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Period Ending January 13, 2017

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

President-elect Donald Trump’s election is now official. After the Electoral College votes were reported to Congress, Democratic House members did raise protests in a last ditch attempt to contest certain electoral votes.

To lodge a protest, at least one member from both the House and Senate must jointly object. The houses then return to their respective chambers and debate the issue for no more than two hours. A vote is then taken whether or not to sustain the objection. Though many House Democrats comprised the group that lodged the complaint, the motion died because no Senator would join them. Therefore, the 2016 presidential election cycle has finally drawn to a close. Mr. Trump will be officially inaugurated as the nation’s 45th President on January 20.

Senate

Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) provided some clues as to how he will handle the special election process when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is confirmed as the new Administrations’ Attorney General. Under Alabama election law, the Governor can schedule a special election any time before the next regular election, under certain parameters, and can also run it concurrently with the regular cycle. This latter option is Gov. Bentley’s choice, according to statements he made this week. Such a move means his eventual appointment will serve in the Senate through the 2018 election.

The eventual election winner will then continue through the balance of Sen. Sessions’ term before running for a full six-year term in 2020. There is no definitive indication as to whom the Governor may appoint. Attorney General Luther Strange (R) has already announced that he will run in the special Senate election, irrespective of who is appointed. He also says that he will, naturally, accept the appointment himself.

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State features both a Senator and Governor on the ballot for re-election in 2018. Republicans have a new sense of optimism in the state from helping to push Donald Trump over the top against Hillary Clinton and re-electing Sen. Pat Toomey (R). With most of the focus on the Governor’s race since incumbent Tom Wolf (D) appears more vulnerable than Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), one potential federal GOP candidate did come forward this week. Pittsburgh area state Rep. Bob Saccone (R) confirms that he is “seriously considering” challenging Sen. Casey. The only other names previously associated with the Senate race are businessman Paul Addis and US Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), but both of them are also in the mix for Governor. The same is true for US Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie). Sen. Casey is a clear favorite for re-election, but the 2016 results certainly make the Pennsylvania prospects more attractive for potential Republican challengers.

Texas: Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) is considering challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year. O’Rourke made some definitive statements about running early this week but, as time progressed, he became less committal. Rep. O’Rourke could be a relatively strong Democratic statewide candidate. Though Hillary Clinton performed relatively well in the state – she carried five of Texas’ largest metropolitan areas, for example – the Dems are still a long way from overcoming the Republicans’ inherent nine- to 10-point advantage that they have enjoyed for the better part of 20 years, and particularly so under a mid-term turnout model.

West Virginia: Sophomore Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) admits that he is considering challenging Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next year. Attorney General Tim Morrisey (R), who was just re-elected to his current position, is also a potential Senate candidate. The fact that West Virginia is a virtual certainty to lose one of its three seats in the next reapportionment could be one reason Rep. Jenkins may look more seriously upon the 2018 statewide contest.

House

CA-34: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment to replace Sen. Kamala Harris (D) as California’s Attorney General, is expected to clear his confirmation vote in the state Assembly today. Under California procedure, both houses of the legislature must confirm gubernatorial appointees. The state Senate will next consider the Becerra confirmation. Once approved, he will resign from the US House in order to assume his new duties. At that point, Gov. Brown will schedule the replacement special election in the safely Democratic district. Under state law, the election must occur between 126 and 140 days from the call date. State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) already looks to be the establishment Democrats’ pick. Even without an election being called, he has received public endorsements from Sen. Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and state Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang.

KS-4: Anticipating the coming special election when Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) is confirmed as CIA Director, GOP attorney George Bruce became the first individual to officially announce his congressional candidacy. There will be no primary to determine party nominees. Each party’s leadership can decide for themselves how the nominee is to be chosen. The Republicans will allow the 126-member 4th District Republican Committee to select the official special election contender. Democrats have yet to announce a nomination system, but their nominee will be at a decided disadvantage in the special general election. This seat will likely be the first filled because Kansas has a short special election cycle. State law mandates that the entire process must be completed within a 45-60 day window from the election call date. This means, if Rep. Pompeo is confirmed in February that the replacement vote will be held sometime in April.

MT-AL: Former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R), a wealthy businessman who held Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to a 50-46% re-election victory in November, is taking steps to run for the at-large special election nomination after Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) is confirmed as US Interior Secretary. Reportedly helping Gianforte contact Republican Party convention participants who will choose the nominee is Sen. Steve Daines (R), which would suggest that members of the state’s GOP leadership are beginning to line up behind Gianforte.

TX-3: Thirteen-term Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Plano), also a 29-year Air Force veteran, seven of which spent as a Vietnam prisoner of war, announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. In addition to what will be 26 years of service in Congress, he was also elected four times to the Texas House of Representatives. The 3rd District sits to the north and east of Dallas, and encompasses the cities of Plano, McKinney, and Frisco. Most believe the leading candidate will be state Senator Van Taylor (R), but the lawmaker says he will not make any future political decision until the legislative session concludes later this year.

Governor

New York: State Senate Majority Leader Michael Flanagan (R) is reportedly considering challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The Governor has yet to announce he is running for a third term, but it is assumed he will do so and his robust campaign treasury provides further evidence of a budding campaign. Sen. Flanagan and Gov. Cuomo have allied to pass several key pieces of legislation, but that is apparently not stopping the legislative leader from looking toward a statewide confrontation. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R), who lost 53-39% to Gov. Cuomo in 2014, is also considering another run.

Oregon: State Rep. Knute Buehler (R) is a presumed candidate for Governor. Though the state legislator neither confirms nor denies he is running, he is highly active on the campaign fundraising circuit, thus providing further clues of his intentions. Gov. Kate Brown (D), serving the final two years of resigned Gov. John Kitzhaber’s (D) term, is expected to seek a full four-year term in 2018.

Texas: Rumors were surfacing that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was contemplating a Republican primary challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott. Such talk quickly ended this week when Mr. Patrick declared he will seek re-election, and quickly endorsed Gov. Abbott for a second term.