Category Archives: Special ELection

The Late Luke Letlow’s Widow to Run

By Jim Ellis

Late last week, Julia Letlow (above), widow of late Louisiana Republican Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow, announced that she will run for her late husband’s seat, issuing a statement saying she wants to “ … continue the mission Luke started.” Luke Letlow, 41, passed away Dec. 29, 2020 from a heart attack while battling COVID-19.

Jan. 18, 2021 — On Dec. 5, former congressional chief of staff Luke Letlow (R) won a big election victory, scoring a 62-38 percent Louisiana runoff victory to secure the 5th Congressional District seat and replace his retiring boss, retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto). Just 24 days later and before even being sworn into the House, Letlow, 41, tragically passed away from cardiac arrest after contracting COVID-19.

Late last week, his widow, Julia Letlow, issued a statement saying she wants to “ … continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities and to deliver real results to move our state forward.” The comments were part of her announcement declaring her own candidacy for the 5th District special election to replace her late husband.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has scheduled both the vacant 2nd District (Rep. Cedric Richmond-D has accepted a position in the Biden Administration and officially resigned from the House last Friday) and the 5th CD special elections for March 20, with a runoff on April 24 should no one receive majority support in the first vote. The candidate filing deadline for both seats is a week from today, Jan. 22.

So far, the LA-5 candidate field has been slow to form largely in anticipation of Julia Letlow becoming a contender. At this point, Democrat Candy Christophe, who missed qualifying for the regular election runoff by just 428 votes, is an announced special election candidate. The only other currently declared contender is frequent GOP candidate Allen Guillory. State Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), who qualified for the regular runoff election and lost to Luke Letlow, has not yet indicated whether he will enter the special election campaign.

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Outstanding Races: A Look-In

(Jon Ossoff – “Selma”)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2020 — The Georgia Senate runoff campaigns continue to see brisk pre-election voting participation and huge amounts of money being spent, while one of the candidates appears to be fundamentally changing his message strategy. In the two contested House races, the NY-22 result remains undecided, while questions are being raised around the IA-2 situation with regard to seating the state certified winner on Jan. 3.

The Georgia races, heading into Christmas week, feature political surveys finding both campaigns, those of Sen. David Perdue (R) against Jon Ossoff (D) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) paired with Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in their special election battle, falling within the polling margin of error.

The Target Smart statistical organization reveals that Democrats are slightly leading Republicans in pre-election ballots returned (47.0 – 46.7 percent, respectively within the universe of returned ballots), a difference between the two parties of just 4,025 ballots. Over 1.329 million votes have been received through the end of last week, which is only 241,088 under the number of early and mail votes recorded in the 2020 regular election.

During the regular election, the Democrats led the early and mail voting participation with 748,741 ballots (47.7 percent of the total return) compared to the GOP’s total of 719,515 (45.8 percent). The unaffiliated sector returned 102,635 ballots in the regular election. So far in the runoff cycle, 82,756 unaffiliated individuals have either voted early or mailed their ballots.

During the week, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff changed his media strategy. Prior to this period, the Ossoff campaign had been concentrating on COVID as their key issue driver, but now appear to be concerned about African American voter turnout. With the pre-election numbers being slightly down for Democrats as described above, the change in Ossoff strategy suggests that the campaign strategists do not feel the black vote numbers are where they need to be to clinch a victory on Jan. 5.

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NM-1: New Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2020 — Late last week, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he is nominating New Mexico US Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) to be Interior Secretary. Upon confirmation, Rep. Haaland will resign her seat in the House, which will become the body’s third vacancy.

Biden has already chosen Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to run the White House Office of Public Engagement and become Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, respectively.

Special elections will be held in all three districts and scheduled once the member officially resigns to accept his or her new position. Democrats will be prohibitive favorites in Louisiana and Ohio, but it’s possible the New Mexico seat could become competitive.

Haaland was first elected to what was an open district in 2018 when then-Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) risked the 1st District House seat to wage an ultimately successful campaign for Governor. Grisham was first elected to the House in 2012 in an open seat campaign. She succeeded then-Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who won a Senate seat in the same election.

Prior to Heinrich’s initial House win in 2008, the 1st District congressional seat, anchored in Albuquerque, had been in Republican hands for 40 consecutive years in the person of Reps. Manuel Lujan, Steve Schiff, and Heather Wilson, consecutively. Though the district has significantly changed politically, it has largely kept its same basic geographic context during the entire aforementioned stretch. Prior to the 1968 election, New Mexico’s representatives were chosen in at-large elections.

Once Haaland, one of the first Native American females to be elected to the House, resigns, Gov. Grisham will schedule a special election. Under New Mexico procedure, the political parties will caucus to choose their nominees, so there will be no primary election. Therefore, it is probable to see a contested convention process for both parties, particularly for the Democrats since their eventual nominee will begin the special election campaign in the favorite’s position.

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Rep. Collins Makes His Move in
Georgia’s Special Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville)

Oct. 21, 2020 — Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) began the 2020 special Senate election campaign as the early leader, enjoying an advantage over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman, the son of former Connecticut US senator and 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, and Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D), who now ministers the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father once pastored.

The race, however, has changed significantly since those early days.

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R)

By taking advantage of her huge personal wealth and being cleared of wrongdoing over controversial stock transactions that she and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, made just after she received early COVID senatorial briefings, Loeffler eventually moved past Rep. Collins in the political standings.

Once Democrats began to coalesce around Rev. Warnock, the race again changed. The pastor began securing first place in multiple statewide polls after receiving many key national endorsements. This left Rep. Collins and Sen. Loeffler, the two Republicans, fighting each other for second place.

Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock (D)

The congressman, knowing he couldn’t compete with Sen. Loeffler’s wealth, or even the Democrats institutional money once the party establishment began to support Rev. Warnock in earnest, held a large portion of his resources for a strong late finish after raising $6 million for the race through Sept. 30.

Rep. Collins’ campaign strategy may be paying dividends. A new Emerson College survey (Oct. 17-19; 506 likely Georgia voters, interactive voice response system and online responses) finds another change in this rather uneven special election campaign. According to their data, Rep. Collins has now tied Rev. Warnock for first place in the jungle primary with 27 percent apiece. Sen. Loeffler trails with 20 percent and Lieberman, who had dropped well into single digits in many other polls, also rebounded to 12 percent support.

This poll conflicts somewhat with a recent Survey USA study (Oct. 8-12; 677 likely Georgia voters, online) that found Rev. Warnock at 30 percent, Sen. Loeffler posting 26 percent, Rep. Collins attracting 20 percent support, and Lieberman back in single digits with eight percent preference. Previous polls returned similar numbers to that of S-USA, but with larger percentages for Rev. Warnock.

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Is A Budding Red Rebound Emerging?

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2020 — Two years ago, several national political prognosticators were predicting a strong Democratic election, i.e., “a blue wave,” by using special election results, mostly from state legislative campaigns, as one of their fundamental support arguments. As we know, the forecast proved correct.

To what degree the special election totals were a precursor is difficult to say, but it is reasonable to believe that real-time results are a better voting trend indicator than publicly released polls, many of which are methodologically flawed. Therefore, it is worth analyzing similar voting patterns as we approach the 2020 election.

North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte)

The victory of Republican Mike Garcia in California last week marked the first congressional special election of this election cycle to flip from one party to the other. Republicans have won five of the six special US House contests, including those of Garcia and Wisconsin state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who easily claimed his state’s vacant 7th District, last Tuesday.

The other significant special election occurred late last year. Though Rep. Dan Bishop’s (R-Charlotte) victory in North Carolina came in a seat that historically produced Republican victories, he was certainly considered an underdog at the outset of the special election campaign. He rebounded, however, to score a two-point victory, nonetheless, which in many ways makes it as noteworthy as the Garcia win.

The NC-9 election was necessitated because voter fraud in the 2018 general election prevented the Republican candidate from being certified the winner. After almost a year of keeping the seat vacant, the state’s Board of Elections called a new election that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) scheduled for Sept. 10, 2019.

In the campaign, Bishop was outspent $7.5 million to $2.7 million and that was on top of the $6.1 million Democrat Dan McCready expended in the 2018 general election. Furthermore, Democratic strategists predicted victory in this race because the Charlotte-Fayetteville seat contains a large suburban population, the type of district where their candidates certainly excelled in 2018, and President Trump’s job approval ratings were languishing around the 40 percent mark at the time. All things considered, the Bishop victory should not be characterized as a routine Republican hold.

According to the Ballotpedia election research organization, during the 2018 voting cycle, 197 special state legislative elections were held around the country, 98 of them in 2017, and 99 in 2018. Republicans risked 110 of the seats, substantially higher than the 87 the Democrats were forced to defend. In 2017, Democrats gained a net 11 legislative seats nationally, and eight more in 2018 for a cycle total of 19 net flips (Democrats actually won 26 Republican-held seats, but the GOP took back seven Democratic districts). It was these numbers that largely led the prognosticators to point to changing trends.

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