April 13, 2015 — While individuals such as Hillary Clinton and senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are officially becoming presidential candidates, several potential US Senate and House candidates pursued a different course over the weekend.
For Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (R), Sen. Rubio’s presidential announcement appeared to provide him an opening to run for what will now be an open US Senate seat next year. But, Atwater is rather surprisingly backing away from entering the race.
Despite early polls suggesting he might be the strongest Republican who could attempt to succeed Rubio and with supporters already forming a federal Super PAC on his behalf, Atwater, citing family considerations, announced over the weekend that he will not enter the Senate race next year.
The unexpected development adds even more intrigue to the Republican battle to replace Rubio. With Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) already off to a strong start on the Democratic side, and Florida being the quintessential swing state, the eventual Republican nominee will face a difficult campaign. The GOP not fielding their strongest Florida option could go so far as to cost them the seat, and conceivably the Senate majority.
Another individual who looked to be a sure entrant but who now may also be backing away is Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R). Rubio identified the lieutenant governor as a strong candidate for an open Senate seat when first making it known that he would not seek a second term if running for President. Lopez-Cantera, however, now appears less committed to a Senate campaign. Early polling had shown him to be consistently weaker than Atwater, possibly the major reason Lopez-Cantera’s spirits about a Senate race seemed dampened. Without Atwater in the field of candidates, however, we may see a more intensified effort from him.
One person more likely to run statewide with Atwater on the sidelines is Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6). He had already been moving toward forming a Senate campaign committee so expect the congressman to soon announce his candidacy now that the road to the nomination is less encumbered.
In a good news development for Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), who declared back on March 30 that she will challenge Sen. Mark Kirk (R), a key potential Democratic primary opponent is out.
Originally, four House members made public statements saying they were considering opposing Kirk. When Duckworth announced for the Senate, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), one of the potential contenders, left virtually no doubt that she was not going to run statewide, at least in 2016. Laudatory comments about Duckworth, which stopped short of an outright endorsement, made it clear that Bustos would soon officially support her colleague.
This weekend, Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-11) made public his decision not to enter the Senate race and did endorse Duckworth. Foster said that committing huge resources to winning a Democratic nomination instead of using that money to defeat a Republican is a waste.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL-2) remains the lone potential Democratic threat to Duckworth, but with internal party politics breaking latter’s way, it appears only a matter of time until she remains alone in the Democratic senatorial primary. Thus, it is highly likely that a Kirk-Duckworth general election will come to fruition.
Though it is not surprising that San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer (R) is not entering the open seat Senate contest, his act this weekend of endorsing San Diego County Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R) for the post cinches that he won’t run statewide but will seek re-election to his current position.
Falconer, who won a special election when Mayor Bob Filner (D) resigned in scandal, is widely believed to be the strongest potential statewide Republican candidate. Without him, or another like him in the race, two Democrats advancing into the general election for Barbara Boxer’s (D) open Senate seat becomes a more likely scenario.
The closest House race in the nation last year ended in a 167-vote win for Republican Martha McSally, who unseated two-term Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson). In a formal announcement scheduled for later today, it is widely believed that Barber will make public his decision not to challenge McSally to a re-match next year.
The closeness of the race and the marginal nature of the southeastern Arizona 2nd District suggests that McSally will be a top Democratic target, but the party will purportedly have a different nominee. Barber is citing family considerations and a desire to devote time to helping build the January 8th Foundation. This organization was formed to commemorate the shooting tragedy that wounded both then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-8) and Barber. The attack occurred on January 8, 2011. In all, 13 people were injured in the shooting. Six others died.