There are three vacant seats in the U.S. House, all of them held by Republicans, that will be filled through special elections this year. One is due to an incumbent’s death, one due to a resignation, and the final one carries over from last Fall, with a state board unanimously calling a new election as potential election fraud called the November results into doubt.
Pennsylvania 12th District
General election date: May 21
Democratic: Marc Friedenberg
Republican: Fred Keller
Representative Tom Marino took up a job in the private sector and resigned late January, setting in motion the first of the House specials (in general election chronology) this year. Marino defeated Friedenberg last fall by a two to one margin in one of the reddest districts in the nation.
How red is it? While fourteen candidates applied on the Republican side, Friedenberg earned his slot by default since no other Democrat declared. Keller earned his at his party’s convention on March 2nd.
North Carolina 3rd Congressional District
Primary election date: April 30th
Runoff primary date: July 9th
General election (if runoffs triggered): September 10th (if no runoffs, July 9th)
Democratic: Richard Bew, Gregory Humphrey, Ike Johnson, Dana Outlaw, Ernest Reeves, Allen Thomas
Republican: Kevin Balko, Paul Beaumont, Graham Boyd, Celeste Claims, Gary Ceres, Chimer Clark Jr, Don Cox, Francis De Luna, Phil Law, Jeff Moore, Greg Murphy, Michele Nix, Mike Payment, Joan Perry, Eric Rouse, Phil Shepard, Michael Speciale
Libertarian: Shannon Bray, Tim Harris
Constitutionalist: Greg Holt
Congressman Walter Jones, who had represented the district for a quarter century, died on February 10th, triggering the current special election. Rep. Jones was a popular incumbent who had won every election comfortably for the last two decades. In 2018, he was one of the few Republicans to face no opposition in a general election. The district voted strongly for President Trump and has been considered safely Republican for years.
That hasn’t dissuaded Democrats from trying in the open contest, however. Six Democrats, including the 2016 Democratic nominee Ernest Reeves, former mayor of Greenville Allen Thomas, and former U.S. Marine Corps colonel Richard Bew, threw their hats into the ring. There is a stronger chance the Democrats may avoid a runoff election for their primary, considering their relatively smaller field, but with a 30% threshold it could still take two rounds to pare things down.
The Republicans are strongly favored to keep the seat, and the field is so massive a runoff seems inevitable. Seventeen candidates compete on April 30th for the primary, including Phil Law (who tried to primary Jones twice), Vice Chair of the state party Michele Nix, and State Representatives Greg Murphy, Phil Shepard, and Michael Speciale. Law is the only one in the field to attempt this twice before, and earned substantial vote shares even if falling short. But with such a huge field, it’s hard to give anyone an edge.
North Carolina 9th Congressional District
Primary election date: May 14th
Primary runoff date: September 10th
General election date (if runoffs triggered): November 5th (if no runoffs, September 10th)
Declared Candidates as of March 13th:
Democratic: Dan McCready
Republican: Matthew Riddenhour, Stevie Rivenbark, Nadia Robinson, Stony Rushing, Fern Shubert
Libertarian: Jeffery Scott
Last year’s election in this district “ended” with Republican Mark Harris defeating Dan McCready by a little over 900 votes. Soon after McCready conceded, allegations of election fraud committed by contractors working on Harris’ behalf were investigated by the State Board of Elections. After hearings last month, the board voted unanimously to call a special election. While the controversy was brewing in late 2018, the state legislature passed changes in election law that would allow for a new primary to be held in addition to a new general election in the event of such action. While vetoed by Governor, the legislature override the veto in late December.
Mark Harris, the Republican who led in the unofficial vote count, has passed on the opportunity to run in the special. The incumbent Republican he successfully primaried, Robert Pittenger, also declined.
McCready, depending on the outcome of the Republican primary, may wind up a slight favorite going into the general election. He barely lost last time- a loss carrying an asterisk so large, it’s the whole reason for the current special election. Former Governor Matt McCrory, who was named by some insiders as a potential nominee, declined to run. While certainly a stronger candidate in the region, results wise, than Harris (he carried the district by double digits even while losing statewide in 2016), Decision Desk map maker and elections analyst Miles Coleman pointed out that this suburb-heavy district changed dramatically for him between 2012 and 2016:
It is certainly possible for Republicans to hold the district, but their performance in special Congressional contests, particularly in suburbs, has been lackluster over the last two years. This will be their toughest hold of the three Congressional specials on this year’s calendar.