During the past week’s primaries, several races ventured into political overtime, which we update today.
Last night in central Wisconsin’s open 6th District race – Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI-6) retiring – the Associated Press prematurely declared state Sen. Glenn Grothman the winner of the Republican primary. Now the projection has been rescinded as fellow GOP Sen. Joe Leibham rebounded in the remaining Sheboygan County votes to pull into a virtual tie.
When the projection was made, Grothman had a comfortable eight percentage point lead over Leibham, with Assemblyman Duey Stroebel dropping well behind in third place. As more of Sheboygan County continued to be counted, Leibham’s strength exponentially increased to the point of him finishing just 214 votes behind. All precincts are reporting, but provisional counting is underway. It is unlikely there are enough votes outstanding to change the outcome, but an even closer finish will lead to a recount. Therefore, we are probably weeks from arriving at a final total.
Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris is the Democratic nominee and, on paper, he appears to be a credible candidate. If he is to seriously compete, however, he, his party leaders, and their allies will have to raise at least $1 million, since the Harris campaign is still at ground zero. Going into the primary, Harris had obtained less than $60,000 according to his pre-primary financial disclosure report.
Election officials have scheduled Friday for voting to occur in the two precincts on the Big Island of Hawaii most affected by last Saturday’s hurricane. Roads were closed in the island’s Puna region, which prevented people from gaining access to the polls. Understanding that many of the more than 8,200 voters were denied their ability to cast ballots, Hawaii officials announced on election night that they would extend the vote.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1), the candidate on the short end of a 1,635-vote spread to Sen. Brian Schatz (D), disagrees with the election time frame and has filed suit to stop the vote. According to the Hanabusa petition, the storm-caused lack of electricity in the region still makes accessing the polling places difficult.
Since she is behind, Hanabusa’s goal is to maximize the potential turnout. Though a 1,635 vote margin is very small in a statewide context, within a universe of 6,821 voters (officials estimate that approximately 1,500 ballots have already been returned, and were a part of the original count), such a spread is actually quite significant. Hanabusa states that the election code allows 21 days for the absentee ballot process, so the vote could be postponed. The federal judge in Hilo must rule today because the election continuation is scheduled for tomorrow.
Now that Hanabusa has already ventured into the legal realm, expect more maneuvers to come. It is possible the election officials could be in violation of federal election law, and expect Hanabusa to eventually follow a course that accuses them of failing to count the ballots together. Their proper course of action, because they wanted to expand the voting period, would have been to hold the ballots until all votes had been cast, thus delaying the counting process.
Though Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-4) is only officially 35 votes ahead of state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) in their razor-thin primary contest, the latest developments suggest that the incumbent now has a clear advantage.
Only approximately 100 provisional ballots remain to be counted, and reports suggest that most of the voters who requested them will be ineligible to vote. Therefore, Tracy even making up such a small deficit as 35 votes may be insurmountable.
The primary must be certified on Aug. 25. At that point, the recount process can begin.