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Period Ending November 23, 2018

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


Steyer: Billionaire former hedge fund CEO Tom Steyer, who was actively spending millions of dollars promoting Democratic candidates in the 2018 election, is clearly preparing a bid to enter the already crowded Democratic presidential nomination fight.

Last week, Mr. Steyer launched a new version of his website where he indicates that everyone should be guaranteed "five rights" (voting; clean air and water; education; livable wage; and healthcare). He also has scheduled a series of town hall meetings in places such as South Carolina and California to discuss his political platform. As many as 30 individuals are taking some action to become Democratic presidential candidates and probably more than 2/3 of them will actually enter the race.


Florida: The nation's last Senate recount finished with Republican Gov. Rick Scott (R) holding onto a final 10,033 vote margin over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in a race that saw almost 8.2 million voters cast their ballots. The spread was so close that it qualified for a hand recount of the over and under-votes in the state after the machine tabulation placed the candidates within a quarter percent of one another.

The Scott victory ends Sen. Nelson's 30-year congressional career. Since 1972, counting his time in Florida state positions, Sen. Nelson has been in elected office for 42 of the last 46 years.

The 8.2 million turnout figure compares favorably with the 9.4 million cast in the last presidential campaign. It represents a 27.3% turnout increase when compared with the last midterm election in 2014.

Mississippi: Voters in the Magnolia State will go to the polls this week to settle the US Senate special run-off election. Because Sen. Thad Cochran (R) resigned his seat due to health reasons earlier this year, a special election was required for a winner to serve the balance of the current term.

Appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy (D) are the run-off contenders. The appointed incumbent placed first in the November 6th jungle primary, but with just over a 9,000 vote margin when compared to Mr. Espy's total.

Controversy over ill-advised Hyde-Smith race-based comments have clouded the campaign, but the final pre-election poll, from JMC Analytics (11/19-21 & 24; 684 MS likely voters) finds the Senator topping Mr. Espy, 54-44%. The election is November 27th, and Mississippi has no early voting procedure.


CA-21: Though the major media networks projected Rep. David Valadao (R-Bakersfield) as the winner soon after the election ended, California's marathon post-election counting process may be producing another upset. Since all of the post-counting has favored the Democrats' in the Golden State, and the 21st District is no exception, the final result may revolve around just how many of the provisional ballots will actually qualify to be counted.

Currently, Mr. Valadao's margin has dropped to 447 votes from 108,979 counted ballots with an undetermined number of provisional ballots to potentially add. Since the provisionals are reported by county and the 21st District is comprised of parts of four counties, it is difficult to say just how many votes remain for this particular contest. Though the outcome still favors Rep. Valadao, the provisional ballots could become a political wild card.

CA-45: The election totals are not even finalized yet, and defeated US Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) has already filed papers with the Federal Election Commission declaring her congressional candidacy for 2020. Though California's jungle primary system would not necessarily guarantee that Ms. Walters would advance into the general election after the June vote, her chances of doing so are better than anyone else in the district. Therefore, even at this early date it is likely that we will see a re-match between Rep-Elect Katie Porter (D) and soon-to-be former Congresswoman Walters.

Up until the 2018 election, the region comprising the current 45th had been solidly Republican for 42 consecutive years in various district configurations. Should Ms. Walters follow through with her early decision, this district must be viewed as a prime Republican challenger opportunity.

CA-50: Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) was one of the few Republican incumbents to survive a California House campaign. The Democrats gained six seats in the delegation, and the party division in the state is now comprised of 45 Democrats and just eight Republicans.

This week, Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn (R) announced that he will become a congressional candidate in District 50 for the next election. With Mr. Hunter headed for his campaign finance trial likely in 2019, there is probably a better than even chance that this seat will go to special election before the next regular cycle. If Mr. Hunter is found guilty, he will be either forced to resign or expelled from the House. Therefore, we can expect other potential candidates to begin making moves now that Mayor Rahn has already come forward.

The 50th District has 88% of its territory in San Diego County, and only 12% in Riverside County, where Temecula lies. Therefore, should we see a special election arise here, expect major San Diego County figures to quickly jump into the open race.

GA-7: One more congressional race has ended, this one in the Atlanta suburbs. With virtually all of the races in political overtime going to the Democrats, this seat has reversed the trend. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville), who many believed approached this campaign in lackluster fashion, has officially won re-election. His victory margin is just 433 votes, however. The Democratic nominee, former state Senate Budget Committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux, conceded after the electronic recount slightly expanded Mr. Woodall's small lead. PA-15: On Election Day, Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild defeated Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein (R) to claim the newly drawn 7th District with a sizable 53-44% margin. But, there were actually two elections that involved the candidates. When Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) resigned from Congress, he left vacant the 15th District drawn under the 2011 boundaries. Therefore, though the former 15th and the new 7th are vastly different, they do contain some common territory. Thus, both Wild and Nothstein entered the special election in the former 15th to serve the balance of the current term, and the new 7th for the full term.

It has been determined that Ms. Wild has now won both, though the 15th CD election was very close and decided by just three-tenths of one percentage point. With that result now final, Ms. Wild will immediately be sworn into the House.

SC-1: Democrat Joe Cunningham's election on November 6th was one of the big election night surprises. And, it is already no secret that he can expect a major Republican challenge in 2020. His 2018 opponent, former state Rep. Katie Arrington (R), who ousted Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) in the Republican primary, found herself in intensive care after a terrible car accident, and then proceeded to lose to Cunningham, 50.7 - 49.3%. Ms. Arrington said yesterday, however, that she will run again. Speculation is building that Rep. Sanford may also launch a political comeback, and possibly again for the 1st District, but he is non-committal at this point.

TX-23: The 23rd District race from southwest Texas was the most confusing on election night. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) was projected the winner, and then not, only to be projected again. But, his opponent, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, was challenging his 1,150 vote win, and filing suit that more Bexar County provisional ballots should be counted.

Late last week, after failing to force any further counting, she conceded to Mr. Hurd, so the Congressman is finally officially elected to a third term. We can again count on a heated battle in the next election, as this swing district typically hosts close elections and has a history of unseating incumbents.

UT-4: Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), who at one time was down almost 9,000 votes in the election count, rebounded to take a 419 vote lead in the only House race in the country where the Republican candidate made substantial gains in political overtime. But, the final Salt Lake County votes pushed Democrat Ben McAdams over the top by a 694 vote margin just 21 votes more than the margin to trigger an automatic recount. At this point, it is unclear if Rep. Love will finance a full district-wide recount.


Florida: Just as the Florida machine recount awarded Republican Rick Scott the Senate race, GOP former US Rep. Ron DeSantis was elected Governor. Unlike the Senate race, the Governor's outcome was decided electronically. Because DeSantis' margin exceeded a quarter percent after the machine recount, the post-election count failed to advance to a hand tabulation. Mr. DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 32,463 votes of more than 8.2 million ballots cast.

Georgia: Eleven days after the general election, Georgia election authorities certified that Republican Brian Kemp secured a majority vote, at 50.3%, which elects him Governor of Georgia. Mr. Kemp defeats former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) who is acknowledging the result, but is not conceding because of what she charges as voter suppression maneuvers coming from the Secretary of State's office, of which Mr. Kemp was the elected principal until he resigned shortly after the election.

There was no doubt the final count would find Mr. Kemp in first place, but the question was whether he would secure majority support. Under Georgia law, if a candidate does not obtain a majority, a post-election run-off must be held. Therefore, the idea of the vote challenges was not in the guise of believing that enough votes existed to place Ms. Abrams ahead of Mr. Kemp, but rather that he would have been pushed below 50%.

In the end, Kemp finished just 8,703 votes beyond a simple majority. Though the race was one of the closest gubernatorial elections in Georgia history, the victor still garnered more votes for the office than anyone previously elected.