This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.
President-Elect Donald Trump's last political hurdle was successfully traversed in a joint congressional session on January 6th. The Electoral College vote of 304-227 became official when the 50-state tally was presented to the assembled Senators and Representatives. House Democrats came forward with several protest motions, even joined by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), but the lack of any Senator joining the move effectively killed the long shot maneuver.
The Electoral College rules allow individual electoral votes to be challenged, but at least one House member and one Senator must jointly make the motion. Though the Democrats had plenty of Representatives joining the chorus, not having even a single Senator invalidated the motion.
If advanced, the members from each house would have returned to their respective chambers and debated the protest motion for no more than two hours, at which time a vote over whether to accept the protest would have been taken.
With that, the 2016 presidential election cycle finally draws to an official close, and Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the nation's 45th President on January 20th.
Two points of note that occurred during the week may change the Senate political picture. First, El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) made comments indicating that he is taking steps toward challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year. Mr. O'Rourke was first elected to the House in 2012 when he defeated then-Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) in the Democratic primary. During that campaign, O'Rourke, a former El Paso City Councilman, pledged to serve no more than four terms. He has now completed two.
Early in the week the Congressman sounded definitive in moving toward a statewide race, but later, not as much. He made several statements "clarifying" his original comments, now saying that he is merely "considering" running for the Senate.
Though the Lone Star State Democrats performed better in the 2016 presidential race when compared to recent past campaigns, particularly in the cities where Hillary Clinton carried five of the six largest Texas cities, they are still a long way from establishing a winning position. The Democrats being overwhelmed in the outer suburban and rural regions was key in providing Donald Trump his nine-point statewide victory margin. Therefore, despite an improvement in his party's standing, Rep. O'Rourke would still have a very uphill battle in attempting to defeat Sen. Cruz.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) at least partially clarified his thought process in regard to selecting a replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) when the latter is confirmed as US Attorney General. State election law gives the Governor wide latitude in scheduling replacement special elections. He can, and is now opting to, run the special concurrently with the regular election cycle. This means that the eventual appointed Senator will serve until the 2018 general election. If the interim member runs and wins, then he or she will serve the balance of the current term, which is two more years. At that point - the 2020 election - the new Senator would be eligible to run for a full six-year term.
Veteran Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), who heroically served for 29 years in the United States Air Force including enduring seven horrific years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, announced that he will not seek a 14th term in the House next year. Mr. Johnson will be 88 years of age at the next election. In addition to his congressional service, he was elected four times to the Texas House of Representatives.
Rep. Johnson's departure will ignite a major early March (2018) Republican primary and run-off battle for the north Texas district that was last open in a 1991 special election. A multitude of Republican candidates will likely seek the seat, including state Sen. Van Taylor and Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis. The Democrats are not competitive in this district.
In a surprise announcement, former one-term Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) has joined the 2017 Democratic nomination campaign for Governor. The party establishment has already lined up behind Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, but Perriello, campaigning from the Democratic Party's left wing faction will maximize his political base in Charlottesville and would have strong potential to do well in vote rich northern Virginia. Mr. Northam's base is the southeastern Tidewater region. He also has a strong chance of performing better than Perriello in the state's western coal country. Though the former Congressman is a relatively late entry into the Governor's campaign, he could become competitive and must be regarded as a significant candidate.
More Texas news features Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick squelching rumors that he is considering challenging Gov. Greg Abbott in next year's Republican primary. Mr. Patrick instead announced that he will seek re-election to his current position and simultaneously endorsed Gov. Abbott's bid for a second term.