Special Elections Update

News: US News
by Jim Ellis  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 31, 2024   

California, New York and Ohio prepare to fill vacancies

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Four U.S. House seats will have special elections before the regular election cycle starts, with significant developments in two of them this week.

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Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield

The California Secretary of State confirmed that nine candidates are officially running in the special election on March 19. This election is to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Republican former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California's 20th District, notably the most Republican district among the state's 52 seats. However, the candidacy of Assemblyman Vince Fong, who is considered the front-runner, is mired in controversy.

Fong had filed for reelection before McCarthy's resignation. As a result, Democratic Secretary of State Shirley Weber determined that Fong's entry into the congressional race would breach a California election statute. This law prevents individuals from running for more than one office at the same time. Consequently, despite being a favorite, Fong's eligibility to compete in the congressional race remains a contentious issue due to this legal conflict.

After winning a legal challenge in California's Superior Court against the administrative ruling, Fong has been officially listed as a candidate for Congress while remaining on the ballot for the state Assembly. However, the matter is not fully resolved; the secretary of state is appealing the Superior Court's decision. This ongoing legal dispute means that even if Fong is victorious in the special congressional election, a future court ruling could potentially impact his position.

In addition to Fong, several other candidates have qualified for the special election in California's 20th District. These include Republican Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, Republican casino executive Kyle Kirkland, Republican activist Anna Zoe Cohen, Democratic educator Marisa Wood and Democratic clinical psychologist Harmesh Kumar, along with three "No Party Preference" candidates.

If no candidate secures a majority of the votes on March 19, the top two candidates, regardless of their party affiliations, will move on to a special general election scheduled for May 21. Additionally, most of these candidates are also participating in the regular election cycle primary, which is set for March 5. The individual who wins the special election will serve for the remainder of McCarthy's term in office.

New York's Special Election

New York's U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, who has held his House seat for nearly two decades, announced his intention to resign last November, and he's planning to transition to a role in the nonprofit sector in Buffalo. He recently confirmed that his departure from Congress will occur this Friday. Following his official resignation, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is required to schedule a special election within a time frame of 70 to 80 days from the announcement date, and she has 10 days to make this call.

In preparation for the upcoming special election, local Democratic leaders have selected state Sen. Tim Kennedy as their nominee. The district, anchored in Buffalo, is considered heavily Democratic, with a D+18 partisan rating from FiveThirtyEight, suggesting that the Republican candidate may face significant challenges. As of now, the local Republican leadership has not nominated a candidate for the special election.

Although Kennedy may not have much opposition in the special election, the scenario is different for the regular election. Nate McMurray, a former town supervisor, has announced his intention to contest the Democratic nomination against Kennedy. McMurray has a notable political background, having competed closely in two previous elections in the former 27th District, which was dissolved following the 2020 reapportionment that resulted in New York losing a congressional seat.

Prospective candidates for the regular election have until April 4 to file their candidacy. The primary election in New York State is set for June 25.

Another New York special election will be for the 3rd Congressional District on February 13 and will fill the vacancy left by the expulsion of Republican Rep. George Santos. 

Ohio's Special Election

Ohio's 6th District is also preparing for a special election due to the resignation of Republican Rep. Bill Johnson, who left his seat to become the president of Youngstown State University. This special election is set for March 19, coinciding with Ohio's 2024 regular election primary.

The 6th District is known for its strong Republican lean, with a rating of R+31 from FiveThirtyEight. This heavily Republican tilt suggests that the winner of the GOP primary on March 19 is likely to be Johnson's successor. The candidates at the forefront of the Republican primary are state Sen. Michael Rulli and state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus.

More Trouble for Mace 

In South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, GOP Rep. Nancy Mace is facing increased challenges within her own party. Earlier this week, it was reported that Mace's former chief of staff, Dan Hanlon, had established a campaign committee to run against her in the Republican primary. Adding to her challenges, Catherine Templeton, a former official in Gov. Nikki Haley's administration, has also declared her candidacy against Mace.

Templeton, who previously served as the director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, had made a bid for governor in 2018. In that Republican primary, she finished third behind Gov. Henry McMaster, who became governor in 2017. McMaster succeeded Haley when she was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Complicating the political landscape further, the U.S. Supreme Court is still deliberating on a lawsuit alleging that South Carolina's 1st District is a racial gerrymander. Depending on the outcome, the district's boundaries could potentially be redrawn before the primary election, which is scheduled for June 11. If no candidate secures a majority in the primary, a runoff is set for June 29. Unless there is a court-ordered change to the district, the winner of the Republican primary is likely to be the strong favorite in the general election, given the district's political leanings.

Jim Ellis, creator of The Ellis Insight website and senior political analyst for the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, analyzes and reports on U.S. electoral politics. He has a background in political consulting, managing political campaigns and action committees. Ellis is a regular speaker and media contributor on electoral topics, appearing on various radio shows and TV programs. He hosts Church Militant's The Ellis Insight — a video podcast identifying emerging campaign and election trends.

 

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