August 7 Primary and Special Election Results

All times are PST.

4:58 p.m. The last of the early vote counts from the Ohio 12th Congressional District are in, and Democrat Danny O’Connor is up by a landslide. He can’t pop the champagne yet, because Election Day ballots are still being counted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:00 p.m. Polls close in Kansas and Missouri. Ballot counting begins.

5:06 p.m. Absentee vote numbers from Ohio:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:13 p.m. Update from Columbus Dispatch public affairs editor Darrel Rowland:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:19 p.m. From Ohio governor John Kasich’s political strategist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:32 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:35 p.m. Interesting observation on the urban/rural political divide pointed out by respected political journalist/pundit Ron Brownstein:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:48 p.m. The Cook Political Report announces its projections for both primaries in the Michigan governor’s race. No call from the AP or any other news organizations yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:56 p.m. Finished numbers are in from Marion County, Ohio:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:58 p.m. Reaction to the Marion County numbers from Danny O’Connor’s pollster:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:00 p.m. 32 percent of precincts reporting in Ohio’s 12th congressional district. Per MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, the question of the night in this race will be if Troy Balderson can chip away at Danny O’Connor’s lead from early voting and come out ahead on the basis of Election Day votes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:05 p.m. Outside group American Bridge just dropped its first general election ad against Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:07 p.m. Updated take on the Ohio numbers from The Economist’s G. Elliott Morris:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:10 p.m. Half of the votes are in in Ohio, Balderson keeps chipping away at O’Connor’s lead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:14 p.m. 59 percent of the Ohio 12th district vote in and Balderson has cut O’Connor’s lead down to almost 2,400 votes, according to the Ohio Secretary of State.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:17 p.m. All of the votes from Morrow County, Ohio are in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:19 p.m. Balderson takes the lead for the first time with 66 percent of the vote in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:26 p.m. In the Kansas GOP gubernatorial primary, with 310 out of 3539 precincts reporting, Jeff Colyer has a 41-38 lead over Kris Kobach, but the night is still young.

6:29 p.m. With 75 percent of precincts reporting in Ohio, O’Connor has taken a razor-thin 593-vote lead.

6:38 p.m. Quick take from Columbus Dispatch political reporter Jim Siegel:

 

6:39 p.m. With 84 percent of precincts reporting, O’Connor has expanded his lead to 1,338 votes. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 90 precincts are still outstanding.

6:46 p.m. 84 percent of precincts reporting and O’Connor’s lead has shrunk to 155 votes.

7:00 p.m. 90 percent of precincts reporting and O’Connor has retaken the lead by 201 votes.  55 precincts are still outstanding.

7:17 p.m. 98 percent of precincts reporting and Balderson has taken a 1,685 vote lead. Barring any dramatic surprises in the final two precincts and provisional ballots, it looks like Balderson has it in the bag. Keep in mind, this battle is not over. Balderson and O’Connor will face off AGAIN in the November general election for a full two-year term.

7:25 p.m. Per CNN, GOP outside groups outspent their Democratic counterparts in this race by a 5:1 margin.

7:42 p.m. CNN still lists the Ohio 12th district race as too close to call.  Per Danny O’Connor’s pollster, it looks like they’re going to a recount (i.e. call the lawyers):

7:46 p.m. In Missouri, Proposition A (Right to Work) is losing badly, 62-37.

8:01 p.m. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Proposition A is losing 63-37 with 50 percent of precincts reporting.  Votes are still being counted, but the Missouri Democratic Party has already declared victory.

Special Election Preview in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District

Today is the last special election of 2018 before the general election. Being an R+7 district, it should be a safely Republican seat, but as has been the case nationwide in other elections, Democrats are more enthusiastic and Democratic candidates are overperforming in districts and states where they haven’t, historically.  This district, which includes many of the state capital’s suburbs, hasn’t elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives since 1980. Donald Trump came to campaign on behalf of Republican Troy Balderson, though Ohio governor John Kasich – a longtime foil and critic – raised questions as to whether the President was invited or if he invited himself.

The final poll of the race before Election Day had Democrat Danny O’Connor up by one point, with seven percent undecided. One finding from this poll to keep an eye on: independents support O’Connor 56-28, a 2-to-1 margin.  O’Connor also leads among voters who are more excited and paying more attention to the election.  If these poll numbers are correct, it means he is surging at just the right time as the race is winding down. However, one caveat worth noting that was first pointed out by NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: this poll does not include Green Party candidate Joe Manchik, who got 3.6 percent of the vote in 2016.

Democrat heavy hitters are coming into the district for a last-minute push on O’Connor’s behalf.  Former vice president Joe Biden recorded a robocall, while Alabama senator Doug Jones sent out an email to his supporters urging them to make last-minute donations to the O’Connor campaign.

The  early vote numbers for Democratic-heavy Franklin County are in. Without making any formal conclusions yet until other ballots are counted, the numbers are looking good for O’Connor:

And as if all that isn’t enough to make Election Day interesting, Balderson made what can only be described as a last-minute gaffe that Democrats are aggressively pushing:

Ohio Dems email

Why does this matter? The district, which is mostly rural, includes a geographically small part of Franklin County – home of the state capital and Ohio State University – within its boundaries, which is the suburbs north of Columbus. According to the Washington Post, “a bit less than a third of the vote” in today’s election is expected to come from Franklin County.

No political strategist in his or her right mind would tell a candidate that writing off or dismissing any part of the district the candidate is seeking to represent, let alone one that could account for as much as one third of potential voters, is a winning message.

Conventional wisdom on this race is that it is unnecessarily close for a historically safe Republican district in congressional and presidential races. If O’Connor wins tonight, it will be considered another sign of a potential blue tsunami on Election Day, in addition to cutting by one the number of seats needed to flip the House of Representatives. If Balderson manages a narrow single-digit victory, Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief while Democrats will feel pretty good for coming close, but it will be another moral victory in a string of special election losses since 2017. (For the record, Democrats have won two out of ten special elections in that period – the two victories being Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district)

Polls close at 7:30 EST/6:30 CST.

ActBlue Clears $1 Billion Fundraising Mark In Runup to Midterms

money

The liberal sleeping giant has woken, according to fundraising figures for online fundraising platform ActBlue that the organization shared with USA Today.  This week, ActBlue blew past the $1 billion barrier in contributions for this cycle that it collects on behalf of Democratic candidates and organizations, with three months to go before Election Day.

To put that figure into perspective, it took ActBlue almost 12 years to raise its first $1 billion. ActBlue matched that feat in 19 months since the beginning of Donald J. Trump’s presidency in January of 2017. The average donation for this cycle has been $34.  The group expects donations to exceed $1.5 billion by the end of the year, which was twice the amount the organization raised during the 2016 election cycle.

“Small-dollar donors are funding the resistance,” ActBlue executive director Erin Hill told USA Today. “People initially said: ‘This can’t be sustained,’ but it very much is.”

Supreme Court Politics and the 2018 Election Map

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire four months before the election is the best thing that could have happened to Republicans, conventional wisdom says.  It is difficult to disagree with that logic, but it is also necessary to keep in mind the counterargument – which is that enthusiasm cuts both ways. (To be fair, the more adequate word for Democrats still reeling from the announcement isn’t enthusiasm, but fear.)

Historically, Republican voters have been more motivated to go to the polls because of the issue of judicial nominations than Democrats.  Exit polls from the 2016 election confirm this view. According to CNN, 56 percent of Trump voters said Supreme Court appointments were the most important factor in their decision. Evidence strongly suggests that filling Supreme Court vacancies was a big reason for Donald Trump’s win. Though the stakes for filling any court vacancy are always high, they aren’t as high or urgent from the Republican perspective this time around. Why? Two years ago, the presidency was up for grabs and, with it, the next two or more court vacancies, including the seat held by Scalia which could have altered the court’s majority if Hillary Clinton had won.  Now, Donald Trump is in the middle of his first term, with a Republican-controlled Senate. It may gin up enthusiasm among some Republican voters, but it doesn’t have the same existential sense of urgency that Democrats are now feeling.

“Misery motivates, not utopia,” Karl Marx once wrote. That principle, combined with lingering anger over the Senate Republican blockade of Merrick Garland and the recent string of losses in Supreme Court decisions during the week leading up to the Kennedy retirement, strongly suggest that Democratic candidates and their allies aren’t going to treat this Supreme Court vacancy like any other opening in the past.

State Democratic parties and candidates are fundraising off the Kennedy retirement, some on the specific message of running as a defender of abortion rights. Others have spoken more generally about the urgency of electing Democratic governors and legislators to have as a check on any sweeping future rulings from the Supreme Court on issues like abortion, voting rights, gun control, campaign finance, or redistricting. However, the initial messaging from Democrats and various interest groups on the actual Supreme Court vacancy itself is all over the map, depending on who you ask.  Their options to block a nominee are nonexistent after Senate Republicans abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees for the Neil Gorsuch vote. Their only chance at blocking a nominee is the slim chance that minority leader Charles Schumer can hold all 49 Democrats and is somehow able to get two Republicans to join them in voting against.

Just as there will be enormous pressure on a handful of red state Democrats who are running for reelection this cycle (specifically Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch last year), there will also be enormous pressure on Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are the only pro-choice Republicans in their party’s Senate caucus. Collins and Murkowski have the benefit of not running for reelection in this hyperpartisan political environment, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be feeling pressure. As Republican pro-choice women in the Senate who have a vote in judicial nominations, do they want their legacies to be defined by potentially casting the deciding vote to seat a Supreme Court justice who might one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?

It is also necessary to look beyond Murkowski and Collins for potential pressure points. Even though they aren’t on the ballot this year, the governors of Alaska and Maine are, as is Maine’s independent senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats. Voters in both states won’t be able to vote against Murkowski or Collins in this cycle, so they may opt to flex their political muscles by voting for (or against) the candidates who are on the ballot in November.

While Senate Democrats have a terrible electoral map to defend this year, when it comes to governors and state legislatures, the map becomes almost the inverse, meaning that they will have ample pickup opportunities in down ballot races.  Democrats have shown more interest and energy in down ballot state legislative races in the first eighteen months of the Trump presidency, and have already demonstrated some success in special elections – the DLCC has flipped 44 Republican-held seats to the Democrats, in addition to a Wisconsin state supreme court seat, a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, and stunning off-year results up and down the ballot in Virginia. If Democrats can harness this anxiety about the court and turn it into votes in November, that could drive them to some surprise victories.

Democrats might not be able to stop Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee, but they can put themselves in a better political position for the second half of his term: retaking the House or Senate will give them subpoena power and the ability to launch investigations, as well as control of nominations to the upper chamber; control of governor’s mansions, state offices and state legislatures will give them control of state voting rights as well as drawing the congressional maps for the next round of redistricting after 2020.

As painful as losing cases at the Supreme Court will be, the Democrats’ best hope for now is that they can use the court as an issue to play the long game: rebuild their bench in state and federal offices, gain congressional majorities, and eventually win the presidency.

 

Georgia Special Election Headed for June Runoff

Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old upstart making a run for Tom Price’s former congressional seat representing the Atlanta suburbs, will finish tonight’s jungle primary with approximately 48.6 percent of the vote – 1.4 percent shy of the 50 percent threshold needed to win the seat outright.  He will face off against former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in a head-to-head runoff election on June 20.

Democrats in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District had coalesced around Ossoff, while the Republican voters were divided among 11 other candidates, with Handel emerging as the leading Republican with 19.5 percent of the vote.

The race was the focus of intense outside spending and activism, particularly on the Democratic side. Outside groups spent a combined $8.2 million in this race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The organization also reported that a staggering 95 percent of Ossoff’s campaign donations came from outside of the district.

This is the second special election for a congressional seat since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency.  Last week, Democrat James Thompson overperformed by 20 points in an ultimately losing effort to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Mike Pompeo. Ossoff, unlike Thompson, was running in a much more competitive district. Donald Trump won the district by 1.5 points, despite the fact that incumbent Republican Congressman Tom Price won reelection by 24 points, as well as the fact that the district has not had a Democratic congressman since 1979.  Though it was viewed as a more winnable seat than the Kansas counterpart up for grabs a week earlier, the concern now for Democrats is if Ossoff can still maintain or even increase his support in a race against a single Republican candidate with unified party support. It was for that reason that Ossoff and Democrats were trying to deliver a knockout punch today by clearing the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election.

The race continues for another two months.

Ron Estes Wins Kansas Special Election

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Democratic candidate James Thompson addressed reporters at his campaign’s election watch party shortly after losing the race. Thompson had the best performance of any Democrat in this district since 1996. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

WICHITA, Kan. – State treasurer Ron Estes was elected to the House of Representatives, despite a close race by his opponent, civil rights attorney and political novice James Thompson, who had the best performance of any Democratic candidate in this district in 21 years. In a district where Republicans enjoy a 2-1 party registration advantage that President Donald Trump and Rep. Mike Pompeo won by 27 and 31 points last fall, Thompson lost by just shy of seven points. This marks a 24-point shift in the Democrats’ favor in the same race from last November.

“What’s hard to get my head around is that the last time we elected a Democrat from this district was in 1992. The last time a Democrat candidate broke 40 percent of the vote was 1996, and the guy who ran five months ago got 31 percent more of the vote than the Democrat did. It’s huge momentum,” Kansas House minority leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita) said in an interview.

Though Thompson lost the race, the mood of the candidate and his supporters at the election watch party on Tuesday night was far from defeated. Thompson told reporters that Estes didn’t win the race, attributing the victory to the last-minute interventions of President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the National Republican Congressional Committee.  Thompson also called Estes “a weak candidate” and declared his candidacy for the same seat for the 2018 midterm elections, adding, “Mr. Estes won the battle, but he didn’t win the war.”

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FILE PHOTO: Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes speaking to supporters at a rally the day before the election. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

During his victory speech, Estes took a shot at the skeptics who thought he was going to lose the race. From the Wichita Eagle’s report:

“We heard a lot from the national media and from people outside the state that we weren’t going to be able to win this race. We showed tonight that we were,” Estes said. “We’re still a Republican seat. … We sent a message across the country that we’re still Republican. That message should echo.

“For far too long, Washington hasn’t worked for us. We need to make sure that changes,” Estes said. “Tonight is a symbol of that.”

He dismissed “angst against the president” and that the election “was a chance for the Democrats.”

“We really showed the pundits tonight, didn’t we?” he asked, to applause and cheers.

Thompson started the night with strong numbers out of Sedgwick County – the most populous of the district’s 17 counties, which includes Wichita – in part because of early voting.  Estes was able to make up an initial deficit of nearly 6,000 votes in Sedgwick County in more rural counties in the district as well as voters who turned out on Election Day.  Thompson wound up winning Sedgwick County by 1,874 votes, but lost every other county in the district.

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Voters at a Wichita area polling place on Election Day. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

Emily Percival, a registered nurse who works at a local hospital in Wichita, said she voted for Thompson because “I tend to care more about social issues than big business. Because of my profession, I frequently deal with the most vulnerable in our population,” and noted Kansas governor Sam Brownback’s recent veto of Medicaid expansion which passed with bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Susan, a paraeducator and registered Republican, said she voted for Estes in part because of the national attention on the race. “The rest of the nation is looking at this election to see if we are supportive of Donald Trump’s initiatives,” she said, while also noting her pro-life position.  She added that she had some issues with the negativity of Estes’s campaign commercial attacking Thompson on abortion, but noted “There’s never a perfect candidate.”

Mike, a retiree and registered Democrat, said he voted for Thompson because, “I’m not satisfied with the state government, which is run by Republicans. We need a change of everything, from the president on down.”

Greg Gourley, a registered Republican who works in the aerospace industry, said he crossed party lines and voted for Thompson. “Estes would support Brownback. I don’t agree with the policies of the current administration.” He also noted that he had voted for some Democratic candidates in the past, adding, “I tend to vote the issues, not the party.”

Barbara, a retiree, said “[Estes] is the best man for the job. He’s against late-term abortions. He’s a Republican, and I’d like to replace [Mike Pompeo] with another Republican.”

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman told the Wichita Eagle that turnout could potentially double the expected 20 percent, though final numbers were still not available.

Although Republicans managed to avoid what would have been a shocking upset in this race, now they must focus their attention on the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District scheduled for next week.  President Trump won that district by one point in 2016, and the Cook Political Report recently ranked the race as a toss up.

“The Democratic Party needs to remember there are more than just a few states that are in play. We need to make sure that they step up and help out and not wait until the last minute,” Thompson told reporters. “The national party was concentrating on Georgia. It’s a close race, and they should take that. We’ve shown that it’s possible. People didn’t give us credit here, didn’t think it was possible, but they came in at the last minute and tried to help out and we appreciate it. We need to make sure that we have a true 50-state strategy in place to make all races competitive.”

Though Thompson lost the election, Political Wire publisher Taegan Goddard noted the significance of the result: “A 20-point swing towards Democrats in KS-4 during Trump’s first 100 days — a.k.a. his honeymoon — is a political earthquake.”

According to Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, “[A Thompson win] would be a national event, interpreted as huge Trump loss. [A Thompson loss] under 10 point [margin] would be significant,” he wrote in an e-mail, noting this might make both national parties focus more attention on congressional races in the Second and Third Congressional Districts for the 2018 midterms.

Republicans Make Last-Minute Push to Defend Kansas Seat

 

 

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes mingle with voters after a campaign rally at a Wichita airport hangar. (Photo Credit: David de Sola)

WICHITA, Kan. – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned hundreds of local Republicans of the dangers of complacency as part of a last-minute push to turn out voters for state treasurer Ron Estes, the Republican candidate in tomorrow’s special congressional election.

“The eyes of the whole country are on Kansas,” Cruz said.

Tomorrow’s election is the first of Donald Trump’s presidency. It is also the first test of Democrats’ candidates, messages, strategies, and tactics since the presidential election. The seat previously held by Rep. Mike Pompeo had been safely Republican since the 1994 midterm elections. Though the political history and culture of the district and state at large favor Republicans, anecdotal evidence indicates that state and national Republicans are worried about losing the seat in a district that Donald Trump won by 27 points last November.  Republicans have tried to nationalize the race by tying Democratic candidate James Thompson to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who Thompson has openly cited as his inspiration for running for office. [Sanders’s post-election organization Our Revolution has endorsed Thompson.]

Besides Cruz’s last-minute campaign rally, the National Republican Congressional Committee made a $92,000 expenditure in this race. [According to the New York Times, the NRCC received a poll last week showing Estes ahead only by single digits.] House Speaker Paul Ryan sent out a fundraising email and donated $5,000. Vice President Mike Pence’s robocall, it was revealed today that President Trump himself recorded a robocall on Estes’s behalf.  The Cook Political Report shifted its assessment of the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. From their analysis:

Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special. More than that, Estes appears to be swept up in a last-minute vortex of factors outside his control: Democrats’ anger towards Trump, independents’ anger towards Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP dissatisfaction with early administration failures.

Estes himself was optimistic about the race entering the final stretch. “There’s been a lot of enthusiasm the last couple of weeks.  People are now starting to focus on April 11 and really going to turn out,” he said during a brief interview after the rally. “There’s a lot of people, a couple of weeks ago they were doing other things, maybe the basketball tournament. But now they’re focusing on the election and really want to have a representative.”

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State Treasurer Ron Estes addressing a campaign rally one day before Wichita area voters elect their new congressman. (Photo Credit: David de Sola)

The people at the rally were of all ages and walks of life. One local father took his two middle school-aged children out of class early so they could attend the rally on Monday afternoon, which he described as “a civics lesson.”

“I hope it turns out good,” Robert Pell, a Republican committeeman from Wichita said. He noted he had seen more yard signs for Thompson than Estes, who had not put out as many. He cited the Second Amendment and repealing Obamacare as his two major issues in this race.

Melissa Stout said this was her first campaign event, and she came to hear from both Cruz and Estes.  She ranked her issues in the election as “standing behind our president,” opposition to abortion, and support for the Second Amendment.

In his speech, Cruz mentioned four “big things” Republicans had on their plate for 2017: the Supreme Court, repealing Obamacare, regulatory reform, and tax reform.  “We have a Republican president, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. How about we act like it?” Cruz asked rhetorically, to applause from the audience. “If we accomplish all four things, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. If we fail, 2017 will be a heartbreaking year.”

A Thompson victory in the Fourth Congressional District would probably draw comparisons to Scott Brown’s improbable U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts in 2010, though Thompson’s would not be as consequential to the balance of power in Congress. The special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District scheduled for April 18 is another worry for national Republicans. The Cook Political Report recently rated the Georgia race as a toss up.

When viewed individually, the Kansas and Georgia races might be dismissed as a fluke.  Taken into conjunction, happening in two different regions of the country within the span of a week, both in districts considered safely Republican, these two races would cause alarm among Republicans. Less than one hundred days into the Trump presidency, they would be indicators of the volatility of the electorate going into 2018, particularly for Republican chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives.