Tonight is the final set of special elections before the midterms this November (if you’re not registered to vote or are unsure if you are, now would be a good time to take care of that). Here’s what you need to know.
Ohio’s 12th District
Note: This is the only election profiled here that isn’t a primary.
In 2016, Republican Patrick Tiberi won this district by 36%—collecting more than twice the number of votes won by Democrat Ed Albertson. A Democrat hasn’t won this seat in nearly four decades. Tonight’s election to replace Tiberi will be much closer than previous one. RealClearPolitics’ average pegs this as a tie between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor (caveat: only one poll so far has put the Democrats ahead in this race). O’Connor is running as a centrist, tying himself to Republican governor John Kasich, but this connection is dubious at best, given that Kasich appeared in an ad for Balderson.
Lastly, here’s Balderson avoiding a question about Jim Jordan’s potential complicity in the sexual assault scandal engulfing the Ohio State wrestling team. Jordan is a Republican congressman from Ohio running to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House.
If Trump-backed congressional candidate @Troy_Balderson runs away from a question about Jim Jordan, how can Ohioans expect him to be firm in Congress? pic.twitter.com/DF41GjQWZC— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 6, 2018
There are a lot of elections in Michigan today, and a good amount are mostly wrapped up according to Cook Political's ratings. The 11th is a hotly contested race to replace Republican David Trott. On the right, former U.S. representative Kerry Bentivolio is going up against state lawmakers Mike Kowall, Klint Kesto and former representative Rocky Raczkowski. Lena Epstein, a self-funding businesswoman, is the last challenger for the Republican nomination.
On the left, this has become a battle between the so-called “Berniecrats” and the Democratic establishment. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Fayrouz Saad, who would become the first Muslim woman ever elected to the United States Congress. Saad is up against Suneel Gupta (the well-financed brother of CNN's Sanjay Gupta), former Obama auto rescue official Haley Stevens—who secured Hillary Clinton's endorsement—and state representative Tim Greimel. Saad also served in the Obama administration as a Department of Homeland Security official.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the little polling we do have on these races points towards a victory for Epstein on the right and Greimel on the left—however, Greimel only has 21% support and there are 34% undecided, so it's really anyone's guess as to who will win tonight.
This is one of over 20 congressional districts held by Republicans which Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and the Democrats are very bullish on their chances to replace the retiring Dave Reichert. Former state senator Dino Rossi is mounting yet another bid for public office in the state of Washington, as he has some good name recognition thanks to failed bids for both governor and the United States Senate.
Pediatrician Kim Schrier has the fundraising advantage amongst the Democratic candidates—in addition to the backing of Planned Parenthood, Emily's List and several national labor groups. She is undoubtedly the favorite over former prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, doctor Shannon Hader, and IT specialist Robert Hunziker, but since the 2016 election taught us that local polling is not as robust as it used to be, there is still plenty of room for a surprise.
We'll end with three competitive races in one of America's reddest states, and the inspiration for the famed book, What's the Matter With Kansas?. Current Representative Kevin Yoder will almost surely win the Republican primary, and will defend his seat against one of several Democrats. This is not a deep-red seat, as Yoder won by just ten percentage points in 2016, and with GOP gains slipping across the country, the local party is gearing up for a serious fight this fall.
The drama on the Democratic side is yet another battle between the rising progressive wing of the party versus the establishment. Former Bernie Sanders staffer Brent Welder had both Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez come out and stump for his campaign. He will face stiff competition from former MMA fighter Sharice Davids, who has the backing of Emily's List, and teacher Tom Niermann, who is backed by local labor groups. Businesswoman Sylvia Williams is also a force to be reckoned with. This could wind up being one of those races that gets lost because it doesn't neatly fit the existing narrative on the left.
The 2nd is another deep red district which has become much less so in the age of Trump. In 2016, Republican Lynn Jenkins nearly doubled Democrat Britani Potter's vote total. Now, RealClearPolitics pegs this race as a tossup. This is partially due to the fact that the Democrats have a clear-cut candidate, while the Republicans will choose from seven candidates to face the incredibly well-funded Democrat, former state representative Paul Davis.
The GOP field consists of three state senators (Caryn Tyson, Steve Fitzgerald and Dennis Pyle), a current state representative in Kevin Jones, former state representative Doug Mays, Army veteran Steve Watkins and Basehor City Council member Vernon Fields. What should scare the living daylights out of Kansas Republicans is that Paul Davis already won this district when he unsuccessfully challenged Sam Brownback for Kansas governor. Which brings us to our final, and frankly, most compelling race of the day.
You may know the name Kris Kobach thanks to his “work” on Trump's election fraud commission—which has proven to be the sham that Kobach's tattered reputation suggests it was going to be. Here's how much things have changed since 2016: many folks on the right are viewing this endorsement by the President of the United States as a bad thing.
Kris Kobach, a strong and early supporter of mine, is running for Governor of the Great State of Kansas. He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country – he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018
It’s a problem because Kobach isn’t the only candidate. Current governor Jeff Coyler is also running. Coyler has positioned himself as the low-key Republican alternative, and those from the ever shrinking non-Trump wing of the GOP believe he is a better option to run against the Democrats this November. Kobach’s inflammatory and frankly, racist positions should help turnout on the left, while Coyler’s more milquetoast policies (in comparison, he is a Republican after all) are believed to be less of an incentive to drive liberals to the polls.
On the left, there are seemingly three serious contenders: state senator Laura Kelly, former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. Kelly has been portrayed as the favorite, although that distinction is dubious given the recent controversy over a vote she made in support of voter ID laws. Cook Political Report rates this race as likely Republican, but given the consternation raised by GOP pollsters over Trump’s endorsement on the right, that could change with a victory tonight for one of America’s most high-profile miscreants in Kris Kobach.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.