12/5/17 Legislative Special Election Previews
Competitive Democrat vs. Republican elections
Massachusetts Senate Worcester and Middlesex District (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Susan Chalifoux Zephir (D), Dean Tran (R), Claire Freda (I), Charlene DiCalogero (G)
Overview: This district, located primarily in the cities of Lemonister and Fitchburg in central Massachusetts, became vacant when Democrat Jennifer Flanagan resigned in late August to join the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. This seat went 50–42 to Hillary Clinton, but has been dominated by Flanagan since 2009. Flanagan was actually unopposed in both 2012 and 2016, despite the district’s close status. However, with Flanagan out of the picture, The Republicans have managed to recruit a strong candidate in Dean Tran, who serves as a City Councilor in Fitchburg. His campaign has been helped by campaign work by Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. The Democratic primary winner was Leominster City Councilor Susan Chalifoux Zephir, who previously ran for this seat and narrowly lost in 2008. The Democrats have sharply criticized Tran for hard right stances on social issues in what has been an increasingly sharply contested campaign. Additionally there is a legitimate independent in Leominster Councilor Claire Freda who probably won’t win but could take a decent share of the vote.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Lean D. Given the similarity between this and an earlier MA special election in which the Democrat, Paul Feeney, narrowly won, I’ll predict a 4 point win for Zephir.
Pennsylvania House District 133 (Democratic defense)
Candidates: Jeanne McNeill (D), David Malony (R), Samantha Dorney (L)
Overview: This district, primarily representing the outskirts of the cities of Allentown and Bethlehem in Central to Southeastern Pennsylvania, was opened up when Democratic incumbent Daniel McNeill passed away. His widow, Jeanne McNeill was selected via convention by the Democratic Party to run for the seat. This district went 52–42 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Daniel McNeill defeated David Malony, running again for the Republicans tomorrow, by a wider 56–40 margin. I would favor Jeanne McNeill to win this race and get around the same figures as her husband for two reasons. First, I think the general idea of a widow running for a recently deceased husband’s seat will almost always be viewed favorably. Second, she has made her campaign very much about continuation of his legacy, and looking at his comparative vote share to Hillary Clinton, he was a somewhat popular politician.
Rating and prediction: With all factors considered, we rate this race as Likely D. I’d predict a McNeill win by about 10–15 points.
One Party Runoff Elections
Georgia Senate District 6 (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Jen Jordan (D), Jaha Howard (D)
Overview: This is a weird one. In this suburban Atlanta district, previously held by Republican Hunter Hill, Georgia’s combined top two primary system has created a situation where there is a runoff between two Democrats and the Republicans are completely shut out. This happened because the Democrats had fewer candidates and more consolidated support. Regardless, this district probably would have flipped anyway given it’s sharp pivot to the left in 2016. The two Democrats competing in the runoff are Attorney Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard, who ran in 2016 and narrowly lost to Hill. Howard was considered the favorite until an October revelation of old Facebook posts of his that contained sexism and homophobia. As a result, most prominent Democratic groups have endorsed Jordan, who had a narrow 24%-22% lead after the primary. However, it’s worth noting that Howard is more center and could get GOP voters.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this as Lean Jordan, given her early lead and the way Democrats reacted to Howard’s facebook posts. I’d predict a roughly 5-10 point win.
Georgia Senate District 39 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Nikema Williams (D), Linda Pritchett (D)
Overview: This Atlanta district, previously held by Democrat Vincent Fort, is the second of four runoffs between two Democrats in Georgia. Democrat Nikema Williams took a narrow lead of 35%-32% over fellow party member Linda Pritchett in the November primary, which featured 5 different candidates. Both candidates have been working hard for votes, but Williams would still be a narrow favorite given her advantage.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this as Lean Williams, mostly based on her November advantage. I’d predict a 5–10 win for her.
Georgia House of Representatives District 60 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Kim Schofield (D), D’Andre S. Picketts (D)
Overview: In our third Georgia runoff, we go to a race that couldn’t have been closer between the top 2 in November, with Democrat Kim Schofield leading fellow party member D’Andre S. Picketts by just 46 votes. There was only 1 other candidate in the race, and she got 29% of the vote, so where her voters go will be the difference.
Rating and Prediction: This is a clear tossup. I’ll predict a 2–4 point win for Schofield. Just a hunch.
Georgia House of Representatives District 89 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Bee Nguyen (D), Sachin Verghese (D)
Overview: In our final Georgia runoff, Democrat Bee Nguyen had a comfortable 40–34 lead over fellow Democrat Sachin Verghese. It’s not entirely over as a race, but it would be surprising if Nguyen didn’t hold on to her advantage at this point.
Rating and Prediction: Almost Likely, but we rate this as Lean Nguyen. I’ll predict she wins by about 12 points.
California Assembly District 51 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Wendy Carrillo (D), Luis Lopez (D)
Overview: This heavily Hispanic Los Angeles district, vacated by now-Congressman Jimmy Gomez after his win in a June special election, is by far one of the hardest competitions of the day to predict, given that both these candidates are fairly strong. In a 13-person primary, Wendy Carrillo came out on top with 22%, followed by fellow Democrat Luis Lopez at 18%. Both will obviously need to keep those core supporters, but there’s a lot of uncertainty with 60% of voters up for grabs, especially since there isn’t a factor of race that often plays into Los Angeles politics, given that both candidates are Hispanic. That being said, I think Carrillo is the favorite, given her strong progressive stances which will play well with primarily Democratic voters.
Rating and Prediction. We rate this as Lean Carrillo. I’ll say she wins by between 8–12 points.
Florida House District 72 Democratic Primary (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Margaret Good, Ruta Jouniari
Overview: One more race to watch is this primary in Sarasota, Florida. Democrats have eyed this as a potential flip opportunity so the winning candidate will definitely come up again in February closer to the election. Jouniari has a lot of support among the progressive base of the party, but Good, who has the party backing, is definitely considered the favorite in this election.