Rob Oldham

Rob Oldham is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Looking back on Waves standards and the 2018 elections

Last year, Ballotpedia’s Wave Elections report used historical data to produce a methodology for determining the number of seats needed for an election to qualify as a wave. In the report, Ballotpedia defined a wave election as the 20 percent of elections in the last 100 years with the largest seat swings against the president’s party.
The report then looked at the number of seats Democrats needed to win in House, Senate, gubernatorial, and state legislative elections for 2018 to be considered a wave election—48 House seats, seven Senate seats, seven gubernatorial seats, and 494 state legislative seats.
By that definition, one election type met wave standards – the gubernatorial elections, where the Democratic Party gained seven seats. Elsewhere, Democrats gained 41 or 42 House seats (depending on the results of the NC-9 special election), lost one Senate seat, and gained 349 state legislative seats.
How does Democrats’ 2018 performance compare to the other 50 elections from 1918 to 2016? Ranking the performance of the out-of-power party by the number of seats gained, we found:
  • Democrats had the 13th strongest performance in House elections
  • Democrats had the 29th strongest performance in Senate elections (tied with seven others)
  • Democrats had the 10th strongest performance in gubernatorial elections (tied with two others)
  • Democrats had the 15th strongest performance in state legislative elections
Within a more modern subset of election years, from 1946 to 2016, the wave election threshold was lower: 30 House seats, six Senate seats, five gubernatorial seats, and 344 state legislative seats. By this measure, House, gubernatorial, and state legislative elections were all waves.
The difference in the thresholds occurs because several of the largest historical waves (1920, 1922, 1930, 1932, and 1938) were before 1946. At times, political scientists separate the study of American elections into pre-1945 and post-1945 periods to account for the social change and political realignment the nation went through during the Great Depression and World War II.

Filing deadline passes for Mississippi gubernatorial race

The candidate field for Mississippi’s 2019 gubernatorial election is set following the March 1 filing deadline. Three Republicans and nine Democrats filed to run in the August 6 partisan primaries. If no candidate receives a majority in a primary, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff on August 27.
The Republican candidates are state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.
The Democrat candidates are William Bond Compton Jr., Michael Brown, Attorney General Jim Hood, Robert J. Ray, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Schuler Smith, Gregory Walsh, former state Rep. Phillip West, Velesha Williams, and Albert Wilson.
David Singletary filed to run as an independent in the November 5 general election.

Hinds County DA Robert Schuler Smith running in Mississippi Democratic gubernatorial primary

Robert Schuler Smith, the district attorney of Hinds County, Mississippi, told the Clarion Ledger that he would run in Mississippi’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. He was first elected as Hinds County district attorney in 2008. State Attorney General Jim Hood is also running in the Democratic primary. The filing deadline to run is Friday, March 1, and the primary will be held August 6.
Hood, who was first elected attorney general in 2003, is the only statewide Democratic officeholder in Mississippi. Hood first announced he would run for governor in October 2018, and he had more than $1 million in cash on hand as of January 1, 2019.
A late January poll from Mason-Dixon (the only public poll of the race thus far) showed Hood with 44 percent of the vote and Republican Tate Reeves with 42 percent in a hypothetical match-up. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.
Reeves is facing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster in the Republican primary.

Mississippi Gov. Bryant endorses Lt. Gov. Reeves as his successor

On February 20, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) endorsed Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to replace him as the state’s top executive. “If a governor and a lieutenant governor cannot work closely together if I cannot be loyal to him as well as he has been loyal to me — then we’re on the wrong path,” Bryant said.
Reeves is running in the August 6 Republican gubernatorial primary against former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster. State Sen. Chris McDaniel might also enter the primary. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top-two finishers will face off in an August 27 runoff.
The only poll of the primary previewed a two-candidate matchup between Reeves and Foster, which Reeves led 62 percent to 9 percent. The margin of error was 5 percentage points. Reeves was the only candidate to report fundraising figures ahead of the January 1, 2019, filing deadline. He reported raising nearly $1.8 million and having more than $6.7 million in cash on hand. Waller did not enter the race until February 14.
Bryant, who is term-limited in 2019, was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote and was re-elected in 2015 with 66.4 percent of the vote. He won a five-candidate Republican primary in 2011 with 59.5 percent of the vote.

Foster, Reeves, and Waller Jr. running in GOP primary for Mississippi governor

Three candidates have announced they are running in the August 6 Republican primary for Mississippi’s governorship: state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. A fourth candidate, State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is considering entering the race.
Reeves was called a “[heavyweight] in the governor’s race” by WREG. He had raised nearly $1.8 million as of January 1, 2019, and he led Foster 62 percent to 9 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll conducted January 30 to February 1 (Waller was not included). Reeves was first elected lieutenant governor in 2011. Before that, he served as state treasurer since 2003.
Waller is the son of former Mississippi Gov. Bill Waller Sr. (D), who served from 1972 to 1976. Waller Jr. served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1997 until his retirement on January 31, 2019, and he was chief justice from 2009 to 2019. Former Mississippi State University political scientist Marty Wiseman said Waller is “creating an alternative for folks who want to vote Republican but are disinclined to vote for Tate Reeves. They now will have a legitimate option.”
Foster was first elected to the state house in 2015. He said he was running for governor after a short time in government because he “did not want to take the typical one step up the political ladder over a 16-, 20-year period.” He said he believes “that no matter how strong your convictions are, how passionate you are, if you get into the political system that long, it will grind you down.”
McDaniel said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the possibility of running. He was first elected to the state senate in 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat held by Thad Cochran (R) in 2014, losing to Cochran in a Republican runoff by 2 percentage points. He also ran in a 2018 special election for the seat after Cochran’s resignation. He received 16.4 percent of the vote in the November 6 special election, not enough to advance to the November 27 runoff.
The primary winner will run in the November 5 general election to succeed term-limited incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote. Bryant was re-elected in 2015 with 66 percent. Gubernatorial candidates must file for the race by March 1.

Alaska House elects Bryce Edgmon speaker, ending 30 days of deadlock

Rep. Bryce Edgmon was elected as Alaska House speaker Thursday, three days after he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to unenrolled. Edgmon was House speaker from 2017 and 2018. The latest election ended a 30-day period without a majority in place in the House, the longest in state history.
The final vote was 21 to 18.
Voting for Edgmon (besides himself) were:
  1. All 15 House Democrats,
  2. independent Daniel Ortiz,
  3. and Republicans Louise Stutes, Gabrielle LeDoux, Jennifer B. Johnston, and Charles M. Kopp.
 Eighteen other House Republicans voted against Edgmon.
Johnston and Kopp had not previously supported Edgmon. They had formerly backed Republican leader David Talerico. Rep. Gary Knopp, another Republican who did not support Talerico for speaker, was not present for the vote.
Stutes and LeDoux were part of the bipartisan coalition Edgmon led from 2017 to 2018. They consistently opposed Talerico for speaker.
With a speaker in place, Democrats and Republicans are expected to share control of the House. Edgmon told the press that Kopp would serve as majority leader, Rep. Steve Thompson (R) would chair the Rules Committee, and Reps. Tammie Wilson (R) and Neal Foster (D) would co-chair the Finance Committee.

Two more votes for Alaska House speaker fall one vote short; deadlock continues

Record-setting deadlock in the Alaska House of Representatives continues as speaker bids by Republican leader David Talerico and Rep. Gary Knopp (R) failed on Tuesday. Twenty-one votes are needed to select a speaker of the house, and both votes were 20-20.

Republicans won 23 of 40 seats in the 2018 elections, but Knopp, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), and Rep. Louise Stutes (R) have not joined other GOP members in a coalition led by Talerico.

The vote for Talerico as speaker ended in a similar way as three previous votes for him did: 20 Republicans voted yes, and Knopp, LeDoux, and Stutes joined all 16 Democrats and independent Daniel Ortiz voting no.

Knopp had said Monday that he was ready to “be the 21st vote to support a Republican-led coalition or caucus” after his attempts to form a bipartisan coalition with power-sharing between the parties stalled.

Knopp said he had originally intended to vote for Talerico before Stutes suggested that he be nominated as speaker instead. Knopp also said he was bothered by a Facebook comment from Rep. David Eastman (R) on an article about Knopp. In the comment, Eastman discussed the procedures for recalling a state representative from office.

The vote for Knopp as speaker also ended in a 20-20 tie with the 16 Democrats, Stutes, LeDoux, and Ortiz supporting him.

Tuesday was the 28th day of the 90-day legislative session. It is the longest period the chamber has ever gone without a speaker, who is needed to conduct legislative business and appoint standing committees. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) was expected to release a budget Wednesday. On Tuesday night, he called for a Republican-led majority to take control of the House.

Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D) passes away at 92

Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D) passed away Thursday at the age of 92. Dingell represented a U.S. House seat near Detroit, Michigan, from 1955 to 2014. He was the longest-serving member U.S. House in American history with nearly 60 years in the chamber. Throughout his tenure, he served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee including several periods as chairman. Dingell was replaced by his wife, Debbie Dingell (D), after retiring ahead of the 2014 elections.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R) not seeking re-election in GA-7

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R) announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election to Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in 2020. In a statement, Woodall referred to the death of his father in 2018, saying, “Doing what you love requires things of you, and having had that family transition made me start to think about those things that I have invested less in because I’ve been investing more here.”
Woodall has represented the 7th District since 2010. He won the closest election of his career in 2018, defeating Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) by 419 votes, which was also the U.S. House race with the smallest vote margin last year. Prior to 2018, Woodall had never received less than 60 percent of the vote.
After Woodall’s announcement, Bourdeaux said that she would run for the seat again in 2020. The 7th District is based in Gwinnett County and Forsyth County, both suburbs of Atlanta. The district voted for Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016, 51 percent to 45 percent.
Woodall is the third member of the U.S. House to announce that they will not run for re-election after their term ends. The others are Rob Bishop (R), who represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District, and Walter Jones (R), who represents North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.

Alaska House reaches record for period without a majority after another speaker vote

On February 5, the Alaska House matched the state record for the longest period without a majority in place, 22 days, first set in 1981. Without a majority, the House cannot conduct legislative business or appoint committees.
Republicans have a 23-16 majority (the chamber has one independent), but three Republicans—Reps. Gary Knopp, Louise Stutes, and Gabrielle LeDoux—are not aligned with the other 20 Republicans under the leadership of Rep. David Talerico. Knopp does not believe a narrow Republican majority will be effective and instead argues for a bipartisan power-sharing agreement. Stutes and LeDoux aligned with Democrats from 2017 to 2018 and have both said they want to join another bipartisan coalition.
Amid this deadlock, the House held a vote for a permanent speaker on February 5. Talerico was voted down 20-20, the same result as the last vote for speaker on January 22. In both cases, 20 Republicans voted for Talerico while 16 Democrats, Knopp, Stutes, LeDoux, and independent Daniel Ortiz voted against him. Knopp said he could possibly vote for Talerico in the future but first wanted to form a bipartisan majority with what he called “success potential.” Rep. Bryce Edgmon, the Democratic speaker from 2017 to 2018, was also nominated for permanent speaker, but he declined to be considered.
On February 4, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that eight House members (four Republicans, three Democrats, and independent Ortiz) were working on a power-sharing arrangement similar to those used by other evenly-split state legislatures. Two members of the group, Reps. Grier Hopkins (D) and Bart LeBon (R), said they wanted to reach an agreement before February 13, the day Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) budget proposal is set to be released.