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Period Ending December 23, 2016

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

President

The 2016 presidential campaign came to a virtual end with the Electoral College formally voting for Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. The “Hamilton Electors” group that was attempting to dissuade electors from voting for Trump failed miserably. Only two electors, both from Texas, voted against Trump making his national total 304 electoral votes as compared to the 306 that were pledged to him on Election Night. Ironically, Hillary Clinton lost two more than Mr. Trump. Her final total dropped from 232 to 228 electoral votes.

The ballots now go to Congress for final tabulation and public presentation on January 6. The members will then vote to accept the Electoral College action, and Mr. Trump will then have the final green light to proceed toward Inauguration Day on January 20.

There is still one protest procedure remaining. 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. None has ever been sustained. This may be the final venue, however, where the Russian hacking issue could still come to the forefront.

Senate

North Dakota: Republican leaders were hoping that President-Elect Trump would appoint Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Secretary of Agriculture. Her vacating the Senate seat would force a special election, of which the Republicans would almost assuredly win. Such an action would give the GOP an additional seat in the Senate chamber. Though Mr. Trump appears willing to offer her the position, pressure from her Democratic colleagues and party leaders has apparently given Sen. Heitkamp pause about accepting any Administration offer. It is now widely believed that she will not be leaving the Senate. This seat next comes before the voters in 2018.

House

CA-34: The special election to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) who resigned his seat to become state Attorney General has yet to be called, but we have a strong idea about the eventual schedule. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will soon call the election, but the logical time would be to run the congressional campaign concurrently with the Los Angeles City Council elections. Their initial election is March 7, with the run-off election posted for May 16. Already nine candidates have announced for the congressional special including six Democrats. The 34th is heavily Democratic and it is probable that two party members will advance. All contenders will appear on the March 7 ballot. If no one secures an absolute majority, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will move to the May 16 run-off.

FL-13: Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County), who lost to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) 52-48% in the November election, is not ruling out a return to elective politics. He could challenge Crist to a re-match in 2018, or enter one of a multitude of statewide races that will be on the Sunshine State ballot in that same year. Though this seat was drawn as a solid Democratic district in the mid-decade redistricting plan, Jolly only lost by four points and Donald Trump came within just three of topping Hillary Clinton.

FL-23: Democratic attorney Tim Canova, who attracted a great deal of national media attention for his 2016 primary challenge to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), is considering another attempt in two years. Canova raised almost $4 million for his challenge earlier this year, attracting strong support from the Bernie Sanders’ coalition. Still, the money and notoriety only brought him 43% of the vote against Ms. Wasserman Schultz. The Congresswoman would begin the re-match as a strong favorite.

IL-10: Rep. Bob Dold (R-Kenilworth) who since 2010 has won the 10th District twice and lost it an equal number of times, is not ruling out another return engagement in two years. He has lost two out of three contests to Rep-Elect Brad Schneider (D), but could make it four consecutive campaigns if the two tangle yet again in 2018.

MT-AL: President-Elect Donald Trump’s choosing of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) as Interior Secretary means a statewide special election will occur to replace the incumbent, who was just re-elected for the first time in November. In Montana, party leaders will meet to choose a nominee, meaning the electorate will only vote once. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will schedule the special election upon Rep. Zinke being confirmed to his new position and resigning the congressional seat. Republicans will have a myriad of candidates seeking the party leaders’ favor. Democrats will more than likely turn to outgoing state Superintendent of Public Instruction and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau (D) who lost to Zinke, 41-56%.

NE-2: Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), another of the defeated incumbents, indicated that he would consider seeking a re-match with Rep-Elect Don Bacon (R) in 2018. Helped by Donald Trump carrying the 2nd District, retired Air Force General Bacon was able to unseat freshman Rep. Ashford, 49-48%.

NM-1: With Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) already announcing her campaign for Governor, a surprising piece of information is coming to the forefront. Long believing that Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) would attempt to succeed term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in 2018, rumors are now floating that the former may enter the open 1st District House campaign instead. Hillary Clinton carried NM-1, 52-35%, while Rep. Grisham was re-elected to a third term, 65-35%, against weak opposition. Neither race would be an easy one for Mr. Sanchez.

SC-5: President-Elect Trump choosing Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as his Director of the Office of Management & Budget means we will see at least five national congressional special mid-year elections. The seat, which begins in the South Carolina Charlotte suburbs and moves south along I-77 to the Columbia and Sumter suburbs, is safely Republican. President-Elect Trump carried the district 57-39%, while Rep. Mulvaney was re-elected, 59-39%. The South Carolina system would feature special partisan primaries, a two-week run-off if no candidate reaches 50% in the first vote, and a special general election. The eventual Republican nominee will be a heavy favorite to hold the seat.

Governor

Florida: Former state House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) announced that he will not enter the open Governor’s race in 2018. He was expected to be a significant contender if he did become a candidate. Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), who is retiring from the House instead of seeking re-election in a re-drawn district that greatly favored the Republicans, says she intends on running for Governor but first must care for her husband who is going through prostate cancer treatment.

Maine: With term-limited Gov. Paul LePage (R) leaving the Governor’s chair open in 2018, both Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/Portland) and Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) say they are not ruling out running for Governor in the next election. Rep. Pingree was easily elected to a fifth term last month, while Mr. Poliquin won his second. Should both enter the statewide race, each of the state’s congressional districts would open.

Maryland: Labor Secretary Tom Perez (D), who is thought to be considering a challenge to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, is also contemplating a run for Democratic National Committee chairman. In that race, he would face liberal Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN-5). Should Mr. Perez become the party chairman, it is unlikely he would pursue a 2018 campaign as an elective candidate.

Rhode Island: Attorney Clay Pell (D), grandson of the late former six-term Sen. Claiborne Pell (D), may be interested in another run for Governor. Mr. Pell lost to current incumbent Gina Raimondo (D) in the 2014 Democratic primary, but some unpopular decisions have weakened her position. Though Rhode Island is a heavily Democratic state, Republicans can be competitive in statewide gubernatorial campaigns. In the last election, Raimondo only defeated Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R), 41-36%, with Independent Bob Healey capturing 21% of the vote.