Congressional Retirements And An Election Tie

January 5, 2018

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

Key Takeaways:

  • Two new Democratic Senators sworn in this week
  • Mitt Romney (R) likely to succeed Sen. Hatch (R-UT)
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) draw a primary challenge
  • Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH12) set to leave Congress on Jan.  15th
  • Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA9) to retire at the end of his current term
  • Virginia House of Delegates' majority was decided in a draw that broke a tie in a district race yesterday that gave the majority to the Republicans


Michigan:  Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young (R), who launched his Senate challenge to incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) months ago, announced he is ending his campaign.  Unable to raise sufficient funds to compete in a large state, the former jurist will presumably retire from elective politics.  This likely leaves manufacturing business owner and retired Army Ranger John James and venture capital firm owner Sandy Pensler to battle for the party nomination.  The Michigan primary won't be held until August 7th.  Sen. Stabenow is favored to win a fourth term.

Minnesota:  Sen. Al Franken (D) officially left office on January 2nd, and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was sworn in the next day as his replacement.  Sen. Smith has already announced that she will compete in the 2018 special election to fill the balance of the current term.  While former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is not yet closing the door on running for the Senate, US Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) is saying people are calling for him to run.  Mr. Emmer was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010, losing to Democrat Mark Dayton by just under 9,000 votes statewide, or half a percentage point.  State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point/Washington County) also says she will enter the special election contest.  Sen. Housley is the wife of Phil Housley, the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey club.

North Dakota:  State Rep. Rich Becker (R), who competed in the 2016 state Republican Convention for the Governor's nomination, said yesterday that he will not become a US Senate candidate.  Mr. Becker had been openly considering running for the party nomination to oppose first-term North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).  At-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) still maintains he is contemplating a Senate bid, but the only person to actually come forward to declare his candidacy is state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton). 

Texas:  We now see the first released US Senate poll since the New Year began, and it contains good news for the Lone Star State's first-term Republican Senator, Ted Cruz.  According to WPA Intelligence, polling for the Cruz Campaign (12/12-14; 600 TX likely voters), the Senator would have a 52-34% opening advantage over US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso).  The latter man appears to have become the consensus Democratic candidate; therefore, he should easily win the March 6th Democratic primary without a run-off.  Though Mr. O'Rourke is capable of running a strong campaign and will attract national liberal funding, Sen. Cruz begins this race as a heavy favorite to secure a second term.

Utah:  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) finally ended speculation about his 2018 political plans since the holidays ended and will not seek an eighth term during this campaign season, thus ending a Senate career that will span 42 years when this Congress adjourns.  On the heels of his retirement announcement, the Senator again made a public pronouncement that he favors Republican former presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to succeed him. 

Evan McMullin, the Independent presidential candidate who scored 21.5% of the vote in Utah and finished just six points behind Hillary Clinton for second place, was openly considering entering a Republican primary bid against Mr. Hatch.  With the Senator now officially retiring, Mr. McMullin was quoted late this week as saying he would also support former Gov. Romney, should the latter man decide to run for the Utah seat.  As has been the case for months, Mr. Romney remains silent about whether he would enter a new political contest.  If he declines to run, then expect Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington/Salt Lake City) and possibly Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), along with several others, to enter the statewide campaign.


AL-2:  Rich Hobson, campaign manager to failed US Senate candidate Roy Moore (R), yesterday announced that he will enter the field to challenge four-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in this year's June Republican primary.  Already in the race are state Rep. Barry Moore and Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason.  Though Rep. Roby only won re-election in the 2016 general election by a 49-40% count, it does not now appear that any of the three Republican challengers will be strong enough to deny her re-nomination.

AZ-7:  In an unusual twist, a Democratic congressional incumbent is drawing a primary challenge from his right.  State Sen. Catherine Miranda announced yesterday that she will challenge two-term Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) for his heavily Democratic urban Maricopa County CD.  Sen. Miranda even went so far as to cross party lines to endorse Republican Doug Ducey in the 2014 open seat battle that he would subsequently win.  Rep. Gallego is favored for re-nomination in a district that is 64% Hispanic, but it will be interesting to monitor how well a credible Blue Dog can perform in a secure Democratic CD. 

MS-3:  Five-term Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Pearl/Jackson) announced late this week that he will not stand for re-election, becoming the 30th current Republican not to run for another term.  This is in addition to 15 Democrats who have taken the same course.  Less than half of the exiting group, 18 in all so far, are running for another office, either Senator or Governor with one already announcing for the 2020 presidential contest.  The remainder are voluntarily retiring or have already resigned typically because of sexual harassment allegations.

The 3rd District, which occupies most of central Mississippi, has a safely Republican voting history.  Therefore, the eventual party nominee will be a heavy favorite to hold the seat for the GOP. 

OH-12:  Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County), who declared last year that he would resign from Congress to accept a position as head of the Ohio Business Roundtable, stated yesterday that he will officially leave the House on January 15th.  Once the seat becomes vacant, Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule the special election to replace Mr. Tiberi.  It is likely that the state's May 8th regular primary election will serve as either the special primary or special general election.  The GOP is expected to hold what has performed as a safely Republican district.

PA-9:  In November, veteran Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) announced that he would seek re-election in 2018 even though his chairmanship of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is drawing to an end when the current Congress adjourns.  As 2018 begins, however, Mr. Shuster has suddenly reversed course and announced that he will not seek re-election after all.  Under its present configuration, the 9th District should remain safely Republican.  If the Democrats win their redistricting lawsuit, however, the district could drastically change in a re-draw, meaning this open seat could easily turn more Democratic


Virginia:  The Virginia House of Delegates' majority has come down to one single district that ended in a tied vote.  Therefore, literally one vote statewide is determining which party will control the chamber in the next legislative session.  After the state three-judge panel ruled that a particular contested ballot must be counted for Republican Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), the 94th District House of Delegates electoral outcome officially became a tie.  Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds asked for reconsideration, but the court again ruled the vote must be counted.  This led to the drawing of lots to determine who would officially win the election.  On Wednesday, the process was completed and Delegate Yancey won the draw.  Ms. Simonds apparently has the right to ask for yet another recount, and she already indicated that she will pursue such a course of action.  So, this post-election saga will apparently continue for some time, but for now the official ruling declares that Mr. Yancey is the winner.