Local & Special Elections – January 12, 2016

With practically everyone in politics focused on Washington, D.C. tonight for President Obama’s final State of the Union address, I doubt the two state legislative special elections taking place in the Midwest today will get much attention on the Internet.  Except here, that is.

In the northern suburbs of Tulsa, Oklahoma, there is a special general election in Senate District #34 to replace former State Sen. Rick Brinkley (R), who resigned last summer after pleading guilty to federal fraud and embezzlement charges brought by his former employer.  Special Primary elections took place on November 10th of last year.  Businessman David McLain narrowly topped a four-candidate field to win the Republican nomination with 42% of the vote; Owasso High School teacher, football, and basketball coach J.J. Dossett easily won the Democratic nod, 73%-27%.

This is a solidly Republican area, with over three times as many votes cast in the Republican primary compared to the Democratic one.  Add to that the general inclination for more GOP voters to cast ballots in local and low-turnout elections, and the Republican would have to be considered as the favorite to keep this seat.  However, Mr. Dossett has run a very active campaign, and his “District 34 Republicans for J.J. Dossett” Facebook page has over 700 people following it.  If the Democrat has succeeded in truly “localizing” this contest, and convinced traditionally Republican voters to choose him regardless of party labels, he has a chance.  Either way, this election won’t significantly impact the partisan composition in the Oklahoma State Senate, which currently stands at 39 Republicans and 8 Democrats.

Also today there is a special Republican primary in Minnesota State Senate District #35, which is in Anoka County in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis.  Two Republicans are vying to appear on the February 9th special election ballot to replace former Sen. Branden Petersen (R), who resigned for personal reasons in this solidly Republican district.  Former State Representative Jim Abeler, who served eight terms in the Minnesota House before making a statewide run for the U.S. Senate in 2014, faces Republican activist Andy Aplikowski, who received the party’s official endorsement in a special nominating convention in November.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Abeler has outraised Mr. Aplikowski by over five-to-one, and outspent him by almost three-to-one, although those advantages are somewhat less meaningful in low-turnout special elections.  There were just over 3,000 GOP votes cast in this district for the down-ballot offices of Secretary of State and State Auditor in Minnesota’s last full statewide primary in August 2014, so I’m guessing we’ll see about half that amount cast today.  Given his extensive campaign experience and name recognition, I see Mr. Abeler coming out on top.

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