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Period Ending January 6, 2017

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

President-Elect Donald Trump has one more hurdle to overcome, and that occurs later today. Objections can be made to the official electoral vote count when the state results are released to a joint congressional session. On Election Night, Mr. Trump scored a 306-232 victory over Hillary Clinton. After the official electors cast their votes, the state tallies suggest the final margin will be 304-227, with seven votes going to other individuals, according to The New York Times.

Members of Congress can still object to certain electors. To lodge an objection, a member of the House and Senate must jointly object. The houses then return to their respective chambers and debate the issue for no more than two hours. They then vote whether or not to sustain the objection. Two times in US history has this happened, the latest in 2005. Neither challenge was sustained. This may be the final venue, however, where the Russian hacking issue and the seating of electors could still come to the forefront.

Once this process concludes, Mr. Trump will be officially inaugurated as the nation’s 45th President on January 20.

Senate

Minnesota: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced to the Minneapolis media that she will seek a third term next year. The Senator had been contemplating a run for Governor, since incumbent Mark Dayton (D) is ineligible to run for a third term. A crowded field for Governor, featuring two competitive primaries and a general election battle, will overshadow the Senate race, which all plays to Ms. Klobuchar’s favor. She should be re-elected with little in the way of challenge or fan fare.

Nevada: In what is likely the Democrats’ top conversion target, Sen. Dean Heller (R) publicly committed this week to seeking re-election next year. He had been openly testing the waters for a gubernatorial run since Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) cannot run for a third term. Sen. Heller was not particularly supportive of Donald Trump even after the latter became the official Republican nominee. Therefore, he reportedly feels politically weak in a contested Republican primary. With only a one-point victory to his credit in 2012 – 46-45% over then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) – we can expect the upcoming Silver State race to be one of the most competitive Senate campaigns in the nation.

North Dakota: For the first time, at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) is admitting to at least considering a challenge to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) next year. Mr. Cramer says he will make a decision about running in the “next few months.” As time passes, it appears more likely that Sen. Heitkamp will not be joining the Trump Administration so it is probable that she will seek re-election in 2018 and become a major national target.

House

FL-13: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), who formerly served as Florida’s Governor, says he will not run statewide in 2018. Rep. Crist notes that he is already planning his first re-election campaign for the House seat that he just won in November.

MT-AL: Under Montana law, when a vacancy in the state’s lone congressional seat occurs, the political parties will meet in convention to choose special election nominees. This means we will see a large number of candidates “applying” for the nomination in each of the major parties. Despite Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) still having to endure a confirmation process, thus precluding the scheduling of any special election, three Democrats and two Republicans, all from the state legislature, have already declared themselves as candidates.

For the Democrats, three state Representatives: Amanda Curtis, Casey Schreiner, and Kelly McCarthy are in the candidate mix. Ms. Curtis has statewide experience, losing 58-40% to Sen. Steve Daines (R) in the 2014 general election. Whether such a failed run helps her secure this congressional nomination remains to be seen. For the Republicans, state Senators Ed Buttrey and Daniel Zolnikov have made official public candidacy declarations. The special election will be within 100 days of the seat becoming vacant. If Rep. Zinke is confirmed sometime in February, the subsequent special election will be held in late May, or more likely, June.

SC-5: State Representative and former congressional candidate Ralph Norman (R) became the first individual to declare for the eventual special election to replace Office and Management & Budget Director-Designate Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) upon the latter’s confirmation to his new position in the Trump Administration. Mr. Norman previously ran for the congressional post in 2006, losing to then-incumbent John Spratt (D), 57-43%. Four years later, Mr. Mulvaney would defeat Rep. Spratt, 55-45%. State Rep. Norman won his House seat in 2004, but chose to run for Congress instead of re-election. In 2009, he re-claimed the state position via a special election victory.

Governor

Colorado: Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos Vice President and General Manager John Elway (R) announced that he will not enter the open gubernatorial contest next year. Just before the Elway announcement, wealthy Democratic businessman Noel Ginsburg declared that he will become a candidate. Both parties are expected to field several strong candidates, apiece. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Iowa: Former state Natural Resources Director Richard Leopold (D) announced that he will run for Governor next year, presumably against what will be an un-elected incumbent. With Gov. Terry Branstad (R) being appointed US Ambassador to China, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) will ascend to the Governor’s position. It is unlikely that she will face a strong Republican primary challenge, but it is way too early to tell how all of the political dominos may yet fall.

New Jersey: State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, a legislative ally of Gov. Chris Christie (R), announced that he will not enter the open Governor’s campaign next year. Mr. Christie is ineligible to seek a third term, but would likely fare poorly if he were able to run. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) is expected to make a gubernatorial bid, but the eventual Democratic nominee will likely begin the general election as the early favorite.

Virginia: Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) surprisingly announced his own gubernatorial campaign at the end of this week. Mr. Perriello was elected to Congress in 2006, but lost the Republican-leaning district two years later. He will face Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic nominating process, which will likely be a statewide primary. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) cannot run for re-election. Former Republican National Committee chairman and US Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is the leading GOP candidate. Virginia is the only state in the nation to limit its chief executives to one term in office.