May 6, 2015 — The season’s first special election concluded last night in New York’s 11th Congressional District with little fanfare as Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan (R) easily rode to a landslide victory in former Rep. Michael Grimm’s (R) vacated seat. Grimm resigned at the beginning of the term after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion.
The election drew only 39,867 voters for an abysmally low turnout percentage of 9.8 percent. Donovan, who was viewed as the prohibitive favorite here since the special election cycle began, captured 59 percent of the vote compared to New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile’s (D-Brooklyn) 40 percent. Green Party nominee James Lane picked up the final 1.3 percent, or 521 raw votes. Donovan carried the Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party ballot lines, while Gentile held the Democratic and Working Families Party designations.
The Democrats barely contested this special election, vowing to wage a real campaign in this Staten Island-Brooklyn domain during the regular 2016 election cycle under what will likely be a full turnout model in the presidential year. Now that representative-elect Donovan will be the incumbent, doing so becomes more unlikely, however, as the national Democrats will move toward more logical targets elsewhere.
NY-11 is anchored on Staten Island, with two-thirds of the voters coming from there. The Brooklyn portion captures the remaining one-third of the seat and Democrats have always fared poorly when they nominate a candidate from that borough, which they almost always do. Councilman Gentile, virtually a political sacrificial lamb, was no exception to this pattern.
Two more House vacancies remain. Voters in the open Mississippi 1st District, left unrepresented due to Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s (R-Tupelo) death, will take the first step to being filled next week, as voters go to the polls under a jungle primary format on May 12. There, 12 Republicans and one Democrat will compete. If no candidate receives an outright majority, which is a virtual certainty, the top two finishers will advance to a June 2 special general election. The eventual winner will serve the balance of Rep. Nunnelee’s final term.
The second remaining vacancy, former Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL-18) open seat, won’t be filled until September.
As expected, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) will issue a statement today saying he will run to succeed Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in the open 2016 contest that promises to be a highly competitive affair, and could decide the balance of power in the next US Senate. DeSantis joins Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) as the only two announced candidates, but others will soon follow.
Though the Republican field of candidates is winnowing, particularly since both representatives Tom Rooney (R-FL-17) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) have chosen to remain in the House and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL-1) still says he’s considering running but is doing little to form a campaign, two strong potential candidates loom in the background.
Both former attorney general and Congressman Bill McCollum (R) and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) continue to remain in a tentative phase but it is likely that one, or both, will eventually step forward to announce an official candidacy.
For the Democrats, though the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) just formally endorsed Rep. Murphy, Orlando area Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) continues to indicate strong interest in running.
Grayson, often operating as a left wing political lone wolf, has the ability to self-fund but says the political cycle begins too early; hence, he believes more than enough time remains to enter the race and run a serious campaign. He continues to say he is likely to run. Potential Democratic congressional candidates are already beginning to make moves to run for his safe House district in anticipation of a Grayson for Senate campaign.
The Orlando congressman, originally elected in 2008 was defeated after one term, but then returned to win this newly created 9th District (2011 redistricting plan) two years later. He derided the DSCC endorsement of Murphy saying, “Florida Democratic voters choose our party nominee, not out-of-touch party bosses sipping cognac in a smoke-filled room in Washington, DC.” This is a common type of comment from an individual who doesn’t receive major party support.
With Sen. Rubio not seeking re-election in order to run for president, the open 2016 Florida Senate contest, as usual, will be rated as a toss-up