 percent).

In the Republican primary, the Q-Poll shows Mack posting 41 percent, LeMieux in second with 8 percent, and McCalister following with 5 percent, while the late arriving Weldon registered only 3 percent among the 698 self-identified Republicans tested.

Though Mack and Nelson are running close in both private and public polling, it is Nelson’s major financial war chest that has most GOP operatives concerned. The senator has compiled an almost $8 million financial edge over his competitors and even with so many hot races taking place in Florida this cycle, he will still have the wherewithal to position himself strongly in the most expensive of television markets. Now with LeMieux out of the primary and Mack now clearly the GOP favorite, some Republican resources that otherwise would have gone towards winning the mid-August election can now be saved for the general.

The senator, who won his 2006 re-election with 60.3 percent of the vote, faces new economic challenges in the Sunshine state and, while he remains as the favorite in the race, the contest will definitely come down to the wire. This is a bona-fide contest with national implications.

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.