TagSpecial Elections

U.S. Rep Doug Collins running in special Senate election in Georgia

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) announced on January 29, 2020, that he is running in the special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia and will not seek re-election to the U.S. House.

He joins seven other candidates, including appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R), in the all-party special election on November 3. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a special runoff election will be held January 5, 2021, for the top two vote-getters.

Currently, there are three Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent in the race. The filing deadline is March 6.

Former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) resigned in December, citing his health. The winner of the special election will complete his term ending January 2023.

Collins was the 27th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he would not seek re-election in 2020 and the third Republican representative to run for Senate this year. Nine Democratic representatives have announced they will not seek re-election, two of whom are running for Senate.

In the 2018 election cycle, 52 members of the U.S. House—34 Republicans and 18 Democrats—did not seek re-election.

Currently, Democrats hold a 232-197 majority in the U.S. House with one independent member of the chamber. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.

In the Senate, Republicans hold 53 seats to Democrats’ 45. Two independent senators caucus with Democrats. There are 33 regularly scheduled Senate elections and two special elections, including Georgia’s, in 2020.

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Texas runoffs close out 2019’s special state legislative elections

On January 28, three districts in the Texas House of Representatives held general runoff elections to fill seats that were vacated in 2019. Races in Districts 28, 100, and 148 advanced to general runoffs following the general election on November 5, 2019. None of the seats changed party control as a result of the special runoffs.

  • The District 28 seat became vacant after Rep. John Zerwas (R) resigned effective September 30, 2019, to take a position with the University of Texas System. Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) in the runoff with 58.0% of the vote.
  • The District 100 seat became vacant after Eric Johnson (D) was elected to serve as mayor of Dallas on June 8, 2019. Lorraine Birabil (D) defeated James Armstrong III (D) in the runoff with 66.3% of the vote. The special election for this seat was the only one of the night to be between two candidates of the same party.
  • The District 148 seat became vacant after Jessica Farrar (D) resigned on September 30, 2019. Anna Eastman (D) defeated Luis LaRotta (R) in the runoff with 65.5% of the vote.

All three newly elected members will serve the remainder of the previous occupants’ unexpired terms, which end in January 2021. They have all filed for election in the regular election on November 3, 2020. A primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020. The challengers they each faced in the special runoff elections have also all filed for the same seats in the regular election, meaning all three will or could face a rematch in either the primary or the general.

In 2019, 77 state legislative special elections were held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Eight state legislative seats changed hands in special elections in 2019—five from Democrats to Republicans, two from Republicans to Democrats, and one from a Republican to an independent.

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Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 3 (January 29, 2020)

This week: Two Van Drew challengers withdraw in NJ-02, six candidates now running in open GA-14 primary, and Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12.

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“As for the ‘vulnerable’ Republicans, they need to buck up. The only way they have a chance to win is by firmly supporting the President. … 

If they try to take the ‘reasonable’ route by crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats, they can forget about winning in November. Their efforts to curry favor with the media will backfire on them. Rather than bring moderate Democrats (if there is still such a thing other than 2016 Trump voters) over to them, they will alienate their base. That base will be furious and without their avid support, there will be far fewer door knockers and phone bank volunteers.”

Mike Ford, RedState, Jan. 27, 2020

“There’s a good chance [Susan Collins] will join the Democrats during the vote. Already, she’s expressed her willingness to work with the other side of the aisle to reach a compromise that will suit both parties. And unlike the other centrist Republicans who have said they’d like to hear from Bolton, Collins has the most to lose. She’s up for reelection in Maine this year, and her Democratic challenger has raised a significant amount of money and has tapped noteworthy endorsements. …

If she does break with her party on the trial rules vote, it’s unlikely the GOP will hold it against her. The Republican Party has much more of a vested interest in maintaining Collins’s Senate seat (a seat the Democrats need if they’re going to flip the Senate in 2020) than they do in preventing Bolton from testifying.”

Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner, Jan. 21, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress infographic

Two Van Drew challengers withdraw in NJ-02

Defense contractor Brian Fitzherbert and businessman David Richter withdrew from New Jersey’s 2nd District Republican primary, leaving two candidates in the race: Rep. Jeff Van Drew and Bob Patterson, a former Acting Associate Commission of the Social Security Administration.

Van Drew switched his affiliation from Democratic to Republican on December 19, 2019, after he voted against impeaching President Donald Trump in December. Trump endorsed him. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, local Republican Party leaders endorsed Van Drew in the following weeks, including some who had previously endorsed Richter.

Richter is now running in New Jersey’s 3rd District Republican primary. He said of his switch, “When I decided to run for Congress, it was to flip a congressional seat. That’s already happened. I’m endorsing Jeff Van Drew.”

Van Drew had been a member of the New Jersey Senate before winning the 2nd District in 2018.

New Jersey’s candidate filing deadline is March 30. The primary is June 2.

Open GA-14 primary candidate field grows to 6 

Six Republicans are currently seeking the GOP nomination in George’s 14th Congressional District. The incumbent, Rep. Tom Graves, announced in December he would not seek re-election. 

The latest entrant is state Rep. Kevin Cooke. In addition to representing District 18 in the state House, Cooke is the associate athletic director at Shorter University. In his campaign announcement, Cooke said:

“The question is who do you trust to stand up to big government Republicans behind closed doors in Washington. … Choosing a candidate based on rhetoric is dangerous and conservatives fall for it every cycle. This is a Republican primary in Georgia. We will all say we want to stop socialism, support our President, protect life, defend the Second Amendment and build the wall. Talk is cheap.” 

Ben Bullock recently announced his switch from Georgia’s 7th District race to the 14th District primary, saying, “For over 200 years, my family has lived, served in both the military and elected office, farmed, and operated small businesses in the 14th congressional district.” Bullock founded a real estate investment firm and served in the Air Force.

Businesswoman Marjorie Greene was the first candidate in the primary, announcing her switch from the 6th District race to the 14th following Graves’ retirement announcement. Neurosurgeon John Cowan, former assistant district attorney and Air Force veteran Clayton Fuller, and Kyle Perkins are also running.

The filing deadline is March 6. The primary is May 19. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the primary vote, a runoff will be held July 21. 

Georgia’s 14th District is one of 36 open House seats this year, and Graves is one of 26 Republicans retiring from the House.

The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index, which compares districts’ presidential election results to national averages, found this district to be the 10th-most Republican district in the country. 

Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12

Club for Growth PAC endorsed former Colleyville City Councilmember Chris Putnam in his primary bid against incumbent Kay Granger in Texas’ 12th Congressional District. It’s the first time the group has endorsed a challenger to a Republican House incumbent since 2016.

Granger first took office in 1997. Trump endorsed her re-election bid in December. 

Putnam joined the race in September, saying, “Just like President Trump, we need an outsider to bring proven business experience to drain the Washington swamp.” 

Club for Growth describes itself as the “leading free-enterprise advocacy group in the nation.” The group’s president, David McIntosh, said Granger “has recklessly voted for out-of-control deficit spending, backroom bloated budget deals, and debt limit increases.” 

Granger campaign representative Keats Norfleet said, “Kay is proud to be endorsed by President Trump and she’s proud of her record of delivering conservative results for her district. … It’s ironic that [the Club for Growth] would choose to support a candidate that voted to raise property taxes and grow the budget while serving on his local city council.”

Protect Freedom PAC is also involved in the race. The group spent $547,000 on a TV ad released last week criticizing Granger on abortion. The group says it was “founded for the purpose of supporting pro-freedom and liberty-minded candidates.”

The primary is March 3.

State executives

Montana gubernatorial candidates meet for first debate

The three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Montana appeared on the debate stage together for the first time Thursday. State Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski participated in a debate last November which Rep. Greg Gianforte did not attend. All three stated their support for cutting taxes, lowering spending, and supporting the growth of Montana’s energy sector.

Fox said that because he was born in Montana and had served as state attorney general, he was the candidate most familiar with the issues Montanans face and would perform best in the general election. Fox said that he outperformed Gianforte in the 2016 election when he ran for attorney general and Gianforte challenged incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D).

Gianforte said that he had the business experience necessary to develop Montana’s economy. He highlighted his experience in founding and managing a software company that had 1,100 employees when Oracle purchased it in 2011. Gianforte also said that he had a close working relationship with President Trump and would follow the president’s lead in cutting state taxes and regulations.

Olszewski said that he had the right mix of experience as a state legislator and the operator of his medical practice. He said that gave him a better sense than the other candidates of what needed to be done in Montana and how to do it. Olszewski said crime was a major policy priority and that he would put up billboards on the state line offering rewards for information on drug dealers and human traffickers. 

The candidate filing deadline is March 9. The June 2 primary will be open to all registered voters. No Republican has won election as governor of Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.

Poll shows 48 percent undecided in Utah GOP gubernatorial primary

A Suffolk University/Salt Lake Tribune poll of likely primary voters shows 48 percent are still undecided in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Among those who did voice a preference, former Jon Huntsman (R) has 26 percent, followed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox at 18 percent, and former House Speaker Greg Hughes at 7 percent.

Jeff Burningham, Aimee Winder-Newton, and Thomas Wright each received 1% support. The poll did not measure support for Jason Christensen. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.

A Y2 Analytics poll of registered Republican voters conducted in December for UtahPolicy.com showed Cox leading Huntsman 41 to 29 percent. Rep. Rob Bishop, who was seen as a potential candidate at the time but since joined Thomas Wright’s campaign as his running mate, had 9% support. That poll, which had a margin of error plus or minus 4.6, did not allow respondents to say that they were undecided.

The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only.

Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner’s resignation to run for attorney general takes effect this week

Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp (R) resigned effective Friday to challenge state Attorney General Curtis Hill (R). Krupp joins attorney John Westercamp (R), who launched his campaign in June.

Hill is currently undergoing a review before the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission following allegations of misconduct. In July 2018, four women who worked in the state legislature, including a member of the state House, accused Hill of inappropriately touching them at an event that March. Hill has denied the allegations.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), who had called for Hill’s resignation after the allegations were made public, has so far declined to endorse in the race. In Indiana, state executive candidates other than gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial nominees are nominated at party conventions rather than being selected in primaries. The Republican nominating convention will take place on June 19-20.

Legislatures

Alaska Senate President draws primary challenger as conflict within caucus grows

Roger Holland filed a letter of intent to run against Alaska Sen. Catherine Giessel (R). Holland is a political newcomer and works for the Alaska Department of Transportation. 

In a campaign announcement on Facebook, Holland cited Giessel’s cooperation with House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I) as a reason for the primary challenge. Edgmon changed his party affiliation from Democratic to undeclared in February 2019, before he was elected speaker of the chamber where Republicans held a numerical majority.

Last week, Anchorage Daily News reported that several Republican members of the Senate had been stripped of their committee assignments over their position on the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The committee changes were approved 13-7, with all seven votes coming from Republicans who voted against the PFD changes in 2019. Republicans hold a 13-7 numerical majority in the chamber.

Giessel last faced a primary challenger in 2012, when she defeated Joe Arness 68-32 percent. She represents District N, which covers portions of South Anchorage. She was first elected to the Senate in 2010. In the last three election cycles, Giessel won each general election by at least five percentage points.

Term-limited senator joins SD House primary field

State Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24), who is term-limited and unable to run again for the seat, filed paperwork to run for one of the two state House seats representing the same district. Both of the current House incumbents are also term-limited and not running for re-election. Monroe is the fourth Republican candidate to file for the two seats.

The other candidates are Mike Wiesgram, a businessman from Pierre, Bob Lowery, a former Assistant Executive Director for the SD High School Activities Association, and Will Mortenson, who worked in former Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s (R) administration.

Republicans are expected to win both House seats in November. In 2018, both Republican candidates won with 35 and 37 percent of the vote, compared to the Democratic candidates’ 18 and 11 percent of the vote. In 2016, 2014, and 2012, both Republican candidates were unopposed in each general election.

U.S. Senate candidate drops out of race to run for KS Senate

Bryan Pruitt (R) announced he was dropping out of the Republican primary for Kansas’ U.S. Senate seat and running for District 22 in the Kansas state Senate instead. The other declared Republican candidate in the race is Craig Bowser. The district is currently represented by Tom Hawk (D), who was elected in 2012.

Pruitt said he wants to focus his efforts on improving Kansas. “As I met with voters, I realized I could accomplish more in Kansas than I ever could trying to fix Washington D.C. at this time . . . I see an opportunity to flip [the seat] from Democrat back to Republican. Taking back [District] 22 will solidify Republican control of the Kansas State Senate and allow me to do the important work of implementing conservative change for all Kansans,” Pruitt said.

District 22 changed party control from Republican to Democratic control in 2012. In that race, Bob Reader (R) defeated incumbent Roger Reitz in the Republican primary before losing to Hawk 51-49 in the general election. District 22 covers portions of Manhattan.

Power players

“The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to electing more Republicans to state legislatures. The RLCC’s primary mission is gaining and growing Republican control of more state legislative chambers by targeting national resources to support winnable local races.” – RLCC website 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is a state-oriented national Republican organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures. Founded in 2003, the RLCC is an affiliate of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). The RLCC provides financial training and strategic assistance to Republican candidates and also operates campaign training schools in some states.



Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 3 (January 29, 2020)

This week: We preview the MD-07 special primary on Feb. 4, Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, and several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“In the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic Party was the subject of bitter and widespread criticism from its left wing. The party’s strategy was to flip the House by recruiting moderate candidates who would avoid controversial left-wing positions and instead focus attention on Trump’s agenda, especially his effort to eliminate Obamacare. The left predicted the strategy would fail — only an inspiring progressive agenda could mobilize enough voters to win back the House. … 

As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. …

Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed.”

Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer, Jan. 28, 2020

“When moderate Democrats assure us that they would win back more white swing voters than progressive Democrats would, I am haunted by the thought that the evidence is hardly so reassuring. I see moderate candidates struggling with younger voters, who are more likely to favor progressive policies, and are more likely than older voters to stay home or vote third party if they don’t like the Democrat. … 

The low-hanging fruit [voters who voted for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016] is disproportionately composed of young voters, and especially young black voters. Democratic primary voters should value candidates’ performance with these other swing voters as much as they value their performance with white swing voters.”

Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic, Jan. 28, 2020

U.S. Congress

Congress infographic

MD-07 special primary election Feb. 4

Voters in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District will pick party nominees in special primary elections Feb. 4.The winners will face off in a special general election scheduled for April 28.

The 7th was formerly represented by Elijah Cummings, who died in 2019. The winner of the special general election will fill the remainder of Cumming’s current term.

The Democratic special primary features 24 candidates. Eight are running in the Republican primary.

Democrats have held the 7th District since 1953 when Maryland gained an additional district following the 1950 census. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was D+26, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 26 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. This made Maryland’s 7th District the 41st-most Democratic nationally.

In addition to the special election, Maryland is holding a regularly scheduled primary on April 28, 2020. Regular primary winners will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election to compete for a full term in the 117th Congress.

Cook changes CA-25 race rating to Likely Democratic

The Cook Political Report changed its race rating for California’s 25th District special election from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic, saying that Democratic candidate “Christy Smith has emerged as a heavy favorite” and that the district has trended Democratic in recent years.

California’s 25th District will have both a special election primary and a regularly scheduled primary on March 3. The state holds top-two primaries. In the special primary, a candidate can win outright by getting more than 50% of the vote. Otherwise, a special general election for the top two candidates will be held on May 12. 

In the regular primary, the top two candidates will advance to the November general election (nobody can win outright).

According to Cook, “Of the dozen candidates running in each election, there are only three with a serious shot at advancing to either a May 12 special runoff or November: Smith (who flipped a GOP-held Assembly seat in 2018) and two Republicans, former Rep. Steve Knight (whom [Katie] Hill defeated by nine points in 2018) and Navy veteran Mike Garcia.”

The California Democratic Party endorsed Smith. Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named her to its Red to Blue program, which “arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support,” according to the group’s website. 

The Los Angeles GOP backed Garcia, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Knight.

Cook said Republicans held a 4 percentage point registration advantage in 2012 when the district supported Mitt Romney for president, and that Democrats now have a 6 percentage point registration advantage. Hillary Clinton won the District in 2016.

Smith released her first TV ad last week in which she said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” The position is distinct from that of another prominent Democrat in the race, Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur, who backs Medicare or All.

Former Rep. Katie Hill resigned in November 2019 following her acknowledgment of having had a relationship with a campaign staffer. Knight represented the district from 2015 to 2019.

Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, no endorsement in Senate primary

The Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education endorsed Jessica Cisneros in her challenge to Texas’ 28th District Rep. Henry Cuellar. The primary is March 3. 

Cisneros’ other endorsers include Justice Democrats, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos endorsed Cuellar. The group American Workers for Progress recently released an ad saying Cuellar has worked to protect healthcare and lower drug prices. The group says it “works to ensure that leaders at every level are focused on reducing barriers to job growth and addressing economic challenges to guarantee a better future for all Americans.​”

Cuellar said the 28th District is made up of “more moderate, conservative Democrats.” He voted in favor of a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks in 2017 and has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Cuellar was first elected in 2005. 

Cisneros said her campaign is “the only one in this race with an ear to the ground in Texas’ 28th Congressional District. … We know we are the people’s campaign.”

The Texas AFL-CIO did not endorse in the U.S. Senate race as no candidate received 2/3rds of the vote at the AFL-CIO meeting. The Democratic primary features 12 candidates. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed MJ Hegar in the race.

Several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues

Progressive Congressional Caucus Co-Chairs Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, along with several other progressive representatives, said they would pay member dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after a meeting with DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she will not pay dues for the 2019-2020 election cycle as she opposes a DCCC policy, made official in 2019, that it will not give business to any consultant who works for a primary challenger to an incumbent Democrat. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, Ocasio-Cortez started a PAC to support Democratic primary candidates, including challengers.

Pocan said Ocasio-Cortez “has a very unique ability to raise lots of money on the outside that no one else does and she can use that to also be helpful. … For most of us, it’s the collective efforts that happen through the DCCC that help make sure that we’re in the majority.”

Jayapal and Rep. Ro Khanna said they disagree with the DCCC policy but will pay dues to help support maintaining a Democratic House.

According to Politico, “Withholding dues is not an uncommon practice. Dozens of House Democrats have shirked the duty this year for an array of reasons, such as fundraising prowess, dynamics in their district and members’ own relationships with DCCC.”

According to a DCCC document obtained by The Intercept, DCCC dues range from $150,000 to $1 million during the 2020 election cycle depending on the member’s seniority.

State executives

Molly Gray launches bid for lieutenant governor of Vermont

Vermont assistant attorney general Molly Gray announced Monday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Kelly joins four other Democrats, including 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate Brenda Siegel, state Senate Majority Leader Tim Ashe, and state Sen. Debbie Ingram. Incumbent David Zuckerman is running for governor, leaving the office open.

Vermont is one of eight states to allow fusion voting, where a candidate may be affiliated with multiple political parties on the ballot. In recent years, some Vermont Democrats have cross-filed with the Vermont Progressive Party, a political party founded in 2000. Incumbent David Zuckerman is a member of the VPP who cross-filed as a Democrat. Of the four Democrats currently in the running for lieutenant governor, only Ashe has cross-filed with the VPP in previous elections.

Vermont’s lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and is tasked with presiding over the state Senate, casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate, and serving as acting governor while the governor is out of state. In the 2018 election, Zuckerman won re-election over challengers Donald Turner Jr. (R) and Murray Ngoima (Liberty Union) by a margin of 18.4 percentage points.

The candidate filing deadline is May 28. The August 11 primary is open to all registered voters.

Seventeen Democrats file for West Virginia executive offices

Seventeen Democrats filed for the state’s six executive offices, setting up contested primaries for all but two.

Seven candidates filed for governor. West Virginia Democrats have won the last six gubernatorial elections, tying their all-time record for most consecutive wins in the state. However, Gov. Jim Justice switched to the Republican Party in August 2017, meaning that Democrats will need to defeat an incumbent governor to continue their streak. A December poll found three of the declared candidates—activist Stephen Smith, state Sen. Ron Stollings, and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango—were leading the field and were about even with one another.

Contested primaries are also in store for the other top executive offices. Attorney Sam Petsonk and state Del. Isaac Sponaugle will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), while Brent Pauley and former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant are in the running for secretary of state. The only other contested primary is for commissioner of agriculture, where four Democrats are seeking the nomination.

Incumbent state Treasurer John Perdue (D) is running unopposed, while Mary Claytor is the only Democrat to have filed for state auditor.

The May 12 primaries will be open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Legislatures

DSA-backed candidates in NY announce criminal justice platform

A group of five candidates for the New York Senate and Assembly backed by the Democratic Socialists of America released a criminal justice platform. The package of legislation calls for decriminalizing the adult sex trade, eliminating cash bail, create safe injection sites, and a number of other changes. The five candidates are all from Brooklyn and Queens: Jabari Brisport (SD-25), Marcela Mitaynes (AD-51), Boris Santos (AD-54), Phara Souffrant Forrest (AD-57), and Zohran Mamdani (AD-36).

Democratic strategist Evan Stavisky said that the platform was more about presenting united ideas as a party than it was individual results in the primary races. “[W]hile it is not yet clear how much support each bill has in each of these districts, presenting a common platform enables them to advance their agenda regardless of the outcome of any individual primary,” he told the Queens Daily Eagle.

The Daily Eagle noted both challengers and incumbents agree on several of the bills, but decriminalizing the adult sex trade was a particular point of contention. In the last month, state bail and discovery changes have divided more moderate and liberal Democrats in the state capitol.

WI Sen. announces retirement, setting up competitive primary

Wisconsin Sen. Mark Miller (D) announced that he would not seek re-election in Wisconsin’s 16th Senate District. Following the announcement, state Rep. Melissa Sargent said she would seek the nomination, while state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh and Kelda Roys also expressed their interest in running. Miller was first elected in 2004 and served as leader of the Democratic caucus on several occasions.

District 16 covers portions of southeast Madison. Miller never faced a challenger in any of his re-election campaigns in 2008, 2012, or 2016. Republicans currently hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate, and 16 of the 33 seats are up for election this fall.

Power players

“Rebuilding the Democratic Party starts at the local level. The DLCC recruits, trains, and supports local Democrats running for state legislative office. We give our candidates resources, field support, and the data they need to run smart, winning campaigns.” – DLCC website

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is a 527 political organization whose aim is to oversee state-based political campaigns for Democratic candidates. The organization runs grassroots campaigns and provides campaign assistance to candidates with the goal of gaining a Democratic majority in state congresses. 

In December 2019, The Washington Post reported the DLCC planned to spend $50 million in 2020, ahead of redistricting. The group said it would target the state House in Iowa, Texas, and Michigan; Minnesota’s Senate; and both chambers in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  

In January 2020, Politico reported that the DLCC had “quadrupled its staff, partnered with a slew of other large Democratic groups … and planned to target as many as 14 states.” In addition to the chambers listed above, Politico reported that Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin were potential targets for later in the year. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, the group raised around $33 million in 2018.



Republican wins runoff for Texas House District 28

Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) 58-42 in the runoff election for the District 28 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Before the runoff, The Hayride, a conservative political commentary site, described the race as “a test case to see if [Republicans] can hold turf in the ‘urban suburbs’ of Houston.” ABC 13 said that Democrats could use this race to “create a domino effect that alters more seats, which shifts control in Austin.”

The race gained national attention when several Democratic presidential candidates endorsed Markowitz. Gates was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and both candidates received funding by national groups affiliated with their political party: the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee for Markowitz and the Republican State Leadership Committee for Gates.

The two candidates advanced from a field of seven in a November 5, 2019, general election. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received 39.1 percent of the vote. Gates received 28.4 percent of the vote, while three other Republican candidates split another 30 percent of the vote. In the 2018 general election, then-incumbent Rep. John Zerwas (R) defeated Meghan Scoggins (D) 54-46.

The candidates could potentially face off again in the November general election. Markowitz is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Gates faces Schell Hammel in the Republican primary. That primary will take place on March 3.

The seat became vacant after Zerwas resigned on September 30, 2019, to take an executive position with the University of Texas System. Heading into the election, Republicans held an 82-64 majority in the House with three seats vacant. All 150 seats in the chamber are up for election in November 2020.

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California will hold two primaries for the same congressional seat on March 3

Two top-two primaries will take place on Mar. 3, 2020, in elections to represent California’s 25th Congressional District. The seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Katie Hill (D) on Nov. 1, 2019.

The top two finishers in the primary for the regularly scheduled House election will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The top two finishers in the primary for the special election that was scheduled as a result of Hill’s resignation will advance to the May 12, 2020, election to complete Hill’s term.

Eleven candidates are running in both primaries, so it will be possible for voters to vote for the same candidate twice.

Media coverage and endorsements in both races have focused on four candidates: Raytheon executive and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia (R), former Congressman Stephen Knight (R), California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D), and The Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur (D). All four are running in both primaries on Mar. 3.

The other candidates in both primaries are Robert Cooper (D), Getro Elize (D), Kenneth Jenks (R), David Lozano (R), Daniel Mercuri (R), David Rudnick (D), and Anibal Valdez-Ortega (D). Otis Lee Cooper (I) and George Papadopoulos (R) are only running in the regular primary, while Courtney Lackey (R) is only running in the special primary.

On the Democratic side, Smith was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the California Democratic Party. Uygur says his campaign is not accepting endorsements and has rejected PAC donations. He has criticized Smith for accepting money from several private industries. In response, Smith said, “I am determined to fight within the system as it is set up to make sure that we hold this seat.” On the issue of healthcare, Smith has said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” On the issue of healthcare, Uygur has said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who is in favor of Medicare for All.”

On the Republican side, Garcia was endorsed by the Los Angeles Republican Party. Knight was endorsed by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Garcia has focused his messaging around issues regarding service members, stating he would “make it a priority to ensure our men and women in uniform have the funding and tools necessary to keep America safe.” He also says he supports congressional term limits. Knight has highlighted his previous experience representing California’s 25th District from 2015 to 2019. According to his campaign website, “As a Congressman, Knight quickly became known as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety in our nation’s Capitol.”

In the 2018 general election, Hill (D) defeated Knight (R) 54% to 46%. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was EVEN, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average. Race raters have given Democrats a slight edge in the race. Of the three major race rating outlets, one rates the race as Lean Democratic, one rates it as Likely Democratic, and one rates it as Solid Democratic.

Eight special elections have been called during the 116th Congress.

Click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District election, and click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District special election.

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Filing deadline passes for Maine House special election

On January 23, the filing deadline passed to run in the Maine House of Representatives District 128 special election. Political parties in Maine had until that date to submit candidate nominations to the secretary of state. Two candidates, Kevin O’Connell (D) and Garrel Craig (R), are competing in the general election on March 3, 2020.

The special election was called after Arthur Verow (D) passed away on December 19, 2019. Verow represented District 128 from 2012 to 2016 and from 2018 to 2019.

Heading into the election, Democrats have an 87-61 majority with five independent members and two vacancies in the state House. Maine has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

As of January, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Republicans keep Connecticut House seat in special election

Photo credit: EGryk

A special general election was held on January 21, 2020, to fill the Connecticut House’s District 151 seat left vacant by the resignation of Rep. Fred Camillo (R). Republican Harry Arora won the special election with 2,345 votes versus the 1,965 votes for Democrat Cheryl Trepp Moss.

The special election was called after Camillo resigned his seat on December 2, 2019, due to his election as the First Selectman of Greenwich, Connecticut. He was the representative for District 151 from 2009 to 2019.

Arora will serve out the remainder of Camillo’s term, which ends on January 6, 2021. The last general election for the seat was held on November 6, 2018. The next general election for it is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

As of January 2020, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Connecticut has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

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Additional reading:
Connecticut House of Representatives District 151
Connecticut elections, 2020
State legislative special elections, 2020



Recall election moves forward in Jackson, Michigan

Downtown Jackson as seen from 12th floor of One Energy Plaza (CMS Energy World Headquarters)
Photo credit: Phillip L. Hofmeister

In Michigan, a recall election against Jackson Councilwoman Kelsey Heck is set to be on the May 5 ballot. The Jackson County Elections Clerk’s Office verified the signatures in the recall effort against Heck and posted an issuance of election on January 21.

Resident Susan Murdie initiated the recall effort in July 2019. Petitions listed the following as reasons for recalling Heck:

  • “For her June 11, 2019 vote in favor of Resolution for Approval of contract with MDOT for Greenwood Avenue/S. Jackson Street-Morrell Street to Franklin Street.”
  • “For her February 12, 2019 vote in favor of Ordinance 2019 02, for Relocation Assistance for displaced tenants.”

Murdie started gathering signatures in October 2019. There were 320 signatures submitted for verification on December 17, 2019. At least 226 valid signatures were required to put the recall election on the ballot.

Heck said the recall effort was initiated because of her appointment to the council seat in September 2018. Murdie was also a candidate for the position. Heck said the city’s charter should be changed to allow for special elections to fill vacancies on the city council.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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See below for additional reading:
Laws governing recall in Michigan
Political recall efforts, 2020



Jordan and Super advance to special general election for Minnesota House District 60A

On January 21, 2020, Sydney Jordan won the special Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary to serve as the party’s nominee for District 60A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Jordan won 28.55% of the vote in an 11-candidate primary field, according to the unofficial results.

In the Legal Marijuana Now party’s primary, Marty Super ran unopposed for their nomination. The Republican primary was canceled since no candidates filed to run. Jordan and Super are competing in the special general election on February 4, 2020.

The seat became vacant when Rep. Diane Loeffler (D) passed away on November 16, 2019. Loeffler was first elected to the seat in 2004 and served in it continuously until her death.

As of January, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Click here to learn more.