April 19, 2017
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-03), chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee has announced he will not seek a 6th term in the 2018 midterm elections. The congressman made the announcement on his Facebook page, stating "Since late 2003 I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career. Many of you have heard me advocate, “Get in, serve, and get out.” After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018."
Chaffetz went on to say that he has no ulterior motives here. However, in his Oversight role, he is now in the uncomfortable position of leading possible investigations against a Republican president. Additionally, Chaffetz had already gotten a primary challenge for 2018. Looking beyond that, he may have been up against a Democratic opponent in the general election that has significantly outpaced him in fundraising thus far in 2017. Some consideration might also have been given to the fact that Republican control over the House may be in jeopardy next year.
Chaffetz is the 9th House member (5th Republican) to pass on a reelection campaign.
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April 19, 2017
From the New York Times: "Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, and Karen Handel, a Republican, advanced to a June 20 runoff in the special election for the [Georgia 6th Congressional District] U.S. House seat vacated by Tom Price, the new health and human services secretary." Ossoff received 48% of the vote, just short of the 50% threshold to avoid the runoff. Handel came in 2nd, her 20% tally outpacing a large group of Republicans on the nonpartisan primary ballot.
The election was seen as an early referendum on Donald Trump's presidency, thus drawing national attention. Democrats pinned their hopes on Ossoff, a filmmaker and former congressional staff member. He raised over $8 million, far above anyone else in the race. In the end, all that money and energy helped Ossoff slightly outperform Hillary Clinton in each of the three counties making up the district (see Vote by County in above graphic). However, it was not enough to avoid the June runoff.
Republican vote was split primarily between four candidates. Handel, the former Georgia Secretary of State, bested businessman Bob Gray and two former State Senators to achieve the 2nd spot in the runoff. Total vote across all eleven Republicans in the field was 51%, vs. 49% for the five Democrats.
April 18, 2017
Alabama has moved up the date for its U.S. Senate special election to December 12, 2017, following a primary on August 15th, Politico reports. The special election was previously scheduled for November 6, 2018, to coincide with the midterm general elections. The winner of the special election will serve out the six-year term of this seat, next up for election in 2020.
The Senate seat became open when Jeff Sessions resigned after being confirmed as U.S. Attorney General in February. Then governor Robert Bentley, appointed Luther Strange to the seat. Bentley subsequently resigned on April 10th to avoid felony charges and likely impeachment. The Lt. Governor at the time, Kay Ivey, took over for Bentley that day. She pursued the date change after discussions with state officials.
As reported back in January, Bentley set the special election for 2018 to - he said - avoid the significant cost of an off-cycle election. However, Strange, in his former capacity as the state's Attorney General, was in charge of investigating the governor. Some believed Strange's appointment to the Senate was a way to derail the investigation, and/or perhaps a 'thanks' for dragging it out for so long.
As a practical matter, these machinations will likely have little effect on Senate control. While Strange is likely to get some primary competition, the Senate seat in this deep red state is expected to remain in Republican hands regardless of who the party's nominee is.
April 14, 2017
Democrat Jon Ossoff is polling at 45% in a poll released late Friday for the Georgia's 6th congressional district special election. This is slightly better than recent polling having him in the low 40s, but he remains several points shy of the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff.
The Republican vote is split among several candidates. However, this latest poll has former Ga. Secretary of State Karen Handel pulling away from her main competition. Handel comes in at 17%, while Bob Gray, Dan Moody and Judson Hill are congregated between 8-9%.
If these results play out in Tuesday's election, Ossoff and Handel will meet in a top-two runoff on June 20th.
Today was the final date for early voting. 18 candidates from all parties will participate on a single ballot in the April 18th election. The seat became vacant when the former incumbent, Tom Price, was confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services earlier this year.
April 11, 2017
Republican Ron Estes is the projected winner of the special election in Kansas' 4th congressional district, edging Democratic nominee James Thompson in a much closer than expected race. With 94% of the vote in, Estes leads by just 5.8%.
Former Rep. Mike Pompeo (now CIA Director) won this seat by 32 points last November, while Donald Trump bested Hillary Clinton by 27 points here.
April 11, 2017
Voters in Kansas' 4th congressional district head to the polls today in the first congressional election of the Trump era. The seat became vacant earlier this year when Mike Pompeo resigned to take over the CIA. The district covers the south-central part of the state, including Wichita. Polls are open until 7PM Central Time (8PM Eastern).
Pompeo won reelection by about 32% last November, while Trump won by 27% within the district. As the article linked to in the first paragraph notes "It’s a district that would, under normal circumstances, be considered a lock for the Republican candidate. But of course, these are not normal times, and resources are flooding into the district from left and right."
While special elections are always tricky to predict, everything would have to go right (from the Democratic perspective) for this seat to flip. The most likely outcome is a Republican win, albeit with a smaller margin than in the 2016 elections. How small that margin is will likely form the basis for how each party spins the result once it is known. However, Republicans are taking no chances. Even the president is getting involved, recording a robocall Monday and sending out a tweet Tuesday morning:
The race pits the State Treasurer, Republican Ron Estes against Democrat James Thompson, a civil rights attorney. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Chris Rockhold.
April 10, 2017
Alabama governor Robert Bentley resigned on Monday and agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations. As part of the plea deal, the state will not pursue other, more serious charges against Bentley. This also puts to an end impeachment proceedings which had begun against the governor. The troubles for Bentley stem from an extramarital affair with a staffer and an alleged law enforcement cover-up.
Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will serve out the remainder of Bentley's term. The seat is up for election in 2018, one of 36 gubernatorial races that year.
April 10, 2017
The first of five special elections to fill vacancies in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held on Tuesday. That race, in Kansas' 4th congressional district became open after Mike Pompeo resigned to become Director of the CIA. While this is a deeply red district, the race has recently shown signs of becoming more competitive. The Hill reports that Democrats in the district have been energized by Trump's low approval ratings. In addition, the Republican nominee, State Treasurer Ron Estes, has apparently run a very poor campaign.
Pompeo won reelection by 32 points in November, while Trump won by 27 points within the district. A Democratic victory here remains a highly unlikely outcome. That said, The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have recently updated their ratings from 'safe' to 'likely' Republican. Sabato's Crystal Ball remains at 'safe'.
The table below highlights these pundit ratings for all five special elections to be held over the next couple months.
Up next is the GA-6 'jungle primary' next Tuesday, April 18th. This is the most competitive of the five races this spring. Democrat Jon Ossoff is expected to easily lead the large field when voting is complete. He is polling in the low 40s, while Republican support is spread across multiple candidates. The big question is whether he can get over 50% of the vote, to avoid a runoff in June. This is a Republican-leaning district, so Ossoff's best chance at flipping the seat may be next Tuesday.
Montana's single congressional seat will be contested on May 25th. This seat is likely to stay in Republican hands, although Montanans have elected a Democratic Senator and a Democratic governor.
We know California's 34th District will remain in Democratic hands. The recent top-two primary was won by two Democrats. They move on to the general election on June 6th.
The final current vacancy, in South Carolina's 5th district, will be filled on June 20th. At this time, all pundits see it remaining safely under Republican control.
April 6, 2017
A Gravis Marketing survey of Montana likely voters gives Republican Greg Gianforte a 12 point lead over Democrat Rob Quist in the race for the state's at-large congressional seat. The special election will be held May 25th. The seat became vacant when Republican Ryan Zinke resigned after being confirmed as Secretary of the Interior.
Gianforte, a technology entrepreneur, saw 50% support in the poll, with Quist, a musician, at 38%. The seat has been in Republican hands since 1997. Zinke won re-election by 15 points in November, while Donald Trump won the state by 21 points. The race is rated as likely Republican by Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report, while Inside Elections has it as safe Republican.
April 5, 2017
Democrat Jon Ossoff continues to lead the large field looking to fill the vacant seat in Georgia's 6th congressional district according to a new SurveyUSA poll for 11Alive in Atlanta. Ossoff receives 43% of the vote, with Republicans Karen Handel and Bob Gray receiving 15% and 14% respectively. Dan Moody is at 7% and Judson Hill gets 5%.
Candidates from all parties will participate on a single ballot in the April 18th election. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a top-two runoff will take place on June 20th. Absent an outright win, Ossoff will almost certainly move on to face one of the aforementioned Republicans in what should be a very competitive election.
The seat became vacant when the former incumbent, Tom Price, was confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services earlier this year. Price easily won re-election in November, but Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by less than 2% among the district's voters. No Democrat has held the seat since 1979, when voters chose a history professor named Newt Gingrich to fill the seat. As a historical note of interest, Gingrich was actually the first Republican to hold the seat, which had been in Democratic hands since the Civil War.
The race is garnering national attention, as well as large investment from both parties. It is also creating a wave of anti-Trump activism on the ground. Regardless of who prevails, this election may give us our first read on the 2018 midterm elections, or it may not.