Special Election Previews 5/15/18

Alabama Senate District 26 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: David Burkette (D), D.J. Johnson (R)

Overview: We start in Montgomery, with a race that shouldn’t be incredibly difficult for the Democrats to defend, with estimated numbers showing that Hillary Clinton won this district 70–26. The seat opened up in October when incumbent Quinton Ross resigned to become president of Alabama State University. On the Democratic side, Montgomery City Councilman David Burkette pulled off a surprise win after a surviving a five candidate primary and runoff with State Representative John Knight. Veteran D.J. Johnson is the Republican candidate, but seems to have significant challenges in this race. Burkette has run a decent campaign but probably won’t need that much luck to beat a Republican in such a strongly Democratic area.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll predict a 45 point win for Burkette.

Alabama House District 4 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Juanita Allen Healy (D), Parker Moore (R), Pete Willis (I)

Overview: We now move up north to the heavily conservative Limestone County. This estimated 73–23 Donald Trump seat opened up when incumbent Micky Hammon was removed from office due to pleading guilty to mail fraud. Parker Moore is the surprise winner of the Republican primary, as many people expected Tom Fredricks to come out of the primary runoff between the two. Democrat Juanita Allen Healy was the only member of her party to file and will likely have trouble making inroads in such a conservative district, while independent Pete Willis could peel off some votes from the center. Overall, Moore will be expected to hold the seat, despite the fact that some local Republicans aren’t huge fans of his.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this race as Safe R. I’ll predict a 35 point victory for Moore.

Pennsylvania House District 48 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Clark Mitchell Jr. (D), Timothy O’Neal (R), Demosthenes Agoris (L)

Overview: We now move to a very interesting Democratic defense to the south of Pittsburgh in Washington County, for a seat which opened up when Brandon Neuman resigned to take a judicial position. The name Washington County may sound very familiar to fellow election junkies, as it was one of four counties in the March US House special election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone. In that race, Lamb won District 48 by a 52–47 margin, which will encourage Democrats. However, Donald Trump also won the district 55–41, while Mitt Romney won 53–45. Democratic Candidate Clark Mitchell Jr. appears to be a decent candidate for the district. Like Lamb, he is a young attorney who focuses on a primarily economic message. However, veteran Timothy O’Neal, the Republican candidate, seems to be succeeding in running his own strong campaign which is in touch with the district. Libertarian Demosthenes Agoris is also running, and could peel off key votes in a close race. Neuman won his last competitive race 58–41 which shows a downballot Democratic lean in the district, but this race today really could go either way.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this district as a Tossup. I’ll predict a Mitchell Jr. win by 3 points.

Pennsylvania House District 68 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Carrie Heath (D), Clint Owlett (R)

Overview: Next, we move to Northern Pennsylvania, for what should be the least exciting of Pennsylvania’s three special elections. This district, which Donald Trump won 75–21 in 2016, opened up when incumbent Matthew Baker resigned to work for the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Republican nominee is construction subcontractor Clint Owlett, and it would be a major surprise if he lost this race given the partisan advantage he has. Teacher Carrie Heath is running for the Democrats and could pick up some support among local education advocates, but doesn’t have too much of a path to victory, as Baker won his last election here 82–18.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this district as Safe R. I’ll predict a 40 point win for Owlett.

Pennsylvania House District 178 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Helen Tai (D), Wendi Thomas (R)

Overview: We now move on to the suburbs of Philadelphia for what could be a difficult defense for the Republicans. The Republicans have typically controlled everything in this district, which opened up when incumbent Scott Petri resigned to direct the Philadelphia Parking Authority. However, Donald Trump won this district by a margin of just 50–47, greatly underperforming Mitt Romney’s 56–43 victory in 2012. Republican Senator Pat Toomey also won the seat 55–43 in 2016, while Petri won 61–39. Council Rock School Board member Wendi Thomas is defending the seat for her party, and has run a decent campaign overall, focusing a lot on education. Meanwhile, Solebury Township Board of Supervisors member Helen Tai is looking to flip the seat for her party, potentially capitalizing on the “blue wave” effect which has been seen in many special elections since Donald Trump’s election. The Democrats have flipped 21 seats in local special elections in the past two years, and this district absolutely fits the profile of many of those.

Prediction: We rate this district as a Tossup. I’ll say Tai wins by 2 points.

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