4/3/18 Special Election Previews

USA Election Watch
6 min readApr 3, 2018


Massachusetts House District Second Bristol (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: James Hawkins (D), Julie Hall (R)

Overview: We start in Attleboro, Massachusetts, in what has the potential to be the first legislative flip in Republican favor of 2018. This seat, which Hillary Clinton won 51–42, opened up when incumbent Democrat Paul Heroux resigned to become the mayor of Attleboro. Heroux was last opposed in 2014, and he won that race 61–39. So why is this race competitive? Well, the simple answer is that we have seen a shift right in Massachusetts special elections this past year, especially in large towns to the west and south of Boston. In Fitchburg, Republican Dean Tran flipped a Senate seat which Hillary Clinton won by 8 points. In Haverhill, Democrat Andy Vargas only won a House seat which Clinton won by 15 points by 5 points. Finally, in another +8 Clinton district that included Attleboro, Democrat Paul Feeney won by just 4 points despite being helped by the presence of a legitimate independent candidate. So, this district could very well change hands and is probably a Tossup at this moment. Attleboro City Councilwoman Julie Hall won the Republican primary for the district and has thus far run a strong campaign with solid name recognition. She’s also received help from popular Republican Governor Charlie Baker in recent weeks, which could help her with key moderate voters. The Democratic candidate is James Hawkins, a former teacher and School District Representative. He has also run a decent campaign, getting key support from education unions. It’s hard to predict who will win what has been a pretty quiet and largely inconsequential campaign, as both sides haven’t put too much into this fight. This makes sense given that the seat will be up for election in six months anyway. One early indicator could be primary turnout. 130 more Republicans voted in their party’s contested primary last month than Democrats. However, the district does have a higher Democratic base, so it’s very possible they could make up the gap with non-primary voters. It could go either way, but my gut tells me to expect a flip.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this district as a Tossup. I’ll predict a 3 point win for Hall.

Rhode Island Senate District 8 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Sandra Cano (D), Nathan Luciano (R), Pamela Braman (I)

Overview: We now head just across the border from the Second Bristol District, to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. This seat became open when incumbent Democrat James Doyle resigned to deal with alcohol issues. Doyle had never been challenged by a Republican in this district, which Hillary Clinton won 61–33. As a result, Republicans certainly face a massive uphill battle for this seat. Their candidate for the seat is local GOP Chairman Nathan Luciano, who won a low turnout primary by just 30 votes. Luciano has run a strong campaign so far, but was recently hampered when he broke his foot while campaigning. On the Democratic side, City Councilwoman Sandra Cano won her party’s primary rather easily and looks the favorite to hold this seat. One big community issue has been the potential construction of a new baseball stadium in the town for the Pawtucket Red Sox, a lower level affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, coincidentally my other big passion in life besides politics. Cano supports taxpayer funding for a new stadium in downtown Pawtucket. Luciano wants the team to stay in Pawtucket, but believes taxpayers should not pay for a new stadium. This issue could be a key one in the race, and presents the only real movement Luciano could capitalize on. However, primary numbers show hugely heightened turnout numbers in the Democratic party in this district, with an advantage of 1444 to 128 in primary voters. As a result, it’s hard to see how Cano fails to win this race. An independent, Pamela Braman, is also running but doesn’t seem like a very serious candidate.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this race as Likely D. I’ll say Cano wins by 40 points.

Jungle Primaries

California Assembly District 39 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Yolie Anguiano (D), Patty Lopez (D), Patrea Patrick (D), Luz Maria Rivas (D), Antonio Sanchez (D), Ricardo Benitez (R)

Overview: Next, we head to Los Angeles for our first of three jungle primaries in California. This district opened up when incumbent Democrat Raul Bocanegra resigned due to sexual harassment allegations. Hillary Clinton won this district 74–19, so a Democratic hold is almost definite. However it’s very possible that a Republican, Ricardo Benitez, will make the June runoff. He’s still probably not favored to, but he might sneak in based on being the only Republican. Regardless, former Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Lopez is the slight favorite given her name recognition. She was ousted by Bocanegra in 2016. However, nonprofit organization founder Luz Maria Rivas has been given the party endorsement, which should give her a good chance. One reason Rivas was given the endorsement is that Lopez is generally viewed as a wild card who the party wouldn’t always be able to rely on. Meanwhile, workforce development advocate Antonio Sanchez has led in fundraising and has run on the most consistently progressive platform, which could give him a decent chance at using his money to attract support. The other Democrats running are Patrea Patrick and Yolie Anguiano, but both are considered unlikely to get too many votes.

Prediction: Rivas and Lopez advance to a runoff with 35% each.

California Assembly District 45 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Raymond Bishop (D), Jeff Bornstein (D), Daniel Brin (D), Jesse Gabriel (D), Ankur Patel (D), Tricia Robbins Kasson (D), Justin Clark (R), Dennis Zine (I)

Overview: Eight candidates are running for this next seat, six of them Democrats. This seat, which also includes a small part of Ventura County, opened up when Incumbent Democrat Matt Dababneh resigned as a result of sexual misconduct allegations. Despite this being a district which Hillary Clinton won 68–27, for the second straight time the lack of multiple Republicans running could push the lone one into a runoff. 19-year old Justin Clark is the one Republican in this race, and if he gets the same 27% Trump did, that could very well be enough for a runoff spot. On the Democratic side, City Council aide Tricia Robbins Kasson and attorney Jesse Gabriel are the favorites, with Gabriel taking a slight lead in fundraising. However, Kasson is the only woman in the race, which will likely give her a slight edge over Gabriel. There will likely be many people more likely to vote for a female candidate after a male representative left because of harassment. Ankur Patel has received support of the Bernie Sanders-backed Our Revolution group, but isn’t expected to expand his support beyond that group. Daniel Brin and Jeff Bornstein are also running as Democrats, while Independent Dennis Zine is also on the ballot and has some name recognition, but also dropped out six weeks ago.

Prediction: Kasson and Gabriel advance to a runoff with 40% and 30%, respectively.

California Assembly District 54 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Sydney Kamlager (D), Grayson Pangilinan (D), Tepring Michelle Piquado (D), Glen Ratcliff (R)

Overview: In our final election of the day, we head to a very heavily Democratic district, one where Hillary Clinton won by a massive 85–10 margin. The seat opened when incumbent Democrat Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned due to health issues. As a result of the partisan lean of the district, the one Republican, small business owner Glen Ratcliff, has no chance at all in this race. Among the three remaining candidates, all Democrats, Los Angeles Community College Board member Sydney Kamlager is the favorite. She has thus far ran the strongest campaign, helped by an endorsement from the California Democratic Party, giving her a decent shot at avoiding a runoff by getting 50% of the vote. Neuroscientist Tepring Michelle Piquado is currently running in a close second to Kamlager, but is struggling to find something to distinguish herself from Kamlager. Green energy entrepreneur Grayson Pangilinan is the choice candidate of much of the progressive left, but likely won’t have enough support to make a runoff, especially given that many left voters might vote for write-in candidate Steve Dunwoody, who has the endorsement of Our Revolution.

Prediction: Kamlager and Piquado advance to a runoff with 45% and 30%, respectively.



USA Election Watch

Balanced, Non-Partisan Twitter Updates, specifically focusing on elections.