The Daily Brew: The first two congressional special elections of the 117th Congress

Welcome to the Monday, Feb. 8, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Previewing the upcoming congressional special elections
  2. Harris casts her first tie-breaking votes as vice president
  3. Upcoming redistricting 101 briefing

Previewing the upcoming congressional special elections

It seems like the Georgia congressional races just happened, but we’re already looking ahead to the special elections to Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Congressional District—the first special elections of the 117th Congress. Both races will be held on March 20, with the candidate filing deadline having passed on Jan. 22.

  • Fifteen candidates are running for Louisiana’s 2nd District, which became vacant when President Joe Biden (D) announced that former Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) would join his administration as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Media coverage has focused primarily on Troy Carter, Karen Peterson, and Gary Chambers. Carter and Peterson are both members of the Louisiana state Senate representing districts 7 and 5, respectively. Chambers is a social activist and publisher from Baton Rouge.
  • Twelve candidates are running for Louisiana’s 5th District, which became vacant when former Representative-elect Luke Letlow (R) died on Dec. 29 from complications related to COVID-19. Letlow had just won the seat in the Dec. 5 general election. Media coverage has focused on Candy Christophe (D), Chad Conerly (R), Allen Guillory Sr. (R), and Julia Letlow (R). Christophe, the only Democratic candidate running in the primary, is a business owner and social worker. Guillory is a business owner and has a degree in criminal justice. Conerly is a veteran who has worked in finance with the Air Force and White House Communications Agency. Letlow, the widow of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, has worked in marketing and as an administrator at the University of Louisiana Monroe and Tulane University.

Elections in the Bayou State take place under the Louisiana majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

We are also anticipating two other potential special congressional elections that could happen this year. Both are for congressional districts represented by a Biden administration appointee whose appointment requires Senate confirmation. Rep. Debra Haaland (D) from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District was nominated as secretary for the interior, and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D) from Ohio’s 11th Congressional District was nominated as secretary of housing and urban development. Should they be confirmed to their new posts, a special election will then be triggered.

Fifty special elections to the United States Congress were held during the 113th through 116th Congresses (2013-2020). During that time, special elections were called for 16 seats vacated by Democrats and 34 vacated by Republicans.


Harris casts her first tie-breaking votes as vice president

On Feb. 5, Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her first two tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate

  • The Senate voted 50-50 to adopt a budget resolution relating to COVID-19 economic relief. Harris broke the tie to adopt the resolution. 
  • The Senate voted 50-50 to adopt an amendment proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) on the budget resolution. Harris broke the tie to adopt the amendment.

Since John Adams cast the first tie-breaking vote on July 18, 1789, there have been 270 such votes from 37 vice presidents. Former Vice President Mike Pence (R) cast 13 tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Twelve vice presidents, including Joe Biden (D) and Dan Quayle (R), never cast a tie-breaking vote during their time in office. 

Stef Kight of Axios wrote about Harris’ role as vice president on Jan. 11: “Harris will now assume the role during only the second 50-50 split Senate during the past 60 years. Congress is facing the prospect of major legislation addressing the coronavirus, comprehensive immigration reform and voting rights.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, the vice president of the United States also serves as the president of the Senate. In this capacity, he or she may cast the deciding vote when there is a tie in the Senate.


Upcoming redistricting 101 briefing

The 2020 U.S. Census is complete, and the Ballotpedia staff have been patiently awaiting the exciting time of receiving updated Census data. The process has been delayed on several occasions, with the next scheduled date of data delivery on April 1. In the meantime, let’s run through the basics of redistricting with a briefing. 

Join us on Feb. 10 at 11:00 a.m. Central as we walk through what to know about redistricting. Our team will discuss:

  • How redistricting works
  • What’s at stake during this redistricting cycle
  • What’s changed from the last cycle
  • The latest news and updates

Click here to reserve your spot today!