This past Tuesday marked the 75th time a Democrat and a Republican faced off in a special election for a state or federal office since President Donald Trump won the 2016 election. The result in District 35 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a solidly Democratic seat in the Pittsburgh area won easily by a Democrat, did not tell us much on its own. Yet taken as a whole, the 75 special elections and the regular elections in New Jersey and Virginia in November 2017 may offer some clues as to how the political environment is developing as we head toward November 2018.
On Tuesday, now-former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. As we discussed in our last newsletter for 2017, Franken’s resignation means that Minnesota will hold a special election for Senate this coming November, which will take place at the same time as the regular election for the state’s other Senate seat (a “double-barrel” election).
Sen. Al Franken’s (D) impending resignation due to sexual harassment allegations will create a vacancy in Minnesota’s Class II Senate seat, precipitating a special election in the North Star State next November. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced last week that he would name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) to the post, and Smith said that she intends to run in the 2018 special election for the remainder of Franken’s term (the seat is due to be regularly contested in 2020). Because Franken did not immediately resign, there was some speculation that he might reconsider leaving office — among others, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants Franken to remain in the Senate — but his spokesman said on Wednesday that Franken intends to resign on Jan. 2, 2018, and that Smith will be sworn into office on Jan. 3. This article is based on the assumption that Franken will indeed resign.
While November’s political spotlight will shine brightest on the gubernatorial contest at the top of the Virginia ticket between former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), there will also be many interesting races down-ballot in the Old Dominion on Election Day. Not only will there be elections for the commonwealth’s two other statewide offices — lieutenant governor and attorney general — but all 100 House of Delegates seats will also be up for grabs. The General Assembly’s lower house will probably look a little different after Nov. 7, but the question is, how different?
The November of the year following a presidential election is always relatively quiet on the electoral front, with only regularly-scheduled statewide races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. With the Garden State’s contest looking like a safe Democratic pickup and Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate not happening until December, coverage of the competitive Virginia race seems to be accelerating as it enters the final month before Election Day. This is only natural: gubernatorial elections in the Old Dominion traditionally ramp up around Labor Day, and now that the election is less than four weeks away, the candidates are beginning to go all-in on television ads, which attracts more notice inside and outside of the commonwealth.
In the midst of a grueling campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, Alabama’s political sweet tea has acquired a distinctly sour taste. Appointed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R) finds himself in a vulnerable position against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) in the party’s primary runoff election, which will take place on Tuesday (Sept. 26).
About one month after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) announced a long-expected 2018 U.S. Senate bid against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who defeated Mandel 51%-45% in Ohio’s 2012 Senate contest. Should both politicians win their party nominations — at present, each appears favored to do so — the Buckeye State will likely see a rollicking rematch with millions upon millions of dollars spent on behalf of or against the populist-liberal Brown and Trumpish-conservative Mandel.
The 2017 Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate kicks off with party primaries this coming Tuesday (Aug. 15). Should one or both parties have no candidate win a majority that day, a primary runoff will take place on Sept. 26. Both sides have crowded fields, but given the dark red hue of the state, most expect the eventual Republican nominee to hold the seat for the GOP. The appointed incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange (R), appears somewhat vulnerable, at least in the Republican primary.
In 2008 Barack Obama carried Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win the Old Dominion. Obama’s victory broke a run of 10 consecutive Republican victories in the commonwealth, and 13 of 14 going back to 1952. The 2008 presidential election started a new Democratic streak, which has now seen the party carry Virginia three consecutive times, with Hillary Clinton winning it by 5.3 percentage points in 2016.
There was one close race and one not-so close race in the gubernatorial primaries in Virginia on Tuesday, but the margins were the opposite of what most expected: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) beat former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello (D) by about a dozen points in the closely-watched Democratic primary. Meanwhile, 2014 Senate nominee and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) just squeaked by Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) in the not-as-closely watched GOP primary.