2017 General Election Previews, Part 1: Legislatures & Miscellany

Today we are kicking off our 3-part general election preview series, with legislative races and miscellaneous other contests (mostly at the county level, but also the NYC Council). Part 2 tomorrow will cover Mayors and Part 3 on Monday will cover marquee races in NJ, VA, and NYC.

VA State House: The Virginia House of Delegates is generally considered to be the highest-profile chamber up this year. Republicans hold a whopping 66-34 majority in the House, but the map is starting to look like something of a dummymander as Hillary carried 51 of the 100 seats. That situation combined with the energized Dem base has led Democrats to be very hopeful for gains here, and a large number of races are seriously contested. There are around 25-30 seats that are at least somewhat competitive, almost all of them R-held. However, given the huge GOP advantage you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone other than the most optimistic Dem partisan who thinks Dems have more than a tiny chance of taking the chamber. CW seems to be betting on a high single-digit D gain as the most likely outcome, with D+5 or less a good night for Republicans and D+10 or more a good night for Democrats. Because not one but two other truly excellent previews of these races have been written already, I’m not going to duplicate them, but rather I will simply link to Geoffrey Skelley’s writeup from UVA as well as Miles Coleman’s 6-part series at DDHQ. FWIW, they’re both worth a read for comparison purposes, as Skelley seems to forecast somewhat smoother sailing for Republicans than Coleman.

UVA Crystal Ball || DDHQ1 || DDHQ2 || DDHQ3 || DDHQ4 || DDHQ5 || DDHQ6

County Races: There are also 10 miscellaneous county-level races worth a mention, most of them county executive races across New York State.

Nassau, NY-CE: Nassau County covers a swath of central Long Island and remains the archetypal microcosm of American suburbia. While mostly middle-class suburbs, it does have some poorer pockets, particularly in Hempstead and Freeport, and some very wealthy pockets along the North Shore. Nassau has a population of 1.3M and a PVI of D+2 (2016), though one can not talk about Nassau without mentioning its legendary Republican Machine (side note: THIS is among the best pieces of political writing ever. If you haven’t read it do so.) For generations Nassau County has been dominated by a machine of hackish RINOs who have held onto power at all (figurative and literal) cost. The County Executive’s job is open this year after incumbent Ed Mangano (R), as archetypal a Nassau machine hack as they come, was indicted on corruption charges. Democrats are enthusiastic about their chances to take the seat back (though, it should be said that they were also enthusiastic about beating Mangano in 2013, which ended in a surprisingly easy Mangano victory). Attempting to hold the seat for the GOP is ex-State Sen. and 2016 NY-3 nominee Jack Martins (R). Martins, a well-regarded former Mineola mayor and State Senator from a purple seat, is considered a strong nominee for the GOP, though his congressional run last year fell flat amid anti-Trump sentiment in his upscale district. At the local level though, Martins has proved adept at using his machine backing. Martins has picked up a number of surprising endorsements, including from many labor groups – not only the more conservative public safety unions, but several typically liberal civil service unions as well. Martins’s rival is county commissioner Laura Curran (D). Curran has been a mainstream liberal on the commission, but has been on mediocre terms with the local machine. That profile seemed a good one for Democrats this year hoping to cast the race as a referendum on Trump and Mangano. The big question in this race is whether Martins’s local establishment support and crossover appeal can counterbalance the greater trends in favor of Curran, and right now there is no obvious answer. The two have fundraised essentially equally, and each has released an internal with themselves in the lead by roughly 5 points, with the one public poll showing a 2-point edge for Martins. Needless to say, overall there appears to be no clear favorite.

Fulton, GA-CE: Fulton County is an oddly-shaped snake that covers the city of Atlanta as well as two large chunks of suburbs in the north-central and southwest parts of the metro. It has a black plurality and a PVI of D+19 (2016). Three candidates are squaring off in a special election to fill the seat of John Eaves (D), who resigned to run for Atlanta Mayor; it is in a Louisiana Rules Top Two format. The slight front-runner looks like ex-county commissioner and 2014 CE candidate Robb Pitts (D). A longtime local pol, Pitts, who is black, served on the Atlanta council before losing a 2001 mayoral bid. He then won a swingy white-majority commission seat and held it through several competitive races. Pitts is a somewhat moderate liberal with mavericky tendencies; he has habitually voted against county budgets on the commission. Pitts’s intraparty rival is State Rep. Keisha Waites (D). Waites is also a mainstream liberal with some moderate tendencies. Her main difference with Pitts is generally style, as she is a much more easygoing type of pol. Republicans are also seriously contesting this seat, with a credible contender in Sandy Springs councilman and former congressional staffer Gabriel Sterling (R). Sterling is a moderate conservative and considered a rising star in the party. Though he is facing tough terrain, Republicans held this seat as recently as 2006. Turnout differences and crossover support thus mean Sterling’s chances should not be discounted. There is no clear favorite in this race; a runoff seems likely and any two could advance.

Westchester, NY-CE: Westchester County covers NYC’s northern suburbs between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. It is wealthy for the most part and the bulk of the county consists of some of the nation’s most upscale suburbs. However, it also includes some poor urban areas in Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon, among others, and a few scattered more lower-middle-class pockets. It has a population of 975K and has been trending left for some time, reaching a PVI of D+16 (2016). Incumbent Rob Astorino (R) won this seat in a considerable upset in 2009. Astorino is a staunch conservative by the standards of the NYC suburbs, but his tenure as county executive has proven successful, especially in his favorable resolution of a long-running fight between the county and HUD over affordable housing options. Astorino has also been successful at not raising property taxes (though they are still by far the highest in the nation). Unsurprisingly, he has been considered a rising star in broader GOP circles, especially after an easy win over a credible rival in 2013. He received the GOP nomination for Governor in 2014 and is seen as certain to consider a second bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2018. That position as a potential Cuomo rival, as well as strong anti-Trump sentiment in the county, has led Democrats to become more enthusiastic about taking him out this year. State Sen. George Latimer (D) is the Democratic choice to take on Astorino. Latimer, a mainstream liberal, was considered a strong candidate, as he has won several tough elections and locked down a purple State Senate seat. This year, Latimer’s biggest help is from the deep-blue lean of the county and the highly energized state of the upscale liberal base (which comprises a huge portion of the Westchester electorate.) However, Latimer’s campaign has suffered a string of embarrassing headlines in recent weeks. First, it came out that Latimer owes $48K in back property taxes. Then it came out that Latimer missed a key Senate vote for a vacation… with his mistress, a local judge with whom the married Latimer has been having a longtime (and not so secret) affair. And if that wasn’t enough, Latimer’s car registration has also been revoked over unpaid parking tickets (and yeah, he’s still driving the car anyway). These embarassing issues for Latimer have gotten plenty of exposure, as Astornio has dramatically outspent Latimer. With the deep-blue lean of the county and energized liberal base counteracting Astorino’s strong personal brand and Latimer’s weak campaign, overall there appears to be no clear favorite.

Rockland, NY-CE: Rockland is a D+2 (2016) county of 325K in the northwest NYC suburbs. Rockland is mostly middle-class suburban areas with two major exceptions: Spring Valley and Haverstraw are poor slumburbs, while the west-central part of the county is the center of a huge and rapidly growing Orthodox Jewish enclave. Said Orthodox community has caused a number of contentious issues in the county with its rapid growth, insular ways, and strong political influence by bloc voting for chosen candidates. Incumbent Ed Day (R) is seeking a second term. Day has been more adversarial toward the Orthodox community than most pols, which meant his 2013 victory in spite of their opposition was a significant upset. But conversely, that means Day was able to get a significant amount of Dem crossover support. His tenure as County Executive has been regarded as generally successful, and Democrats only recruited a “C” lister into this race in prosecutor Maureen Porette (D). Porette is a relatively standard-issue liberal who seems an unpolished candidate for the relatively high-profile race. Day is a fairly strong favorite, but there is a possibility Porette could build an unlikely coalition of the bloc vote and high liberal turnout to pull the upset.

Orange, NY-CE: Orange County is an R+4 (2016) county of 375K in the mid-Hudson valley. It stretches from Newburgh and West Point to Middletown and Port Jervis, covering a mix of small towns and exurbs. Incumbent Steve Neuhaus (R), a fairly typical establishment moderate-conservative, is seeking a second term. Democrats are running business consultant and veteran Pat Davis (D), who seems “C” list. As this area, like almost all of Upstate NY, tends to be more Republican down-ballot and large portions of the Dem base here are lower-turnout minorities, Neuhaus looks like a fairly substantial favorite. However, there is a chance high liberal enthusiasm this year could lead to an upset.

Rensselaer, NY-CE: Rensselaer County covers the city of Troy and the middle-class eastern suburbs of the Albany metro area; it has a population of 160K and a PVI of R+2 (2016); however, the county has a strong Republican heritage and Democrats have rarely mounted serious campaigns for this seat. As such, State Rep. Steve McLaughlin (R) is the front-runner for the open seat. A firebrand conservative, McLaughlin explored runs for multiple offices in the last few years without pulling the trigger. He has also used his powerless State House minority seat as a bully pulpit for scathing criticism of Gov. Cuomo (If you are not following Steve McLaughlin on Twitter you are really missing out). Needless to say, this profile has not endeared him to the moderate and transactional local Republican machine. However, he narrowly won a hard-fought and nasty primary against the machine choice, and has since received grudging support from the machine; he thus looks like a moderate favorite. Dems are running  nonprofit exec Andrea Smyth (D), who seems rather “C” list, but might have a slight chance to pull the upset if leftover wounds from the primary and high liberal enthusiasm combine.

King, WA-CE: King County, covering Seattle and most of its suburbs, is the 13th-largest county in the US, with a population just a hair over 2M. It has a PVI of D+23 (2016). This race is fairly boring; incumbent Dow Constantine (D), a mainstream liberal who is considered likely to run for Governor in 2020, is seeking a third term. Constantine took 78% in the primary and faces only token opposition from perennial candidate Bill Hirt (R), who has run non-serious campaigns for the State House twice and for Governor in 2016.

Philly-DA: Philadelphia also has a DA election. Philadelphia has a population of 1.5M and a PVI of D+33 (2016). Public Defender Larry Krasner (D) won a plurality victory with heavy Soros backing in the primary. Krasner is a favorite of the SJW set and promises to pursue left-wing soft-on-crime initiatives as DA. He remains the strong favorite to take the office; however, he is facing a credible Republican in prosecutor Beth Grossman (R). Grossman has had some notable crossover support from moderates as well as the endorsement of the police union, which gives her a small but not totally zero chance of pulling an upset — notably, though Philly hasn’t elected a GOP mayor in 70 years, it elected Republican DAs as recently as the 80s and DINOs have occupied the DA’s office since. However, due to Philly’s deep-blue lean and the energized liberal base Krasner looks like a very strong favorite. Philly City Comptroller is also up; mayoral aide Rebecca Rynhart (D) looks like a prohibitive favorite.

Suffolk, NY- DA & Sheriff: Suffolk County covers the eastern half of Long Island; it has a population of around 1.5M and a PVI of R+4 (2016). Both the DA and Sheriff seats are open; the county D and R machines have typically been on very amiable terms and divided the seats between them – since 2001, Republicans haven’t mounted a serious run for DA and Democrats have not mounted a serious campaign for Sheriff. The pattern looks set to repeat this year, though to not quite the same extent. For DA, Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) had looked like a very strong favorite over former prosecutor Ray Perini (R), though the indictment of the outgoing Dem incumbent could give Perini a narrow opening. For Sheriff, University police chief Larry Zacarese (R) won a shocking upset in the GOP primary over a machine-backed State Senator and now looks like the favorite in the general election. Zacarese is now the favorite over Errol Touolon (D), an official in New York City’s NYPD who has lost races for a State Senate and a county commission seat by large margins. Toulon was a last-minute entry for Dems after their prior nominee dropped out and doesn’t look particularly serious, but could have a tiny chance with high liberal turnout.

Douglas County, CO School Board: There are also key school board elections in Douglas County, an R+10 county of 300K covering wealthy exurbs and rural areas south of Denver. The main issue is an attempt to establish a school choice voucher program, which was struck down by the State Supreme Court as violating the state’s Blaine Amendment prohibiting public spending on religious schools. The school board appealed to SCOTUS and the case has been remanded to the state in light of the recent Trinity Lutheran ruling that invalidated certain restrictions on religious groups receiving state funds. Here’s where the election comes in: the current board has a 4-3 majority in favor of continuing to pursue the voucher program. The current majority has all decided to stand down and they are backing a slate of new candidates known as “Elevate Douglas County”. Conversely, the anti-voucher side (branding itself “Community Matters”) says it will end the lawsuit if it gets a majority. The three anti-voucher incumbents are not up this year, meaning that if one of the four seats up flips the program will end. The race has attracted national attention and money and there is no clear favorite between the slates. Note: RRH Elections strongly supports the Elevate Douglas County slate.

Flip over for the NJ Legislature, NYC Council Races, and Legislative Specials!

New Jersey Legislature: Both chambers of the New Jersey legislature are up this year. The Senate and Assembly seats use the same (heavily D-gerrymandered) maps; two Assembly members are elected from each Senate district on the same ballot. 11 of 40 districts are at least somewhat competitive. That’s actually far more than usual for NJ, as some historically-R districts were very anti-Trump last year, and that trend has given Dems some hope for long-shot gains. In the Senate, the 11 seats break down as 7 R-held and 4 D-held. In the Assembly, the districts are 4 D-held, 5 R-held and 2 split. However, 8 of the 11 districts are long-shots for the challenging party (most all would probably be classified as Likely R/D races favoring the incumbent party). The real battlegrounds are in just three districts: the split-delegation seats of 2, 11, and 16. Democrats hold a 24-16 majority in the Senate and a 52-28 majority in the House, neither of which will probably be changing much. One GOP-held State Senate seat is a Safe Dem pickup; State Rep. Troy Singleton (D) will pick up NJ-SD-7, an open R-held D+12 district in western Burlington County in the Philly suburbs, over token opposition after the popular GOP incumbent retired.

NJ-SD-1 is a D-held R+5 district stretching from Vineland to Cape May. Incumbent Jeff Van Drew (D) has proven an exceptionally strong incumbent, winning several tough races. He is once again favored this year over local schools superintendent and ex-Cumberland County commissioner Mary Gruccio (R). Van Drew’s strength has allowed his ticket-mates in LD-1 to ride his coattails, and this year looks set to play out similarly. Incumbents Bob Andrzejczak (D) and Bruce Land (D) should be favored over Cumberland County commissioner and 2015 nominee Jim Sauro (R) and Downe Mayor Robert Campbell (R), though an upset might be possible in one or both of the Assembly races as Guadagno is more likely than not to carry this seat.
NJ-SD-2 is an open D+5 (but more R-friendly in off-years) district around Atlantic City. This seat is considered the biggest battleground of all for the Senate; though the seat is Dem-leaning, a big part of the Dem base is poor minorities in Atlantic City that don’t turn out in off years, making this seat quite purple. Popular State Rep. (not that) Chris Brown (R) has built up goodwill for his fight against North Jersey casinos. Brown is attempting to move up to the Senate; he is facing Atlantic County commissioner Colin Bell (D), who lost to Brown in 2015. The only poll of the race showed Brown and Bell in an exact tie, so needless to say there is no clear favorite. Underscoring the Tossup nature of the district, LD-2 has a split delegation; Brown’s R-held seat is open. Incumbent Vince Mazzeo (D) was thought to be running for Senate but dropped down to run for re-election after some erratic behavior early this year. He is now running with Buena Vista councilman John Armato (D). Republicans are running Brigantine councilman Vince Sera (R) and ex-Margate councilwoman Brenda Taube (R); there is no clear favorite and either ticket prevailing or a split decision is possible.
NJ-SD-3 is a D-held R+3 seat at the rural southwest corner of the state near the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is the seat of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), who has been unpopular with some liberals for his cutting deals with Christie. As a result, Sweeney’s rival, Woodstown councilman and Salem County GOP chair Fran Grenier (R), has picked up some surprising support, such as the endorsement of the Teachers’ Union. However, Sweeney still has the strong support of the powerful local machine of George Norcross, and is considered likely to move to NJ-1 should Rep. Donald Norcross (D) be appointed or elected to the Senate. The powerful and well-known Sweeney is still a fairly strong favorite, but the strange juxtaposition of a Trump district and a Republican with crossover support make an upset possible here. Things are less interesting in LD-3; incumbents John Burzichelli (D) and Adam Taliaferro (D) should be heavily favored over 2007 candidate (not that) Phil Donohue (R) and attorney Linwood Donelson (R), who are not running serious campaigns but have a small chance of being swept in on coattails if Grenier wins.
NJ-SD-8 is an R-held EVEN seat in eastern Burlington County, around Mt. Holly. This seat has been R-friendly downballot, but Dems do have a trio of serious candidates. For the Senate seat, incumbent Dawn Marie Addiego (R) should be moderately favored over zoning board member George Youngkin (D). In LD-8, one seat is open. Incumbent Joe Howarth (R) and Burlington County commissioner Ryan Peters (R) look like moderate favorites over Waterford Mayor Maryann Merlino (D) and ex-Burlington County commissioner Joanne Schwartz (D).
NJ-SD-11 is an R-held D+2 seat around Long Branch and Asbury Park in central Monmouth County. Incumbent Jennifer Beck (R) has been a strong candidate and previously won easily despite holding a purple seat. But this year, Beck is facing a stiff challenge from Monmouth County Dem chair Vin Gopal (D), who is well-connected and has outraised Beck. Beck looks like a slight favorite but an upset is very possible. LD-11 is Dem-held after both seats narrowly flipped in a considerable upset in 2015. Incumbents Eric Houghtaling (D) and Joann Downey (D) are facing stiff challenges for re-election from Ocean Twp. councilman Rob Acerra (R) and Red Bank councilman Mike Whelan (R). There is no clear favorite.
NJ-SD-16 is an R-held D+6 seat covering Princeton and exurban areas to the north. Incumbent Kip Bateman (R) should be a mild favorite in this historically-R district over attorney Laurie Poppe (D), but if there is any place where anti-Trump/anti-Christie sentiment could lead to an upset, this very wealthy seat is it. The bigger battleground is on the House side; LD-16 has a split delegation and the R-held seat is open. Incumbent Andrew Zwicker (D) and retired financial executive Roy Freiman (D) are facing off with ex-State Rep. Donna Simon (R), who was ousted by Zwicker in an upset in 2015, and Somerset County commissioner Mark Caliguire (R). I would guess based on the presidential results and Christie fatigue that the Democrats are marginal favorites here, but this seat is historically-Republican and could go either way.
NJ-SD-21 is an R-held D+4 seat covering suburban areas around Summit and Long Hill. This seat has a strong GOP heritage and popular incumbent Tom Kean Jr. (R) should be favored over 2013/15 State House candidate Jill Lazare (D). In LD-21, incumbents Jon Bramnick (R) and Nancy Munoz (R) should be favored. However, there is a slight chance of one being upset by activist Lacey Rzeszowski (D) on high liberal enthusiasm. The other Democrat, 2009/11 candidate Bruce Bergen (R), seems less serious.
NJ-SD-25 is an R+1 seat covering central and western Morris County, including Morristown. Incumbent Anthony Bucco Sr. (R) should be favored over physician Lisa Bhimani (D). Similarly in LD-25, incumbents Michael Caroll (R) and Anthony Bucco Jr. (R) should be moderate favorites over accountant Richard Corcoran (R) and retired IT manager Thomas Moran (D). The wealthy seat is heavily historically Republican but Dems could pull the upset if anti-Trump fervor is high.
NJ-SD-38 is a D+4 seat covering suburban areas around Paramus. Incumbent Bob Gordon (D) has survived several tough races and should be a moderate favorite over New Milford councilwoman Kelly Langschultz (R). Similarly, LD-38 incumbents Tim Eustace (D) and Joseph Lagana (D) look like moderately strong favorites over Glen Rock councilman Bill Leonard (R) and pastor Chris Wolf (R).
NJ-SD-39 is an R+3 seat covering upscale suburban areas of northern Bergen County along the NYS border. Longtime incumbent Gerald Cardinale (R) should be favored over Oakland mayor Linda Schwager (D). LD-39 incumbents Robert Auth (R) and Holly Schepisi (R) should be favored over Closter councilwoman Jannie Chung (D) and financial manager Annie Hausmann (D). However, in all three races an upset may be possible with high liberal turnout.
NJ-SD-40 is an open R+5 seat covering suburbs north and west of Paterson. This seat is triply-open as none of the 2013/15 victors are standing again. For the Senate race, Passaic County clerk Kristin Corrado (R) is considered a strong candidate and should be a moderate favorite over 80s-era ex-State Rep. Thomas Duch (D). Similarly in LD-40, appointed incumbent Kevin Rooney (R) and ex-Wycoff Mayor Chris DePhillips (R) should be moderate favorites over 2015 nominees Paul Vagianos (D) and Christine Ordway (D).

NYC Council: Democrats hold a 48-3 majority on the NYC Council. There are 7 competitive races this year, but only 3 of them are Dem vs. Republican, for 1 R-held and 2 D-held seats. The other four are 1 DINO vs. conservative Indie, and 3 races where a Dem primary loser has the Working Families line.

Democrat vs. Republican:
NYC-CD-32 is an R-held D+10 seat around Ozone Park and Howard Beach in southwest Queens. Incumbent Eric Ulrich (R) has proven popular in spite of the strongly blue lean of his district and looks like a moderate favorite over legislative staffer Mike Scala (D); however, an upset may be possible if liberal turnout is high.
NYC-CD-43 is an open D+6 seat covering the middle-class Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst areas of southwest Brooklyn. This is probably Republicans’ best shot at a pickup, but council staffer Justin Brannan (D) is still a slight favorite over legislative staffer and 2013 nominee John Quaglione (R). Quaglione could also be hurt by congressional staffer Bob Capano (R) continuing his GOP primary campaign on the Reform line. However, DeBlasio is unpopular in this middle-class white-ethnic heavy area and Malliotakis represents a piece of it, so a Quaglione upset (possibly on Malliotakis coattails) may be possible.
NYC-CD-48 is a D-held R+11 seat covering Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay in southern Brooklyn. Incumbent Chaim Deutsch (D) is a favorite of the area’s large Orthodox community. Deutsch should be favored in this increasingly-red but historically-D seat against Bloomberg admin official Steve Saperstein (R). However, this seat is red enough up-ballot that an upset may be possible.

Democrat vs. WFP or Independent:
NYC-CD-13 is an open D+17 seat covering a mix of east Bronx neighborhoods around Morris Park and Throggs Neck. State Rep. Mark Gjonaj (D), a moderate who has been on mediocre terms with much of the local machine, won the Dem primary 38-34 over local Dem official Marjorie Velazquez (D). Velazquez is continuing on to the general on the WFP line and has significant establishment support; this is probably the only race where the primary result has a real chance to be overturned. But Gjonaj has fundraised very well and has enough establishment support to look like a moderate favorite. Finally, it’s worth noting this seat contains a small but significant concentration of white-ethnic Republicans in areas like Country Club and Morris Park. So the GOP nominee, businessman John Cerini (R), could theoretically win a plurality freak upset if the two Dems split the center-left vote perfectly, though the odds of that are extremely low.
NYC-CD-14 is a Hispanic-majority D+43 seat covering Kingsbridge Heights and University Heights in the west Bronx. Incumbent Fernando Cabrera (D), a socially-conservative DINO, won his primary over Obama admin official Randy Abreu (D) by a larger than expected 55-34 margin. Cabrera should once again be a strong favorite in their general election rematch.
NYC-CD-28 is an open black-majority D+41 seat covering southern Jamaica, Queens. Community board member Adrienne Adams (D) beat attorney and 2013 candidate Hettie Powell (D) 39-29 in the primary. Powell still has the WFP line but doesn’t appear to be actively campaigning for the general, so Adams should win easily.
NYC-CD-44 is an open D-held R+18 seat covering the heavily Orthodox Borough Park and Midwood areas of Brooklyn. This seat is full of ultra-Orthodox Jews who vote as DINOs. The prior incumbent withdrew his bid for re-election after the filing deadline to allow his handpicked protege, operative Kalman Yeger (D), to win the D primary unopposed. However, Yeger is still facing a stiff challenge in the general from Yoni Hikind (I), son of the area’s powerful longtime DINO State Rep. The main issue here is personalities; Yeger and Hikind are both running as DINOs, but Hikind’s father and Yeger’s mentor have been feuding for some time. Hikind has dramatically outraised Yeger and the two have split establishment support, but having the official Dem and Conservative party endorsements is a big deal for Yeger in this district. Overall there is no clear favorite.

Legislative Specials: There are also 33 legislative specials today, scattered across 9 states. I’ll break these down by type of race: Partisan Primaries, Partisan Generals, or Louisiana-Rules-Top-Two. Unless otherwise noted all PVIs are for 2016 only.

Partisan Primary:
MA-SD-Worcester & Middlesex (D)
is the lone contested partisan primary. At stake is a D+3 seat around Fitchburg and Leominster along with some nearby exurban and rural areas. A trio of Democrats are facing off: Fitchburg councilman Michael Kushmerek (D), Leominster councilwoman Sue Chalifoux-Zephir (D), and zoning board member Mike Mahan (D). All three are establishment liberals and there is no clear favorite. The primary winner will head to a general with Fitchburg councilman Dean Tran (R), who narrowly lost a House special in 2016, and a credible centrist Indie in Leominster councilwoman Claire Freda (I).

Partisan General Elections:
ME-LD-56 is an R+12 (2016) seat (though amazingly carried by Obama in 2012) coextensive with the town of Lisbon, south of Lewiston. Rick Mason (R), husband of the late prior Rep. (and the father of the area’s State Senator) should be favored over 2016 nominee Scott Gaiason (D) due to Mason’s family connections and the lean of the seat. However, an upset may be possible with high liberal turnout.
MA-LD-1st Berkshire is a D+17 rural seat around Williamstown and North Adams at the northwest corner of the state. Ex-North Adams Mayor John Barrett (D) is the prohibitive favorite over 2016 State Senate nominee Christine Canning (R).
MA-LD-3rd Essex is a D+7 seat covering most of Haverhill in the Merrimack valley. Haverhill councilman Andy Vargas (D), a 24-year old Dominican immigrant, should be favored based on the lean of the seat over school board member and 2012/14 State Senate nominee Shaun Toohey (R).
MI-LD-1 is a D+25 seat covering the wealthy northern half of the Grosse Pointes, the lower-middle-class suburb of Harper Woods, and the desperately poor northeast corner of Detroit. School board member Tenisha Yancey (D) is the prohibitive favorite over a GOP Some Dude.
MI-LD-109 is a formerly-D-held R+3 (2016) seat covering the central Upper Peninsula from Marquette to Manistique. This seat has been trending right but has a strong Dem heritage. That combined with the energized D base this year should mean Marquette councilwoman and 2016 candidate Sara Cambensy (D) is a slight to moderate favorite over school board president Richard Rossway (R);. However, this is an extremely blue-collar, Trumpulist area and an upset is possible.
MO-SD-8 is an R+11 seat covering the southeast suburbs of Kansas City around Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs. State Rep. Mike Cierpiot (R) has the official GOP endorsement and nomination (which was given out by a cabal of insiders). In this strongly GOP district, Cierpiot should be the favorite over a “C” lister, paralegal and moonbat activist Hillary Shields (D). However, a wrinkle in this race is perennial candidate extraordinaire Jacob Turk (R), who applied for but did not get the GOP nomination. Turk, who has been the sacrificial lamb nominee for the medium-blue congressional MO-5 for the last six (!) cycles in a row, is now running for this seat as an Independent. Turk could have enough name recognition to peel off some Republican votes from Cierpiot, and that combined with an energized Dem base could tip the race to Shields. However, overall this is a GOP-friendly seat up and down the ballot, and the well-known Cierpiot is probably still at least a slight favorite.
MO-LD-23 is a D+39 seat covering poor black-majority areas immediately southeast of downtown Kansas City. Elected community college board member Barbara Washington (D) is the prohibitive favorite over Republican and Green some dudes.
MO-LD-151 is a rural R+36 seat around Dexter, west of Sikeston near the state’s southeast corner. School board member Herman Morse (R) is the heavy favorite over a Dem and a Libertarian.
NY-SD-26 is a D+36 seat covering Lower Manhattan and hipster areas of Brooklyn. State Rep. Brian Kavanagh (D) is the prohibitive favorite for the seat over teacher Analicia Alexander (R).
NY-LD-27 is a D+16 seat covering a strip of north-central Queens along the Van Wyck and Whitestone expressways from College Point to Kew Gardens. City Council staffer Daniel Rosenthal (D) is totally unopposed.
NY-LD-71 is a Hispanic-majority D+43 seat covering the southern and western parts of Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. Pastor Al Taylor (D), who was also CoS to the former incumbent, is totally unopposed.
SC-LD-113 is a D+19 seat covering a thin stripe of racially-mixed lower-middle-class suburbs of Charleston from North Charleston to Summerville. Well-connected trial lawyer Marvin Pendarvis (D) is the heavy favorite over a GOP some dude.

Washington uses the same maps for Senate and House elections, with the two House seats from each district elected on separate ballots. 5 Senate and 3 House seats are up this year across 5 districts. Republicans hold a 25-24 majority in the Senate thanks to one DINO, but that seems likely to be lost this November. It’s important to note that unlike California, where large shifts have happened between the primary and general, Washington’s August Top-Two primary results tend to be highly predictive, with race margins rarely shifting more than about 5 points. As none of these races were in that red zone in August, there’s little drama in these contests.
WA-SD-7 is a rural R+18 district covering the northeast corner of the state north of Spokane. Appointed Senate incumbent Shelly Short (R) and her teammate in LD-7, appointed incumbent Jacquelin Maycumber (R), should be heavily favored over little-known Dems after leading by 2:1 in the primary.
WA-SD-31 is an R+5 district in eastern Tacoma exurbs near Enumclaw. Appointed incumbent Phil Fortunato (R) should be favored over 911 operator Michelle Rylander (D). Similarly in LD-31, appointed incumbent Morgan Irwin (R) should be favored over Edgewood councilman Nate Lowry (D). Fortunato and Irwin took 58% and 57% in August respectively.
WA-SD-37 is a D+38 district covering southeastern Seattle and central Renton. Appointed incumbent Rebecca Saldana (D) is totally unopposed.
WA-SD-45 is the key seat for Senate control, an R-held D+17 district in outer Seattle suburbs north and east of Redmond. Prosecutor Manka Dhingra (D) has strong national Dem support and is favored to take the seat, and flip the chamber, over congressional staffer Jinyoung Lee-Englund (R). Dhingra led 52-41 in August, with the balance going to an Indie. There’s little reason to believe that result will be overturned this time.
WA-SD-48 is a D+21 district covering most of Redmond, northern Bellevue, and southern Kirkland in the suburbs of Seattle. Appointed incumbent Patricia Kuderer (D) and her teammate in in LD-48, appointed incumbent Vandana Slatter (D), face only token opposition from a pair of Libertarians.

Louisiana Rules Top Two races (GA & MS):
GA-SD-6 is the highest-profile and most chaotic special of the day. At stake is an R-held D+7 seat (though Romney carried it) covering the wealthy Buckhead neighborhood of northern Atlanta and parts of the mostly-upscale suburbs of Sandy Springs to the north and Vinings and Smyrna to the west. Three Democrats and five Republicans are facing off and any two could advance. Dentist and 2016 nominee Jaha Howard (D), who lost this seat by a much smaller than expected 4-point margin last year, will likely finish first among Dems based on name rec. However, Howard has two serious Dem rivals in attorney Jen Jordan (D) and nonprofit exec Taos Wynn (D), which likely prevent him from clearing 50%. Five Republicans are in the race: state GOP minority-engagement director Leo Smith (R), attorney Matt Bentley (R), realtor Charlie Fiveash (R), and businesswomen Kathy Eichenblatt (R) and Leah Aldridge (R). All five seem serious and any could advance. Indeed, both a D-on-D or even an R-on-R runoff remain distinct possibilities.
GA-SD-39 is a black-majority D+36 seat stretching an absurd bacon strip from upscale black-majority suburbs west of Hartsfield Airport (among the nation’s wealthiest black-majority areas) through poor urban ghettoes west of downtown Atlanta, and finishing in upscale white liberal areas of Buckhead. Five candidates are facing off, four Dems and a Republican. State Dem official Nikema Williams (D), a member of the GADP’s top leadership, and legislative staffer Linda Pritchett (D), who lost a State House primary by 60 votes in 2016, seem like the front-runners and will likely advance to a runoff. However, 2016 State House candidate Marckeith DeJesus (D) and consultant Elijah Tutt (D) each have a chance to snag a runoff spot as well, and there is a slight chance a some dude R could advance and render the second round moot.
GA-LD-4 is an R+16 seat covering the city of Dalton and some rural areas to the south. Programmer Peter Pociask (D) will likely make a runoff on Dem votes, but will face an uphill battle in the runoff against any of three Republicans. 2016 candidate Kasey Carpenter (R), who took 46% against the prior incumbent last year, looks like the front-runner. However, two other Rs, local GOP official Beau Patton (R) and businessman Eddie Caldwell (R), are both serious and either could advance instead.
GA-LD-26 is an R+31 seat covering eastern Forsyth county in the northeast Atlanta exurbs. Businessman Marc Morris (R) and lobbyist and local GOP official Tina Trent (R) are running; there is no clear favorite between the two. Either could win or a Democrat, manager Steve Smith (D), could peel off enough votes to force a runoff.
GA-LD-42 is a D+20 seat covering northern Smyrna and southeast Marietta. Smyrna councilwoman Terri Anulewicz (D) will win totally unopposed.
GA-LD-60 is a D+42 seat covering black-majority inner suburban areas immediately east of Hartsfield airport. Forest Park councilwoman Sparkle Adams (D) and charter school exec and former school board candidate Deandre Pickett (D) seem like the front-runners; either could win or a third candidate, nonprofit exec Kim Schofield (D), could force a runoff.
GA-LD-89 is a D+43 seat covering the black-majority inner suburban southwest corner of DeKalb County near Gresham Park. Well-connected attorney Sachin Vargese (D) has the strongest establishment support and will likely snag one runoff spot. However, his three rivals, attorneys Monique Keane (D) and David Abbott (D) and nonprofit exec Bee Nguyen (D), are all serious and could join Vargese in a second round.
GA-LD-117 is an R+3 seat covering the southwest part of Athens and some rural areas to the north and west. This is a one-on-one race, so it is guaranteed to wrap up in one round. Nonprofit exec Houston Gaines (R), who just graduated UGA last year as its student government president, is considered a rising star and has consolidated establishment support, including a surprising endorsement from Athens’s Democratic Mayor. Gaines has also raised a truly ridiculous $200K for this race (for a district of under 60K population)! However, Gaines’s rival, attorney Deborah Gonzalez (D), could benefit from high liberal enthusiasm to pull the upset.
GA-LD-119 is an R+5 seat covering the southeast part of Athens and some suburban and rural areas to the south. Programmer Jonathan Wallace (D) will likely finish first and could win outright on liberal enthusiasm; however, if Wallace falls below 50 he will likely head on to a tough runoff with one of three GOP candidates. Funeral director Tom Lord (R), businessman Stephen Strickland (R), and builder Marcus Wiedower (R) are all serious and any of the three could advance with Wallace to a second round if one is triggered.
MS-SD-10 is a D-held R+2 (2008) rural seat around Senatobia and Holly Springs. This seat is much more D-friendly downballot. First place will likely go to Neil Whaley (R), the only Republican in the race, and the seat is purple enough that he could have a chance to win outright with low minority turnout. However, it’s more likely that Whaley will head to a runoff with one of four Dems. Senatobia councilman Michael Cathey (D) looks like the slight front-runner among Dems, as he ran for a prior version of this seat in 2011, narrowly losing the Dem primary. 2011 Transportation Commissioner nominee Ray Minor (D), the brother of a late longtime legislator, is the only white Dem and could make the runoff on that base, while a pair of Holly Springs councilors, Sharon Gipson (D) and Lennell Lucas (D), also seem serious enough to snag a runoff spot.
MS-LD-38 is a D+6 (2008) seat covering most of Starkville. Nonprofit exec Cheikh Taylor (D) has the endorsement of the outgoing incumbent and looks like the front-runner, but he could head to a runoff with Starkville councilwoman Lisa Wynn (D) or businesswoman and former model Narissa Bradford (D).
MS-LD-54 is an R+23 (2008) seat covering eastern Vicksburg and rural areas to the north. Physician Randy Easterling (R) and insurance agent Kevin Ford (R) seem like the front-runners; either could win or a third candidate, contractor Joe Bonelli (R), could force a runoff.

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26 Comments

  • bluewahoo November 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I thought this would be a good place to mention if the Democrats pick up four seats in Virginia, they get an extra seat on each house committee. If they pick up eight seats, it’ll mean they have two extra seats on each committee.

    Personally, I think a gain of 3-5 is still the most likely outcome.

    • The Zenome Project November 1, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      100% agree that 3-5 seats is the most likely scenario. If Gillespie closes in late and wins (in part) because of the backlash against that awful ad, I think that you’ll see a maximum of three seats go to the Dems: the two most endangered open seats (Albo, Dudenhefer) and one of the two R-held deep-blue incumbents (Greason, LeMunyon). If Northam barely wins by the skin of his teeth (I think it’s still the most likely scenario, though the race is rapidly changing), they’ll flip the 4 seats and maybe barely pick off the Marshall seat.

    • fzw November 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Not cracking 40 seats would be embarrassing given how touted some of these challengers seem to have become and how overextended R’s are in NOVA.


      Currently MO-5. From MO-3.
      R-leaning Indy.

      • The Zenome Project November 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm

        Incumbency is, as usual, a major obstacle. Not every voter is a blind partisan, particularly if those people have lived in that district for a long time, and the vast majority of everyday folks are not hard-core #resistance types.

      • bluewahoo November 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

        I think you’re really underestimating how difficult it is to beat an incumbent, even an incredibly flawed one like Marshall. The most optimistic predictions I’ve heard from other Democrats in VA is +8. Not breaking 40 would not be surprising at all. Maybe it would be embarrassing if the Democrats had actually done better in some of these races in the past. The D sweep in 2013 resulted in a net of zero seats. The only seats the flipped in 2015 were open ones.

        • The Zenome Project November 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm

          It’s hard to say that an incumbent is flawed if they have managed to hold on to a seat for longer than I have been alive. I get that he’s pretty kooky and controversial, but that’s an accomplishment to say the least. The same can be said for his State Senate relative, Dick Black.

    • The Zenome Project November 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      The reason why I say barely pick off the Marshall seat: conservative turnout is extremely high in that district, particularly on the west side, because they really like his social conservatism. Democratic strength mainly comes from majority-minority sections around Manassas Park, where the turnout tends to tank in off-years.

    • Jon November 1, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      VA State House: With the map having already ruled really well for most the cycle (2/3rds of the seats currently held) ; no matter what happens either this year or two years from now, it wasn’t a dummymander. Indeed, if you made ten seats safer for this year by going back in time and conceding five seats in the first year that this map was enacted for, someone would be right to have called such a map not aggressive enough.
      Now of course in 2021 they’ll want to consider the 2016 presidential results (along with the 2020) ones along with probably conceding five or so of the seats the Democrats take this year and two years from now to shore up remaining R held swing seats and possibly retake some others.


      45, M, MO-02

      • shamlet November 1, 2017 at 8:49 pm

        Except we’ve already lost a number of the seats that should have been conceded. I’m talking about seats like 2 (which we have held for 4 years but will probably lose and isn’t coming back) and 87 (which we lost in 2013 and isn’t coming back). Both of those should have been vacuum-packed with Dems instead of the current baconstrips. 93 (lost in 2013, probably not coming back) is another one that should have been conceded to take pressure off the Richmond/Norfolk seats. Beyond those I think as little as another 2-3 Dem seats would have made the map much much better.


        R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

  • Republican Michigander November 1, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    MI – HD-01 – Safe D. If Brian Banks can win there as a D, anyone can.

    MI – HD-109 – I’d go with “tilt D” because of tradition, but I think this one can flip which is saying something, because this seat has been D for 60 years. The D’s that win are however more “Yooper D’s” which are moderate, pro-union, pro-2a, and often pro-life. Cambensy is more liberal than most Yooper D’s, although the City of Marquette itself is largely academia based. Trump won this seat barely, but Obama won it twice, as did Kerry, Gore, Clinton twice, and probably Dukakis.

    R’s are going after this seat. A lot of late money is coming in for Rossway.
    D’s are worried about this seat and spending a lot of money as well.


    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

  • MosheM November 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Solid piece! I agree with your analysis of NY-CD-44.


    29, M, R, NY-10

  • Izengabe November 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Seriously everyone should follow Steve McLaughlin on Twitter. His entire account his basically dedicated to flaming Andrew Cuomo.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Izengabe_

  • Ryan_in_SEPA November 1, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    The Westchester CE race will be a good bellweather to whether affluent suburban areas are truly liberal or not. If the race goes for the Democrats, we know that Republicans need to cease chasing after the mythical suburban fiscal conservative social liberal once and for all.


    31, PA-6, fiscally conservative communitarian, Giant Meteor 2020 - Just End It Already!

    • Manhatlibertarian November 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Um, yes and no. Astorino has emphasized how he has kept the property tax down and spending under control and that has helped him win twice and appeal to fiscal conservative elements. But of course Latimer tries to link Astorino to Trump, who is not very popular in Westchester, which went heavily for Clinton. And Westchester has something like a 2 to 1 Dem registration which is further left than your typical affluent suburban county. So I don’t know the extent to which you can generalize about affluent suburban counties in general based on what happens in Westchester on election day. Also all the negative info that has come out about Latimer further distorts the contest as a guide to what may happen with other suburban counties.

  • Manhatlibertarian November 1, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Good analysis. I think the South Brooklyn open Council District 43 is the only real chance the GOP has of picking up a seat in the NYC Council. I think the big factor for Quaglione’s chance of winning is if Malliotakis carries the council district, and by more than just a little. If she does well I think she will pull Quaglione along with her. Trump only got about 41% of the vote in this district, but it is an off year election, so lower turnout which should help the Repub, and deBlasio is not popular in the district and Malliotakis has more appeal here than Trump IMO; she is a good candidate for this district but of course it is more Repub oriented than a typical NYC council district.

  • w920us November 1, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Are the Nevada recalls still occurring? I haven’t been checking.


    R, South Philly, 47, Gay, WFU Alum
    #TrumpVoter #NeverHillary

    • Boehnerwasright November 1, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Still ongoing, the first reall petition was turned in and they are checking the signatures right now. They have about 20% margin so this should get us a special election.

  • Jon November 1, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Fulton County GA : It’s oddly shaped because Fulton county annexed two counties that were at the time rural (one to the north and the other to the south) during the great depression. Also, while most of Atlanta city limits is within this county, the city limits extend into the next county east so not all of those living within Atlanta city limits can vote in this race.


    45, M, MO-02

    • GoBigRedState November 2, 2017 at 4:16 am

      Yep-Campbell County was to the south and Milton County to the north. There has been an effort to recreate Milton County as it is the most Republican part of Fulton County, but nothing has come of it.


      45, NE-1, #NeverTrump in 2016, support Trump now as situation warrants

      • Greyhound November 2, 2017 at 4:27 am

        The problem was that the GA state Constitution limits the number of counties the state can have to 159 (which it is currently at), so in order to make a new one they have to either amend it (which requires a 2/3rds majority in the state Assembly that the GOP doesn’t have), or for 2 rural counties to merge, which has naturally received push-back as well. I think the Obama DOJ also threatened to file a VRA injunction against the move on the ground that the new county would be majority-white and therefore represent minority regression or something? I’m not really sure.

        In all honesty its probably never going to happen, mostly because the rapid gentrification of Atlanta and the bleed of Progressive Whites into North Fulton are both removing any real justification for the new county to exist. The pairing is now more Long Island to Brooklyn & Queens than the mid-70s & 80s situation where it was closer to pairing Westchester & the South Bronx


        R, 26, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

        • shamlet November 2, 2017 at 9:53 am

          The main reason though is that Fulton County has now been entirely divided up into cities, so devolution to city governments can just replace splitting the county.

          Georgia has some weird county quirks. Most notable to me is that there are a handful of counties in Georgia that are essentially elective term monarchies, where they only elect one commissioner that handles all the executive and legislative functions.


          R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

          • Jon November 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm

            While the Northern part is fully municpalized, part of the Southern part isn’t. (Those within the proposed city of “South Fulton” voted it down while the others passed.)
            There’s also state law that requires each of the three regions county revenue to be spent within that region. (This addressed one of the concerns of those living in former / proposed Milton county; the lines track closely but aren’t quite identical because at the same time pieces of neighboring counties were also grabbed to keep the boundary from being even narrower around that junction.


            45, M, MO-02

            • shamlet November 2, 2017 at 7:20 pm

              South Fulton was approved on the second round.


              R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

              • Jon November 3, 2017 at 6:55 pm

                Checking the wikipedia article: Yup, wasn’t aware of that second round (one year ago; a full nine years after the first round)

                That puts the county now out of the municipal services business but it doesn’t appear to have lowered the county sales taxes any and in fact they’ve gone up.


                45, M, MO-02

  • StatenIslandTest November 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    NJ Thoughts:
    Van Drew seems to have an amazing crossover appeal, him
    and his team truly
    are conservative Democrats. Id say 60 40. Was in Cape May last weekend tons of presence for him none for opponents.

    In 2 Brown edges Bell by under 2 points but Dems pick up Browns Assembly seat.

    Seems Sweeney has convinced enough of his district that the Senate Presidency is worth it, he wins 52-48.

    The consensus is the money spent defending Sweeney sank Gopals chances in the 11th, Beck wins 53 47 and I think the Rs take the Assembly seats.

    In 16 Bateman is a near perfect fit. I say he wins 55 45. I think Donna Simon reclaims her seat but Zwicker hangs on by under 200 votes.

    In 21, 39 and 40, the R senators all win by 15 points. The closest the Dems come for the Assembly will be an 8 point loss in 39.

    And heres my ultra-optimistic Republican prediction. Bergen County will get a second Republican State Senator when Kelly Langschultz beats Bob Gordon by 1 percent! The Dem assemblypeople will hang on though

    Senate R+1 (Losing 7, picking up 2 and 38).

    Assembly R+1 (Losing one seat in 2, picking up 2 in 11)


    31, Jersey City

  • Manhatlibertarian November 6, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    There are also several other countywide races in the three big NYC suburban Counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk besides CE in Westchester and Nassau. In Nassau the County Clerk and the County Controller slots are up; the County Clerk position has an incumbent Repub, while the Controller position is open (had been held by a Dem). In Suffolk the DA and Sheriff offices are both open. The previous DA was a Dem, while the Sheriff Office had been held by a Conservative who ran with GOP and Dem backing. In Westchester the County Clerk position has an incumbent Dem. I think the incumbent County Clerks are likely to be re-elected, while the Dems are favored to retain the Suffolk DA. Don’t know enough about the two other open races to make a pick. Dems are likely to retain their majorities in the Suffolk and Westchester legislatures, while the GOP is likely to hold onto their majority in the Nassau legislature.

    In big upstate Erie County (Buffalo and suburbs), GOP incumbents are likely to hold the Controller and Sheriff offices. In an odd situation, the GOP has endorsed a centrist Dem Assemblyman for the open County Clerk position (had been held by a Repub) while the Dems have their own candidate. The GOP candidate, Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, is the favorite. The GOP has a narrow majority in the County Legislature and there is a close battle for control.

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