Red State Weekly Political Update for April 10, 2009

Senate Update

Kentucky: A new Public Policy Polling survey (4/2-3; 610 KY voters) shows Sen. Jim Bunning (R) losing to all potential challengers. Against Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY-6), Bunning trails 47-33%; the margin is 42-33% when paired with Attorney General Jack Conway; 42-34% against state Auditor Crit Luallen; and 43-36% when the opponent is Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, the man who held Bunning to a 51-49% victory in 2004. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have been urging Bunning to retire, and their persuasion must succeed if the GOP is to have any chance of holding the state. Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) polls in the even range when paired with the same Democrats.

House Update

CA-10: Lt. Governor John Garamendi (D), who runs for any office at any time and is already preparing a campaign for Governor, is now exploring entering the special election field of candidates for the soon-to-be-vacated northern California congressional district. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA-10) has accepted an Obama Administration position at the State Department and will be resigning her seat upon confirmation to the new post. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D) appears to be lining up most of the leftwing political establishment behind him, including ultra-liberal Rep. George Miller, the dean of the northern CA Democrats. DeSaulnier has to be considered the favorite even if Garamendi decides to run. The seat is heavily Democratic and will remain such, though the Republicans are expected to field a credible candidate.

CA-32: The vacated congressional seat of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis attracted another candidate, which could be bad news for state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D). Benita Duran, a Solis congressional staff member, announced her candidacy this week. The district is heavily Hispanic, but state Board of Equalization member and former Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D) is making a strong run. Cedillo represents very little of the congressional district in Sacramento, and the entry of another Hispanic candidate could further dilute what should be his base vote. Though the district will ultimately elect a Democrat, the May 19th primary will narrow the field to the top vote-getter of each party. Duran is not strong enough to obtain the Democratic nod, but this development must be viewed as good news for Chu. Obama transition team member Emanuel Pleitez (D) and businessman Rafael Nadal (D) are also announced candidates.

IL-5: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (D) won election to the vacated congressional seat of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In a result that was a foregone conclusion once Quigley won the March 3rd special primary, the Democrat won a landslide 70-24% victory to secure the seat. Though Quigley is a hard-core leftist on environmental issues, he did oppose tax increases during his tenure on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, so he might be a slight improvement over Emanuel.

NY-19: Conservative state Assemblyman Greg Ball (R) filed an exploratory committee to challenge sophomore Rep. John Hall (D-NY-19). Hall, who wrote the famous song “Still the One”, is viewed to be in strong political shape but this upstate district has been traditionally Republican, and Ball is a candidate worth watching.

NY-20: Republican Jim Tedisco has increased his lead to 24 votes over Democrat Scott Murphy now that absentee ballot counting has begun in the special election to replace appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Unfortunately for Tedisco, the votes came from counties that he won on March 30th, meaning that his camp was expecting the margin to be greater. The election is so close that a winner is still impossible to predict. Thousands of ballots remain to be tabulated. Overseas military votes will be counted on April 14th. Had Tedisco run a better campaign, he would have won going away. Violating the cardinal rule of special election political strategy, Tedisco did not energize his base. Taking two weeks to decide whether to say he would have opposed the Obama stimulus package had he been in Congress, like literally every other House Republican, began his downward slide. Tedisco started the special election with a 21 point lead in local polls.

PA-6: Former Philadelphia Inquirer news reporter Doug Pike, son of former New York Congressman Otis Pike (D) who served in the House from 1961-78, announced that he will run for the Pennsylvania congressional seat of Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6). Gerlach has formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee, so the district may be open in 2010. The seat is marginal, as evidenced by Gerlach winning four brutally tough elections in the last eight years. Democrats are expected to nominate a stronger candidate than Pike regardless of whether Gerlach runs statewide or for re-election.

Governor Update

Florida: A Mason-Dixon poll (3/30-4/1; 625 FL voters) shows Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) leading state Chief Financial Officer Adelaide “Alex” Sink 36-35%. Neither are official gubernatorial candidates as all are waiting to see if Gov. Charlie Crist (R) seeks re-election or runs for the open Senate seat of the retiring Mel Martinez (R). The media and so-called “political experts” consistently maintain that the conservative McCollum is a weak candidate and the liberal Sink is uncommonly strong. Yet, this is the second consecutive poll that shows McCollum ahead. Surprise, surprise.

Georgia: Former Gov. Roy Barnes (D), who was thrown out of office in 2002, has drawn yet another Democratic opponent for what is believed to be his comeback electoral bid. House Minority Leader DuBose Porter announced that he, too, would enter the Democratic primary for Governor. Last week Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D) officially entered the field of candidates. Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) is term-limited. Republicans are favored to hold the seat. Clearly, not even Democrats are afraid of Barnes.

Iowa: The state Supreme Court’s ridiculous decision to sanction gay marriage has prompted conservative Rep. Steve King (R-IA-5) to more strongly consider running for Governor, the four-term Congressman is telling reporters. Gov. Chet Culver (D) is seeking re-election.

Michigan: Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson (R) announced he will not run for Governor next year. Political insiders are saying that Patterson’s decision is prompting Attorney General Mike Cox (R) to release what is expected to be a strong list of financial supporters early next week. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is also an official candidate. Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is term-limited. Lt. Gov. John Cherry is the leading Democratic candidate. This race is projected to be a toss-up as Cherry is not polling well, thus giving Republicans what appears to be a legitimate chance of winning. The Michigan gubernatorial post is one of the most critical in the country from a 2011 redistricting perspective.

New Jersey: A new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll (3/30-4/5; 809 NJ voters) continues to show former US Attorney Chris Christie (R) leading Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Though the sampling period (six days) is longer than desired to be statistically sound, the 42-33% margin is consistent with every other survey taken of this race. Corzine’s job approval stands at an upside down 40:49%. Along with Virginia, New Jersey is holding its gubernatorial race this year.

Oregon: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-2) stated this past week that he will announce a decision whether or not to run for Governor next year by this summer. Walden is the strongest possible Republican candidate. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) is a potential Democratic candidate, as is former Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) is term-limited.

Rhode Island: After speculation surfaced last week, and then was briefly denied, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who the voters dumped in 2006, formed an exploratory committee for Governor. Chafee, who served as a Republican in the Senate until losing and then bitterly left the party, is preparing to run for Governor as an Independent. Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is term-limited.