Warnock, Ossoff, and McDonald each won the same six Democratic-held House seats that now-President Joe Biden took two months before when he was winning 49.5-49.3, while the remaining eight Republican-controlled constituencies voted for all of the GOP’s statewide candidates. However, there were some notable differences in how each of these four Democrats performed that we’ll briefly discuss.
Ossoff ran ahead of Biden’s November margin in 10 of the 14 seats, while Warnock outran Biden in 11, though in the runoffs, of course, there were no third-party candidates. The one seat where Warnock did better than Biden by margin but Ossoff didn’t is the Atlanta-based 5th District, which is held by freshman Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, though the differences were extremely small.
Ossoff and Warnock’s biggest overperformance compared to Biden was in Democratic Rep. David Scott’s 13th District in the southwestern Atlanta suburbs, where the two ran about 4-5 points ahead of the top of the ticket. Interestingly, both Senate candidates also eclipsed Biden in the 7th District, a historically red seat in the northeast Atlanta area that Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux flipped last year.
A bit surprisingly, both Ossoff and Warnock did a little better in the 7th than in Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s 6th District, another former conservative stronghold in the Atlanta suburbs that has swung hard to the left in recent years. This seat also represented the largest underperformance for both Senate candidates compared to Biden, just as it did in November, despite the fact that Ossoff ran in the famous 2017 special election here; on Jan. 5, Ossoff trailed Biden by 6 points and Warnock trailed him by five.
Warnock also ran ahead of Ossoff in all 14 congressional districts. The largest gap was in the 6th District, where, as noted just above, Warnock did two points better, while the smallest was in Republican Rep. Buddy Carter’s 1st District in the Savannah area, which saw almost no difference.
One important reason the two Democrats prevailed is that, while turnout unsurprisingly dropped from November to January in every congressional district, Team Blue was better able to mobilize its voters for the second round. As our map shows, Perdue hemorrhaged votes in heavily Republican seats, while Ossoff’s dropoff was smaller in the very blue districts that ring Atlanta.
In fact, the site of Perdue’s second-worst falloff (by just a hair) was rural northwest Georgia’s 14th District, the new home of notorious insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—and the site of an election eve rally by a certain resident of Mar-a-Lago. There, in what should have been the heart of GOP country, Perdue’s turnout plummeted 12.5%.
Turning briefly to the race for Public Service Commission, Blackman ran behind Biden in 11 districts. The largest source of Democratic downballot underperformance was again in the 6th District, which may indicate that this area has plenty of voters who have turned against the GOP in presidential races but are still open to supporting Republicans in other races. Blackman’s best seat compared to Biden was, like Warnock’s and Ossoff’s, also the 13th District.
● CA-Sen, GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: In one of her first acts after being sworn in on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris in turn administered the oath of office to the Senate’s three newest Democratic members: Alex Padilla of California and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. With that act, the Senate returned to full strength, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, but because of Harris’ tie-breaking vote, Democrats retook control of the chamber. As a result, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to the post of majority leader, making him the first Jewish person to hold the job.
Both Padilla and Warnock will go before voters again in 2022, while Ossoff will not face re-election until 2026.
● FL-Sen, FL-01: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a leading insurrectionist and peddler of the lie that left-wing forces were responsible for the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, says he has “no interest” in running against Sen. Marco Rubio in next year’s Republican primary after a GOP official at the other end of the state talked up the idea to a local reporter. However, Gaetz added that he “would consider running” for state Agriculture Commissioner, a post currently held by Democrat Nikki Fried. If Gaetz were to seek a promotion, that would prompt an open-seat race for his heavily red 1st District, located in the Florida panhandle.
● NC-Sen: The New York Times reported on Tuesday that, just hours before the new administration took office, the Justice Department told Republican Sen. Richard Burr that it would drop an investigation into allegations that he engaged in insider trading last year after receiving classified briefings as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The paper says, however, that a parallel SEC inquiry may still be ongoing. Burr long ago announced that he would retire next year, but last month he ever-so-slightly re-opened the door to a bid for a fourth term.
● AK-Gov: Activists seeking to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who put their campaign on hold last year when the coronavirus made signature-gathering very difficult, say they plan to restart their effort with vaccination now underway. Organizers say they will seek to collect petitions both by mail and safely in person.
Before pausing, recall proponents said they’d obtained almost 50,000 signatures, meaning they’d need at least 22,000 more to hit the threshold required to commence a recall election. If successful, officials would have to schedule an election 60 to 90 days after all signatures are verified, a process that can take up to 30 days. A bipartisan coalition kicked off the process in 2019, furious with Dunleavy’s draconian budget cuts, including a retaliatory reduction in funds for the Alaska Supreme Court after it ruled against him in an abortion rights case.
While Dunleavy is on the ballot in 2022, one organizer explained the renewed push by saying, “There’s so many things, so many reasons why two more years is way too long.” If Dunleavy is ultimately removed from office, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican, would take his place.
● NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom recently told the Lincoln Journal Star that he was leaning towards running to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out-Gov. Pete Ricketts, but that he wouldn’t be making any announcements until the legislative session ends in late May.
Lindstrom, who played as a walk-on for the University of Nebraska’s football team in the early 2000s, got his start in electoral politics in 2012 when he ran against then-Rep. Lee Terry in the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District, a contest where Terry prevailed 59-23. Lindstrom successfully won an Omaha area state Senate seat two years later, and as the online magazine Ozy wrote in a 2017 profile, he’s occasionally defied his party’s far-right orthodoxy.
Lindstrom was the crucial vote to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska during his first year in office, a stance that led to at least one death threat. (Ricketts and his allies successfully promoted a ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment.) Lindstrom also backed workplace protections for LGBTQ people and voted to override Ricketts’ veto of a gas tax.
● OH-11: Former state Sen. Shirley Smith announced this week that she would enter the Democratic primary if there’s a special election to succeed Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Smith joins ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, and former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson in the contest for this safely blue seat which, according to new Daily Kos Elections data, backed Biden 80-19.
Smith has a long career in Cleveland politics going back to her 1998 election to the state House and her subsequent service in the upper chamber. Smith was termed-out in 2014 and ran for Cuyahoga County executive, but she lost the Democratic primary to the eventual winner, Armond Budish, by a 56-20 margin.
● WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, just earned a primary challenge from state Sen. Anthony Bouchard as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump last week. Bouchard slammed Cheney in his kickoff, saying her “long-time opposition to President Trump and her most recent vote for impeachment shows just how out of touch she is with Wyoming.”
The Casper Star-Tribune describes Bouchard as a gun activist and says he’s “built a reputation in the Wyoming Legislature as one of its most conservative members.” Politics1 also reports that on social media, Bouchard has been “a vocal fan” of two of the most extreme Republican members of the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.
● Special Elections: Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s special election in Alabama:
AL-HD-33: Republican Ben Robbins defeated Democrat Fred Crum 68-32 to hold this Sylacauga-area seat for the GOP. This district became vacant when former Rep. Ron Johnson died last year. Robbins’ victory was a very slight improvement for Team Red from Johnson’s 67-33 win in his final race in 2018.
This makeup of this chamber is now 76-28 in favor of Republicans with one other seat vacant.
● Criminal Justice: 2021 will feature contests for district attorney and sheriff in a number of major counties, and the Appeal’s Daniel Nichanian is out with a detailed preview of what to watch this year as criminal justice reformers look to make more inroads and defend influential allies.
One early test will take place on May 18 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where one of the most prominent reformers in the country, District Attorney Larry Krasner, faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from former prosecutor Carlos Vega. Vega has been a loud critic of the incumbent, whom he argues has been running “an experiment that is costing the lives of our children.” The winner of the Democratic nomination should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.
Another very high-profile race is also underway in Manhattan, where the winner of the June 22 Democratic primary will also be the heavy favorite. Incumbent Cy Vance has yet to announce if he’ll seek a fourth term, but New York City politicos almost universally expected him to retire even before they learned he’d raised just $2,000 during the second half of 2020.
Eight fellow Democrats are currently competing to replace Vance, and with the exception of attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty, all of them have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the office. There’s no obvious frontrunner at the moment in what’s already an expensive race.
There’s plenty more to watch across the country this year, and you’ll want to check out Nichanian’s preview of this year’s major criminal justice contests.
● Where Are They Now?: Defense One reported Tuesday that former Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat who lost his bid for a second term last year in New York’s 11th District, would take a job in the Biden Defense Department as an advisor on COVID-19. Rose, who previously served in the Army in Afghanistan, does not require Senate confirmation.
● Where Are They Now?: On his way out the door, Donald Trump issued pardons to three former Republican congressmen who had been convicted in a trio of unrelated public corruption scandals: Arizona’s Rick Renzi, California’s Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and North Carolina’s Robin Hayes. Trump also commuted the sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat who had served six years of a 28-year sentence for corruption.