Category Archives: Special ELection

The Twists & Turns of Replacing
Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2019 — Political chatter about the new Georgia Senate race is becoming prevalent. As we know, last week Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) announced that he will resign at the end of this year due to health problems. A great deal of speculation has occurred since, not only about who will be appointed to succeed the senator, but also who will run in the 2020 special election, and even about the election procedure, itself.

At this point, we know that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will name a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The selected individual will serve throughout 2020 and will likely run in the succeeding special election. The winner then serves the balance of the current term and would be eligible to run for a full six-year stint in the 2022 election.

The special is scheduled somewhat concurrently with the November 2020 general election. It’s possible, however, that the initial Nov. 3 vote will not immediately produce a winner, thus forcing an early January 2021 run-off. The candidates will first run in a jungle primary – that is, all contenders regardless of party designation appearing on the same ballot – and if no one receives a majority vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election to be held Jan. 5, 2021.

There is a potential scheduling nuance, however. Since the 2020 candidate filing deadline is March 6 for a May 19 regular primary and July 21 regular run-off, it is highly unlikely that the special election candidates will also file on that particular date. Therefore, if the candidate filing deadlines are different, will that allow individuals to run for an office in the 2020 regular cycle, and then simultaneously appear on the special US Senate election ballot? The question appears to be unanswered right now, and likely won’t be resolved until Gov. Kemp names his appointment and officially sets the election calendar.

The dual office speculation is beginning on the Democratic side because freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) indicated yesterday that she is considering a potential Senate run. It would be assumed that the congresswoman would have to risk her House seat to run in the special, but is such the case? Since she, or anyone else, would already be filed for a race in 2020 before the Senate special filing deadline, does such status disqualify those candidates from entering the latter race?

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Succeeding Georgia’s Sen. Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R)

Aug. 30, 2019 — Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), first elected to the Senate in 2004 after spending six years in the US House and 18 years in the Georgia legislature, announced Wednesday that he will resign his seat at year’s end due to serious health problems.

The news stories have reported the details surrounding Isakson’s departure and his health status, but the succession situation will be the concentration of this update. The development means that both of Georgia’s Senate positions will be on the ballot in 2020. The two will run only semi-concurrently, however.

The first step is for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The governor will install an interim senator to serve from Jan. 1 until the appointed individual or another is elected. It is believed that the governor will name his choice quickly so that the person will have a transition time to work with Isakson and his staff before assuming the office.

While Sen. David Perdue stands for a second term in the regular cycle, meaning a May 19, 2020 primary followed by a July 21 run-off if no candidate secures majority support in the initial vote, the special election will follow a different format and slightly altered schedule.

The regular general election is, of course, Nov. 3, 2020, but Georgia is also one of the few states that holds a post-election run-off in case no one receives majority support. That run-off will be held Jan. 5, 2021, but it is unlikely that the Perdue race would advance through to such a process regardless of who wins the November vote.

The Isakson seat, however, will not follow the same calendar or system. Since this is a special election called to fill the balance of the current term, which will last until the beginning of 2023, a jungle primary is to be held concurrently with the November election, and the top two individuals, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the Jan. 5 run-off if no one receives a majority vote in the first election. For this seat, the odds of seeing a run-off election intensify because a crowded field is expected, thus making it more difficult for any one individual to secure majority support.

One person who will not be competing is former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, the former state House Minority Leader. Abrams indicated that she will not be a Senate candidate in either seat next year, preferring to remain focused in her role of working with voter registration and turnout organizations.

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9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Could Force Arizona’s Hand

By Jim Ellis

Appointed Arizona Sen. (and former representative) Martha McSally (R)

Aug. 13, 2019 — Soon after Republican Congress-woman Martha McSally was appointed to the Senate, a group of Arizona voters — two Democrats, a Repub-lican, a Libertarian, and an Independent — challenged the length of time that she could serve without going to election. Now the case awaits a ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that could force the state to hold an early special election.

Sen. John McCain (R), who was re-elected in 2018, passed away in late August almost a year ago, on the 25th. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) then appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to serve until the 2020 election, but Kyl only pledged to stay through 2018. He then resigned before the new Congress took office at the beginning of this year. Gov. Ducey responded by appointing then-Rep. McSally (R-Tucson), who had just lost the 2018 open seat US Senate election to then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix).

Because Sen. McCain died so early into his term, there would be an appointment followed by a special election. The appointment would extend to the next general election in 2020, with the winner serving the balance of the term. Therefore, whoever wins next November’s special election wouldn’t be eligible to run for a full six-year term until 2024.

Under Arizona law, which is similar to succession laws in 35 other states, the governor appoints an interim senator who serves until the next regular election. In 14 states, which have systems similar to what the plaintiffs are demanding, a special election is scheduled at the earliest possible date according to the individual state law.

In Sen. McSally’s case her interim term would stretch to 27 months, which the group of plaintiffs argues is too long a time to not give the voters a say. The federal district court judge rejected the argument, but the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit. Late last week, the appellate court agreed to hear the case, and will do so in an expedited manner.

The 2020 Arizona special election promises to be one of the most hard-fought campaigns during the cycle. Even at this early date it is already clear that the two major party nominees will be Sen. McSally and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is the husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson).

The contest is already almost at fever pitch. In fact, Kelly raised more money in the 2nd Quarter than any other US Senate candidate, $4.24 million, but he was closely followed by Sen. McSally who raised the second-most of any federal candidate in the country, $3.4 million. Kelly had $5.9 million cash-on-hand at the end of June while Sen. McSally had $4.4 million.

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Now, Texas Rep. Marchant Bows Out

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area)

Aug. 7 2019 — The string of House retirements continues this week as eight-term Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area) announced that he, too, will leave the House at the end of the current term. Combined with his time in the Texas legislature, Marchant will have served 34 consecutive years in elective office.

The 24th District has been a focal point of the Texas congressional scene since Democrats position the seat high on their conversion opportunity list because of its close 2018 result. Despite Democratic nominee Jan McDowell spending less than $100,000 on her campaign, she came within a 51-48 percent margin of upsetting the veteran congressman, a difference of approximately 8,100 votes.

The vote drop-off from the 2016 presidential year, as it relates to turnout, was only four percent in 2018 compared to 42 percent when contrasting the 2014 midterm to the 2012 presidential election year, thus partially explaining why the latest results are so different.

Texas Congressional District 24, currently represented in the US House by Kenny Marchant.

The 24th District is the region surrounding DFW Airport, and contains parts of Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton Counties. President Trump carried the seat with a 51-44 percent margin, down from Mitt Romney’s 60-38 percent, and the 58-41 percent margin that John McCain recorded back in 2008. Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke slipped past Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in the November election by the same margin that Rep. Marchant won re-election, 51-48 percent, however.

Over his eight elections, Marchant averaged 61.8 percent of the vote, but 58.2 percent since the district was drawn in its present fashion from as part of the 2011 redistricting process.

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Another Open House Seat …

Texas Congressional District 5, currently represented in the US House by John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall)


By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/ Rockwall)

July 31, 2019 — The announcement that Dan Coats is resigning as Director of National Intelligence and Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) being nominated to replace him creates another open House seat. Now within the space of just one week, the number of open congressional seats for the next election has jumped from 10 to 14.

It is likely that Ratcliffe will go through the confirmation process well into November, meaning Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will call a special election to fill the balance of the current term upon the nominee’s confirmation. Looking ahead, it is likely the special general could fall on March 3, which is the day of the 2020 Texas primary, which means that the candidates would be running to simultaneously fill the current term and for the 2020 party nomination. The confirmation process and calendar, however, will largely dictate if such a schedule will happen.

John Ratcliffe was elected to the House in 2014, after he defeated 34-year congressional veteran Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall) in that year’s Republican primary. He was easily elected in the three subsequent general elections and posted a 76 percent victory last November.

Texas’ 4th District begins at Texarkana on the Texas/Arkansas border, encompasses the counties that touch the northwest Louisiana boundary, and then moves westward and well north of Dallas along the Red River and Oklahoma state line.

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2020 Open House Seats Review

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2019 — Since the last national redistricting completed in 2011 for the 2012 election cycle, we have seen 222 US House seats come open, for a mean average of 55.5 per cycle during the eight-year period. Prior to this decade, the average House open seat factor was typically closer to 35.

In 2012, reflective of the new reapportionment from the 2010 census, the House featured 62 open seats. This was followed by 47 more in 2014, another 49 in 2016, and finally 64 opens in the 2018 election cycle.

So far in this current 2020 election cycle, the exodus syndrome appears to be winding down as we see only nine districts now opening, assuming that Montana at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte follows through with his stated plans to announce his gubernatorial campaign later this week. One open district, PA-12, was already filled at the end of May as Republican Rick Keller replaced resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).

Below is a listing of the nine seats and the preliminary replacement outlook:


Special Elections – Sept. 10, 2019

NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R) – passed away Feb. 10, 2019
The Republicans are in a run-off election that will be decided on July 9. Participants are state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) and physician Joan Perry of Kinston. The winner faces Democratic nominee Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The eventual GOP nominee will begin the special general election as a heavy favorite for a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1995.


NC-9: Vacancy, non-declaration of 2018 election winner due to alleged voter fraud
Both parties nominated outright in this special election. Democrats feature 2018 nominee Dan McCready, who ran unopposed in the special primary. Republicans nominated outright state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who captured 48 percent of the vote in a crowded Republican primary. A minimum total of 30 percent was needed to win outright nomination and avoid a run-off. Two polls have been released, both showing the race in toss-up mode with each candidate leading in one of the surveys.


Regular-Cycle Open Seats

AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) running for Senate
With the Republican presidential nominee topping 60 percent of the vote here in the past three national elections, including President Trump attracting 63.5 percent, the Republicans will be in strong position to hold this seat. With candidate filing coming on Nov. 8 for the March 3 primary, the field of four announced candidates could swell to as many as 10 before the filing cycle concludes. No Democrat has yet come forward to declare.


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McCready, Bishop Advance in NC

By Jim Ellis

Charlotte, NC, state Sen. Dan Bishop

May 15, 2019 — Voters from Charlotte to Fayetteville went to the polls yesterday to choose nominees for North Carolina’s vacant 9th Congressional District. The seat has been unoccupied all year since the state Board of Elections refused to certify the November 2018 results due to voter fraud allegations in one county.

The Democratic side provided no drama because 2018 nominee Dan McCready was unopposed in last night’s special primary. Therefore, he automatically advances into the Sept. 10 special general election.

The 2018 Republican nominee, former pastor Mark Harris who denied Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) re-nomination in the May Republican primary, placed first in November’s final count, but the Bladen County voter fraud allegation claims were serious enough to deny him being officially declared the winner. With such negative publicity generated toward Harris during the post-election counting phase, in addition to some health concerns that recently surfaced, he decided not to run in the special election.

This opened the door for a new face, and Charlotte state Sen. Dan Bishop clinched the party nomination last night with 48 percent of the vote from a Republican field of 10 candidates, four of whom were competitive. Turnout was a low 31,103 Republican voters, 27.5 percent of whom voted before Election Day. Because he exceeded the minimum 30 percent threshold, Bishop now advances into the special general as the Republican nominee and will face McCready on Sept. 10.

In second place, with 20 percent, was Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, followed by former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour (17 percent), and realtor Leigh Brown (nine percent) who the national Realtors PAC supported with an independent expenditure of more than $1 million.

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