Red State Weekly Political Synopsis for April 18, 2009

Senate Update

Colorado: As expected, African American at-large Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier (R) announced that the will challenge appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D). The 31-year old Frazier becomes the first official Republican to enter the race. The seat became vacant when Sen. Ken Salazar (D) was appointed Secretary of the Interior. Frazier is a rising star within the Colorado GOP and is well-positioned to give Bennet a strong run.

Florida: A new Quinnipiac University poll (4/6-13; 1,332 FL voters – 570 Republicans/474 Democrats) suggests that Floridians would prefer that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) run for re-election instead of seeking the state’s open Senate seat. By a margin of 42-26%, voters think Crist should run for Governor and not Senate. Testing primary preferences should Crist decide to run for federal office, the findings show he would crush any GOP opponent, at least at the present time. Fifty-four percent of the Republican respondents would support Crist. Both former House Speaker Marco Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-13) registered only 8% support apiece. Among Democrats, a close battle is ensuing between Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL-17), who polled 16%, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio who posted 15%. Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL-22) followed with 8%, and state Sen. Dan Gelber brought up the rear at 5%.

Minnesota: The special three-judge panel hearing the legal challenges to the still ongoing razor-thin Minnesota Senate race ruled that kooky leftwing Democrat Al Franken is the winner, and actually expanded his lead to 312 votes from 225. Almost 3 million total votes were cast. Though Republican Norm Coleman will appeal to the state Supreme Court, the die has virtually been cast. Within the next several weeks, Franken will be sworn in as the 59th Democratic Senator.

North Carolina: A new Public Policy Polling survey (4/8-11; 979 NC voters) confirmed previous data that showed conservative incumbent Richard Burr (R) trailing Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). The new poll shows Cooper leading 41-37%. Burr leads Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) 39-34%. Perhaps most troubling for Sen. Burr is his favorability rating. The study found only 35% holding a positive view of the first term incumbent, versus 31% who view him unfavorably. Burr is a strong campaigner and Republicans generally run better in North Carolina than they poll, so this survey is not necessarily an accurate depiction of where this campaign is headed.

Pennsylvania: The first quarter fundraising numbers are again stoking speculation that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) may in fact be running for the Senate despite his repeated denials. Sestak raised over $550,000 during the first quarter of 2009 and has $3.3 million cash on hand, all of which would be transferable to a Senatorial campaign. Sen. Arlen Specter (R) is being seriously challenged by former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in the GOP primary, making the chances for a Democratic conversion much more promising.

House Update

AL-3: Josh Segall (D), who held Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL-3) to a 54-46% win in 2008, announced he would run again in 2010. The seat is 32% black, making it the highest percentage African American district represented by a Republican. The 2010 turnout model, however, should be more favorable to Rogers and the GOP than that of 2008.

CA-50: After sitting out a term, has-been Democrat Francine Busby announced that she will again challenge Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50) next year. Bilbray defeated Busby in both a special and general election in 2006. Bilbray beat attorney Nicholas Leibham 50-45% in 2008. The Congressman begins the race as a decided favorite.

DE-AL: Former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) officially announced that he will challenge nine-term Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE-AL). Carney was passed over for the Senatorial appointment to succeed Vice-President Joe Biden, and now may be entering the congressional race to force Castle’s hand to run for Senate against Biden’s son, Beau. Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) announced upon receiving the appointment in December that he would not run for a full term. The Bidens pulled a fast one to deny Carney the seat because they knew incoming Gov. Jack Markell was planning to appoint him. Joe Biden worked the deal with departing Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D), so the congressional bid may prove to be a smooth Carney move to exact some revenge against the Bidens without directly opposing them. The Bidens were hoping to give Castle an easy road to re-election so that he would have incentive to stay in the House.

FL-10: Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL-10) announced that he will seek a 21st term in office next year. Young, 78, is in his 39th year of congressional service. State Sen. Charlie Justice (D) also announced that he would run in 2010, marking the first time Rep. Young has had a competitive challenger in many years. Democrats have made solid inroads within the Tampa Bay area district and could give Young a close contest.

MI-9: Paul Welday, former chief of staff to defeated GOP Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI-9) stated his intentions to challenge Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI-9), the man who defeated his former boss in 2008. Welday is also a former Oakland County Republican chairman. His first try for public office – a state House race in 2008 – was unsuccessful. The district is trending more and more Democratic, so Peters begins the campaign as a clear favorite.

NY-20: Democrat Scott Murphy took an unofficial 167 vote lead with only a few hundred absentee ballots remaining, making it virtually assured that he will win a close victory over Republican Jim Tedisco in the NY-20 special election. Local Republicans are challenging the validity of many absentee ballots, including one submitted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), the district’s former Representative.

OH-17: Capri Cafaro (D), the Ohio Senate Minority Leader, announced she will not seek the open congressional seat of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-17) next year. Ryan has already made public his plans to run for Lt. Governor. Cafaro, herself a former congressional candidate, had been viewed as a serious potential contender. OH-17 is a safe Democratic seat.

Governor Update

Alabama: Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), who made national headlines by refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from the high court’s chambers, stated he is likely to run for Governor again in 2010. Moore challenged incumbent Gov. Bob Riley (R) three years ago, and secured only 33% in the Republican primary. This time, however, Riley is term-limited, so Moore will be part of a crowded field for an open seat.

Arizona: Former conservative state Sen. Karen Johnson (R) announced that she will challenge Gov. Jan Brewer (R) for the GOP nomination. Johnson stated she does not believe her chances for victory are strong, but wants to protest Brewer’s adoption of a temporary tax increase. Brewer, who became Governor when Jack Boot Janet Napolitano accepted President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security position, has not yet announced her own 2010 intentions, but gives every indication that she will run.

Georgia: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), who was leading in most early Republican primary polls for Governor, announced he will not run for the state’s top office. A neck and shoulder problem requiring surgery will keep him from extensively campaigning. He said he does plan to seek re-election to his current position.

New Mexico: Retired Brigadier General Greg Zanetti announced his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Former Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) and Steve Pearce (R-NM-2) are also considering candidacies. Lt. Governor Diane Denish is the lone Democratic contender at this point in the race. Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is term-limited. Democrats are favored to retain the seat.

Tennessee: Former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN-9), and 2006 Democratic Senatorial nominee, ended speculation that he would run for Governor next year by announcing that he won’t make the race. Democrats are now hoping that Mike McWherter, son of ex-Gov. Ned McWherter, will enter the field of candidates. So far, only a state Senator, state Representative, and a businessman are announced Democratic candidates. Republicans have Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN-3), Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons. Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) is term-limited. The Republicans are in prime conversion position in this race.