Tag Archives: Rep. Ron Wright

Alaska Rep. Young’s Passing Yields Chaotic Special Election Process

By Jim Ellis

Alaska’s At-Large Congressman, the late Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon)

March 22, 2022 — On Friday, the Dean of the House of Representatives, Alaska’s At-Large Congressman Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), passed away in an airplane flying back to his home state. The congressman, who was first elected in a 1973 special election, served in the House for 49 consecutive years, or just 14 years less than the time Alaska has been a state.

The congressman’s full and colorful national political career even began in an unusual way. As a sitting state legislator, he ran for Congress in 1972, opposite at-large Rep. Nick Begich (D). Less than a month before the election, however, Rep. Begich and then House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) went down in a plane crash on a tour through the Last Frontier. With Boggs legally declared as missing, though it was imminently clear that all perished in the crash, he still defeated Young in the 1972 regular election.

Upon certification of Rep. Begich’s death, Don Young then won the succeeding special election in early 1973. He would never lose again. Coming full circle, Rep. Young’s 2022 opponent would likely have been Nick Begich III (D), the late congressman’s grandson.

While best wishes and remembrances for and about the congressional icon are coming from throughout the country, a potentially chaotic replacement process lies before the state’s governor to direct, and then for those who choose to become candidates.

Under Alaska law, a special election must be conducted to fill an electoral vacancy no less than 60 and no more than 90 days after the position is officially vacated. In this case, Young passed away on March 18. Therefore, at least the initial election must occur during the period between May 17 and June 16.

Because the state is changing its election procedure, much is unclear. An Alaska Department of Law spokesperson stated in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News that the agency personnel will review the applying statutes and prepare an advisory report for Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R).

In 2020, Alaska voters passed an initiative to change the state’s primary system. Thus, the state will now use a jungle primary format. Three other states, California, Louisiana, and Washington have jungle primaries, but in all of those places the top two finishers advance into the general election or post-election runoff. Louisiana holds its jungle primary concurrently with the regular general election so that a leading candidate with a percentage greater than 50 is elected outright.

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Minnesota Rep. Hagedorn, 59, Dies After Battle With Kidney Cancer

By Jim Ellis

The late Minnesota US Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester)

Feb. 22, 2022 — After a long battle with kidney cancer, Minnesota US Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) passed away at the age of 59 on Friday, the third sitting House member to die in office during the current congressional session. Reps. Ron Wright (R-TX) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) passed away earlier in the year. Additionally, Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R-LA) died of COVID in late 2020, just before he would have taken office in January of 2021.

The Hagedorn death creates a vacancy in the Minnesota delegation. Gov. Tim Walz (D), who previously represented the now vacant 1st District that stretches the width of Minnesota’s southern border, will call a special election to fill the remainder of the current term.

Under the state’s election law, the special primary will be May 24, 11 weeks prior to the special general, which will run concurrent with the regular 2022 primary election on Aug. 9. The eventual winner will serve the balance of Hagedorn’s final term.

The current 1st District is politically marginal in congressional elections and has flipped back and forth between the two parties after Democrat Tim Penny won the seat in 1982, becoming the first member of his party to represent the district since 1893. Penny, former Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) and Walz each would represent the district for six terms apiece until Hagedorn was elected.

Conversely, the 1st runs considerably stronger for Republicans at the top of the ticket. Former President Trump carried the seat both in 2016 and 2020. He posted a 53-38 percent margin in his initial election, and a 54-44% spread in his ultimately unsuccessful re-election effort.

Rep. Hagedorn’s two victories, however, were close contests. In his first victorious election, after failing in three previous attempts, the result was a tight 50.1 – 49.7 percent in a 2018 open-seat campaign against former defense department official Dan Feehan. The congressman then scored a 48.6 – 45.5 percent re-election victory again over Feehan.

A special election in this district could well be a strong precursor test for the 2022 midterms since both parties will field strong candidates, heavily contest the outcome, and the winner will likely claim the seat with only a small victory spread.

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TX-6 Special Election Today

By Jim Ellis

Susan Wright, favored in today’s TX-6 special election

July 27, 2021 — The late Texas US Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-Arlington) replacement will be chosen today as the double-Republican special congressional runoff election draws to a conclusion. The late congressman’s widow, Susan Wright (R), is favored over state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), but low turnout elections often produce surprising results.

From a partisan context, the race is anti-climactic since we already know a Republican will claim the seat and expand the House Republican conference total to the 212 mark. Democrats hold 220 seats.

Two more vacant House seats will largely be decided next Tuesday when voters in two Ohio districts will go to the polls in partisan primary contests. In each case, winning the party nomination is virtually tantamount to claiming the seat, so it is highly likely that the two parties will split the elections. The Ohio nominees, however, will have to wait until Nov. 2 for their final vote. The special election season will conclude on Jan. 11, 2022, when South Florida voters will choose a successor to the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) in the state’s 20th District.

As is generally the case in special elections, voter turnout is the critical factor. The Texas Secretary of State has released the 6th District early voting participation numbers, and we see 20,534 ballots having been cast through July 23. In the May 1 jungle primary election, 45,259 people voted early, or 57.7 percent of the total voting universe for that election (78,471).

So far in this runoff, only 4.2 percent of the registered voter universe of 493,077 individuals have cast their ballot. Considering that 65.4 percent of Ellzey’s vote came via early voting in the special primary as compared to 47.2 percent for Wright, the low early totals should prove a benefit to the latter candidate.

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Texas GOP Mayoral Victories

Along the US-Mexican border

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — On Saturday, Republican candidates picked up three victories in a trio of Texas mayoral runoffs, the most surprising of which came in the Mexican border city of McAllen where the Hispanic population is close to 85 percent.

McAllen City Commissioner (Council) Javier Villalobos, a former Hidalgo County Republican Party chairman, won the mayoral runoff election with a 51-49 percent victory. This on the heels of the Texas-Mexico border region voting much more Republican in 2020 than in previous electoral history. From the congressional district that houses McAllen, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) won his November re-election contest with only a 50.5 – 47.6 percent victory margin.

In Ft. Worth, an election that broke more definitively along partisan lines, though all of the mayoral elections in the state are nonpartisan in that the candidate’s political party affiliation does not appear on the ballot, Republican Mattie Parker defeated Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples. The spread was 54-46 percent in a contest where turnout more than doubled the aggregate mayoral vote of four years ago. Voter participation was up in all three of the Texas city runoff elections, but none like the huge increase in Ft. Worth.

The least partisan of the races occurred in Arlington, where former police officer and local businessman Jim Ross defeated Arlington City Councilman Michael Glaspie, also with a 54-46 percent margin. In this election, law enforcement seemed to dominate the campaign as five different police and fire associations rallied to support Ross.

As mentioned above, South Texas voting ventured more toward the Republicans in November even though Democrats still proved victorious in the region. Biden’s margin over then-President Trump dropped as low as 50-48 percent in Rep. Gonzalez’s 15th District, and under 52 percent in three of the four CDs that touch the Texas-Mexico border.

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A Special Election Look-In

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2021 — The Albuquerque, New Mexico vacant US House seat will be filled on June 1, and a new RRH Elections survey finds the Democratic nominee holding a strong advantage. In Texas, There is no mystery as to which party will win the July 27 special runoff election in North Texas to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), but which Republican claims the vacant seat is certainly getting more interesting. We take a look at both races.

NM-1

The RRH Elections poll (May 18-21; 555 NM-1 special election voters and those intending to vote, interactive voice response system and online), finds state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) leading state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque), 49-33 percent.

The numbers make sense when overlaying the 1st District voting history. Former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) naturally resigned the seat after being nominated and confirmed as US Interior Secretary in the Biden Administration weeks after winning re-election to a second term. Her victory percentage was 58, after claiming her first term in 2018 with a 59-36 percent margin.

At one time during the century, the 1st was politically competitive – former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) held the seat for five terms, ending when she ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2008, for example – but a weakened New Mexico Republican Party and a stronger Democratic composition from redistricting has taken the seat off the board.

President Biden carried the district over former President Trump, 60-37 percent, after Hillary Clinton won here in 2016 with a lower but still comparatively strong 52-35 percent spread. Testing President Biden’s current job approval rating, RRH finds him recording a 57:39 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio, which is similar to his 2020 vote performance. This consistency gives the RHH polling data further credibility.

In terms of finances, Stansbury had raised $1.2 million through the May 12 pre-primary reporting period, with $525,000 cash-on-hand as of that date. Sen. Moores, by contrast, had obtained $595,000 with $125,000 in the bank. His receipts total includes a $200,000 personal loan.

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