Massachusetts Senate Race Shapes Up; Halvorson Hit by Bloombert; Chafee Down in R.I.

As predicted, now that the Massachusetts Senate special election is officially underway, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) jumped into the race. He released an announcement video yesterday declaring his statewide candidacy. From his tweets on Twitter, it is clear that he will attempt to draw a sharp contrast between he and fellow Democratic Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), his opponent in the party primary to be decided on April 30.

Lynch will position himself as the outsider, versus Markey, who he portrays as the insider, establishment candidate. This might be a very difficult strategy to implement since Massachusetts voters normally support the most entrenched of incumbents.

Congressman Lynch represents downtown Boston and the South Boston area, going as far as Quincy and Brockton before swinging back up toward West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. Markey, on the other hand, represents the area north of the city commonly known as “Bean Town,” including his home base in Malden and Melrose, before swinging southeast to Revere and then west toward Framingham. Markey will move to secure the left flank of the party base whereas Lynch will attempt to rally the moderates. Markey has a huge financial advantage, beginning the campaign with more than $3.14 million in his congressional campaign account. Lynch has just under $750,000.

If this primary becomes a close, highly competitive affair, then the ultimate beneficiary could be former Sen. Scott Brown (R), should he decide to seek the Republican nomination. With polls showing him running ahead of both Democratic candidates, Brown continues to remain mum about his political plans.

IL-2: Bloomberg Attacks Halvorson

The special election that will be decided weeks before the Massachusetts Senate is the replacement campaign to succeed resigned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago. There, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) is attempting to secure the Democratic nomination by placing first with a plurality of the vote on Feb. 26. She is one of 16 Democrats running, but it appears that only four are in serious contention. Aside from Halvorson, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly, and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale are likely to be the top finishers. State Sen. Napoleon Harris, a former football star at nearby Northwestern University, just withdrew from the race and endorsed Kelly.

The district is predominantly African American, but a coalition of white voters and those in the suburban and rural counties south of Cook County could provide Halvorson a winning margin, particularly if the others split the majority vote relatively evenly.

This week, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC launched a $375,000 television ad buy aimed solely against Halvorson, however. The PAC concentrates its message on the gun control issue and their Chicago ads isolate and deride her for receiving an A rating from the National Rife Association during her one term in Congress and tenure in the state legislature. Whether this effort is enough to derail Halvorson is yet unknown.

Rhode Island Governor: Chafee Down

A new Public Policy Polling survey (Jan. 28-30; 614 registered Rhode Island voters; 320 Democratic primary participants) shows Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee to be in a difficult re-election position. In terms of job approval, the governor rates only 33:59 percent favorable to unfavorable according to this polling sample.

Tested against other prominent Rhode Island politicians who could conceivably challenge him, Chafee consistently places third. With state Treasurer Gina Raimondo as the Democratic nominee and former state police official and congressional nominee Brendan Doherty as the Republican, Chafee scores only a 22 percent preference. Raimondo leads with 32 percent, followed by Doherty at 28 percent.

If Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is inserted as the Democratic nominee, Doherty then takes the lead posting 31 percent, compared to Taveras’ 26 percent, and Chafee registering 23 percent. With Cranston Mayor Allan Fung as the Republican nominee, Raimondo climbs to 35 percent; Fung records 23 percent; and Chafee drops back to 21 percent.

Many have suggested that Chafee’s position would improve if he would run for re-election as a Democrat. This may be true in the general election, but the PPP data projects that he would fare poorly in the party primary. Raimondo out-polls him 35-22 percent, but Chafee manages to pull ahead of Taveras who scores only 19 percent.

Perhaps most troubling to Chafee’s potential as a Democrat, however, is the respondents’ answer to whether or not they think he should run for re-election as a member of that party. Only 18 percent said he should do so, as compared to 20 percent who said he should remain an Independent. A full 57 percent, however, said they don’t think he should run at all.

Though Rhode Island is a heavily Democratic state, this poll clearly has a liberal skew. Forty percent of the sampling universe described themselves as being very or somewhat liberal, as compared to only 32 percent saying they are very or somewhat conservative. Only 29 percent described themselves as moderates. In almost every survey, more respondents self-identify as moderate or conservative rather than liberal. Despite the skew against Chafee, however, these numbers suggest the governor has many political bridges to build in a short time if he is to successfully secure as second term as the state’s chief executive.

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