Category Archives: Special ELection

Jockeying for Ohio’s Senate Seat

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.

Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.

For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.

Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.

It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.

Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.

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Candidate Filing Closes

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2021 — Filing for the March 20 special congressional elections to fill the two Louisiana vacant seats, Districts 2 and 5, closed on Friday, meaning that the participating candidates are now identified.

Louisiana Republican Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, is running for her late husband’s seat.

In the 2nd District, the New Orleans-anchored seat that stretches northward to include part of Baton Rouge, we see 15 individuals filing. The locals, however, highlight three significant Democratic contenders, one of whom will almost certainly be elected outright in the March 20 special primary or an April 24 runoff election should no one secure majority support in the initial vote. It is further likely that should such a runoff occur, it will involve two Democrats.

Moving northward, the vacant 5th District is open because the 2020 winner, Republican Luke Letlow, tragically passed away within three weeks of winning the December 5th runoff election. Here, 13 candidates filed to run in the special election, which was assigned the same election calendar as District 2, and Julia Letlow (R), the late congressman-elect’s widow, headlines those vying to represent the district.

Former Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned from the House on Jan. 15 in order to accept his White House position. Richmond was originally elected in 2010, and had little trouble holding the seat through six elections. He averaged 67.0 percent of the vote and was never forced into a secondary runoff election in Louisiana’s jungle primary system.

The district is solidly Democratic. The 2020 presidential election segmentation by congressional district for Louisiana is not yet available, but the Democratic nominee averaged 75.20 percent of the vote when combining the 2016 and 2012 results. The CD is 61.50 percent black according to the available Citizen Voting Age population data. Therefore, the chances of one of the African American candidates again winning the seat is extremely high.

The three top contenders are state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), who Richmond has publicly endorsed as his successor, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), and prominent Baton Rouge political activist and blogger Gary Chambers, who has the political wherewithal to attract support.

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The Late Luke Letlow’s Widow to Run

By Jim Ellis

Late last week, Julia Letlow (above), widow of late Louisiana Republican Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow, announced that she will run for her late husband’s seat, issuing a statement saying she wants to “ … continue the mission Luke started.” Luke Letlow, 41, passed away Dec. 29, 2020 from a heart attack while battling COVID-19.

Jan. 18, 2021 — On Dec. 5, former congressional chief of staff Luke Letlow (R) won a big election victory, scoring a 62-38 percent Louisiana runoff victory to secure the 5th Congressional District seat and replace his retiring boss, retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto). Just 24 days later and before even being sworn into the House, Letlow, 41, tragically passed away from cardiac arrest after contracting COVID-19.

Late last week, his widow, Julia Letlow, issued a statement saying she wants to “ … continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities and to deliver real results to move our state forward.” The comments were part of her announcement declaring her own candidacy for the 5th District special election to replace her late husband.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has scheduled both the vacant 2nd District (Rep. Cedric Richmond-D has accepted a position in the Biden Administration and officially resigned from the House last Friday) and the 5th CD special elections for March 20, with a runoff on April 24 should no one receive majority support in the first vote. The candidate filing deadline for both seats is a week from today, Jan. 22.

So far, the LA-5 candidate field has been slow to form largely in anticipation of Julia Letlow becoming a contender. At this point, Democrat Candy Christophe, who missed qualifying for the regular election runoff by just 428 votes, is an announced special election candidate. The only other currently declared contender is frequent GOP candidate Allen Guillory. State Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), who qualified for the regular runoff election and lost to Luke Letlow, has not yet indicated whether he will enter the special election campaign.

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Outstanding Races: A Look-In

(Jon Ossoff – “Selma”)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2020 — The Georgia Senate runoff campaigns continue to see brisk pre-election voting participation and huge amounts of money being spent, while one of the candidates appears to be fundamentally changing his message strategy. In the two contested House races, the NY-22 result remains undecided, while questions are being raised around the IA-2 situation with regard to seating the state certified winner on Jan. 3.

The Georgia races, heading into Christmas week, feature political surveys finding both campaigns, those of Sen. David Perdue (R) against Jon Ossoff (D) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) paired with Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in their special election battle, falling within the polling margin of error.

The Target Smart statistical organization reveals that Democrats are slightly leading Republicans in pre-election ballots returned (47.0 – 46.7 percent, respectively within the universe of returned ballots), a difference between the two parties of just 4,025 ballots. Over 1.329 million votes have been received through the end of last week, which is only 241,088 under the number of early and mail votes recorded in the 2020 regular election.

During the regular election, the Democrats led the early and mail voting participation with 748,741 ballots (47.7 percent of the total return) compared to the GOP’s total of 719,515 (45.8 percent). The unaffiliated sector returned 102,635 ballots in the regular election. So far in the runoff cycle, 82,756 unaffiliated individuals have either voted early or mailed their ballots.

During the week, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff changed his media strategy. Prior to this period, the Ossoff campaign had been concentrating on COVID as their key issue driver, but now appear to be concerned about African American voter turnout. With the pre-election numbers being slightly down for Democrats as described above, the change in Ossoff strategy suggests that the campaign strategists do not feel the black vote numbers are where they need to be to clinch a victory on Jan. 5.

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NM-1: New Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2020 — Late last week, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he is nominating New Mexico US Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) to be Interior Secretary. Upon confirmation, Rep. Haaland will resign her seat in the House, which will become the body’s third vacancy.

Biden has already chosen Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to run the White House Office of Public Engagement and become Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, respectively.

Special elections will be held in all three districts and scheduled once the member officially resigns to accept his or her new position. Democrats will be prohibitive favorites in Louisiana and Ohio, but it’s possible the New Mexico seat could become competitive.

Haaland was first elected to what was an open district in 2018 when then-Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) risked the 1st District House seat to wage an ultimately successful campaign for Governor. Grisham was first elected to the House in 2012 in an open seat campaign. She succeeded then-Rep. Martin Heinrich (D), who won a Senate seat in the same election.

Prior to Heinrich’s initial House win in 2008, the 1st District congressional seat, anchored in Albuquerque, had been in Republican hands for 40 consecutive years in the person of Reps. Manuel Lujan, Steve Schiff, and Heather Wilson, consecutively. Though the district has significantly changed politically, it has largely kept its same basic geographic context during the entire aforementioned stretch. Prior to the 1968 election, New Mexico’s representatives were chosen in at-large elections.

Once Haaland, one of the first Native American females to be elected to the House, resigns, Gov. Grisham will schedule a special election. Under New Mexico procedure, the political parties will caucus to choose their nominees, so there will be no primary election. Therefore, it is probable to see a contested convention process for both parties, particularly for the Democrats since their eventual nominee will begin the special election campaign in the favorite’s position.

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