Battle for the US Senate- 2016: February News

There was more news on the 2016 Senatorial races in February as filing deadlines in Maryland, Indiana and Pennsylvania passed besides the news from other races.  If a particular race is not mentioned here, chances are there was no major news.  Not all races are analyzed each month, however there is a rating chart at the end that does occasionally change based on news, polls, fundraising reports and traditional partisanship of a state’s electorate.

Alabama:  Republican Jonathan McConnell is all but begging conservative outside groups to rally to his cause in the GOP primary against Richard Shelby.  However, no one is heeding the call and most outside money is flowing to Shelby instead.

Alaska:  You know the political season is heating up when there is news out of Alaska.  Former Senator Mark Begich said he will not be running for anything in 2016 on the Democratic side.  And incumbent “Republican” Lisa Murkowski seems to be getting a free pass from the Right.

Arizona:  In the GOP primary, incumbent John McCain leads his nearest opponent, Kelli Ward, in the most recent poll 47-11.  That is a small increase from the last poll in November, 2015.  In a general election match-up against probable Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, McCain leads 38-37, a drop from that November poll which saw McCain with a 6-point advantage.

Arkansas:  We do not hear that much out of Arkansas and John Boozman’s reelection campaign, but there is one trend.  He is airing advertisements as if he is introducing himself to the voters…again.

California:  In the Soviet Socialist State of California, state treasurer John Chiang was considering entering the Senate race which features Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez mainly on the Democratic side.  The GOP has a plethora of unknowns running.  However, he will not run and is instead said to be considering a run for governor in 2018.  That would put him in conflict with fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom who is close to Harris.  When announcing he was not entering the Senate race, he threw his endorsement to Harris.  Could he just be hoping to hold off a Harris endorsement of Newsom in 2018 by calling in a favor?  Inquiring minds want to know…

Meanwhile, Sanchez hauled in an unimpressive $650,000 in the final quarter of 2015 which will not go far in a state like California.  But, Harris has her own problems despite her hefty hauls and bank account- her burn rate.  Apparently, Ms. Harris likes luxury hotels and slick staffers.  Conversely, of that $650,000 Sanchez raised, more than half came from a real estate deal when she sold a former office.

On the GOP side, Rocky Chavez announced he was withdrawing from the race.  Normally, this would make little difference, but that now leaves two viable Republicans- Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Becarro.  With three viable Republicans, they would split the vote and make it more likely two Democrats would advance to the general election- Harris and Sanchez.  But with Chavez out, the chances of a Harris versus some Republican general election increased.

Florida:  Home builder Carlos Beruff, a close ally of Gov. Rick Scott joined the crowded GOP primary to see who runs in November to succeed Marco Rubio.  He is a staunch anti-tax advocate and would most likely hurt the chances of Ron DeSantis which probably explains a DeSantis statement comparing Beruff to Charlie Crist who is despised by Florida Republicans.

On the Democratic side, as Scooby Doo would say… “Ro…ro.”  The House confirmed that the Ethics Committee is looking into allegations against Alan Grayson’s hedge funds.  Grayson released a poll showing him with a 9 point lead on Patrick Murphy, but polling has been all over the place here and with an August primary, expect more of the same.

Indiana:  In what could have been a major snafu, GOP candidate Todd Young came under some fire.  Under Indiana state law, candidates for the US Senate must get at least 500 signatures from each of the state’s nine congressional districts.  According to some counts, Young only managed 498 from the First District (with another 88 being contested)…or 497 from the First (according to Indiana Public Broadcasting)…or 501 from the First (according to Young).  Regardless, Young may have cut it real close in this district.  To make matters worse, Young’s main primary opponent, Marlin Stutzman, joined the Democrats in challenging some petitions and that has not sat very well with the GOP and the NRSC.  Along partisan lines, the Election Commission deadlocked 2-2 allowing Young’s name to remain on the primary ballot.  However, Indiana Democrats will most likely legally challenge this in court.

Kentucky:  Lexington mayor Jim Gray entered the race on the Democratic side in a challenge against Rand Paul.  Some had been arguing for Paul to get out of the presidential race and concentrate on retaining his seat in the Senate and that may have played a role in that decision.  Representing the state’s second largest city certainly gives Gray some name recognition and he is openly gay.  However, Lexington is more Democratic than the vast majority of Kentucky and he will have a tough time anyway.

Louisiana:  Former Democratic state legislator Troy Hebert announced that he will run for this open GOP seat, but as an independent.  As the former head of the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board, the FBI is allegedly investigating reports he solicited sexual favors from a New Orleans woman having trouble obtaining a liquor license.  A Louisiana scandal?  Some things never change.

Meanwhile, a Democrat has entered the fray- attorney Caroline Fayard.  However, new governor John Bel Edwards is said to be encouraging Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell to enter the race.

There is a poll out of the state showing that state treasurer John Kennedy leads the field with Charles Boustany tied with Scott Angelle in second place.  This will likely change as November’s jungle primary nears with a possible runoff in December.

Maryland:  The filing deadline came and went and the Elijah Cummings watch for entering the open Senate race is now over.  He will apparently remain in the House where he will blubber his way through congressional hearings.  Instead, this will be a battle between Barbara Edwards and Chris Van Hollen.  This is a rather blue state (because of the DC suburbs and Baltimore) and neither should have trouble winning this seat unless something unforeseen happens.

Even still, Van Hollen has the obvious power infrastructure and fundraising advantages, but when it comes to polls, he cannot seem to shake Donna Edwards, another Representative from Maryland.  It is true that Van Hollen has pulled back on some advertising in Maryland, which is expensive, but the fact Edwards is hanging in there portends an interesting Democratic primary.

New Hampshire:  Americans for Prosperity have announced that they will NOT financially support nor endorse Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte for reelection.  Her support of Obama’s clean energy initiatives and the Import-Export Bank landed her in hot water with the organization.  Its possible that American Crossroads and/or the Club For Growth will step in, but votes have consequences.

North Carolina:  Republican incumbent Richard Burr leads Greg Bannon in a High Point poll 46-10 which is down from the last poll that showed him well above the 50% mark.  The only thing that has changed is an alleged remark by Burr that he would rather vote for Bernie Sanders over Ted Cruz, although Burr denies the allegation.  Then another poll shows Burr beating all potential Democratic rivals with Deborah Ross coming the closest with a nine-point disadvantage.    North Carolina, incidentally, decided to eliminate runoff elections this year.

Ohio: Democrat Ted Strickland strayed from the Democratic line and told a Cleveland interviewer that although he would find it difficult to vote for an anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice, he would remain open to the idea.  He had to call back the interviewer afterwards to state that a pro-life nominee would be an instant disqualification.  The problem is he pulled a John Kerry by having two answers to a simple question.  Duh!  Even still, GOP incumbent Rob Portman may have a battle on his hands come November.  A recent poll by Quinnipiac puts Portman behind by two points and all five of their polls conducted thus far in Ohio have Strickland the leader.

Pennsylvania:  Democrat Katie McGinty has been stockpiling endorsements, especially from Pennsylvania labor groups.  She faces John Fetterman and Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary this year.  Because Sestak got a head start on her, he has more money in the bank.  Forget Fetterman who is not gaining any traction whatsoever.  If McGinty was to lose, it would be a major blow for organized labor’s influence in electoral politics in the state.

Race ratings: Changes since last month- moved Louisiana open seat to safe Republican (from keep an eye on), Florida open Republican race to toss up (from keep an eye on) and John McCain in Arizona from safe to keep an eye on.

R. Shelby- AL J. McCain- AZ (M. Rubio- FL) OPEN M. Kirk- IL
L. Murkowski- AK (D. Coats- IN)- OPEN K. Ayotte- NH R. Johnson- WI
J. Boozman- AR R. Paul- KY
J. Isaakson- GA R. Burr-NC
M. Crapo- ID R. Portman- OH
C. Grassley- IA P. Toomey- PA
J. Moran- KS
(D. Vitter- LA) OPEN
J. Hoeven- ND
J. Lankford- OK
T. Scott- SC
J. Thune- SD
M. Lee- UT
(B. Boxer- CA)- OPEN M. Bennet- CO (H. Reid- NV)- OPEN
R. Blumenthal-CT (B. Mikulski-MD) OPEN
B. Schatz- HI
C. Schumer- NY
P. Leahy- VT
P. Murray- WA