By Jim Ellis
Feb. 9, 2017 — The special election cycle officially launches tomorrow evening.
Kansas’ 4th District Republican Committee will convene for purposes of choosing a nominee to compete in the April 11 special election. Democrats will follow suit with their own confab on Saturday afternoon.
The Wichita-anchored 4th CD is vacant because Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) was nominated and confirmed as President Trump’s CIA director. He resigned the congressional seat on Jan. 24 to accept his new position. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) then quickly scheduled the replacement election for early April.
The 4th District Republican Committee consists of 126 party-elected delegates. They will consider the candidates, and then cast secret ballots. The voting will continue until one person reaches majority support (64 votes). The lowest vote-getter will be eliminated after every round of voting.
Seven Republicans have announced their candidacies, and it is presumed all will be placed into nomination at the convention. Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Wichita) and state Treasurer Ron Estes lead the group of contenders, with most handicapping the latter as the favorite. Though Tiahrt represented the seat for eight terms, immediately moving to Colorado after losing the 2010 US Senate nomination and then returning to challenge Rep. Pompeo in the 2014 Republican primary has left many of the delegates searching for an alternative. Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner and former Trump Transition Team member and campaign official Alan Cobb are also candidates of note.
Democrats are clear underdogs in this district that supported Donald Trump with a 60-33 percent margin. President Obama could do no better than 36 percent here during his 2012 re-election campaign. Six candidates have announced for the party nomination, including former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney, ex-Wichita School Board Member Kevass Harding, and international business consultant Laura Lombard.
The central downtown Los Angeles congressional district became vacant when 12-term incumbent Xavier Becerra (D) was appointed California attorney general, replacing Sen. Kamala Harris (D) in the position. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has scheduled the special election primary for April 4, with the general on June 6.
All 22 announced candidates, assuming all file final papers tomorrow, will be placed on the same primary ballot. The top two finishers, irrespective of political party affiliation, will advance to the special general.
State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D), the presumed favorite, scored a major coup this week when the California Democratic Party officially endorsed him. This means party resources will be used to support his candidacy, and the endorsement will be notated on the ballot. Featuring a hugely crowded field of candidates, such a ballot status will clearly be highly advantageous for Gomez. It is probable that he and another Democrat will qualify for the general election.
South Carolina State House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R), after planning a campaign for governor, will now enter the special election to replace Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) when the latter is confirmed as director of the Office of Management & Budget.
Gov. Nikki Haley (R) resigning to accept President Trump’s appointment as United Nations Ambassador allowed Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to ascend to the governorship. With McMaster sure to seek election next year as the sitting incumbent, Pope’s path is blocked. Therefore, he becomes the sixth individual, all Republicans, to announce for the seat.
With Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Roswell) confirmation as Health & Human Services Secretary scheduled to come later this week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will quickly call a replacement special election once the process is complete and the congressman resigns.
The format will be identical to that used in California. All candidates will appear on one primary ballot, and if no one garners majority support the top two finishers will advance to the general election run-off. Already 11 individuals have become candidates, with others to follow once the seat is officially vacant.
Democrats are going to mount a challenge here, buoyed by Hillary Clinton’s performance in this normally safe Republican district. She fell to President Trump by only one percentage point here. Irrespective of the presidential result, Republicans are favored to hold the seat.