Beto O'Rourke to Challenge Gov. Abbott; Sen. Patrick Leahy to Retire

November 19, 2021

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways    

  • AZ-Sen: AG Mark Brnovich (R) Still Holding GOP Lead
  • VT-Sen: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) to Retire
  • WA-Sen: Sen. Patty Murray (D) Cruising to Sixth Term
  • CA-14: Rep. Jackie Speier (D) to Retire
  • FL-20: Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick Finally Wins Dem Primary
  • NC-2: Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D) Won’t Seek Re-Election
  • TX-Gov: Ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) to Challenge Gov. Greg Abbott
  • Columbia, SC: Republican Scores Surprise Mayoral Victory


MissouriMissouri State Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) announced that he will join the crowded Republican primary attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R). He becomes the tenth announced GOP candidate. The competitive contenders are former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, US Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), and Billy Long (R-Springfield), and attorney Mark McCloskey. At this point, the leading Democrat appears to be former state Sen. Scott Sifton. 

VermontSenate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT), first elected in 1974, announced that he will not seek a ninth term next year in a bit of a surprise announcement. Earlier indications suggested he would run again, though he never publicly committed to doing so. 

Responding to Sen. Pat Leahy’s (D) retirement announcement, several prominent individuals are already declining to run. Gov. Phil Scott (R), former Governor and ex-US Senate candidate Jim Douglas (R), and former Lt. Governor and 2020 Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Zuckerman all say they will not enter the open Senate contest. Meanwhile, reports suggest that at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich) is telling his colleagues that he will announce his Senate candidacy in the coming days.

WashingtonPublic Policy Polling, surveying for the Northwest Progressive Institute (11/10-11; 909 WA likely voters; live interview and text) tested the Evergreen State electorate for their upcoming Senate race featuring incumbent Patty Murray (D) running for a sixth term. According to the survey, Sen. Murray holds a 50-37% advantage over Republican Tiffany Smiley. She is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.


CA-14Veteran California Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough/San Mateo) announced this week that she will not seek an eighth full term in the US House and will retire at the end of the current Congress. Ms. Speier has been in elective office since 1980, serving on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the California state Assembly, and the state Senate before winning a special election to the House in 2008 to replace the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA). Counting the newly created seats via reapportionment, at least 32 districts will be open in the 2022 midterm election. 

CA-14 will remain safely Democratic. The first two candidates, San Mateo Board of Supervisors chairman David Canepa (D) and Burlingame City Councilwoman Emily Beach (D) are the first to announce their candidacies.

CA-21Former US Rep. T.J. Cox (D), who unseated Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) in 2018 only to see the ex-Congressman “return the favor” two years later, won’t seek a re-match next year. After months ago converting his campaign committee into a political action committee, Mr. Cox this week endorsed state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), who will likely be the congressional candidate who advances into the general election against Mr. Valadao. 

FL-20With all of the ballots counted in the South Florida special Democratic congressional primary, businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is finally the official five-vote winner over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. The final vote total shows Ms. Cherfilus-McCormick, who challenged the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) in the 2020 Democratic primary and lost 69-31%, recording 11,662 votes to Mr. Holness’ 11,657. A total of 11 candidates were on the primary ballot. 

Ms. Cherfilus-McCormick will advance to compete in the January 11th special general election, a vote she will easily win in the heavily Democratic district. Mr. Holness will apparently not challenge the special election result in court but will likely return to run in the regular 2022 primary. Therefore, it is likely this district will again see a very competitive Democratic primary next August.

IA-3Quelling speculation that she might challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), two-term Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines) announced that she will seek re-election to the House in the new 3rd District. The 2021 redistricting map paired Reps. Axne and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), but the latter member announced that she would seek re-election in new District 1. 

We can expect a competitive campaign in the 3rd District. Under the new lines, former President Trump would have carried the seat, 49.3 - 48.9%, and Rep. Axne has not reached 49% in her two plurality congressional victories. The new boundaries yield a slightly more Republican voting history than her previous district. State Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) leads a field of four potential GOP challengers.

MI-8Despite redistricting that will greatly change the current 8th Congressional District, state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Lansing) announced that he will challenge two-term Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) even though the seat might become more Democratic. 

NC-2North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) announced his retirement after nine-plus full terms in office because the new redistricting map makes his district much more competitive. The seat still leans Democratic, but President Biden would have only carried it, 51-48%. His current 1st District yielded Mr. Biden a 54-45% victory margin.

NC-4Ex-state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson (D), who held Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) to a 53-47% re-election victory in the current 8th Congressional District, released a statement saying she would not become a candidate in new District 4, the open lean Republican district that includes the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County. 

PA-7Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie) yesterday filed congressional committee papers with the Federal Election Commission ostensibly to challenge Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) next year. In 2020, Mr. Mackenzie did the same, only to retreat and run for re-election to his state House position. Already in the race is 2020 nominee Lisa Scheller, a former Lehigh County Commissioner and business owner who held Rep. Wild to a 52-48% re-election victory, and technology firm owner Kevin Dellicker. 

TX-30Fifteen-term Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), chair of the House Science Committee, indicated before the 2020 election that this would be her last term in the House. She has scheduled a “special announcement” for Saturday that many now believe will be a re-election announcement since the Congresswoman has refused to confirm her retirement when questioned. Several potential candidates for the safely Democratic Dallas anchored seat are waiting to run in case she does announce that she will step down.

RedistrictingRedistricting has been completed in Idaho, as the redistricting commission members have sent the congressional map to the Secretary of State for certification. With two districts, only 35,338 people need to move from the 1st District to the 2nd, and that transfer will occur in the Boise area. The fact that both seats will house more than 919,000 residents suggest that Idaho may be in line for a new seat come the 2030 census.

The 2021 Massachusetts congressional map has now passed both houses of the state legislature and is headed to Gov. Charlie Baker (R) for his approval. The nine-member delegation, all Democrats, would stay in tact with minimal changes to each individual district. 

The Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission members have published about a dozen maps for public comment. They are expected to adopt a final plan on or about December 29th. Until then, it is difficult to assess any of the Michigan political situations since the state, losing a congressional seat in reapportionment, could witness drastic political changes coming forth.

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission, on a 3-2 vote with a Democratic member supporting the Republican plan, adopted the state’s new two-district congressional map. The western district, the 1st, will include the cities of Missoula, Bozeman, Butte, and Kalispell. The eastern 2nd District, where current at-large Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) will seek re-election, houses the state’s largest city of Billings, Helena, and Great Falls. 

The Ohio plan that loses a congressional district through reapportionment looks to create three highly competitive CDs for the future, two of which the Democrats hold. The current 12R-4D delegation could stretch to 13R-2D, or drop to 11R-4D. The map passed both houses of the Ohio legislature this week and now await Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) signature.

The Nevada state Senate passed the congressional map in their special session and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) immediately signed the legislation. The plan will likely strengthen the state’s current 3D-1R political margin.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the congressional and state legislative maps. The congressional map will lock in the Republicans’ 4R-0D advantage.

Both houses of Wisconsin’s Republican legislature passed congressional and state legislative maps late last week, but Gov. Tony Evers (D), as expected, vetoed all of the plans. This means Wisconsin will have a court-drawn map. 


New JerseyRepublican gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli has officially conceded the 2021 New Jersey campaign, but immediately announced his intention to run again in 2025 when Gov. Phil Murphy (D) will be ineligible to seek a third term under the state’s maximum service law. The final vote totals yield a 51-48% victory spread for Governor Murphy, a vote spread of just under 75,000 votes statewide from a turnout of over 2.57 million votes. The participation level represents an increase of more than 500,000 cast ballots, an uptick exceeding 19%, when compared to the 2017 gubernatorial result.

TexasAs expected, former Congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) announced his challenge to two-term Gov. Greg Abbott (R) during the week. Prior to running for President, Mr. O’Rourke lost the Texas Senate race to incumbent Ted Cruz (R) by a 51-48% margin. He then launched an ill-fated campaign for President. Mr. O’Rourke was first elected to the US House in 2012, defeating then-Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) in the Democratic primary. Prior to serving his three terms in the House, Mr. O’Rourke was an elected member of the El Paso City Council, a position he held for six years.


Columbia, SCIn a city where the black population reaches almost 40% and President Biden recorded a 40 point win in the 2020 presidential contest, Mayoral runoff voters on Tuesday night chose Republican City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann over Democrat Temeika Isaac Devine. The victory spread was 52-48%, a major change from the the 2020 general election margin that so heavily favored Mr. Biden. This suggests another underlying trend showing significant Republican improvement among areas housing large minority communities