Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Colorado: Former state Sen. Tom Weins is publicly speculating about joining the Republican field to challenge appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D). Aurora At-Large City Councilman Ryan Frazier and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck are the officially announced GOP candidates. This is expected to be a competitive race because Bennet’s numbers are weak and he is an inexperienced political candidate.

Florida: Former House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), who is a heavy underdog to Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in the GOP Senatorial primary, is reportedly testing the waters about switching to the open Attorney General’s race.

Illinois: This always-changing campaign has done so again. Appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D) has officially said he will not seek a full term, and Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan is also out. This has led to a bit of maneuvering on the Republican side with Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) wanting to ensure a clear path to the nomination before entering the race. With Republican state party chairman Andy McKenna now saying he won’t run if Kirk does, the Congressman will now officially launch his Senatorial campaign on Monday. Despite the media trying to portray Kirk as indecisive, he actually played this situation quite well. He forced Madigan to make the first move, and he is right to insist upon a clear field for the nomination. Republicans have a chance to win this most Democratic of seats, but they must be united to do so.

New Hampshire: Research 2000, polling for the liberal Daily Kos national blog, just released the results of their latest Senatorial survey in the Granite State (7/13-15; 600 likely NH voters). Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R), likely the newest entry in the race, leads leftist Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH-2) by a 39-38% count, the best Republican number so far recorded in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R).

New York: Rasmussen Reports released their first poll of the New York Senate Democratic primary between appointed incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand and soon-to-announce Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14). The poll (7/14; 373 likely NY Democratic primary voters) has Maloney leading Gillibrand 33-27%. Both women have virtually identical favorability ratings. Gillibrand scores a 49:25% positive to negative mark and Maloney follows with a 44:24% ratio.

House Update

CA-32: Liberal Democrat Judy Chu won the special election to replace liberal Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (D) in Congress. Chu defeated distant relative Betty Chu (R) 62-33%, in a race that was decided when the CA Board of Equalization chair and former Assemblywoman won the May 19th Democratic primary. This will be a safe seat for Chu at least until 2011 redistricting changes the congressional boundary lines.

KS-4: Wichita state Rep. Raj Goyle (D) has announced his intent to run to replace Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who is now in the Senate race. State Sen. Dick Kelsey and RNC National Committeeman Mike Pompeo are officially candidates on the Republican side. The Wichita-anchored district is heavily Republican. President Obama lost the seat 58-40% to John McCain last November. Tiahrt first won here in 1994. The Republican nominee will be a heavy favorite.

MI-7: Former Rep. Tim Walberg (R), defeated last November in his first attempt for re-election, has decided to run for his old job. He will oppose Rep. Mark Schauer (D), who won the 2008 election 49-46%. This race will be considered a toss-up.

MN-6: State Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark (D) is telling supporters and key reporters that she will soon announce her candidacy to oppose two-term conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). Elwyn Tinklenberg (D), the 2008 nominee who held Bachmann to a 46-44% victory, is also an active candidate. Maureen Reed, a former Independence Party Lt. Governor nominee, is expected to join the Democratic primary field, too. Minnesota usually chooses its party nominees in convention, but holding a subsequent primary is possible.

PA-6: With Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) soon to enter the race for Governor, attention turns to the open House district. Since the seat is trending more and more Democratic (Obama carried PA-6 58-41%), this becomes a prime conversion opportunity. Former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer Doug Pike is off to a strong start on the Democratic side. He has already raised $630,000 for the campaign, giving him a significant early advantage over all potential opponents. Republicans are looking to state Rep. Curt Schroder, now in his eighth term in the House, serving a suburban Philadelphia legislative district that is fully contained within the 6th congressional. Chester County Recorder of Deeds Ryan Costello is telling reporters he will likely enter the race on the Republican side as well.

Governor Update

California: Former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman (R) is obviously serious about her run for Governor. Contributing $15 million of her own money to the race, added to the $6.7 million she has raised from others, means she has a beginning war chest of $25 million. She faces a GOP primary contest with state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, the only Republican elected statewide. The winner will face the Democratic nominee, currently projected as being the victor between Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Colorado: State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry (R) officially announced his candidacy for Governor, opposing former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO-3) in the GOP primary. The winner faces Gov. Bill Ritter (D) in the 2010 general election. Ritter appears vulnerable, but Republican leaders had hoped a consensus GOP candidate would emerge, thus saving scarce campaign resources for the general election.

New Jersey: Two new polls again show Republican challenger Chris Christie with the lead over Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in a race that will be decided this November. Quinnipiac University (7/8-12; 1,514 likely NJ voters) posts Christie to a 53-41% lead. The just-released Monmouth University survey (7/9-14; 792 registered NJ voters) shows the race to be a bit closer, 43-37%, still in favor of the challenger. Corzine’s job approval in the Q-Poll hit a record low 33:60% favorable to unfavorable.

Pennsylvania: Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) informed state and national Republican leaders that he will be running for Governor next year. He joins Attorney General Tom Corbett and former US Attorney Pat Meehan in the top tier of GOP candidates. Democrats feature Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, state Auditor Jack Wagner, and Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox. The recent voting history gives the Democrats an edge in the general election, but this race could become very competitive. The Pennsylvania Governorship is critically important in the national redistricting scheme.

Tennessee: The Southern Political Report conducted the first poll (7/13; 604 likely TN voters) of the open Governor’s race in the Volunteer State (Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) is term-limited), but the data doesn’t give any clear indications as to who might be the strongest candidate. Mike McWherter, son of former Gov. Ned McWherter (D) leads what will likely be a crowded Democratic field, but with only 23%. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN-3), similarly leads a pack of contenders on the Republican side by an almost identical 22%.

Texas: Gov. Rick Perry (R) has completely turned the Republican primary race against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison around. A new Rasmussen Reports survey (7/15; 776 Likely Republican TX voters) posts the Governor to a 46-36% lead over Sen. Hutchison, who just recently officially entered the race. Polls taken at the beginning of the year pegged Hutchison to leads of better than 20 points. Perry, who first assumed his office in 2001 when George W. Bush was elected President, is already the longest-serving Governor in Texas history. Hutchison was elected to the Senate in a 1993 special election when then-Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) vacated his seat to become Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Administration.

Virginia: Rasmussen Reports also has a new poll for the 2009 Virginia Governor’s race (7/14; 500 likely VA voters). Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds 44-41% in this most recent data. The two men have similar favorability ratings. McDonnell is viewed favorably by 50% of those sampled, against 27% who have an unfavorable perception of him. Deeds records a 49:35% positive to negative ratio.