This weekend is an unusually busy one for elections. Louisiana is holding its runoff on Saturday for Treasurer and New Orleans Mayor; we will begin liveblogging at 9p ET. Then on Sunday, PA-18 Democrats will hold their special nominating convention; we will liveblog that as well starting at Noon ET. Finally, Chile is also holding its general election on Sunday.
LA-Treas: The lone statewide election this year is the special election for Treasurer, to replace now-Sen. John Kennedy (R). Appointed incumbent Ron Henson (R), who was Kennedy’s deputy and took over for the interim, is not seeking the seat. Attorney Derrick Edwards (D) came in first in the October preliminary round with 31% by virtue of being the only serious Democrat. Edwards is an interesting candidate; he is a quadriplegic who overcame his disability to get a law degree. However, Edwards has not shown any signs of fundraising or running a serious campaign – his campaign is so inept that he has even been unable to submit the required financial paperwork on time. The state’s Democratic establishment is giving him essentially no real support, though he did, however, pick up the official party endorsement ahead of the runoff. Given that he is still not running a particularly serious campaign and the three GOP candidates took 2/3 of the vote in the primary, it would be a shock if Edwards came anywhere close to winning.
Edwards’s rival and the prohibitive favorite in the general is State Rep. John Schroeder (R). Schroeder, who came in second in the primary with 24%, has represented a conservative district on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Schroeder has fundraised well and run a competent campaign, narrowly edging out two serious rivals in the primary. Schroeder’s big possible problem here could be voter overconfidence in the outcome – he is considered such a strong favorite that turnout is likely to be incredibly low, meaning that high New Orleans turnout for the mayoral race could theoretically throw the race to Edwards if turnout is low enough. Assuming Schroeder is competent enough to stimulate even a modest GOP turnout across the rest of the state, he should prevail easily though. RRH Elections currently rates this general election as Safe R.
New Orleans Mayor: New Orleans is coextensive with Orleans Parish (County); it has a population of 400K that breaks down as roughly 60% Black and 30% White. It has a PVI of D+32 (2016). New Orleans has three major socioeconomic groups: upper-income whites, particularly in the city’s northwest and around Tulane, low-income blacks in the central part of the city, and middle-class blacks in the suburban New Orleans East and Algiers neighborhoods. City councilwoman Latoya Cantrell (D) placed first in the primary with 39%. Cantrell is a mainstream liberal, with some mild progressive tendencies. She has strong name recognition from representing a fifth of the city on the council. Cantrell did significantly better than expected in the first round, and also secured the endorsements of both the third and fouth-place finishers. As such, Cantrell looks like a fairly strong favorite to prevail this weekend. Her rival is a fellow mainstream liberal, retired judge Desiree Charbonnet (D), who came in second in the primary with 30%. Charbonnet is a longtime local pol who received national buzz on the bench as one of the first judges to try sentencing-reform initiatives. Her second-place showing in the primary was something of a disappointment, as Charbonnet had the strongest fundraising and establishment support in the first round, including endorsements from Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) and DA Leon Cannizzaro (D) as well as the bulk of the city’s labor organizations. The runoff has become quite nasty, with both Cantrell and Charbonnet hitting the other on questionable spending of taxpayer dollars for personal expenses. The tit-for-tat accusations have left neither candidate looking good, but probably even out in the wash. And thus Cantrell’s stronger first-round performance and endorsements probably leave her a moderate favorite.
There is also a single legislative special this Saturday. LA-LD-77 is an R+30 (2016) seat in exurbs around Covington on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain vacated by Schroeder to focus on his Treasurer run. Antiestablishment-leaning 2014/16 US Senate candidate Rob Maness (R) took first place in the primary with 37% and is facing a runoff with Covington councilman Mark Wright (R), who came in second with 25%. Maness’s strong first-round lead and name rec are strong advantages, but Wright has the endorsements of both eliminated first-round candidates and the local GOP organization. Overall there is no clear favorite in the runoff.
PA-18 Dem Convention: Then on Sunday, Democrats in PA-18 are holding their special nominating convention for a nominee to replace Rep. Tim Murphy (R). The seat is based in and largely coextensive with the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh; it has a PVI of R+11. While this seat is a long-shot for Dems, they may have a small chance for an upset. Dems have a seven-way field with what seem to be four serious contenders. Our liveblog will begin at Noon ET.
Federal prosecutor Conor Lamb (D) looks like the slight but noticeable front-runner. Lamb is in his early 30s, serving a tour in the Marines before a stint as a federal prosecutor. He is also something of an Heir Force candidate as the nephew of Pittsburgh City Comptroller Michael Lamb (D); while none of Pittsburgh is in the seat, that is still a connection that is likely to net him valuable Dem establishment ties at the convention. Unlike his three most serious rivals, Lamb did not enter the race before Murphy resigned, but that may actually be a positive, as all three of his major rivals have had poor fundraising. (my odds – 35%)
Bush 43 Admin official Pam Iovino (D) has an interesting biography as a career Naval officer who later served in a high-level VA post under W. Iovino has also held veterans’ affairs positions in state and Allegheny county government, so she could have some connections. She has also produced a slick webvid to sway delegates. However, Iovino doesn’t have the typical establishment pedigree that is an asset in this type of format. (my odds – 25%)
Ex-Allegheny County commissioner Mike Crossey (D) has strong labor connections as a former head of the state teachers’ union. Crossey seems to be toward the liberal side of the field, which could endear him to activists. However, Crossey’s elective service was over a decade ago, which ended in him losing a State House race by a large margin in 2002. He has also been in the race for some time without raising much cash. (my odds – 22%)
Physician Bob Solomon (D) is also running a serious campaign. He seems to be staking out a niche as the most socially progressive of the major candidates, which could be a good fit for the activist vote at the convention (though probably not great for the general). Solomon’s main problem here is his lack of establishment ties, which will likely be a major handicap for him in the insider-dominated convention format. (my odds – 15%)
A fifth candidate, Westmoreland County commissioner Gina Cerilli (D), has the strongest political pedigree, but is a decided longshot. Cerilli is a DINO who describes herself as pro-life and pro-gun, and won her county commission seat independent of the local machine in 2015. In this district, that’s a profile that would make her a significant force in a primary, but given the strong left turn socially among the party’s activist base, that means her odds of winning a convention are quite slim. Cerilli hasn’t helped her case by suing her county Democratic party alleging they improperly kept delegates favorable to her off the committee. While Cerilli would probably be the strongest general election contender, it would be a true shock if she emerged with the nomination. (my odds – 2%)
Two Some Dudes, psychologist Randy Brock (D) and consultant Keith Seewald (D), are both running on a liberal platforms and don’t seem too serious, but could potentially shock by giving a great speech at the convention. (my odds – 0.5% each) The winner will go on to face State Rep. Rick Saccone (R) in the general. RRH Elections last rated this general election as Safe R, but that was before Murphy’s scandal and resignation, so that rating may require re-evaluation.
Chile: On Sunday, there is also a Presidential election in Chile. Chile has a population of 18M and a land area slightly larger than Texas, hugging a roughly 2000-mile long by 50-mile wide strip between the Pacific and the Andes on the southwest coast of South America. Chile’s politics are still defined by its late-20th century dictatorship history under Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country for most of the 70s and 80s. Pinochet’s legacy is a more mixed one than most dictators. Pinochet made the nation from a copper-dependent middle-income resource extraction state into South America’s only bona-fide first world country and an economic dynamo with his free market policies, but he was also responsible for myriad abuses of power, most notably “disappearances” of regime rivals. Since the fall of the dictatorship in the late 80s, the center-left has generally been Chile’s dominant power due to memories of Pinochet being a problem for the center-right but the country’s embrace of largely free-market economics being a problem for the far-left. Chile’s presidential election uses the French two-round system (50% is required to win, otherwise there will be a runoff between the top two.) Chile’s president serves a four-year term and is not eligible for immediate re-election, but can return after sitting out a term, and that looks like what is most likely to happen here. Incumbent Michelle Bachelet is deeply unpopular for a series of corruption scandals as well as economic mismanagement. She is likely to be succeeded by her predecessor, ex-President Sebastian Pinera, who is mounting a comeback bid. Pinera’s 2009 win was the only time the center-right (known as “Chile Vamos”, or Let’s Go) has captured the Presidency since the fall of Pinochet. Pinera was a wealthy businessman before winning the presidency on a moderately conservative platform. Ideologically and personality wise, a very apt analogy for Pinera might be Romney; he has been known as a competent administrator if somewhat awkward personality-wise. Pinera has been polling in the mid-40s, meaning he has a small chance to win outright, but is more likely to head to a runoff with one of two other major candidates. Center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier (of the “New Majority” Party) is likely to join Pinera, while a far-left candidate, Beatriz Sanchez of the neo-communist Broad Front, is also polling competitively enough to potentially snag the second spot. Polling of the runoff shows Pinera leading either rival by a significant margin. There is also a legislative election. Chile has a bicameral legislature that uses a somewhat strange form of semi-proportional representation: both chambers of the legislature are divided into two-member districts, which generally return one candidate from each of the two largest parties unless the winner polls a 2/3 majority to take both seats. The New Majority has a majority in parliament, but the far-left Broad Front has decided to split (it had previously run as part of New Majority) and run its own parliamentary lists, meaning that Chile Vamos is likely to take at least a plurality.