Hamilton Electors and Special Elections

December 14, 2016

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


The political left continues to grasp at straws in order to find a way to de-rail Donald Trump's election. The re-counts have ended with Trump actually gaining net votes in Wisconsin, being halted in Michigan, and never gaining serious traction in Pennsylvania. All states have reported their certified election numbers to the Electoral College, meeting the imposed December 13th federal deadline. 

Now attention turns to the December 19th meeting of the national electors for purposes of casting official votes. Reports of Russia so-called "hacking" the electoral system is gaining media attention, but the focus hasn't brought anything more than the Wikileaks release of Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton Campaign emails to the surface. No evidence has been uncovered or released that suggests any state's voting system was interfered with or altered in any way.  

The group calling themselves the "Hamilton Electors" continues to make noise but are making little in the way of progress. The unofficial organization's goal is to convince other electors not to vote for Mr. Trump, thus forcing the election into the House of Representatives. Though Trump would win there, too, the effort is launched to attempt to de-legitimize the President-Elect's political victory

The Hamilton electors are from states, Colorado and Washington specifically, where the majority of voters supported Hillary Clinton. Therefore, mainly convincing electors not to vote for Clinton and instead supporting an alternative Republican is going to inflict little damage upon Trump. 

So far, according to the Republican National Committee elector tracking operation, and accompanying media stories, it appears that only one Republican elector so far, a man from Texas, is saying he will become a faithless Trump elector and vote for someone else. Most states require the electors to vote as their electorates did. Keep in mind that the parties or winning campaigns in the particular state choose the national electors; therefore, seeing en masse defections is highly unlikely. The Electoral College vote will make official the presidential election winner.


The 2016 election cycle officially ended last Saturday with the Louisiana run-offs. As expected, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy easily defeated Democrat Foster Campbell by a 61-39% result in a low turnout of just over 884,000, just a little over half of what other LA run-off elections have produced. Since the campaign was not hotly contested, the contest's foregone conclusion aspect came to fruition with the Kennedy victory.

The nation's final Senate election means the party division beginning the 115th Congress will be 52R-46D-2I, with the latter pair caucusing with the Democrats. 

Now, the new election cycle begins and already we are looking at potentially two upcoming Senate elections. In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has the option of scheduling the vote to replace Attorney General-Designate Jeff Sessions (R), the state's junior Senator, with an early special election or making it concurrent with the regular 2018 election cycle. The Governor will decide after Mr. Sessions is confirmed and officially resigns his current position.  

Should President-Elect Trump choose North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Agriculture Secretary, as appears to be the latest direction, an immediate special election will be called in that state. There, incoming Gov. Doug Burgum (R) will have no appointment authority. If the appointment occurs, at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) will be the early favorite to win the special.


The two Louisiana House run-offs were also decided last Saturday. In the Shreveport seat (LA-4), state Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) defeated attorney J. Marshall Jones (D), 65-35%. The seat is heavily Republican, and 69.8% of the people voting in the jungle primary chose a GOP candidate, so the Johnson victory in the run-off was an early foregone conclusion.

In the neighboring 3rd District, retired Lafayette police captain Clay Higgins (R) racked up a 56-44% run-off victory over fellow Republican Scott Angelle, a state Public Service Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate. The latter will have out-spent Mr. Higgins by about a 4:1 margin, but the local law enforcement folk hero known for his Crime Stoppers videos overcame the financial deficit to score a convincing victory. The Super PAC, Making Louisiana Great Again, came into the battle late to augment the Higgins effort.

The final two House elections means the party division is a 241R-194D split for the coming Congress. The Democrats gained only six seats from in the presidential election, far below the 12-20 seats that most analysts predicted.  

Because of the incoming Trump Administration cabinet choices, special US House elections will occur in Kansas (Rep. Mike Pompeo; 4th District; CIA Director), Georgia (Rep. Tom Price; 6th District; Secretary of Health & Human Services), and now Montana (Rep. Ryan Zinke; at-large; Secretary of Interior).

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) nomination of Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to be the state's Attorney General leads to another special election in that state. Now that Mr. Becerra has officially resigned from the House, Gov. Brown will officially schedule the replacement election.


North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has conceded defeat in the re-count of his re-election effort. Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) has won the race by just about 10,000 votes statewide. The legislature remains solidly under Republican control, however, thus probably limiting what Cooper will be able to do in the state's top position.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D), who had been flirting with a run for Governor next year, announced that he will not become a candidate. Mr. Udall next faces his state's voters in 2020, so he would not have had to risk his Senate seat to enter the Governor's race. Incumbent Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.