Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Tierney Out in Mass.; Tepid Victories Elsewhere

In Governor, House on September 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Massachusetts

In the last major primary of the 2014 election cycle, nine-term Rep. John Tierney (D-MA-6) became the fourth US House member to lose renomination this year, thus ending his congressional career. Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton denied Tierney the opportunity of continuing as the Democratic standard bearer with a substantial 49-41 percent victory spread against a sitting incumbent.

The Tierney defeat is really a term late. With his wife being convicted of federal tax fraud for filing illegal returns associated with her brothers’ illicit off-shore Internet gambling business several months prior to the 2012 election, Tierney barely escaped losing to former state Sen. Richard Tisei (R). The congressman won re-election 46-45 percent, even after he stopped campaigning and spending money with weeks remaining in the election cycle because he thought he was finished. Though a surprise comeback winner in 2012, his inherent political weakness made him highly vulnerable against a strong Democratic primary opponent this year.

Such is what he got, in the person of military veteran Moulton. Though trying to paint his opponent as a closet Republican, Moulten campaigned as a doctrinaire liberal, expressing opposition to the Iraq War even though he served four separate tours of duty there. In fact, he repeatedly stated that he and Rep. Tierney differed in only minor ways on the issues, but that his newer brand of liberalism and less personal baggage positioned him to be a more effective Representative.

With Moulten as the new congressional nominee, Republicans have little chance of converting the district. Tisei’s best chance was to face a weakened Tierney, but now he must battle Moulten. The Republican congressional arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, had MA-6 high on its conversion target list but Rep. Tierney’s defeat for re-nomination will likely downgrade candidate Tisei and the party’s victory chances. Today, rate this new open seat, the 47th in the nation, as Likely Democratic.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, the defeated 2010 special election US Senate candidate, was expected to glide through today’s Democratic primary against state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former Medicare Administrator Don Berwick. But, her 42-36-21 percent win is unimpressive for a candidate who, heretofore, held a big polling lead over her intra-party rivals. Now, against 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker, the governor’s race is suddenly becoming a very interesting affair.

New Hampshire

The Republican primary featured all of the action last night. As expected, GOP voters nominated businessman Walt Havenstein to challenge first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan (D). The governor enjoys strong approval ratings, and is a heavy favorite to win a second two-year term in November.

As expected, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown easily won the New Hampshire Senate Republican primary last night, securing 50 percent of the vote against nine opponents. Former state Sen. Jim Rubens was second with 23 percent, edging former US Sen. Bob Smith by just 761 votes. The remaining six candidates split five percent of the vote.

Polling continues to point to a budding close US Senate race between Brown and incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). Since New Hampshire voters have swung so wildly since 2006, actually defeating more federal incumbents than they re-elected during that period, no result can be discounted. The NH Senate campaign remains a race to watch.

In the two House races, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) will now officially face former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) for the third time. Guinta unseated her in 2010, only to lose two years later. The ex-congressman defeated first-time candidate Dan Innis, a former University of New Hampshire business school dean, and two minor GOP contenders, but his margin was not impressive. The former Congressman only scored a 49-41 percent margin over Innis. With polls bouncing around here, this campaign still must be considered one of the top Republican conversion races in the country. A stronger Guinta primary victory would have improved his standing, but any type of GOP wave will likely return him to Congress.

In the more Democratic 2nd District, freshman Rep. Annie Kuster (D) now has an official challenger. State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, with strong support from the Club for Growth, claimed the party nomination last night with 50 percent of the vote. She defeated former one-term state Sen. Gary Lambert, who attracted 26 percent. Placing third was ex-state Rep. Jim Lawrence with 19 percent. The general election is certainly worth watching because this district, too, has been flipping. The more solidly Democratic voting trends here, however, make Rep. Kuster a clear favorite for re-election.

New York

Though Empire State voters chose their federal nominees on June 24 to comply with the federal MOVE voting act, the state candidates faced voters last night. Defending himself against a challenge from the left against Fordham University associate law professor Zephyr Teachout, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was re-nominated but with a lackluster 62 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Cuomo’s general election challenger is Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Though Cuomo is heavily favored to win the general election, his relatively weak standing within his own party could be a measure of his strength if he were to enter the 2016 presidential contest. He is almost sure not to do so if Hillary Clinton runs but, if she chooses to pass, Gov. Cuomo seems to top the list of potential candidates.

Rhode Island

With Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) retiring, Rhode Island Democrats have now turned to state Treasurer Gina Raimondo as their nominee. She defeated Providence Mayor Angel Tavares and attorney Clay Pell, grandson of former US Sen. Claiborne Pell (D), 42-29-27 percent. Polling had been sketchy throughout this primary, at times suggesting that Raimondo’s strength was considerably less than her performance last night. She was always the top fundraiser in the field.

On the Republican side, as expected, Cranston Mayor Allen Fung defeated software engineer Ken Block, 55-45 percent. Rhode Island’s strong Democratic vote history gives Raimondo the inside track to the governor’s mansion, but small state politics can often be unpredictable.

Sen. Jack Reed (D) was unopposed for renomination and is now a lock to defeat Mark Zaccaria, a former state GOP chairman, in the general election.

In the House races, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI-1) won renomination, but with a tepid 63 percent of the vote against former Iraq War veteran Matt Fecteau. Both Cicilline and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI-2) are now prohibitive favorites in the general election, however.

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