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Democrats Gain Control of Senate After Georgia Runoffs and Vacancies Shake Out in the House

January 8, 2021

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

Key Takeaways

  • GA-Sen: Democrats Win Runoff
  • OR-Sen: Sen. Ron Wyden (D) to Seek Re-election
  • House: Vacancy Update
  • LA-2, 5: Special Elections Scheduled
  • MA-Gov: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) May Not Seek Third Term
  • RI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Dan McKee (D) to Succeed Gov. Gina Raimondo (D)
  • NYC Mayor: Ex-Rep. Max Rose (D) Drops Mayoral Campaign (D)

Senate

Georgia: Georgia: Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, defeating Sen. David Perdue (R) and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), and now more is known. There is no question the team concept worked, as particularly Messrs. Warnock and Ossoff jointly ran their campaigns. 

The latest numbers suggest that the turnout difference between the two races was only 69 voters of more than 4.44 million who cast their ballots. It also appears that all of those 69 who voted in the special election but not in the in-cycle contest all cast their ballots for Rev. Warnock.  The latest published numbers find Mr. Ossoff defeating Sen. Perdue by 35,615 votes. Rev. Warnock topped appointed Sen. Loeffler by 73,404 tallies.

Despite losing the statewide vote, the Republican team carried 128 of the state’s 159 counties, but only one where more than 70,000 people voted. The Democratic team won in every county where the aggregate vote total exceeded 125,000 ballots. The Democrats will now assume the Senate majority on a 50-50 split with Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

OregonSen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) yesterday publicly confirmed that he will seek re-election next year. Mr. Wyden was first elected to the Senate in a 1996 special election defeating former US Sen. Gordon Smith (R) in a close race. He has since been re-elected in 1998, 2004, 2010, and 2016, averaging 57.4% of the vote over the five elections. 

Prior to winning his Senate seat, Mr. Wyden served all or a part of eight terms in the US House. Sen. Wyden, age 71, will become the Senate Finance Committee chairman with the Democrats winning the two Georgia runoff elections. The Senator will be a heavy favorite for re-election regardless of who eventually challenges him.

House

House of Representatives: The House was called to order in a rare Sunday swearing-in ceremony, and 433 members assumed office. The 434th seat, NY-22, still has yet to see a certified winner declared as the local court continues to wade through contested ballots. The margin between Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) and former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) is just a handful of votes that seesaws back and forth as the eight counties produce final tallies… literally two months after the election was held. The death of Louisiana Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R) means a special election will be called to fill this vacancy, which is the 435th seat. 

Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Deb Haaland (D-NM) will all be resigning shortly to accept positions in the Biden Administration. Mr. Richmond is scheduled to depart on January 15th in order to assume his new position as White House senior advisor and Director of Public Engagement. His appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Reps. Fudge and Haaland will go through the confirmation process for the positions of Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Interior, respectively. They will resign from the House upon earning Senate confirmation.

IA-2At Sunday’s official House commencement procedure, Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) was provisionally seated. She is a certified six-vote winner, but opponent Rita Hart (D) has petitioned the House to review 22 ballots that county officials rejected. The number of contested ballots would change the result if added to the final tally. Should the House Administration Committee change the certified result, the entire House will vote to seat the new winner. Ms. Hart chose not to appeal the state ruling through the Iowa court system, which was her next course of action, but instead came directly to the US House.

LA-2Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced late this week that he has received Rep. Cedric Richmond’s (D-New Orleans) formal resignation letter effective January 15th. Mr. Richmond, originally elected to the House in 2010, has been appointed a White House Senior Advisor and director of the Office of Public Engagement. The Governor confirms that the filing deadline for the March 20th special election will be January 22nd. If no candidate receives majority support in the initial election a runoff between the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will be held on April 24th. The vacant 5th District, due to Rep-Elect Luke Letlow’s (R) death, will be filled on the same schedule.

OH-10Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley (D) announced earlier this week that she will not seek re-election to her current position later this year. Her move suggests she will make a run at higher office, possibly against Gov. Mike DeWine (R) or Sen. Rob Portman (R), and she specifically didn’t close the door on challenging veteran US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), himself once a holder of the office Mayor Whatley now occupies. 

Redistricting will play a major role in how the Buckeye State districts unfold next year, particularly since Ohio looks poised to lose another of their 16 congressional seats in reapportionment. Mayor Whatley did declare herself a candidate in the 2018 Governor’s race but dropped her bid once former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray returned from Washington to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He would go on to lose to current Gov. DeWine by a 50-47% margin despite almost uniform prognostication that he would win the race.

WI-2Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Vermont/Madison) ended speculation that he would challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R) next year by publicly stating yesterday that he will remain in the House. Mr. Pocan was first elected in 2012 and has averaged 75% of the vote in his five elections, including running unopposed in 2018. He will have little trouble winning a sixth term in a south-central Badger State district that gave President-Elect Joe Biden a 69-29% margin of victory.

Governor

California: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), who just left office at the end of 2020 because he had reached his term limited amount of service, is reportedly about to file a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Mr. Faulconer won election to the second largest office that a California Republican holds. Only Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger represents more people than did former Mayor Faulconer. 

The California Governor’s race is getting more interesting since a live recall petition against incumbent Gavin Newsom (D) is gathering steam. If the proper number of valid signatures are filed, 1,495,709 in this situation (12% of the total number of votes cast in the 2018 Governor’s election), Gov. Newsom would stand for a recall election. 

The last time this procedure was employed occurred in 2003 when then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled from office on a 55-45% vote. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him for the unfinished balance of the term. It is presumed that Mr. Faulconer would become a candidate in the recall election, should such an event occur.

GeorgiaThe Trafalgar Group released their Georgia US Senate poll, but also reported a test question about the impending 2022 Governor’s race. Steeped in controversy over the election fraud issue in the state, Gov. Kemp is in political freefall within his own party according to the survey. 

The poll tested former Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) against Gov. Kemp in a hypothetical 2022 Republican primary. The survey found Mr. Collins leading the incumbent 46-24% among likely Republican primary voters. When leaners are added, the Collins advantage grows to a whopping 52-32%. 

MassachusettsIt has been presumed that Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA), who has enjoyed some of the best approval ratings of any state chief executive, would seek a third term, but political reporters at the Boston Herald newspaper are speculating differently. Apparently, they have detected that Gov. Baker’s fundraising has significantly slowed, while Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) is aggressively filling her campaign coffers. Massachusetts has no term limit law, so Gov. Baker is eligible to seek a third term. 

MichiganFormer Congresswoman and Michigan Secretary of State Candice Miller (R), who is currently the Macomb County Public Works Director, was rumored to be considering a run for Governor next year, but she has now quelled such speculation. Earlier in the week, Ms. Miller announced that she would not challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during the 2022 election cycle.

MinnesotaMy Pillow company founder Mike Lindell, who has come to fame with his prolific cable TV advertising, is reportedly readying a campaign to run for Governor Reports suggest he is 90-95% certain to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination for a chance to oppose Gov. Tim Walz (D) in next year’s general election. Mr. Lindell made similar political noises in 2018, only to refrain from entering the race. The Minnesota Governor’s campaign is expected to be competitive and Republicans are planning for a crowded primary.

Rhode IslandPresident-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) as US Commerce Secretary means that Lt. Governor Dan McKee (D) will assume the state’s top job once the current incumbent is confirmed for her new federal position. Mr. McKee had made it known that he intended to run for Governor in 2022 with the intent of succeeding the term-limited Governor. US Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza are also frequently mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates.

Cities

Boston President-Elect Joe Biden has designated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his Labor Secretary nominee. Upon confirmation, he will resign from his current position, a post he has held since the beginning of 2014. Mr. Walsh was originally planning to seek a third term this year as Mayor but will now give way to what will be a crowded field of Democrats vying to replace him. Announced for the Mayor’s race are Boston City Council Member-at-Large Michelle Wu, and 4th District Council Member Andrea Campbell. Current City Council President Kim Janey will become Mayor upon Mr. Walsh’s resignation. It is presumed that Ms. Janey, too, would enter the 2021 campaign.

New York CityOne-term Congressman Max Rose (D-Staten Island), who lost his seat to Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) in November, had very quickly declared to run for the open New York City mayoral post upon his concession. In a figurative blink of an eye, his campaign has already ended. Due to the crowded field – more than a dozen Democratic candidates are expected to compete for the opportunity of replacing outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) – Mr. Rose failed to see a clear path to victory, hence his decision to end his campaign before even officially filing for the office.  

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is expected to soon announce his candidacy for the NYC post. Early polling suggests that he and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are the two leading candidates. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 22nd with the general election calendared for November 2, 2021.