3/12/19 Special Election Previews

Tennessee State Senate District 32 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Eric Coleman (D), Paul Rose (R)

Overview: We start with the only upper chamber election tonight, one which is the first Republican special election defense we’ve seen in a long time. This election takes place in the suburbs of Memphis, in a district Donald Trump won 68–28 after Mitt Romney’s 71–28 victory, and on paper should be an easy defense for the Republicans. Their candidate, businessman Paul Rose, is fairly strong and has shown good fundraising as well. However, the Democrats are taking a shot at this district as they believe they have an unusually strong candidate in Navy veteran Eric Coleman, who is paralyzed from the waist down. Coleman has been considered a candidate with a very inspiring story that has gotten the attention of local Democrats and some national outreach groups. As a result, he’s had a decent ground game in this race, and while I don’t think he’s going to win, I think he could make this race surprisingly close in a partially suburban district.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this race as Safe R. I’ll say Paul Rose wins with 60% of the vote.

Georgia House of Representatives District 176 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: James Burchett (R), Franklin Patten (R)

Overview: We now move on to a highly contested runoff between two Republicans in rural South Georgia. In the first round, school board member Franklin Patten took a 22 vote lead over attorney and zoning board member James Burchett. Two major divides stand out in this race, one ideological and one geographical. Patten is from Lakeland, one of the larger towns in the area, and took very high numbers there in the first round. He also has more establishment support, including a Chamber of Commerce endorsement. However, Burchett has a very strong base of supporters in large, rural, Ware County, which was enough to carry him into this runoff. He also has a strong deep conservative appeal, having spent a lot of time blasting Patten for formerly being a Democrat and boosting a Right to Life endorsement. Either could win, but I’d very slightly lean towards Patten.

Prediction: Franklin Patten wins with 52% of the vote.

Maine House of Representatives District 124 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Joseph Perry (D), Thomas White (R)

Overview: We now move to the city of Bangor, Maine, in a fairly strong Democratic district. This seat opened up when incumbent Aaron Frey was selected as Attorney General of Maine a few weeks after winning reelection 63–37 in the midterms. Frey’s win was a slight overperformance in comparison to Hillary Clinton’s 55–37 win in 2016 and Barack Obama’s 60–38 win in 2012. The Democrats have a decent candidate in former State Senator Joseph “Joe” Perry, who lost his seat in 2010 during a Republican wave, but the Republicans also have a strong candidate of their own in recent college graduate Thomas White, who has run a decent grassroots effort. This election will in many ways represent an urban-rural divide, as Bangor makes up the majority of the district, but also has to contend with rural Orono, which is trending more right.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Joe Perry wins with 60% of the vote.

Mississippi House of Representatives District 32 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Troy Brown Sr., Solomon Osbourne

Overview: Next, we move on to deep blue western Mississippi, in an officially nonpartisan jungle primary. This seat opened up when incumbent Democrat Willie Perkins became a judge. If no candidate receives 50%, there will be a runoff in four weeks. Despite the nonpartisan nature of the election, party affiliation can be determined by the party which candidates filed to run with for the upcoming November 2019 state elections in Mississippi. Of the 3, Solomon Osbourne is the only Democrat running in the race. Troy Brown Sr. is an independent. There’s hardly any information available, as is often the case in Mississippi special elections, but my guess would be that Osbourne is the favorite as a Democrat

Prediction: Solomon Osbourne wins with 60% of the vote.

Mississippi House of Representatives District 71 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Edelia Carthan, Ronnie Crudup Jr., Stephanie Skipper

Overview: We now move to the Southern part of the city of Jackson, in a district that opened up when incumbent Adrienne Wooten became a judge. All three candidates in this race filed to run for the November elections as Democrats, so this essentially serves as a Democratic primary. Professor Edelia Carthan is the favorite in this race, as she has gathered a key endorsement from Congressman Bennie Thompson, the only federally elected Democrat in Mississippi, in this race. Community activist Ronnie Crudrup Jr. could also receive a decent amount of support, and has run a decent grassroots campaign. I couldn’t find any information on a third candidate, Stephanie Skipper, except that she is a Democrat making her first run for office.

Prediction: Edelia Carthan wins outright with 50% of the vote.

Mississippi House of Representatives District 101 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Gary Crist, Kent McCarty, Steven Otroska, Daniel Waide, Andrew Waites

Overview: We now move to the rural Hattiesburg exurbs, in a race between 5 Republican candidates. There will almost definitely be a runoff, as the candidates are all fairly serious. There isn’t really a clear favorite or much information available, but realtor Steven Otroska and businessman Kent McCarty do have the slight leads in fundraising, which could help them in a wide open field. None of the five have ever held elected office.

Rating and Prediction: Steven Otroska and Kent McCarty advance to the runoff with 25% each.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives District 114 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Bridget Malloy Kosierowski (D), Frank Scavo III (R)

Overview: We move on to the Scranton area of Pennsylvania in what on paper will be the most contested race of the day. This seat opened up after the tragic death of incumbent Democrat Sid Michaels Kavulich in October due to heart surgery complications. It should be hotly contested, as it lurched from a 59–40 Barack Obama win in 2012 to a 52–45 Donald Trump win in 2016. That being said, Democratic nominee Bridget Malloy Kosierowski, a local nurse, should be considered the favorite for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Trump’s win in this district seems to be largely an anomaly. In 2018, the district voted for a straight Democratic ticket, with every candidate receiving at least 55% of the vote. Most notably, Governor Tom Wolf won 60–40 in this district in a statewide romp. Even Katie McGintly won this district 52–48 while losing her 2016 Senate bid statewide. That data is enough to say this race leans Democratic but the Republicans also made matters for themselves worse by nominating a very weak candidate, former Old Forge School Board President Frank Scavo. Scavo was the Republican nominee in an overlapping Senate district last year, and lost House District 114 by a margin of 56–44 in the process. However, before this election, things got even worse for him after his 2015 Facebook posts were dug up, including racist depictions of Muslims as terrorists and rapists. As a result, he was removed from the School Board on a 5–3 vote after he refused to resign. Scavo has since apologized but also called his removal “political bullying.” The national Democrat Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) has gotten involved in this race as well, billing Kosierowski’s defense as a very important race towards gaining momentum in a state they believe could flip next year. There’s been a heavy narrative in recent weeks that Democrats are in disarray in state level races, and to me a loss or even poor performance in a race with a GOP candidate this bad would prove that there is fire where there is smoke.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Likely D. I’ll say Bridget Malloy Kosierowski wins with 55% of the vote.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives District 190 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Movita Johnson-Harrell (D), Michael Harvey (R), Amen Brown (ABP), Pamela Williams (WFP)

Overview: We move on to one of the most Democratic districts in the country, a Philadelphia seat in which Hillary Clinton won 96–3, a number which actually was somehow lower than Barack Obama’s 97–2 victory in 2018. The seat opened up when incumbent Democrat Vanessa Lowery Brown was convicted of multiple felonies including bribery, all of which by law disqualify her from holding office in the state. The Democrats had a bit of trouble finding a candidate without residency issues, but eventually settled on Movita Johnson-Harrell with their third attempt. Johnson-Harrell is a former Supervisor of Victim Services in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and is running on a platform largely focused on combatting gun violence. Johnson-Harrell is making her second run for the seat, having challenged Lowery Brown from the left in 2016, and would also be the first Muslim women elected to office in Pennsylvania. Navy veteran Michael Harvey is the GOP nominee, but it is hard to see him getting any traction in a district this blue. In fact, Working Families Party nominee Pamela Williams and Amen Brown of the self-named Amen Brown Party might outperform him. Williams, a pastor, was actually the original Democratic nominee before residency concerns came out and could actually take a decent share of votes.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Movita Johnson-Harrell wins with 80% of the vote.

Texas House of Representatives District 125 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Ray Lopez (D), Fred Rangel (R)

Overview: We finish in San Antonio, with a runoff in a district which despite Hillary Clinton winning by a 61–33 margin in 2016, is a slight GOP target. The seat opened up when Justin Rodriguez resigned to become a judge, and in the first round of voting, Republican Fred Rangel led the way with 38% of the vote. Although that seems good for Republicans, the big problem they will face is that the other 62% all went to a multitude of Democratic candidates. Of those Democratic candidates, the one who narrowly advanced into the runoff was Ray Lopez, a former San Antonio City Councilman who has the fundraising edge. Despite this, the Republicans are targeting this seat with a decent amount of energy, spurred on by a special election last September in which Pete Flores pulled off a shocking upset in another San Antonio-area seat, Senate District 19. They have repeated a lot of their strategies from that race, including getting Governor Greg Abbott heavily involved. Despite this effort, I don’t think it will happen again. The Democrats are more prepared this time and don’t have any of the infighting problems which led to the last loss. Even the DLCC got involved last week, so apparently they view this as the second biggest threat behind Pennsylvania House District 114. Finally, this district is just more blue than Senate District 19. I think Rangel could give Lopez a decent run, but I don’t see him winning.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Ray Lopez wins with 55% of the vote.

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