Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Republican Senate Movement in Hawaii, Mississippi

In Mayor, Senate on November 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

Hawaii

Though America’s 50th state is heavily Democratic, intra-party political developments may yield extra value to Hawaii’s Republican senatorial nomination. A very tough Democratic primary held late in the cycle (Aug. 9) could potentially cause enough partisan upheaval to put the general election in play. Hence, former congressman, Honolulu City councilman, and state Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) is reportedly considering filing as a senatorial candidate.

Djou won a special congressional election in early 2010 to fill then-Rep. Neil Abercrombie’s (D-HI-1) final term in the House when the latter resigned to spend full-time campaigning for governor. In the regular election later in the year, however, he fell to then-state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D), 44-50 percent.

Most analysts and observers expected him to run again in the open 1st District, since incumbent Hanabusa is challenging appointed Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary, but an attempt for the statewide office is an intriguing option. The 1st District is a bit more Republican than the state as a whole, but only by a whisker (state of Hawaii, Obama ’12: 70.1 percent – HI-1, Obama ’12: 69.7 percent).

From 2002 through 2010, Hawaiians elected a Republican governor, Linda Lingle. She ran for the Senate in 2012, but fared poorly against then-Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) losing 37-62 percent. Ironically, it was Hirono who Lingle defeated in her original campaign for governor, a 52-47 percent victory 10 years before. The presence of favorite son Barack Obama on last November’s Hawaii ticket was devastating to Republicans, and his 70-plus percent total proved a death knell for Lingle in her quest for the Senate. In 2014, the president will not be on the ballot, thus a return to a more normal Hawaii turnout model is a distinct possibility. This, too, should incrementally help an eventual Republican Senate nominee.

Though Djou has made no final decision about whether to again run for office next year, his potential Senate candidacy should give Republican Party leaders further cause for hope. Should the fall-out between Schatz and Hanabusa become intense, a strong GOP nominee could be in position to benefit. This situation merits watching.

Mississippi

In a potential move similar to the Hawaii situation, a former Mississippi Democratic congressman also is pondering a statewide run. Former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1), who served close to two full terms in the House, confirms that he is looking at entering his state’s Senate race.

Here, on the Republican side, a primary may be developing between six-term Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The latter, a Tea Party favorite, has already announced that he will run for the Senate next year. Sen. Cochran promises to make his re-election plans public soon after Thanksgiving. Serious speculation suggests that he will decide to retire. If so, at least in the Republican primary, the race would be wide open.

Childers benefits most if Sen. Cochran were to run and lose to McDaniel in a very close and bitter contest. Such a scenario could conceivably drive a contingent of Cochran’s Republican supporters into Childers’ camp, thus making him viable in the general election. Therefore, like the Hawaii race, this is another contest to begin watching in earnest.

San Diego Mayor

The special primary election to replace disgraced San Diego mayor and former congressman, Bob Filner (D), was held last night, and it appears that Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer has secured the top run-off position. Second place is too close to call in late returns, as Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat Nathan Fletcher and Democratic Councilman David Alvarez were separated by only 200 votes.

Now that the second election has become necessary because no candidate secured an outright majority, a new vote will be scheduled for a time within the next six weeks.

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