• NE-02: Republicans' refusal to keep the federal government running has, as Democrats have been hoping and predicting, yielded the party's first big post-shutdown recruit. Omaha City Councilor Pete Festersen, who had actually declined a bid against GOP Rep. Lee Terry over the summer, has now changed his mind and decided to run after all. Festersen said he was reconsidering just a few days ago, after Terry's now-infamous remark that "dang straight" he was going to keep collecting his paycheck in spite of the shutdown.
Festersen's move gives Democrats a real shot at picking up this Omaha-based seat next year, particularly since Terry won by a narrow 51-49 margin against an underfunded opponent in 2012. And he might also inspire other candidates to step forward. According to DCCC chair Steve Israel, Democrats expect a new contender to announce soon in AR-02 against sophomore GOP Rep. Tim Griffin. And, says Israel, candidates sound newly interested in WA-08, where Rep. Dave Reichert faced down three tough challenges from 2006 to 2010, and long-neglected NJ-02, where Rep. Frank LoBiondo has usually skated. (Both are seats Barack Obama won.)
As for the latter, The Hill suggests it could be attorney Bill Hughes, Jr., who is the son of ex-Rep. Bill Hughes. (The elder Hughes served for two decades until 1995, when he was succeeded by LoBiondo.) Last month, Hughes said he'd talked to the D-Trip, though he hasn't made up his mind yet. Another possibility might be state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who's been discussed in the past but first has to win re-election next month.
• CO-Sen: Sen. Mark Udall (D): $1.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
• AR-Sen, -Gov: It's another tough poll for Dem Sen. Mark Pryor, with Hendrix College (on behalf of local news site TalkBusiness) showing up ahead of Rep. Tom Cotton just 42-41. It's actually the first survey of the cycle for Hendrix (which is based in Arkansas), so we don't have trendlines to judge by. But what little polling we've seen has generally placed Pryor in the low 40s, which certainly isn't good for an incumbent Democrat seeking re-election in a red state.
Hendrix also has some numbers on the state's open gubernatorial race, where Republican ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson is leading Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross 41-37. That's little changed from Hutchinson's 43-38 edge in February, though Ross had was not yet running at the time. Both of these contests will be difficult for Democrats, but at least Ross, who only represented a quarter of the state, still has the chance to up his name recognition and define himself. Pryor, who has served since 2003, is a by and large a known quantity at this point.
• NJ-Sen: Seems like it'll be a relatively soft finish for Democrat Cory Booker in Wednesday's special election. Monmouth's final poll places him up just 10 points, 52-42, over Steve Lonegan, down a touch from his 53-40 edge at the end of last month. But Booker's always been above 50, and as we wrote recently, Lonegan is on track to finish right in line with how Republican Senate candidates have performed in New Jersey over the last quarter century.
But meanwhile, Rutgers-Eagleton somehow has Booker ahead 22 points, 58-36, but even the pollster doesn't seem to believe his own numbers. In an accompanying blog post, polling director David Redlawsk offers a lengthy examination of his data, and in particular compares his results to Monmouth's. But his lede says it all: "I think I know how the Gallup people must have felt when their 2012 vote models showed Romney ahead in the waning days of last year's election, something that was clearly not true."
• FL-Gov: This is kind of an amazing stat:
But Scott's actions indicate he'd like to be more popular. His political committee and the Republican Party of Florida together have paid Virginia-based pollster Tony Fabrizio more than $1 million since Scott took office.And of that million-plus that Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida GOP have spent on polling over the last three years, how much has seen the light of day? Bupkes.
• MD-Gov: Maybe it's not the biggest deal in the scheme of things, but this story sure makes state AG Doug Gansler sound like a massive jerk:
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler regularly ordered state troopers assigned to drive him to turn on the lights and sirens on the way to routine appointments, directing them to speed, run red lights and bypass traffic jams by using the shoulder, according to written accounts by the Maryland State Police.Click through for the full details—it's a really unflattering portrait of a government official acting utterly entitled and oblivious. Gansler is running against Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and state Delegate Heather Mizeur in the Democratic primary for governor.
When troopers refused to activate the emergency equipment, Gansler, now a Democratic candidate for governor, often flipped the switches himself, according to the police accounts. And on occasion, he became so impatient that he insisted on driving, directing the trooper to the passenger's seat. Gansler once ran four red lights with sirens blaring, a trooper wrote. Another account said he "brags" about driving the vehicle unaccompanied on weekends with the sirens on.
• MI-Gov: Local tipsheet MIRS is teasing a new poll they commissioned from the Marketing Resource Group and Mitchell Research which purports to show GOP Gov. Rick Snyder up 50-36 over Democratic ex-Rep. Mark Schauer. All we have is a tweet with the toplines (the rest is behind a paywall), but there's no good reason to trust Mitchell, one of Michigan's many crummy pollsters.
Last year, you may recall that Nate Silver laid them out when Mitchell's chief called the race between Obama and Romney a tie in Michigan over the summer, insisting—contrary to all evidence—that black voters would form only 8 percent of the electorate. That prompted Silver to jab: "I've never heard of a pollster treating the demographic makeup of a state as essentially a matter of opinion." Oh, and as for African Americans? They constituted 16 percent of all Michigan voters in 2012.
• VA-Gov: It sure sounds like the Cuccinelli campaign has moved on from loser-talk to already-lost-talk:
Responding to the criticism, Chris LaCivita, a senior Cuccinelli strategist, said, "It's uncommon but not unheard of for what I consider to be poseurs to attack a campaign before it's over."Saying your campaign "ain't over" is like insisting you're cool. It doesn't work that way—only others can attest to your coolness. The whole piece is a pretty brutal examination of how the Virginia GOP's hopes have fallen apart this year, thanks to Ken Cuccinelli's failings and a bitter divide over the shutdown, which has proven badly damaging to Republicans. And there are plenty more juicy quotes, including several on the record from GOP power brokers.
"It ain't over yet," he said. "We won't concede, and shame on those who do."
McAuliffe isn't making things easy, though, with a new report that he failed to disclose his investment with Joseph Caramadre, the now-infamous Rhode Island annuity scammer, in financial statements he filed when he first ran for governor in 2009. McAuliffe's attorneys say they think he wasn't obligated to disclose that investment, but they did not offer an explanation for their reasoning.
McAuliffe also responded by once again highlighting Cuccinelli's own disclosure failings, so that's telling in and of itself. But it's also a good reminder that Cuccinelli isn't very well-situated to attack his opponent over this kind of thing—though he certainly doesn't lack for chutzpah, so who knows what he might try.
• AR-04: It's a good get, but an incredibly tough district. Democrat James Lee Witt, who earned accolades as FEMA director under Bill Clinton, says he's "80 percent" decided on making a bid in Arkansas' 4th Congressional District. Witt says he's been recruited by so aggressively by (among others) Joe Biden and Clinton that he's told recruiters "to stop calling."
The seat is open thanks to GOP Rep. Tom Cotton's run for Senate, and it's ancestrally Democratic. But it went for Mitt Romney by a punishing 62-38 margin last year, and it would take a hell of a campaign to convince voters to return to their roots. State House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman is the choice of the GOP establishment, but other Republicans are also running.
• CA-21: Oy vey. The federal government shutdown may be inspiring more Democrats to consider running for Congress, but sometimes, there are candidates you'd rather remain in the woodwork. Case in point: Businessman John Hernandez, who ran a very poor, underfunded campaign last year in California's 21st, says he's going to seek a rematch against GOP Rep. David Valadao. Fortunately, though, Democrats already have a legitimate candidate running in former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria.
But Hernandez was able to prevail in the 2012 primary over another, more capable Democrat, Fresno City Councilor Blong Xiong, so Renteria will have to take him seriously. However, Hernandez, just by virtue of his surname alone, had an edge in familiarity over Xiong (who is Hmong) in this Hispanic-heavy district, and on top of that, Fresno isn't actually in the district. Renteria, meanwhile, is also Hispanic, and though she actually lives a bit outside the 21st herself, she's a native of the southern end of California's Central Valley and thus shares its cultural affinities.
• CT-05: Republicans may land a very intriguing candidate to take on freshman Rep. Elizabeth Esty in Connecticut's 5th Congressional District. Physician William Petit, who was the lone survivor of a chilling home invasion in 2007 that left his wife and daughters dead, said he's "50-50" in terms of making a bid for office. Petit publicly advocated against the repeal of the death penalty following his ordeal, but he hasn't run for office before and noted that he remarried just a year ago and has a new child on the way.
Esty won a very narrow open-seat race last year, defeating Republican Andrew Roraback 51-49. So far, though, the only Republican running this time is self-funding businessman Mark Greenberg, who has waged two unsuccessful campaigns for this seat before.
• FL-13: We have our first announced Republican for Rep. Bill Young's now-open seat in the St. Petersburg area on Florida's Gulf Coast. Former state Rep. Larry Crow, who's been out of office for over a decade, is entering the race, and he certainly seems like a throwback to a different age. In his announcement, Crow noted that he won the Sierra Club's "Legislator of the Year" award back in 2002, which is not the kind of credential many Republicans tout nowadays.
On the Democratic side, former state CFO Alex Sink has confirmed her interest but says she'll decide in "weeks, not days." One big problem for Sink, who recently declined a second bid for governor, is that she lives in the town of Thonotosassa, two districts away in FL-15. Meanwhile, two other Democrats have bowed out: Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace both say they won't run.
• LA-05: With this Saturday's jungle primary in this North Louisiana district fast approaching, Roll Call provides some background on this race. Unless there's a major shock and someone clears the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff, the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the November 16 runoff. It is widely accepted that the establishment-backed Republican state Sen. Neil Riser be one of those candidates (though a surprise is always possible) but who his opponent will be remains an open question.
Operatives involved in the state suggest that of Riser's thirteen opponents, the most likely to advance are Republicans Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, state Rep. Jay Morris, and rich guy Vance McAllister (all Republicans), or Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo. (Also in the race are Democratic state Reps. Robert Johnson and Marcus Hunter, but the article is pessimistic about their chances.)
Holloway, a former Congressman making his fourth comeback attempt since he lost his seat in 1992 (with a 2003 lieutenant governor defeat thrown in for good measure) has reportedly polled second for most of the race. However, Holloway has been dealing with recent problematic stories that he broke his pledge not to accept contributions from industries he regulates. This could give McAllister or the more tea party flavored Morris an opening, or propel Mayo if he can consolidate the district's Democratic vote. (Darth Jeff)
• NM-02: One more PPP House poll squeaked through late last week, and while it's for different clients (ProgressNow NM and the Center for Civic Action), it follows the same format that huge batch of surveys for MoveOn did. GOP Rep. Steve Pearce sports a mediocre 44-45 approval rating and leads a generic Democrat opponent 47-44. Given how conservative this district is—it went for Mitt Romney 52-45—that's a pretty positive sign for Democrats, who have two candidates running here: attorney Leslie Endean-Singh and former Eddy County Commissioner Roxanne "Rocky" Lara.
And Pearce just made a foolish shutdown-induced misstep on Facebook, exhorting furloughed government workers who are hurting for cash to... take out a loan! Not only does it seem bizarrely hypocritical for a Republican who insists he wants to balance the federal budget at all costs, but it's a particularly galling message given how poor much of Pearce's district is—which explains why his camp later deleted the post and blamed a staffer for it. The longer this shutdown goes on, it seems, the more opportunity Republicans have to really step in it.
• WI-01: Democrats, too, may get a new House candidate whose family was also scarred by horrific violence. (See CT-05 item above.) Emmy-winning filmmaker Amar Kaleka says he's forming a committee to explore a run against GOP Rep. Paul Ryan and will "likely" announce a bid next month. Kaleka's father was the president of a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee and he, along with five other worshippers, was murdered by a white supremacist who stormed the sanctuary last year. Kaleka says he's inspired to seek public office by the tragedy and specifically cited congressional inaction on enhanced background checks for gun buyers as a motivation for running.
• Boston Mayor: While recent polling shows state Rep. Marty Walsh trailing City Councilor John Connolly, Walsh has the advantage in one potentially critical area: endorsements from former rivals. In the last few days, Walsh has earned the backing of city Councilor Felix Arroyo, former School Committee member John Barros, and former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, who finished third in the primary. With African-American and Hispanic voters up largely up for grabs in this race between two Irish-American contenders, the endorsements from three candidates who performed well in heavily minority areas during the primary could give Walsh a needed boost. (Darth Jeff)
• IN Ballot: Last week, we mentioned a poll from Republican pollster WPA Research regarding an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana that's likely to appear on the ballot next year. The survey, conducted on behalf of the Indiana Family Institute, found much higher support—62 percent—for the amendment than other polls had, but we had little information to go on.
Now, though, I've obtained a copy of the polling memo, so we can better compare the differences between WPA's poll and a recent poll from another GOP firm, Bellwether Research, which tested the amendment on behalf of pro-equality group Freedom Indiana and found voters opposed 48-45. WPA, it turns out, asked respondents if they supported the amendment, describing it with the exact wording that would appear on the ballot:
Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.That second sentence, by the way, is a devious piece of work: It outlaws civil unions for same-sex couples without actually saying so. (Equality supporters have a lot of work to do to educate voters about that.) Bellwether actually used slightly pushier language:
Indiana currently has a law that defines marriage to be between one man and one woman. Next year, the legislature may vote to amend Indiana's constitution to define marriage this way and then there would be a statewide referendum in the next general elect ion to approve the legislature's actions. If the election were held today, do you think you would (Rotate) vote YES or vote NO to amend Indiana's Constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman?It's subtle, but that first sentence serves to remind voters that same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana—a reminder they won't actually receive in the voting booth. So you might be tempted to conclude that WPA's construction is preferable.
However, while their question wording might hew more closely to what voters will see, their sample composition raises some serious issues. WPA used a likely voter screen, which is something pollsters typically do just a few months for an election, not over a year out. (And in this case, the legislature hasn't even voted to refer the amendment to the ballot yet.) What's more, same-sex marriage is a notoriously fast-moving issue, making it even harder to try to capture a "likely" electorate so far in advance. So personally, I'd like to see WPA's question format used with Bellwether's sample.
• Nassau Exec: Siena College's new poll of the Nassau County executive's race offers bad news for Democrat Tom Suozzi, who's making a comeback bid, but there are good reasons to be skeptical here. The survey finds Suozzi trailing Republican incumbent Ed Mangano 52-35 ahead of next month's election, but in late August, Siena gave Suozzi a 42-41 edge. Has he really dropped 18 points since then?
What's more, if you look at the crosstabs, you'll see that Suozzi has just a 44-43 lead with non-white voters. Not only does that seem implausible, but he had wide leads with blacks and Hispanics in that earlier poll.
And while Siena, bless 'em, often polls races no one else will, they don't have the best track record. In September of this year, they had one of the worst misses we've ever seen in a poll of the Rochester, NY Democratic primary for mayor: They predicted the incumbent to win 62-37, but instead he lost 57-41. That's a pretty amazing 52-point error. And in 2009, just ahead of Suozzi's first matchup with Mangano, they had Suozzi up by 23; he lost by 386 votes. So exercise caution with these results.
• SD Mayor: SurveyUSA's new poll of San Diego's special mayor election next month finds Democrat Nathan Fletcher leading Republican Kevin Faulconer 32-28, with two more Democrats, David Alvarez (at 20) and Mike Aguirre (8) trailing. It's a bit of a bump for Faulconer, who was behind Fletcher 30-22 last month. Faulconer's also caught up a bit in the inevitable runoff, where Fletcher is now ahead 46-36, versus 44-30 in September.
• Seattle Mayor: There's little change in the new SurveyUSA poll (on behalf of KING-TV) of the Seattle mayoral race: they now have state Sen. Ed Murray leading incumbent Mike McGinn 52-32, instead of the 52-30 result they showed last month. McGinn's camp has previously issued some rumblings that their internal polls see it closer... if so, well, seems like the time to put them on the table would be now. (David Jarman)
• Special Elections: One of the biggest special elections of the year is set to take place on Tuesday in Florida, where Democrats are hoping to pick up a Republican seat left vacant by Mike Fasano, who was appointed Pasco County tax collector by Gov. Rick Scott in August. Our preliminary calculations say that this seat, Florida's 36th House District, went for Barack Obama 52-47 in 2012, which is one reason Democrats are optimistic about their chances here.
Another is that Fasano just crossed party lines on Friday to formally endorse Democrat Amanda Murphy, a vice president of investments at Raymond James, over fellow Republican Bill Gunter, a minister. (Fasano had previously said he was voting for Murphy.) And two polls of the race, one independent and one Democratic, both showed the contest a tossup. Democrats are deep in the hole in the Florida House, but you've gotta start somewhere, and HD 36 looks like a pretty good place to begin.
P.S. Analyst Matthew Isbell also offers a very detailed examination of the race and the district demographics. (David Nir & Johnny Longtorso)
• VA State House: Two Northern Virginia Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates are releasing polls from Myers Research showing tight races in their districts. In District 34, Democrat Kathleen Murphy leads Republican Delegate Barbara Comstock 48-45; Obama carried this district by a narrow 50-49 in 2012.
Meanwhile, in District 87, Democrat John Bell and Republican incumbent David Ramadan are tied with 47 percent each; Obama won this district 56-42. Democrats are currently a super minority in the House with only thirty-two seats to the GOP and their Independent allies' sixty-eight. If they want to build up more respectable numbers, unseating Comstock and Ramadan is a good place to start. (Darth Jeff)