Category Archives: Senate

Missouri, Michigan Highlight Another Primary Day

Voters in four more states go to the polls tomorrow, and the most exciting races are in Missouri and Michigan. In the Show Me State, Sen. Claire McCaskill, quite possibly the most vulnerable of Democratic incumbents standing for re-election, will soon know who she will face in the fall. A close Republican contest among three candidates is trending toward an uncertain result even the day before the vote. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, and St. Louis businessman John Brunner vie for the nomination.

Brunner is by far spending the most money, already over $7 million; Steelman is attempting to run furthest to the right and now brandishes Sarah Palin’s endorsement; and Rep. Akin emphasizes his conservative record as a six-term veteran member of the House. All three are leading McCaskill in the latest polling.

In the St. Louis-based 1st Congressional District, a Democratic incumbent pairing is occurring because the national reapportionment formula cost Missouri a seat. Reps. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) are pitted against each other in the city district, a re-draw that clearly favors the former. Rep. Clay has consolidated the dominant African-American constituency and enjoys the support of most of the local political establishment including St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.
Former Republican National Committee co-chair Ann Wagner will capture the GOP nomination in Rep. Akin’s open 2nd District and is expected to win the general election, as well.

In Michigan, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is the heavy favorite in the Senate Republican primary, but he will be a decided underdog in the general election against two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).

But the bigger Michigan story is likely to be in the Detroit area congressional districts, particularly in new Districts 11 and 14.

The resignation of Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) has ignited a free-for-all in the Oakland-Wayne County 11th District. Since McCotter did not qualify for the ballot, only Tea Party activist and reindeer rancher Kerry Bentivolio’s name will officially appear. Former state Senate majority leader Nancy Cassis is running an establishment-backed write-in campaign in hopes of taking the nomination and giving the GOP a stronger chance of holding the seat in November. Local physician Syed Taj is the favored Democratic candidate. The situation here is chaotic. Tomorrow’s vote will provide some answers but the 11th, which should be a reliable Republican district, is now likely to host a competitive general election.

In the Detroit-based 14th CD, another incumbent Democratic pairing will be decided. Reps. Gary Peters (D-MI-9) and freshman Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13) face each other along with three other candidates. Peters, who was originally paired with veteran Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) in the new 9th CD, decided to run in the 14th with the idea of splitting the majority African-American vote among the three significant black candidates, including his colleague Clarke. The strategy may work, as Peters appears poised to win the Democratic nomination tomorrow according to several late polls.

In Rep. Dale Kildee’s (D) open 5th District, Dan Kildee, a former Genesee County official in several positions and nephew of the congressman, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Since the 5th is a heavily Democratic district, the younger Kildee will virtually clinch victory in November with his win tomorrow night.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) again faces a Republican primary challenge from former state representative Jack Hoogendyk, the man who held him to a 57 percent victory two years ago. It appears Upton will win by a much larger margin this time.

Finally, in the new 13th District, 24-term Rep. John Conyers (D) finds himself facing four strong primary challengers, two state senators, a state representative, and a school board trustee. As is often the case in races where a group of candidates run in a system without a run-off, the incumbent normally wins because the pro-challenger vote is split among too many contenders.

In the state of Washington, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) stands for election to a third term in what should be a relatively easy campaign bid. The Republicans will nominate a candidate on Tuesday. In the state’s two open congressional seats, Democrats will choose state Sen. Derek Kilmer to succeed veteran Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6). In the new 10th District, the additional seat awarded to the state in reapportionment, former state House majority leader Denny Heck is poised to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in November.

Kansas is also holding a primary election tomorrow, but all federal incumbents lack serious competition.

A Change in Momentum in the Wisconsin Senate

A new Public Policy Polling survey (July 30-31; 400 likely Wisconsin GOP primary voters) shows a three-way race developing for the Republican Senate nomination as former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) has now moved into serious contention in the Badger State. According to PPP, wealthy businessman Eric Hovde places first with 28 percent while Neumann moves into a second place tie with former governor Tommy Thompson at 25 percent. State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald has dropped off the pace, posting only 13 percent.

Simultaneously, We Ask America also surveyed the Wisconsin race and arrived at a similar conclusion. They also see the contest closing around the three candidates. According to their poll (July 30; 1,237 Wisconsin GOP voters through automated calls) Hovde and Thompson are tied at 23 percent, and Neumann moves up to 17 percent.

The Wisconsin primary is Aug. 14, so the race’s determining factors will occur in final two weeks. Should the current trends continue and Neumann continue to gain strength – he moved up 10 points in the three weeks between PPP surveys, for example – then an interesting three-way finish with no clear leader could be on the horizon for the final few days. Obviously, this campaign is in a fluid state without a clear conclusion visible yet. The Republican winner will face Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), the consensus Democratic candidate, in a highly competitive general election campaign.

Texas Run-off Tomorrow

Dewhurst | Cruz

Voters go to the polls in Texas tomorrow to choose US Senate as well as several congressional nominees. The big Senate battle is on the Republican side, where three-term Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fights to save his political credibility against former state solicitor general Ted Cruz. In the May 29 primary, Dewhurst placed first with 44.7 percent of the vote versus Cruz’s 34.1 percent.

The primary results place Dewhurst in a gray area as to whether he can develop a winning run-off coalition in a two-way race. Most often, a well-known candidate who fails to secure a majority of his own party’s vote in the primary election loses the subsequent run-off because the majority opposition only has one choice. Turnout and the candidate who has the most energized base tend to be the determining factors.

Internal polls released from both camps show their own candidate leading in the high single-digit range. The Cruz polling was conducted just among May 29 primary voters while the Dewhurst samples are from a likely voter model. The methodology difference lends more credence to the Cruz polls. The chances of seeing an upset win here are at least 50/50.

On the Democrat side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired educator Grady Yarbrough battle for a ticket to the general election. Realistically, the winner of the Dewhurst-Cruz contest easily defeats the Dem winner in November, so tomorrow’s GOP run-off is likely race-determining.

On the congressional level, run-off voters in several districts will effectively choose House members. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the 33rd Congressional District is one of four new seats awarded the state. A Democratic battle between Ft. Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state representative and Dallas City Councilman Domingo Garcia is peaking. The race has become a rivalry contest between the two Metroplex cities. With more of the Ft. Worth area included in the new 33rd and placing first with a 37-25 percent margin, Veasey is viewed to be the favorite tomorrow. The Democrat winner claims the seat in November.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the new 34th Congressional District is anchored in the city of Brownsville and travels along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Filemon Vela will likely win the Democratic nomination tomorrow against former congressional aide Denise Saenz Blanchard. Vela, an attorney, is the son of ex-federal judge Filemon B. Vela and former Brownsville mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela. His wife, a Republican, is a sitting district judge. Vela placed first in May with 40 percent of the vote against only 13 percent for Blanchard. The large spread suggests Vela is in strong run-off and general election position.

For the Republicans, in the district stretching from the southern tip of Tarrant County (Ft. Worth) into western Travis County (Austin), former Secretary of State Roger Williams, assuming that financial wherewithal is a determining factor, is poised to score a run-off victory against Tea Party activist and college professor Wes Riddle. Williams is projected to outspend Riddle by an 8:1 margin, but the latter should have a grassroots advantage. In a low turnout election, that could be significant but it is unlikely he can overcome Williams’ many advantages.

In the state’s fourth new district, the 36th CD to the north and east of Houston, first-place finisher Mark Takach, a financial advisor who placed just 350 votes ahead of former Rep. Steve Stockman in the primary, face each other tomorrow. The outcome here is difficult to predict. Takach is an unknown and Stockman served only one term back in 1995-97 in an adjoining area. The winner, however, becomes the prohibitive favorite for November.

In the open 14th District, the seat veteran congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, two strong Republicans, state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris, are fighting for the right to face ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in the general election. The district clearly favors Republicans, but Lampson represented the Beaumont-Galveston region for four terms until his defeat in the redistricted 2nd CD that took him out of his regional base.

From the expansive district that stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, another defeated congressman, Ciro Rodriguez, is attempting yet another comeback. He placed first in the May 29 Democrat primary and now faces state Rep. Pete Gallego in tomorrow’s run-off. The Democrat establishment is clearly behind Gallego, who most believe will be the stronger opponent to freshman Republican Rep. Quico Canseco, but the San Antonio base still appears to be a Rodriguez asset. The general election will be a toss-up in what is Texas’ only real marginal congressional district.

Mass. Senate Race Still Up for Grabs

Brown | Warren

The widely watched Massachusetts U.S. Senate race continues to be one of the country’s top campaigns and, as polling released this past week reveals, the contest remains too close to call. It has grown ever tighter over the past four months.

Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren is challenging incumbent and first-term Sen. Scott Brown. The Commonwealth, normally considered bedrock blue in a political context, chose Brown in early 2010 during a hard-fought special election campaign after veteran Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) passed away. Brown became a national name after becoming the first elected Republican senator in Massachusetts since 1972.

According to a poll released this past Tuesday from the MassINC research group for WBUR, the Boston National Public Radio station, Warren was shown to be leading with 40 percent support, while Brown registered 38 percent. The study, taken during the July 19-22 period, had a sample size of 503 registered voters. While the survey projects Warren to a two-point advantage, the margin of error factor is 4.4 percent; therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the race remains a dead heat. In June, Public Policy Polling also released a survey putting the two in a virtual tie, with Sen. Brown running well among Independents.

Voters in Massachusetts appear to be warming to both Warren and Brown. This week’s poll reveals that Warren’s favorability rating stands at 47 percent, which is a 13-point jump from the last MassINC poll conducted in April. Brown’s positive index increased, too, reaching 50 percent, which is up from 46 percent as measured three months ago.

One category to watch here is the undecided vote. Historically in Massachusetts, the undecideds tend to move back toward their party’s incumbent as the election draws near. Should the undecided Democrats return to support Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in November, Warren could also benefit. If this current undecided model projection is correct, it will be Warren who has the greater room to grow, mostly because there are so many more Massachusetts Democrats than Republicans.

Sen. Brown is formerly a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives (1998-2004), and then the state Senate (2004-2010). He is also a practicing attorney and considered to be a moderate Republican, voting with his party approximately 80 percent of the time. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, is considered to be an American bankruptcy law expert who provided oversight to the 2008 bailout program and oversaw the establishment of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.

Both candidates bring unique qualities to the race and, as polling has consistently indicated over a period of months, this battle appears to be too close to call. It is certainly a race to watch over the next 102 days.

Interesting Michigan Polls

With the Michigan primary fast approaching on Aug. 7, some new numbers suggest a tightening of the US Senate race while a separate poll provides a clue as to how a reapportionment-created incumbent pairing might end.

Rasmussen Reports (July 23; 500 likely Michigan voters) delivers findings that are much different from other previously published polls. Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has been consistently running substantially ahead of former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2). Looking at four polls conducted since May 1, including an earlier one from Rasmussen, Stabenow has led Hoekstra by an average of 12 points. In the latest RR July survey, her lead has shrunk to just six, 46-40 percent. When paired with Hoekstra’s Republican primary opponent, attorney and charter schools advocate Clark Durant, the senator’s advantage is 47-39 percent.

Durant has been trailing badly in polling but is now making a serious stretch drive effort, spending the more than $2 million he has raised for the race and benefiting from at least one $400,000 Super PAC expenditure. Hoekstra, however, is still the heavy favorite for the party nomination.

Turning to Detroit, two-term Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-MI-9) move to the 14th District in order to challenge his Democratic colleague, freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI-13), may yet pay dividends. Despite the large African-American population in the 14th, Peters’ strategy of splitting the black vote among several candidates appears to be working. According to an automated 685 likely Democratic voter survey for local Fox 2 News, Peters has a 45-27 percent lead over Clarke, with the three second-tier candidates dividing the remaining votes.