Red State Weekly Political Synopsis

Senate Update

Illinois: As expected, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, the first female ever to hold the position, officially announced her campaign for US Senate. She will oppose state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the Democratic primary, scheduled for an early February 2nd. Appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D), who previously said he would not seek a full term in 2010, now humorously says he has not completely closed the door on a run of his own. The Democratic winner will almost assuredly face Republican Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) in the general election. Both the Democratic primary and the November campaign will be highly competitive.

Kansas: A new Survey USA poll (8/7-9; 471 likely KS Republican voters) posts Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS-1) to a 38-32% lead over fellow Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS-4) in their battle against each other for the Republican Senatorial nomination. This poll, as all prior surveys have done, forecasts a close race for the August 3, 2010 primary. The winner replaces Sen. Sam Brownback (R), who will be Governor.

Nevada: Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) publicly stated that he will not challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) next year, but Nevada Republican Party chair Sue Lowden may. A new Vitale & Associates poll, financed by friends and supporters of Lowden who are unofficially drafting her into the race, gives the former Miss America contestant a 48-42% over Reid. The Senator’s favorable rating dropped to 39%, according to this same poll. The Leader is no stranger to close elections; three of his four victories have been with 48, 50, and 51% of the vote. Reid will definitely be on the ropes in this situation.

New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has apparently dodged a competitive primary challenge. Both Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14) and Jose Serrano (D-NY-16) announced that they would not run for the Senate next year. The news is particularly surprising in Maloney’s case because she was actively taking steps to prepare for the race. Previously, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-4) and Steve Israel (D-NY-2) had stated they would run, only to back away. Barring a strong primary challenger coming out of the political woodwork, Gillibrand will be in strong re-election position.

Pennsylvania: A new Rasmussen Reports poll (8/11; 1,000 likely PA voters) shows former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) with a 48-36% advantage, marking the first time the Republican has claimed the lead against turncoat Sen Arlen Specter (D). Toomey also has the advantage over Specter’s Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), 43-35%. This is the first poll taken after the highly publicized Specter town hall meetings that have featured hundreds of angry Pennsylvania citizens lashing out at the Senator over the healthcare issue. A preliminary RR Democratic primary poll (8/11; 423 likely PA Democratic voters) gives Specter a 47-34% margin over Sestak, but that’s down considerably from the original 55-23% mark found in Quinnipiac University’ mid-July survey.

House Update

CA-10: A new poll show California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D) leading the field for the September 1st special election to replace former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D). According to Survey USA (8/10-11; 552 likely CA-10 voters) Garamendi places first with 26% of the vote, followed by Republican John Harmer with 18%, and then Democrats Mark DeSaulnier (15%) and Joan Buchanan (12%). Garamendi, a former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department, won the endorsement of both former President Bill Clinton and ex-Vice-President Al Gore. The primary election will send the top Democrat and Republican to a November 3rd run-off election, assuming no candidate secures an absolute majority on the first ballot. The district is heavily Democratic, but with all of the front runners having upside down favorability ratings according to Survey USA, Harmer may have an outside chance if the turnout drops to a record low.

IL-10: A new Anzalone-Liszt survey (8/3-6; 405 likely IL-10 Democratic primary voters) conducted for the Dan Seals campaign, posts the candidate to a huge 63-8% lead over state Rep. Julie Hamos (D), who just recently entered the race. Attorney Elliot Richardson registered 2%. State Sen. Michael Bond, originally a candidate, withdrew from the contest in order to seek re-election to the legislature. Republican Mark Kirk is vacating the seat to run for the Senate. Seals has twice opposed Kirk, scoring 47% of the vote each time. This is a strong Democratic conversion opportunity, but the general election promises to be competitive.

KS-4: The open Wichita-anchored 4th CD is about to get two more candidates. State Sen. Jean Schodorf and oil man Willis “Wink” Hartman are making moves to enter the Republican primary race. Both state Sen. Dick Kelsey (R) and Republican National Committeeman Mike Pompeo are already official candidates. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) is running for Senate. Democratic state Rep. Raj Goyle has the inside track to his party’s nomination. The eventual Republican nominee will be a prohibitive favorite in the November election.

NY-1: The adverse national publicity liberal Rep. Tim Bishop (D) received at his town hall meeting may have helped the National Republican Congressional Committee recruit their top choice as his opponent. Wealthy businessman Randy Altschuler (R) will soon become an official candidate and should have the resources necessary to make the general election competitive. The 1st district has a history of swinging back and forth between the parties. Bishop was first elected in 2002.

NY-23: Democrats chose attorney Bill Owens to be their special election nominee when Rep. John McHugh (R) is confirmed as Secretary of the Army. The eleven local chairmen whose counties make-up the 23rd district took almost twelve hours to choose among the various applicants. Gov. David Paterson (D) will have the authority to set the election as soon as McHugh’s resignation is official. The best guess is that it will coincide with the November 3rd regular municipal election. Republicans have already nominated liberal state Assemblywoman DeDe Scozzafava. Businessman Doug Hoffman is the Conservative Party nominee. This should be a close race. The Democrats’ obvious choice, state Sen. Darrel Aubertine, chose not to run.

PA-6: Former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer Doug Pike (D) may soon have company in the Democratic primary for the open seat campaign to replace Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), who is running for Governor. Retired businessman Bob Roggio, who held Gerlach to a 52-48% victory
in 2008, confirmed to reporters that he is considering running again. State Rep. Curt Schroder and Chester County Recorder of Deeds Ryan Costello are Republican candidates. This will be a highly active campaign in both the primary and general elections.

PA-7: Former US Attorney Pat Meehan (R), currently a candidate for Governor, is telling supporters that he may abandon his statewide campaign and switch to the open 7th district congressional race. This would give the GOP a tier-one candidate in a district they lost to Rep. Joe Sestak in 2006. Businessman Steven Welch is already in the Republican primary. Democrats will likely field state Rep. Bryan Lentz and possibly fellow state Rep. Greg Vitali. If Meehan runs, this race could move from Lean Democrat to Toss-up.

Governor Update

New Jersey: In a three-way Quinnipiac University poll (8/5-9; 1,301 NJ registered voters) Republican former US Attorney Chris Christie still leads lefty Gov. Jon Corzine (D) by a 46-40% margin. Former state EPA Commissioner Chris Daggett, running as an Independent, takes 7%. In a straight head-to-head contest, the same sampling universe posted Christie to a 51-42% lead. Only 1% of those sampled rated the New Jersey economy as “excellent”, and an additional 7% categorized it as “good.” A full 92% rated it either “only fair” (47%) or “poor” (45%).

Utah: Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) resigned his position as he was confirmed by the Senate to be the next US Ambassador to China. Lt. Governor Gary Herbert (R) was then sworn in as the state’s 17th Governor. He subsequently chose moderate Farmington City state Sen. Greg Bell (R) to replace him at Lt. Governor. Herbert will stand for a special election in 2010 to fill the balance of the four year term, which expires in 2012. He must first qualify for the ballot at the party nominating convention, and then secure the primary election before running in November. Several Republican office holders are already looking at challenging Herbert. Salt Lake City Mayor Peter Corroon is the top Democratic possibility.

Virginia: Rasmussen Reports released the results of their latest poll (8/10; 500 likely VA registered voters) of Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Republican Bob McDonnell, the state’s former Attorney General, leads Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds 48-37%, continuing a string of surveys that post the GOP nominee to a substantial lead.