July 9, 2015 — As expected, Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood (R) cruised to an easy special election primary victory Tuesday in the vacant Peoria-anchored congressional district. Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R) March resignation created the vacancy, which is the only unrepresented seat in the entire US House.
LaHood, whose father, Ray LaHood, represented the seat for 14 years before becoming President Obama’s Transportation Secretary, topped 69 percent of the vote against two weak GOP opponents who spent less than $50,000 combined on their campaigns. Democrats officially nominated educator Rob Mellon, an Army Reserve officer who lost his party’s congressional primary in 2014.
LaHood will easily defeat Mellon, but must wait until Sept. 10 for the next vote in what is an unusually long special election cycle. His eventual victory will bring the House party division back to 247R-188D, the spread generated on Election Night 2014.
Two other seats were vacated earlier in the year. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) resigned before being sworn in for a third term due to a conviction on federal tax evasion. Republican Dan Donovan subsequently won the open Staten Island seat. The death of Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) led to Republican District Attorney Trent Kelly winning a very crowded special election in early June.
Fox Presidential Debate
Now a month away from the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 cycle, Fox News is continuing their position of inviting participants based upon the mathematically flawed concept of averaging diverse polls.
The Hill newspaper ran an article earlier this week outlining the 10 candidates who would likely be allowed to participate and which seven would not. Fox is saying they will take a composite of five national polls just before the debate now scheduled for Aug. 6 in Cleveland. The media organization appears to be allowing themselves some subjectivity in the selection process because they are not releasing the exact decision-making criteria.
According to The Hill, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, and businessman Donald Trump appear set to secure a debate podium. The remainder: Sen. Ted Cruz, ex-Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Chris Christie, former Sen. Rick Santorum, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, governors John Kasich and Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and ex-governors George Pataki and Jim Gilmore will all be fighting for the remaining three positions.
We can expect to hear much complaining over the Fox plan, obviously most vociferously from the candidates left out. For example, today based upon the best available information, The Hill projects that Gov. Christie would secure the final debate podium. But, his combined standing in prominent polling is only 3.3 percent.
The first-out candidate, former Sen. Santorum who won 11 states in the 2012 presidential contest, currently records an average of 2.3 percent. With all candidates routinely within 15-17 percentage points top to bottom, arbitrarily eliminating certain candidates from being heard will become a greater story than the debate itself especially when the difference between the final participant and all of those excluded is an insignificant margin.
The Manchester (NH) Union Leader newspaper is planning to hold a competing forum that will invite all candidates, saying that it is New Hampshire voters who have a special role in vetting presidential candidate and not the media. CNN is planning a two-tiered format. Sen. Santorum suggests a multi-venue forum where candidate selection is done by lots, but allowing each to participate in one of three randomly chosen groups.