2016 Election News Roundup: Week of September 14st

Posted by Kristin Mccarthy on September 18, 2015 in Blog

AAI compiles a weekly roundup of election news tracking key races across the country as well as legislation that will impact voting rights ahead of the 2016 elections. For AAI’s coverage of presidential candidates and races, make sure to check out our profiles over at #YallaVote’s Election Central. And for more state specific information, head over to our election map and click on your state. You can read previous editions of our 2016 Election News Roundup right here at its headquarters.

Ohio Senate Race Intensifies

Former Governor Ted Strickland is carrying most of the Democrat's hopes to capture a Senate seat from incumbent GOP Senator Rob Portman. Strickland is polling well, Strickland cannot overlook a contested primary election before he takes on incumbent GOP Senator Rob Portman in the general election next November. Strickland is actually ahead of Portman in recent Quinnipac polling numbers, but Strickland's late entrance into the race and a fundraising competitor from his own party PJ Sittenfeld, combined with four years of political absenteeism Strickland has a lot of ground work to do. We've seen Strickland and Portman trade heavy jabs over each other's party-line support of the Iran deal, and we can't overlook the surging popularity of Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Ohio John Kasich. Kasich was the one who beat Strickland for the Governor's mansion in 2010 - and the race next year is somewhat of a re-run of that match, especially if Kasich continues to gain ground in national polls, which will be a big fundraising and popularity boon for Kasich's fellow GOP Ohioan. 

Illinois Senate Race Weighs on Democrats Nationally

Republican incumbent Senator Mark Kirk continues to be labeled the most vulnerable Senator in the nation up for reelection next year. Kirk's Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, is already leading him in the polls by 6 points as of a few weeks ago. Duckworth does not have a clear path to the election thanks to Andrea Zopp, President of the revered Chicago Urban League, who is also seeking the democratic nomination for the Senate seat. But Duckworth carries the endorsement of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, and Duckworth herself is incredibly popular state-wide. Like every other Senate race, the candidates are largely tied to the fate and drama of the presidential race, just look at the first huge ad buys and attack ads from both candidates. Duckworth went after Kirk's gaffes, and Kirk attacked Duckworth's support of the Iran deal (which is an even more partisan issue on the state level than it is in Congress).  With democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton largely expected to decisively take Illinois in a would-be match up, Rep. Duckworth stands a good chance of flipping this seat. We can expect even more nationally tied plot lines to compound the intensity of this race.

Party Leaders in Congress Are Not Fairing Well

Photo cred: APParty politics leading into the most contested and controversial presidential race in recent memory has not faired well for the party leaders of the Democrats and the Republicans. With many of the same challenges, the 2 Senate leaders and the 2 House of Representative leaders are facing insurgent politics outflanking them on their respective portions of the spectrum. In the Senate, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced his retirement, but continues to take heat for his stewardship of the Democratic party, and is causing controversy in his choice of Sen. Chuck Schumer as his successor over his current second in command, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has even bigger problems on his hands - taking heat for his questionable wielding of the Senate gavel, which has not been "getting Congress back to work," as he promised to deliver when the Republicans took over the Senate last year. McConnell isn't just being hit by the Democrats, he faces insurgency in his Party ranks, notably from presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who has called him a "liar" and is trying to lead a charge for his dismissal over the Iran deal and his handling of the Planned Parenthood funding votes. Over in the House of Representatives, McConnell's counterpart, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R, OH-8) is facing the most recent in a 9 month series of challenges to his leadership that started just as soon as the 2014 elections were decided. Boehner suffers from Tea Party Republicans who are displeased with his brand of conservative conservatism. Boehner will likely have to survive an unorthodox vote on his speakership this fall, a vote brought on by discontent within the Republican Party. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-12) might be fairing the best out of the 4, but she is no stranger to election cycle criticism, which was a major story line in the 2014 season and a few House Democrats are already expressing doubts that Pelosi is the right person to lead the Party back to victory next year. As both parties contend with insurgent politics from candidates on the national stage (Sanders and O'Malley bring progressive politics to the democratic establishment, and Cruz/Trump/Fiorina and more bring a tea party flare to challenge the republican establishment) it will be key to watch how Party leaders corral their ranks, and save themselves.

Another LaHood to Congress, With Elections Still to Win

Also from Illinois, disgraced and now replaced Congressman Aaron Shock's vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives has been filled by Arab American Darin LaHood. Son of former Secretary of Transportation and Congressman from Illinois Ray LaHood, Darin has taken over and repainted Shock's infamous DC office with a strong showing in Illinois'18th district. The election cycle isn't over though. LaHood won a special election brought on by Shock's surprising exit, but LaHood must now once again campaign for the 2016 races - both a primary within his own party and then the general election next November.