While still facing long odds, a Democratic win in Alabama next month would create a viable path for the party to win back control of the Senate in the midterm elections. As controversy swirls around Republican nominee Roy Moore, that race is now seen as a toss-up by The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections, while Sabato's Crystal Ball has it as Leans Democrat. The most recent poll of the race, from Fox News, has Democrat Doug Jones up by 8 points. That said, Alabama is a deeply red state, where Donald Trump won by 28 points in 2016. Given that the December 12th election is still several weeks out - there is no early voting here - a Jones win is by no means a sure thing.
Democrats need a net gain of 3 seats to take control in 2019. Their problem, as we've noted before, is that 25 of the 34 seats up for election are currently held by the party. They would need to defend and hold all 25 of those seats - including 10 in states won by Trump in 2016 - and flip the more competitive Republican-held seats in Arizona and Nevada, just to get to 50-50. That's not enough, however, as VP Mike Pence would break the tie, keeping the Republican majority. All the other seats were presumed to be safe for the GOP, making Democratic control in 2019 just about impossible. However, an Alabama win next month, coupled with the above, would give the party 51 seats and the majority. Clearly, a lot has to go right (or wrong, depending on your point of view), for that to happen.
Click or tap the map to game it out:
Here is a summary of the Battle for Control, based on the aforementioned pundit ratings for each race:
Politico reports that "Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is urging the Democratic National Committee to end its tradition of using superdelegates, which activists say diminish the influence of regular voters at the expense of party bigwigs in the presidential nominating process."
Superdelegates are party insiders that can cast their vote for whomever they wish, regardless of the will of the voters in their state. In 2016, Hillary Clinton - with Kaine as her running mate - received the support of almost all of these superdelegates, pushing her across the 2,383 total delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.
While Clinton likely would have ultimately prevailed over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a nominating process without superdelegates, their existence gave the impression that the party favored the Clinton ticket, depriving Sanders supporters of a fair fight. This, in turn, likely dampened enthusiasm among some of them to turn out for Clinton on Election Day. To that end, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that the existence of superdelegates in the Democratic nominating process is one of the reasons Donald Trump won the election.
Former Provo mayor John Curtis became the newest member of the U.S. House on Monday. He was seated less than a week after winning the special election in Utah's 3rd congressional district. Curtis won by over 30 points. This keeps the seat, vacated earlier this year by Jason Chaffetz, in Republican hands.
There are now 240 Republicans in the House, 194 Democrats. The one remaining vacancy, in Pennsylvania's 18th district, will be filled via special election on March 13, 2018. That seat was held by Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last month. The race is currently rated 'Likely Republican'.
At least one additional vacancy is expected prior to the Pennsylvania election. Republican Pat Tiberi (OH-12) has announced he will leave Congress by January 31, 2018. Additionally, Republican Jim Bridenstine (OK-1) is awaiting confirmation as NASA administrator. Timing is unclear, but if/when it occurs, Bridenstine will need to resign.
Democrat Gene Green, one of the longest serving members of the Texas congressional delegation, will not run in 2018, according to a spokesperson:
ANOTHER TX RETIREMENT: U.S. Rep. Gene Green, Houston Democrat, is retiring, per his spokesman.— Abby Livingston (@TexasTribAbby) November 13, 2017
Much like his Republican colleague Ted Poe (TX-02), who announced his retirement last week, Green represents a highly-gerrymandered district surrounding Houston. Hillary Clinton won over 70% of the vote here in 2016, besting Donald Trump by about 46 points.
There are now 35 House members not seeking reelection in 2018. Green is the 11th Democrat on the list.
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will not seek reelection in 2018. Goodlatte is in his 13th term, and is another in a string of long-serving House Republicans to announce their departure in recent weeks.
Goodlatte represents a safe Republican district in the western part of the state. Donald Trump won here by 25% in 2016, and the area voted for Ed Gillespie by a 22% margin in the gubernatorial race just completed. The updated list of 2018 House retirements can be found here.
Rep. Ted Poe, a 7-term Republican from Texas, said he will retire at the end of this term. He is the 3rd long-serving Texas Republican, after Jeb Hensarling and Lamar Smith, to make such an announcement since late October.
Poe represents a safe, highly gerrymandered Republican district in the Houston metropolitan area.
There are now 33 members not seeking reelection in 2018.
Democrats emerged victorious in both gubernatorial contests Tuesday night. In the most closely-watched race, Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie. With about 80% of the vote counted, Northam held a 6-point lead over his Republican challenger. Democrats hold the seat being vacated by Gov. Terry McAuliffe
In New Jersey, as expected, Democrat Phil Murphy defeated Republican Kim Guadagno. This represents a Democratic gain as Murphy will take over for departing Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Both McAuliffe and Christie were term-limited.
We've updated our 2017-18 gubernatorial map to reflect the Democratic wins (both states are shown as 'Safe Democratic'. We'll roll this map over to reflect just the 2018 races - there are 36 of them - in the days ahead.
Frank LoBiondo, a 12-term Republican representing New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, announced his retirement Tuesday. Politico notes that "the decision will open up a battleground district in southern New Jersey that LoBiondo has held easily since 1994. New Jersey's 2nd District backed President Donald Trump with 50.6 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 46 percent in 2016. But former President Barack Obama also won the seat twice with between 53 and 54 percent of the vote."
Sabato's Crystal Ball has changed the rating of the district from 'Safe Republican' to 'Toss-up'.
32 House members, including 22 Republicans have announced plans to retire and/or seek another elected office in 2018. That list may grow shortly: It was also reported Tuesday that Arizona House Republican Martha McSally will challenge Kelli Ward for the Republican nomination in the 2018 U.S. Senate race there. This is the seat being vacated by incumbent Republican Jeff Flake. No official announcement has been made yet.
Election Day on Tuesday will see gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as a special election to fill a vacancy in Utah's 3rd congressional district. The Virginia race is highly competitve, the other two less so.
Virginia Gubernatorial Election: Incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe is term-limited. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will represent the Democrats, while former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee. Gillespie lost a 2014 race for U.S. Senator from Virginia, although the race against incumbent Mark Warner was much closer than expected. Warner prevailed by less than 1%.
Most of the final polls give Northam a small lead; the Real Clear Politics Average has Northam up by 3% (as of late morning Nov. 6). Sabato's Crystal Ball and The Cook Political Report have the race rated as 'Leans Democratic. Inside Elections calls it 'Tilt Democratic' - this is a categorization between toss-up and lean that the other two pundits don't use. Polls are open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM Eastern Time.
CNN breaks the race down by geography, noting that Northam should perform very well in the areas around Washington, DC. "To offset the wide Democratic margins in Northern Virginia, Gillespie will need to run up the score in the more rural parts of of the commonwealth, particularly in the southwest and Southside regions." In the end, CNN notes, the race may well be decided by voters in two exurban DC counties - Loudoun and Prince William.
For more on the candidates and the issues in this election, see this article from The Washington Post.
New Jersey Gubernatorial Election: Term-limited Republican Chris Christie will be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (R) or businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D). The incumbent is highly unpopular, complicating Guadagno's efforts to prevail in this traditionally blue state. Recent polls, such as this one from Monmouth University, all show lead of 14-16 points for the Democratic nominee, who is expected to win. Polls are open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time.
Utah's 3rd Congressional District Special Election: The race is to fill the open seat created by the departure of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. It will be contested again in 2018 as part of the midterm elections. The Republican nominee is the Mayor of Provo, John Curtis. The Democratic nominee is a physician, Kathie Allen. Curtis led by 27 points in a recent poll, and is highly likely to prevail. Polls are open 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM Mountain Time.
In addition to the above, Virginia and New Jersey will have some state legislative elections. A number of large cities will also elect mayors tomorrow. These include: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City and Seattle.
Looking ahead, the Alabama Senate special election is on Tuesday, December 12th. Next year will bring the midterm elections, where all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats will be contested. 36 gubernatorial races will also be held.
This article was first published on November 5th; updated November 6th
Republican Lamar Smith of Texas, head of the House Science Committee, announced his retirement Thursday afternoon. He is in his 16th term, and is the 2nd longest-serving member of the Texas House delegation. Only Rep. Joe Barton has served longer. Smith will serve out the remainder of his term.
Smith represents Texas' 21st district, a somewhat oddly-shaped area that sits primarily west of Austin and San Antonio, although it also runs north-south near I-35 between those two cities.
Smith easily won reelection last November by 21%. However, Donald Trump only won here by 10 points over Hillary Clinton, a sharp drop in margin from 2012, when Mitt Romney took the district by 22% over Barack Obama. At this point, however, the district remains as 'Safe Republican'.
Smith is the 4th of 36 Texas House members to pass on reelection in 2018. His announcement comes just two days after another powerful Texas House Republican, Jeb Hensarling announced his retirement. Overall, 31 House members have announced their departure, including 21 Republicans.
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