5 Elections to watch for the rest of 2017
Florida State Senate District 40 (Election Date: September 26, Primary Date: July 25)
This is going to be a very important race towards showing the Democrats’ ability to win in GOP held Southern Florida districts. This Miami-Dade County District is very similar to a congressional district the Democrats have a strong chance of flipping in 2018, Florida’s 27th district, where popular incumbent Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinan is retiring. In State Senate District 40, Republican Frank Artiles won in 2016 by about 10 points before resigning earlier this year after it was revealed that he used a racial slur in a meeting with black colleagues. Despite Artiles’s victory, the rest of the ballot had mixed results for the GOP in District 40. Hillary Clinton crushed Donald Trump by 17 points in the District, but GOP Senator Marco Rubio narrowly won the District by 4 points. One reason for this discrepancy might be that this district is heavily Hispanic, which means that the voters are likely to vote for candidates that represent the community the best. Both Republicans that won were Latinos who were facing non-Hispanic opponents. Hillary Clinton did win, but that was against Donald Trump, who has been a divisive figure in Hispanic communities. The three favorites to win the primaries are all Hispanics with significant experience. Democratic favorite Annette Taddeo is a former Lt. Governor candidate, running with Charlie Crist in 2014, while Republican favorites Jose Felix Diaz and Alex Diaz de la Portilla have both served as state representatives. The key to this race will be seeing who can win the third of voters in the district who are independents. My money is on a very close race, with a slight edge to the Democrats due to enthusiasm.
Washington State Senate District 45 (Election Date: November 7, Primary Date: August 1)
On the surface a special election in Washington State doesn’t seem that important, but this election will have a massive impact on the Senate. This seat will end up deciding who has the majority in the Washington Senate, since one Democrat currently caucuses with the Republicans. The Democrats control the House and Governor’s office, which leaves them only needing the Senate to secure a trifecta. A trifecta is important because it allows you as a party to essentially have the ability to do whatever you want without a check outside your own party. The seat had been held by young Republican Andy Hill for 6 years before his sudden death due to cancer in late 2016. This district is getting more and more Democratic and was won by Hillary Clinton in 2017 by over 20 points. The primary is scheduled for August 1, but its uncontested so we already know that Manka Dhingra is the Democratic candidate and Jinyoung Lee Englund is the Republican candidate. Both parties are expected to put a good amount of money into this, but Dhingra is a 70–30 favorite to win this seat in my opinion, which would actually be a much more impactful Democratic win than a win in Georgia’s 6th would have been.
New Jersey State Elections (General Election: November 7, Primary: June 6)
The New Jersey State Elections are going to very important this year, especially the Gubernatorial election. Republican Chris Christie is the incumbent, but he is not running. Christie has become historically unpopular over the past few years, which will make this a tough seat for Republicans to defend. Center Left former Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy won the Democratic primary, while Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno won the Republican primary. Both candidates have faced criticism, Murphy for his association with Goldman Sachs and Guadagno for her role in Christie’s struggling administration. However, Murphy is leading the most recent poll 55–26, which makes it very likely he wins. I’d give Murphy a 90% chance of victory, and it would take a big misstep for him to lose. Democrats also control the State House and State Senate and seem highly unlikely to lose either in this election, which would mean that a Murphy win would secure a Democratic trifecta in New Jersey, effectively allowing Murphy to push whatever agenda he wants.
Virginia State Elections (Election Date: November 7, Primary Date: June 13)
The Virginia Gubernatorial race is going to be a close one. Incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe is term-limited and therefore can’t run. Lt. Governor Ralph Northam defeated Tom Perriello in what became billed as a battle between progressives and center left, as Northam was endorsed by centrist Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, while Perriello was endorsed by progressive Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Perriello was probably actually very similar to Northam in terms of overall views, just slightly more to the left economically. On the Republican side, establishment candidate Ed Gillespie narrowly defeated a challenge from Corey Stewart, who ran on a platform of backing President Trump and defending Confederate monuments. Stewart is yet to endorse Gillespie as well, and whether his supporters turn out or not is an interesting question. Overall, Northam is the slight favorite to win, and I’d give him a 65% chance at this point. The other important race in Virginia is the House of Delegates, where Republicans currently have a 66–34 advantage. However, all these seats are up for grabs, and grass roots Democratic organizations have made flipping these seats as a priority, making lists of target districts such as this one: https://www.flippable.org/virginia-house/. To be honest, I see the Democrats making gains but I’d be very surprised if they managed to win back 17. I think the overall map is just a little too difficult for that. Much more likely would be the Democrats winning back 5–10 seats and setting up for a chance to win the House of Delegates in 2019.
Alabama Senate Special Election (Election Date: December 12, Primary Date: August 15, Runoff Date: September 26)
The Alabama Senate Special Election is going to be one of the weirder ones we see this year. It doesn’t have many implications for the 2018 midterms, since the Republican primary winner will almost surely win, but it tells us a lot about the direction of the Republican Party. The seat opened after Jeff Sessions became US Attorney General. Former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed by now-former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who was impeached just a few weeks later. This appointment was controversial since Strange may have been investigating Bentley at the time of the appointment. Strange, who is center-right but a strong supporter of President Trump will have two tough challengers in the primary. The first is right-wing Freedom Caucus Congressman Mo Brooks, who represents the 5th District of Alabama. Brooks is the favored choice of hardline conservatives, but might be a little too far to the right. The third candidate is suspended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was suspended for ignoring the US Supreme Court’s legalization of same sex marriage. Moore is regarded by many, especially those on the left, as a laughable figure, but he will undoubtably could make a run at winning this election, although it is worth noting that he failed to win 2 GOP gubernatorial primaries in the past. On the Democratic side, former US Attorney Doug Jones, who prosecuted the KKK bomber who targeted the 16th Street Baptist Church, is the favorite, although Brian McGee and 2016 congressional candidate Will Boyd could have outside shots. It’s also worth noting that there is a lower profile Democrat named Robert Kennedy Jr., whose name alone could actually gain some votes, despite the fact that he isn’t related to the Kennedys.