By Jim EllisMarch 9, 2020 — With Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) being announced as the new White House chief of staff and following the late February declaration that Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) would again be put forth for confirmation as the Director of National Intelligence, it means as many as two more US House seats could be added to the vacancy list.
Currently, five districts are without representation: CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), CA-50 (Duncan Hunter-R), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), and WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R). All but CA-50 are currently in special election cycles with nominees or finalists either being chosen or awaiting the general election in CA-25, MD-7, and WI-7. The NY-27 seat will be filled in an April 28 election, which is concurrent with the New York presidential primary. There will be no special election for CA-50, as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has decided to let this seat remain vacant until the next Congress.
The regular California primary election occurred on Super Tuesday. In the 25th District, it is apparent that state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and defense contractor and Iraq War veteran Mike Garcia (R) will advance to the May 12 special election. They will also face each other in the regular general election. Though all the votes are not yet tabulated and won’t be for some time because of the California verification and counting system, leads are strong enough that the final result is unlikely to change the order of finish. Therefore, assuming the current trend continues, former Rep. Steve Knight (R), a relatively close third place finisher, will be eliminated from further competition.
In the 50th District, 2018 Democratic finalist Ammar Campa-Najjar has secured the first general election position. It appears that former Rep. Darrell Issa (R) will also advance, since his vote margin over former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R) is expected to hold.
When Rep. Meadows indicated that he would not seek re-election speculation quickly built that he was headed to the administration, especially when he made his surprise announcement just two days before the candidate filing period expired. The retirement declaration began a chain of events that just culminated with the Super Tuesday regular primary.
In last week’s North Carolina vote Democrat Moe Davis advanced to the general election from the 11th District. Republicans Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn were forced to a run-off election scheduled for May 12.
Because the regular primary has already occurred, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is not obligated to call a special election to fill the balance of the current term, and early indications suggest that he will not. This means, like in CA-50, the 11th District will remain vacant for the balance of this year.
This will be the second time in this Congress that a North Carolina seat will be vacant for the better part of a year. Because of 2018 voter fraud accusations that led to charges, the 9th District Election Day winner was not certified, and the contest was finally decided in a special election that Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) won.
Therefore, regardless of which of the three eligible candidates eventually wins the NC-11 seat in November, the representative-elect will not take the seat early because there will be no special election.
The Texas situation is a bit different, and timing will decide whether or not we see a special election in the northeast part of the Lone Star State. Rep. Ratcliffe will continue to serve in the House until he is confirmed, and early speculation suggests that he will win approval this time. His previous nomination was withdrawn.
As in California and North Carolina, the Texas primary was also held on Super Tuesday. Therefore, Rep. Ratcliffe is not only the sitting incumbent, but he is also the official 2020 Republican nominee in the 4th District. This changes the special election legal situation.
Aug. 21 becomes a key day in this scenario. Under Texas law, the ballots become frozen within 75 days of the election. If Ratcliffe is not confirmed before Aug. 21, then he will be on the November ballot even if he has resigned the seat to accept his new position.
If he is confirmed before Aug. 21 and immediately resigns, the Republican precinct committee members throughout the 4th District will then choose a nominee to replace Ratcliffe on the November ballot. The general election would then proceed according to the regular calendar.
In the former situation, that where Ratcliffe remains on the ballot even though he has resigned from Congress and is serving in a different position, the general election would proceed as normal, and if Ratcliffe is again re-elected, which would be likely in this safely Republican seat, an emergency special election would then be called to choose a new representative to serve the succeeding term.