By Jim Ellis
Nov. 1, 2019 — Four seats are now vacant in the House, each headed to a special election prior to the regular cycle calendar, and action is beginning to occur.
• CA-25: Rep. Katie Hill, Resigned — Gov. Gavin Newsom will call a special election to replace the scandal-tainted Rep. Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale), and it is highly likely that either the special primary, or (and probably more likely) the general will be set concurrently with the California presidential primary on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Rep. Hill unseated then-Rep. Steve Knight (R) in 2018, and it appears the former congressman will become a candidate in the special election. It is unlikely that he will be the lone Republican, however. Lancaster City Councilwoman Angela Underwood-Jacobs (R) was already in the race planning to challenge Hill. It is likely that she will remain.
Former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopolous, who was a major target of the Russia investigation, is already an announced candidate. Defense contractor Mike Garcia is also a pre-resignation announced candidate and will likely remain. And, we will probably see others come forward as well.
Democrats were beginning to coalesce around freshman state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall/Santa Clarita) but now state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Calabasas) is beginning to sound like a candidate. The 25th is a politically marginal district, so this special election campaign promises to be highly competitive.
• MD-7: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Passed Away — Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has set a candidate filing deadline of Nov. 20 for the Feb. 4 special primary and April 28 general to fill the balance of Cummings’ unexpired term.
The big question is whether the congressman’s widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is the Maryland Democratic Party chair, will decide to run for the seat. It appears most of the potential Democratic candidates will yield to her if she decides to launch a campaign. Currently, state Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) appears certain to run if Cummings does not and she won’t be alone. We can expect a crowded Democratic field if Cummings does not enter.
The seat will remain Democratic because Republican registration is only 16 percent of the electorate. The seat contains 60 percent of Baltimore City, and parts of Baltimore and Howard counties. Once Cummings makes her decision, it will be relatively easy to predict the outcome.
• NY-27: Rep. Chris Collins, Resigned — Former Rep. Collins left the House to enter a plea on an insider trading federal charge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who admits he wants to run the special election concurrently with the regular cycle but can’t under state law, has yet to indicate what may be the voting schedule.
Since this situation was different from the other specials because of the indictment hanging over Collins’ head, other Republicans had already jumped into the race in anticipation of either him not seeking re-election, resigning, or simply challenging him in the regular primary.
State Sens. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport) are in the race as is former town judge Beth Parlato. Others, such as state Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Albion) and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw may join once the calendar is set. Democrats look to be coalescing around 2018 nominee Nate McMurray, who held Rep. Collins to a 48-47 percent victory.
In New York, the county party chairmen meet to agree upon the respective nominees. Therefore, only one election will be scheduled.
• WI-7: Rep. Sean Duffy, Resigned — Former Congressman Duffy announced his resignation at the end of August for family reasons, and Gov. Tony Evers (D) has scheduled the election calendar to include a Dec. 2 candidate filing deadline, Feb. 18 primary, and May 12 special general.
The favorite to hold what should be a safely Republican seat is state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) who has now been endorsed by former Gov. Scott Walker and Duffy. His main Republican opponent is disabled Afghan War veteran Jason Church, who was a congressional aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). At this point, the likely Democratic nominee appears to be Wausau School Board Member Tricia Zunker.
The 7th is a strong Trump district, in fact the best in Wisconsin. The president’s win margin here was 58-37 percent. After Rep. Duffy solidified the district upon winning it for the first time in 2010, and then securing a strong re-election, the seat became safely Republican. At the outset, expect Sen. Tiffany to win the Republican primary, and should have little trouble in the special general.