Local & Special Elections – November 9, 2016

About last night….

The incredible 2016 election campaign gave way to an even more unbelievable election night, what with Donald Trump’s unprecedented victory, combined with another cycle of massive Republican gains in gubernatorial and state legislative races while suffering only minimal seat losses in Senate and Congressional contests.  Obviously, what was even more amazing was the fact that these outcomes were so different from what most polls and political analysts had expected.

But it is this very unpredictability that draws me and other election analysts to this discipline in the first place.  In a world that is so often scripted and meticulously planned, sports and elections can occasionally produce seemingly unimaginable events and outcomes, which is why my love for both of them started as a young adult and continues to this day.  When making a political prediction, there is no better feeling than having it turn out to be exactly correct.  However, I would argue that it is almost equally as exhilarating to be so wrong about an election that it causes one to question every assumption and method.  We certainly had that yesterday.

 

So when is the next election!

Over the last few months, there wasn’t much to write about on www.localandspecialelections.com, since states generally prohibit holding special elections within 6 to 8 weeks of regular November elections.  But that doesn’t mean we have to wait until 2017 for any future races – there are a handful of contests taking place before the end of the year!  Here’s a quick update:

Mississippi

Mississippi held state executive and state legislative elections in 2015, but there were two special elections yesterday to fill vacancies which had arisen in the State House.  In both instances, no candidate received a majority of the vote, so runoffs will be required:

  • In HD #89, in the southern part of the state, Republican State Rep. Bobby Shows retired in July after serving over 6 full terms in the legislature.  Physician Donnie Scoggin fell just 300 votes shy of winning yesterday’s special election outright, capturing 47% against two other candidates.  In the runoff, he will face business owner Ron Swindall, who finished almost 1,500 votes behind with 31%.  Travis Haynes was third with 22%.
  • In HD #106, along the Louisiana border, longtime Republican State Rep. Herb Frierson resigned in June after being appointed the state Commissioner of Revenue by Gov. Phil Bryant (R).  Five candidates filed to run for this seat, making an extra round of voting all but inevitable.  Rancher and farmer John Corley (28%) finished about 225 votes ahead of attorney Greg Holcomb, who received 25%, setting the stage for a very competitive runoff.

With yesterday’s specials taking place along with the Presidential election, over 8,000 total votes were cast in both races.  Obviously, I expect far fewer ballots to be cast when the runoffs take place on November 29th.

Louisiana

The state’s “jungle primary” system requires runoffs for those Federal races where no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote:

  • This was clearly always going to be the case in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. David Vitter, where 24 candidates were running.  Longtime State Treasurer John Kennedy (R) finished first with 25%, with state Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) coming in 2nd with 17.5%.
  • There will also be runoffs in two of the state’s six Congressional districts, as Tuesday’s first round of voting saw some very close finishes.  In LA-03, two Republicans finished atop a twelve-candidate field for the seat vacated by Rep. Charles Boustany (R), who ran for that aforementioned U.S. Senate seat but came in third.  Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle won with 28.5%, while Sheriff’s deputy Clay Higgins was close behind with 26.5%.  No other candidate in the field received more than 10%.
  • In LA-04, Democratic lawyer and businessman Marshall Jones finished first, ahead of 4 Republicans, with 28% in the race to succeed Rep. John Fleming (R), who also ran for that vacant Senate seat and finished fifth.  Jones will be joined in the runoff by State Rep. Mike Johnson (R), who took 25% of the vote.

These three runoffs in Louisiana will take place on Saturday, December 3rd.

Need for Specials

Although yesterday’s election results nationwide won’t become certified by the various states for some time, the outcome of several contests will trigger special elections to fill vacancies, especially in Virginia, which also holds odd-year elections.  Specifically, State Senator Donald McEachin (D-SD #9), State Senator Tom Garrett (R-SD #22), and State Delegate Scott Taylor (R-HD #85) all won Congressional races in Virginia’s 4th, 5th, and 2nd districts, respectively.  I anticipate that special elections in those districts will be scheduled for early next year so that the winners can participate in at least some of the 2017 Regular Session of the General Assembly, which convenes in mid-January.

Iowa

In mid-September, Democratic State Senator Joe Seng (SD #45, Davenport) passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Since his odd-numbered seat was not up for election until 2018, a special election is needed to determine a successor.  In late September, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) proposed having this special take place on November 8th; however, county officials objected, claiming that undue difficulties would result from trying to administer this contest on such short notice.  Therefore, the election to fill this seat has been set for Tuesday, December 27th.

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