Chicago voters go to the polls

Welcome to the Tuesday, February 28 Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Polling suggests runoff likely in today’s Chicago mayoral election
  2. Pennsylvania’s primary filing deadline is March 7
  3. Nineteen candidates filed for congressional and state offices last week

Polling suggests runoff likely in today’s Chicago mayoral election

Today, Feb. 28, voters in Chicago will cast their ballots for mayor (among other things). Nine candidates are running, including incumbent Lori Lightfoot, who was first elected in 2019.

Several candidates have received the most endorsements and support in polling: Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesus Garcia, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. While Chicago’s mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, these four candidates are all Democrats.

A candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote today to win outright, but polling suggests that is unlikely. Instead, the top-two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on April 4. Exactly who advances to that runoff is unknown.

Based on the five most recent polls, Vallas has a polling average of 19%, followed by Lightfoot with 15% and Garcia with 14%. But, on average, 18% of respondents are undecided or selected some other response.

An incumbent mayor has not lost re-election since Eugene Sawyer lost to Richard M. Daley in a 1989 special election. Jane Byrne was the last mayor to lose in a regularly-scheduled election in 1983.

Chicago mayoral elections became nonpartisan—with a general election and runoff—in 1999. No incumbent has lost since that change, and only two elections—2015 and 2019—have advanced to runoffs.

The 2019 contest, the city’s second open mayoral election since 1947, also had a nine-candidate field. That year, Lightfoot advanced to the runoff with 18% of the vote, followed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle with 16%. Lightfoot defeated Preckwinkle in the runoff, 74% to 26%.

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Pennsylvania’s primary filing deadline is March 7 

Looking ahead, March 7 is the filing deadline for candidates hoping to run in Pennsylvania’s statewide and local partisan primaries this year.

The state will hold primaries on May 16 and a general election on Nov. 7.

While odd-numbered years typically have a reputation for being less politically active, voters in the Keystone State still have plenty of decisions to make up and down the ballot.

All of the contests Ballotpedia is covering use partisan primaries, where candidates have to win a party nomination to run in the general election. This includes contests like school boards, mayorships, and judgeships, which are usually nonpartisan in other states.

For school boards, specifically, Pennsylvania is one of four states that require partisan school board elections. Five other states allow counties or districts to choose whether they hold partisan contests.

Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot this year:

  • State supreme court: Justice Max Baer (D) passed away last year, creating a vacancy on the seven-member court. Democrats hold a 4-2 majority, but Republicans have won both partisan contests since 2017, most recently electing Kevin Brobson (R) in 2021. Regardless of this election’s outcome, the governing majority of the court will be at stake in 2025, when three Democratic justice’s terms expire (unless a vacancy occurs before then).
  • Intermediate appellate court: voters will fill one vacancy on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Brobson’s old seat. There are also two vacancies on the Pennsylvania Superior Court: Jacqueline Shogan (R) retired in 2022, and John Bender (R) will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in November. Judges Vic Stabile (R) and Jack Panella (D) are also up for election on Nov. 7. But these are retention elections, so voters will decide—yes or no—whether the incumbents should receive another 10-year term.
  • School board: all of the state’s 499 school districts apart from Philadelphia’s—where members are appointed—are holding elections this year. That equals close to 2,250 seats, and we are going to be covering all of them. The largest district holding elections is Pittsburgh, where four of the nine seats are on the ballot.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for school boards, courts of common pleas, and magisterial districts can cross-file, meaning they can run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. Candidates who win in both primaries advance to the general election as both the Democratic and Republican nominee, effectively guaranteeing victory.

Pennsylvania allows write-in candidacies. These candidates do not need to file before the primary but must file and accept their nomination if they win.

In primaries and general elections, the candidate who receives the most votes wins, even if it is less than a majority.

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Nineteen candidates filed for congressional and state offices last week

We identified 19 declared candidates between Feb. 21-24 for congressional and state elections in 2023 and 2024. Seven candidates are Democrats, eight are Republicans, and four are affiliated with minor parties.

Eleven candidates are running for Congress, six for state legislatures, and two for state executive offices. Some of those candidates include:

  • Adam Frisch (D), running in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Frisch challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) here in 2022, losing by a margin of 0.17 percentage points, the narrowest congressional margin of victory last year. Boebert has not announced whether she will seek re-election in 2024.
  • Shane Schoeller (R), running for Missouri Secretary of State. Schoeller served in the state House from 2007 to 2013 and ran for secretary of state in 2012. Schoeller lost to Jason Kander (D) in the general election, receiving 47% of the vote. Incumbent Jay Ashcroft (R) was first elected in 2016 and could seek a third term but is reportedly considering a gubernatorial bid to replace term-limited Gov. Mike Parson (R).

These candidacy announcements come well before their filing deadlines. Ballotpedia processes declared candidacies for all elected federal and state offices each week. This includes both official and declared candidates.

An official candidate is someone who registers with a federal or state campaign finance agency before the candidate filing deadline or who appears on candidate lists released by election agencies.

A declared candidate has not completed the steps to become an official candidate but might have appeared in a candidate forum, published a campaign website, or issued press releases, among other things.

You can learn more about how Ballotpedia defines a candidacy using the link below.

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