Election Day Upsets and Surprises

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2021 — Now that Tuesday’s election numbers are becoming more available and final, we can explore the contests that proved to be upsets and ones providing us with some surprises. In most instances, the Republicans performed better in these races than expected.

The first obvious upset, though a mild one as we approached election day because most people understood that Republican Glenn Youngkin had a legitimate chance to score a victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is the Virginia statewide race. The biggest surprise was New Jersey Republican Jack Ciattarelli within one percentage point of defeating Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

With that background, let’s begin with our upsets:

• Georgia: Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), attempting to regain his former position in the open seat 2021 race, has apparently failed to qualify for the runoff. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore (D) placed first, with City Councilman Andre Dickens (D) running 612 votes ahead of Reed for second position with all of the precincts reporting.

Mail votes and ancillary ballots could still push Reed into a runoff with Moore, but it appears that Dickens has the inside track to nose the former mayor out of this race.

• Maine:• New Jersey: State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) has apparently lost his southern New Jersey seat to truck driver Edward Durr (R) who spent only about $5,000 on his campaign. Durr leads 52-48 percent, which should be enough for him to eventually claim victory.

• New York: Big Republican local election wins occurred in Suffolk and Nassau County on Long Island. GOP candidates won the Suffolk and Nassau County District Attorney’s offices, and defeated the Nassau County Executive. They also reclaimed the majority on the Suffolk County legislature for the first time since 2005.

• Texas: Continuing a GOP rebound among Hispanic voters in Texas, Republican John Lujan converted a 71 percent Hispanic district in southeast Bexar County (San Antonio). Lujan was a 51-49 percent winner in Texas House District 118.

• Virginia: Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated Terry McAuliffe (D), 51-48 percent. Winsome Sears (R) topped state Del. Hala Ayala (D), 51-49 percent. State Del. Jason Miyares (R) ousted Attorney General Mark Herring (D), 51-49 percent. Republicans have clinched or lead in 52 House of Delegates races, enough for them to re-claim the majority. Not only did Youngkin score an upset win, but he had obvious coattails.

There were several interesting surprises on election night, too:

• Florida: Miami area Democrats went to the polls to choose a special election nominee to replace the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) and the result yielded a photo finish. Recounts will be ordered and a long post-election process is expected before someone advances to the January 11th special general election.

At first take with supposedly all votes counted, businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick looks to have secured the party nomination by just 31 votes. A later count then put Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness on top by an even smaller 12-vote margin. Expect this one to be in the courts long before a Democratic nominee is finally settled upon.

• Minnesota: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), after a tumultuous term in office, survived the ranked choice voting system and won re-election on the second round of counting after falling below 50 percent in the initial tabulation.

• New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy (D) was declared the winner on Wednesday morning once more votes from the Democratic stronghold counties of Essex, Hudson, and swingy Burlington County reported all of its votes. With mail-in ballots still being received through Nov. 8, Gov. Murphy holds a 50.2 – 49.0 percent edge over Republican Jack Ciattarelli, a margin of 29,383 votes of 2.44 million tabulated ballots.

• New York: Statewide ballot propositions to create same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee ballot voting were soundly defeated.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who lost his re-nomination election in June to Democratic socialist India Walton, rebounded with a 59 percent victory as a write-in candidate in the general election. Walton was unopposed on the ballot, but Brown’s political operation convinced voters to use printed stickers to write in his name at the polling place.

Former Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D), who lost his upstate congressional seat by 109 votes to Republican Claudia Tenney in a post-election counting circus that lasted into February of this year, ran for a local Supreme Court Judicial position (equivalent to District Courts in most other states). He was defeated by a relatively wide 54-43 percent margin in his comeback political attempt.

Former Congressman Vito Fossella (R), who left the House after being discovered having a second family in Virginia, has returned to elective office. On Tuesday, Fossella won the Staten Island Borough President’s race with a whopping 62 percent of the vote.

• Pennsylvania: In Bucks County, a place where Republicans lost all five of the entity’s countywide “row offices” including Sheriff, District Attorney, and County Controller in the last election, won all five back on Tuesday night, including defeating three incumbents.

Turning to Erie County, Republican Brenton Davis scored an upset win in the open contest for County Executive. Davis will replace retiring incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper (D), who served one term in Congress before winning the local post after her defeat from federal office.

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