After a July that was fairly quiet on the electoral front (only three states went to the polls: Georgia, Oklahoma, and the Alabama runoffs), the ballot boxes will be filled once again the coming days. Four states in all will head to the polls this week, with plenty of races to keep horserace junkies intrigued in each state.
What follows is the clip and save preview of the races popping off on Tuesday (and, in Tennesee's curious case, Thursday) of this week.
KS-Gov: Most of the intrigue in Kansas' primary elections comes courtesy of veteran U.S. Senator (and onetime presidential aspirant) Sam Brownback. It was Brownback, after all, who got the ball rolling in at least four different races with his 2009 decision to leave the Senate and seek the governorship being given up by Democrat Mark Parkinson, who had already signalled that he would not seek a full term in his own right.
Brownback does face a primary on the GOP side, but it is not expected to be competitive. A recent SurveyUSA poll in the state gave Brownback a 50+ point lead over realtor Joan Heffington. State senator Tom Holland has already secured the Democratic nomination, but is considered an underdog in November.
KS-Sen: Brownback's Senate retirement created the first open seat for the Senate in 14 years, and that led to two defections from the House on the Republican side. Going head-to-head are two Republicans elected to the House in the mid-1990s. Western Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran has generally been considered the more moderate of the two, but he has parlayed enough right-wing support to earn a modest lead over Wichita-area Congressman Todd Tiahrt. On the Democratic side, there are a quintet of second-tier challengers. Evidently, the combination of Moran and Tiahrt being early entrants into the fray, coupled with a sense that the climate wasn't going to be optimal, seemed to sway leading Democrats away from the race. Polls have shown college professor Lisa Johnston narrowly leading the field.
KS-01: With Moran leaving the House seat he has occupied since 1996, a raft of Republicans took the leap into the race, a certain GOP hold in one of the reddest districts in America. A trio of frontrunners have emerged, with businessman/birther Tracey Mann and state Senators Jim Barnett and Tim Huelskamp all tied in a recent SurveyUSA poll. Democrats have coalesced around former Salina Mayor Alan Jilka, but Jilka is bound to struggle in this district that gave Barack Obama just 30 percent of the vote.
KS-02: Freshman Republican Lynn Jenkins, who knocked off conservative hero Jim Ryun during his 2008 comeback attempt, did get primaried in her first re-election bid. But state legislator Dennis Pyle has never quite caught fire, and Jenkins is considered a pretty solid favorite. Democrats, meanwhile, are likely to nominate Sean Tevis, who ran a very impressive 2008 state legislative bid and was a late entrant into this race.
KS-03: With Democrat Dennis Moore handing off the torch from this swing district (Obama 51-48 in 2010), his wife Stephene hopes to take the baton. She is all but assured of the Democratic nomination on Tuesday. Her likely Republican rival is almost certainly going to be state legislator Kevin Yoder, although with nine candidates in the field, an upset is always a possibility. The general election is expected to be very close, with the seat on the target lists for both parties.
KS-04: A SurveyUSA poll taken just during the past few days identifies the favorites for both parties in this battle to replace Todd Tiahrt. The district is reddish (58-40 McCain in 2008), but Democrats are high on their well-funded challenger: state legislator Raj Goyle. SUSA polling in June showed Goyle actually trailing unknown retiree Robert Tillman, but a quick pre-primary advertising blitz handled that effectively. Goyle now has a 40+ point lead. Meanwhile, Republicans have a more muddled field, which has become a three-way race at the last. For the longest time, it was a battle of the businessmen, as manufacturing exec Mike Pompeo and Florida transplant Wink Hartman paced the field. But moderate state senator Jean Schodorf has surged at the wire, and could figure in the conversation on Tuesday. This week's SUSA poll had Pompeo at 31 percent with Schodorf (24 percent) and Hartman (21 percent) within striking distance.
MI-Gov: Perhaps the marquee race of Tuesday night is the pair of primaries which will decide the major party nominees to replace outgoing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. The Democratic primary is a heads-up duel between two very different candidates, ideologically. State House Speaker Andy Dillon has carved out a reputation as a moderate, post-partisan lawmaker, while Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is running a much more fiery and ideologically populist campaign. Dillon had the early lead, but a pair of recent polls (including the most recent poll from the respected local numbers guys at EPIC-MRA) confirm that Bernero has pulled into a lead. It is worth noting, however, that roughly a third of the electorate is undecided, which is amazing this late in the game. Meanwhile, even more flummoxing is the race on the GOP side, where three or four contenders have a legitimate shot at the nomination. Businessman Rick Snyder is targeting moderates and even Democrats in this open primary state. That has propelled him into a tiny lead, according to the last EPIC-MRA poll here. Attorney General Mike Cox and right-wing Congressman Peter Hoekstra are a point or two behind. Trailing well behind, but perhaps a dark horse in the field, is Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. Bouchard has quite the triumvirate of endorsers, as Ted Nugent, Joe Arpaio, and Joe the Plumber are in his corner.
MI-01: Bart Stupak's late exit from this district, based in the state's Upper Peninsula, clearly has shaken up the field here. Surgeon Don Benishek has been in the race the longest (he was in the field when Stupak was still running), but state Senator Jason Allen raised a ton of cash almost immediately upon entering the race. A third possibility is the lightly funded Don Hooper. Hooper has nowhere near the campaign structure of the other two men, but might surprise on the grounds that he has been the ballot in the 1st district numerous times as a sacrificial lamb against Stupak. Democratic state legislator Gary McDowell had the field cleared for him, and is conserving resources (he is, thus far, outgunned financially by either Benishek or Allen).
MI-02: Almost all of the firepower here in this open district in Western Michigan is on the GOP side, as the race is to replace right-wing Rep. Peter Hoekstra. Jay Riemersma, a former NFL tight end, is the most recognizable name in the field, and has raised a lot of cash. Two state legislators, Bill Huizenga and Wayne Kuipers, also figure in the race here, as does teabagger Bill Cooper. With seven Republicans in the field, don't be surprised if 30 percent gets the job done in this one. On the Democratic side, 2008 nominee Fred Thompson is going heads-up with county commissioner Nicolette McClure. The district has a distinct Republican lean (McCain carried this district 51-48 despite abandoning the state early), and the survivor of that seven-way primary will be the likely favorite in November.
MI-03: If you want a sleeper race in November, this race to replace retiring longtime Republican Rep. Vern Ehlers might be the one to keep an eye on. Democrats have an unusually strong candidate for this district in Pat Miles. Miles faces former county commissioner Paul Mayhue in the primary, but Mayhue had just $257 on hand at the last reporting period. On the GOP side, young GOP state legislator Justin Amash was early to get in, and is a favorite of the Club for Growth crowd. He is considered to be the betting favorite. Former county commissioner Steve Heacock and state legislator Bill Hardiman also figure to be in the running.
MI-07: Given the swing-y nature of the district (it was carried narrowly by both Obama and GW Bush), a bad climate could spell trouble for freshman Democrat Mark Schauer. However, Schauer's fortunes probably rest heavily on the Republican selected to challenge him. The more well-known of the co-favorites is former Congressman Tim Walberg, the man defeated by Schauer in 2008. Walberg is a right-winger from way back: :ess than two weeks ago, he made the face-palm inducing statement that the teabaggers were the first people-powered movement in American history. Walberg is getting a run for his money, however, from attorney Brian Rooney. Rooney is attempting to join his brother (Florida Rep. Tom Rooney) in the House. Rooney is hardly a moderate, but is considered one in the battle against Walberg. Schauer would probably prefer to see the guy he has already defeated, but the nature of the cycle could make either man into a formidable challenger.
MI-09: The other freshman member of the Michigan delegation, Democrat Gary Peters, is probably a bit safer in November than his colleague Mark Schauer. That said, there are a pair of Republicans who are bludgeoning each other in an effort to take Peters on. Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski is a former state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2002. He is being challenged by former Hill aide and P.R. consultant Paul Welday, who has self-funded his campaign to some extent. The two have been landing haymakers on one another, which might ultimately work to Peters' benefit. My favorite candidate in the four-person GOP field, however, might be former judge Richard Kuhn, who first ran for Congress a mere 46 years ago.
MI-13: If an incumbent is going to go down this week, it will almost certainly be in the 13th district. Longtime incumbent Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick has been hounded by a number of things, not the least of which is the criminal travails of her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. State Senator Hansen Clarke is running a legit opposition to Kilpatrick, and a couple of polls have shown him in excellent shape to pull of the upset. If there is one thing working in her favor, however, it is the presence of six Democrats on the ballot, which could dilute the anti-Kilpatrick vote.
MO-Sen: Despite the presence of an eye-popping 12 Republicans on the primary ballot to replace retiring GOP Senator Kit Bond, all eyes will really be on just two of them this Tuesday. Longtime Congressman Roy Blunt, one of the leaders of the GOP caucus for most of the decade, is the undisputed frontrunner for the nomination, and has been raising money at an incredible clip (not surprising, considering his tight relationships with virtually all of the GOP D.C. power structure). He is getting an energetic (if underfunded) challenge from state senator Chuck Purgason. It is unrealistic to think that Purgason can pull off the upset: he has spent $32,000 to the more than $4.5 million that Blunt has thrown down. But Blunt's percentage of the vote in the primary could go a long way towards figuring out how much teabagger discontent Blunt will have to deal with down the line. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is expected to sail through the Democratic primary.
MO-04: Given the reddish tint of his district (McCain 61-38 in 2008), Republicans are finally gunning for longtime Democratic incumbent Ike Skelton. The 70-something Skelton has normally been immune from strong GOP challenges, but there are a host of well-funded Republicans testing the waters in 2010. The two frontrunners appear to be Religious Right activist and former state legislator Vicky Hartzler and state Senate GOP caucus chair Bill Stouffer. Both have raised almost half a million dollars in their bid to knock Skelton off. The good news for Skelton: the spending both candidates have had to commit to winning the primary means that the Democrat will have a better than 5-to-1 fundraising edge over whoever emerges from the GOP side of the ballot.
MO-07: This race is unlikely to mean anything in November (no Democrat has polled in the 40-percent range here in years), but there is a crowded GOP field to replace Roy Blunt in the House. Auctioneer Billy Long has spent the most cash, but he is expected to be challenged hard by state senators Gary Nodler and Jack Goodman. On the Democratic side, Scott Eckersley has thrown $100K of his own cash into the fray, and is probably a favorite over underfunded attorney Tim Davis.
TN-Gov: There is no race more genuinely indicative of how extreme the Republican Party has become in America than Thursday's Republican primary for governor in the Volunteer State. Frontrunner Bill Haslam, the wealthy owner of Pilot Travel Centers and the Mayor of Knoxville, has spent his way into a double-digit lead in most polls. Desperate to make up ground, his rivals have thrown deep in an attempt to corner some far-right support. Just in the past 10 days, GOP contenders for governor have played the secession card (Congressman Zach Wamp) and the Islamophobia card (Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey). Despite these political equivalents to the Hail Mary pass, the guess here is that Haslam holds on, especially since Tennessee is one of the few Southern states that does not have a runoff election. Democrat Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, is unopposed on the Democratic side. Haslam would be a clear favorite over McWherter in November. The other two, on the other hand, could make it a race.
TN-03: The battle to replace Wamp will essentially be decided on Thursday. Democrats would have an uphill climb in any event in the 3rd district (carried by John McCain with more than 60 percent of the vote), but the two contenders here combined have raised less than any one of the half-dozen leading Republicans vying for the spot. The two leaders on the GOP side are former state GOP chairman Robin Smith and attorney Chuck Fleischmann.
TN-06: With Democrat Bart Gordon heading to the exits after nearly three decades in the House, this trending GOP district is a prime pick-up opportunity for the red team. And they are taking advantage, with no less than three candidates who have easily outraised the leading Dem contenders (attorney Brent Carter and veteran Ben Leming). The only thing working in the Dems' favor is the fact that all three GOP leaders (Diane Black, Lou Ann Zelenik, and Jim Tracy) have had to deplete their treasuries in the primary cycle (none have more than $256K on hand). Zelenik beat gubernatorial contender Ron Ramsey to the Islamophobe punch a month ago, but an internal poll for Diane Black suggested that it did not bolster her bid. That poll (with the requisite grain of salt) had Black well ahead of the field with 41 percent of the vote to 22 percent for Zelenik and 20 percent for Tracy.
TN-08: Maybe the best primary of the week could be this three-way trainwreck in Tennessee. In a seat that should be a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP (56-43 McCain), the Republican contenders instead are immolating themselves in an absolute blaze of glory. The fairly clear favorite candidate for the GOP establishment is farmer/gospel singer Stephen Fincher. Indeed, the NRCC has spent at least part of the week talking up their man in the race. The problem for Fincher is that he is getting hit on all sides from two other candidates. One is free-spending self-funder George Flinn, a Shelby County commissioner who actually lives in the heavily Democratic 9th district. In one of the greatest explanations for carpetbagging ever, he admitted that his candidacy in the 8th is wholly predicated on the fact that he couldn't get elected in his home district. He also has been exposed as a stimulus hypocrite, so it will be interesting to see if his $3 million investment in his own campaign will yield fruit. Physician Ron Kirkland is the third wheel in this contest, and has also raised seven figures for his bid. Expect fireworks in this one, and expect near-certain Democratic nominee Roy Herron (a state senator and one-time gubernatorial contender) to conserve his resources and prepare for his opponent.
TN-09: Perhaps the most repugnant campaign of 2010 is the longshot challenge by former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. It is hard to imagine a campaign in contemporary America reliant on more overt racial appeals than the one Herenton is wielding against second-term Democrat Steve Cohen, who is a white Congressman representing a largely African-American constituency. Herenton's ugly campaign does not seem to have helped him in the polls (a recent public poll had Cohen up 65-15), nor has it helped him with African American leaders: the Congressional Black Caucus decided to back Cohen earlier this week.