2011 Elections, June 30 Edition (Part 1 of 2)

Even though it seems that this is an “off year” with regards to national elections, there are in fact quite a few elections (governor’s races, legislative elections, recalls, and special elections) that will be held throughout the year that have varying partisan implications. We would like to discuss those upcoming elections and monitor them as the year goes on.


Special elections in California and Wisconsin are being held. In California, 11 year Democratic incumbent Jane Harman resigned her seat to take a job with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. While her coastal LA district is heavily Democratic (59% for John Kerry in 2004 and 64% for Obama in 2008), Republicans have held this seat at various times in the past and in fact are seriously contesting the July 12 special election. Their candidate is Craig Huey, a direct marketer who plans to self fund his race. He has taken unequiovocal conservative positions on issues, and has TEA Party backing. He is running against LA City Council member Janice Hahn, who comes from a political family. While California’s political climate is inhospitable towards Republicans, it will be worth seeing what kind of traction Huey can gain in the race. Plus, according to our theory of the “Obama Plunge” (explained here), this district theoretically should be in play.

In Wisconsin, Democrats angered over Governor Scott Walker (and the GOP Legislature’s) actions with regards to limiting collective bargaining for public employees are seeking revenge against six Republican state senators (the Wisconsin Senate is currently 19-14 Republican). Wisconsin’s Republicans countered by getting petitions filed against three Democratic state senators. Ordinarily, these recall elections would occur in July, but Republicans found protest candidates to run against the Democrats, thus triggering party primaries and pushing the actual recall elections back a month. Therefore, for the Republican senators up for recall, the party primary will be on July 12, with an August 9 general election. For the Democratic senators, the primary will be on July 19, and the general will be on August 16.


Mississippi is one of four states holding gubernatorial elections this year. Party primaries are on August 2, with an August 23 runoff. Republican Governor Haley Barbour is term limited, and the favorite (in the primary and general) is Republican Lt. Governor Phil Bryant. He has to get past his party’s primary first, however.

For those recall races in Wisconsin where party primaries were held, the recall elections will be held either on August 9 (for Republicans) or August 16 (for Democrats). Democratic wins here (especially if they retake the state senate) would embolden them in Wisconsin and elsewhere, since collective bargaining rights are very much a “flashpoint” issue between Democrats/unions and Republicans/business interests. And, if one believes the rhetoric from Democratic operatives, an issue which could reignite working class Democratic voters who deserted Democrats in last year’s elections.


Two special Congressional elections are scheduled on September 13 that offer both parties a chance at bragging rights about their electoral prowess. In New York, Anthony Weiner resigned after it was revealed that he sent sexually explicit text messages and photographs of himself to several women. His New York City district, surprisingly, has the potential to be politically competitive. Though it is heavily Jewish, its Jewish voters are of varying political hues, and in fact, Barack Obama only carried the district with 55% of the vote while carrying New York State with 63% in 2008.

In Nevada, a sex scandal similarly provides the context for its special House election, although in this case, it was the resignation of Republican Senator John Ensign and the subsequent appointment of Republican Congressman Dean Heller to the seat that has created an open House seat. That seat is in northern Nevada and was the only district to vote for John McCain in the face of the Democratic sweep in Nevada that year. Republicans favor state senator Mark Amodei, while Democrats have settled on Treasurer Kate Marshall. (7/6/2011 UPDATE) Though there was a lawsuit challenging this arrangement (i.e., the parties selecting the nominees), the Nevada Supreme Court gave official sanction for this arrangement, as opposed to a “free for all” with over two dozen candidates running that the plaintiffs wanted.

In the next installment, we will focus on elections to be held in October and November.