Election Digest: Montana's governor may run against GOP senator in a boon to Democrats
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● MT-Sen: On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock would likely reverse himself and run for Senate against GOP incumbent Steve Daines after all. Bullock, who mounted a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, hasn't addressed the matter directly, and he only refused to rule it out in an email with the Times. However, Bullock has reportedly been the target of aggressive persuasion efforts by Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Bullock only has until the filing deadline on Monday to decide, meaning we will soon have an answer.
If Bullock does join the race, he would instantly give Democrats a far better shot at pulling off an upset in a state that went solidly for Trump in 2016 but has been more amenable to Democrats downballot. As the sitting governor, Bullock has already won two hard-fought elections in 2012 and 2016, and he had a strong approval rating in the few available polls. Bullock would also be starting with very high name recognition and be able to raise ample money, giving him a major edge over the current field of little-known Democratic contenders.
Bullock's entry would give Democrats their best chance at ousting Daines, but it will still be an uphill battle. Montana backed Trump by a punishing 56-35 in 2016, and there's little indication that Trump will fare much worse there in November. In an era where fewer and fewer voters are willing to split their tickets, especially in federal races, Bullock will have a tougher time convincing Trump-leaning voters to cross over for him when the stakes appear higher. However, there's still a real chance he could pull off an upset win, and his running would thus be a boon to Democrats' national odds of taking back control of the Senate.
● AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions got the news he'd long dreaded on Wednesday when Donald Trump took to Twitter to attack him following his second place finish in the previous evening's Alabama Senate primary. The White House did not endorse former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who will face Sessions in the March 31 GOP runoff to take on Democratic incumbent Doug Jones, but Trump more than made his disgust with Sessions clear to Republican voters.
Tuberville finished first on Tuesday with 32% of the vote, while Sessions, who was elected to this seat in 1996 and left it to become attorney general in 2017, beat Rep. Bradley Byrne 31-27 for the second runoff spot. While Sessions finished just behind Tuberville, though, it was a bad sign that the well-known former senator couldn't even muster a third of the vote.
Things got much worse for Sessions hours later, though, when Trump retweeted a message from Politico highlighting how Sessions "finished well short of a majority." Trump told his followers, "This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn't have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt," and added, "Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!"
That Trump attack may be giving Sessions some very nasty déjà vu. While Sessions was rewarded for his early support for Trump by being named U.S. attorney general, their relationship quickly soured after he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump spent 2017 and 2018 tweeting his fury about his "beleaguered" attorney general, and he fired him right after the midterm elections.
Trump continued to trash Sessions the following year both publicly and privately, but Sessions decided to risk White House opposition and run for his old Senate seat. Sessions' allies, including Sen. Richard Shelby, tried to convince Trump to at least stay neutral in the primary, and until Wednesday, they'd succeeded. Sessions even tried to portray himself as the Trump ally in the race by running ads that highlighted their once close relationship and avoided mentioning their subsequent falling out. It's going to be a lot tougher for Sessions to run this campaign over the next month, though, now that Trump is once again trashing him.
Unfortunately for Sessions, he doesn't need to look far to see the power a Trump tweet has in GOP politics. One of the other candidates on Tuesday's primary ballot was Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court who lost this seat to Jones in 2017's infamous special election. Early polls found that Moore at least had a good chance to reach a runoff, and national GOP groups made it clear that they'd take action to make sure that he couldn't win another primary.
That turned out to be unnecessary, though. Trump told his followers in May that, while he had "NOTHING against Roy Moore," whom multiple women have said preyed on them when they were teenagers, Moore "cannot win!" Moore ended up barely being a factor in this race, and he took a weak fourth on Tuesday with just 7% of the vote.
● GA-Sen-B: The University of Georgia is the latest pollster to find Democrats at risk of getting locked out of the general election runoff, with two Republicans advancing in the all-party first round. Their poll has Republican Rep. Doug Collins leading 21-19 against GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, while the three Democrats trail further behind: Businessman Matt Lieberman takes 11%, pastor Raphael Warnock earns 6%, and former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver notches only 4%.
However, there's no indication of how high each candidate's name recognition is, and it's likely that Democratic candidates will increase their support as they become better-known. Still, with Republicans only having two notable candidates and Democrats having three, the risk remains that Democrats could get shut out of the likely January runoff if their vote is too badly split and both of Collins and Loeffler divide the GOP vote relatively evenly.
● NC-Sen: The Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity is spending $250,000 on TV ads boosting Republican Sen. Thom Tillis over Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham. There's no copy of the ad available yet.
● VA-02: Lauren Creekmore Peabody, a campaign staffer who had previously worked for former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election crime in relation to a scheme by members of Taylor's campaign to get perennial Democratic candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot as an independent to play spoiler in the 2018 election. Brown was booted off the ballot after Taylor staffers were exposed for having fraudulently submitted forged signatures, and Taylor ultimately lost 51-49 to now-Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria.
Meanwhile, the local prosecutor said the "investigation is still ongoing" and that we're "likely to see more" indictments to come. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.
It's unclear how seriously Taylor is at risk of being charged with a crime himself. What is clear is that headlines like this latest story are doing him no favors as he seeks a rematch against Luria this year, and Democrats are likely to attack him over it just as they did with their 2018 TV ads if he wins the nomination again.
Election Result Recaps
● Alabama: A runoff will be held on March 31 in any primaries where no one took a majority of the vote.
● AL-01: Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former state Sen. Bill Hightower, who has the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth, advanced to the runoff for this safely red Gulf Coast seat. Carl, who has been self-funding much of his campaign, took first with 39% of the vote, while Hightower led state Rep. Chris Pringle 37-19 for second.
● AL-02: Wealthy businessman Jeff Coleman took first place in the GOP primary with 38% of the vote, while former state Rep. Barry Moore edged out businesswoman Jessica Taylor 20.5-19.9 to claim the other runoff spot. The candidates are competing to succeed retiring Rep. Martha Roby, who is just one of 13 women in the GOP House caucus, in this safely red seat that includes part of Montgomery and the nearby Wiregrass region.
● California: On Tuesday, California held its top-two primary, which sends the two candidates with the most votes to the general election regardless of party, but it may be a while before we know exactly who will advance to November. There are quite literally millions of ballots left to count—likely two million or more—meaning the margins in any race can shift materially in the coming days and weeks. This in turn means that we should be especially careful about trying to draw conclusions based on the incomplete results we have now.
So why does the count in California take as long as it does? There’s a simple, and very good, reason: The state has taken major steps to increase voter participation over the years by making it easier to vote. In particular, most voters now cast ballots by mail from the convenience of their homes. Importantly, officials are required to accepted ballots if they're received up to three days after Election Day so long as they are postmarked and mailed by Election Day.
That means that a significant share of votes will not be tallied until days or possibly even weeks after Election Day. We saw the effects of this vividly in the 2018 midterms, when a number of Democrats in key races found themselves trailing on election night but later went on to take the lead and secure victory.
This has provided fodder for Republican conspiracists making baseless claims that Democrats are “stealing” elections—the NRCC’s chair just this week regurgitated such nonsense. Unhelpfully, many media sites and the California Secretary of State’s own website confuse matters by saying that “100%” of precincts have reported after election night, figures that appear to only take into account tallies from actual in-person voting sites (and a problem that could be easily remedied).
But the simple reality is that only accuracy, not speed, matters when it comes to counting votes, and there are good reasons why the late vote tends to favor Democrats. One key factor is that younger voters, who lean to the left, are more likely to mail in their ballots later. In addition, voters in this year’s Democratic primary were especially likely to hold on to their ballots until the very last minute because of the extreme volatility in the presidential contest, especially over the last week.
So once all the votes are in, there’s a decent chance that some margins will shrink, and even that some candidates who are currently leading no longer will be. In fact, we’ve already see this in the 21st Congressional District, where Republican David Valadao led Democratic Rep. TJ Cox 56-34 on Tuesday night but already by the next day had seen that edge slip to 53-36.
And note as well that California is not the only state where large numbers of votes are counted after Election Day. Particularly out west, voting by mail has become very popular if not universal, so places like Arizona, Utah, and Oregon also regularly see sizable late counts, while states across the country have made it easier for at least some voters to cast an absentee ballot by mail.
However much election watchers might grumble about not knowing the results immediately, Californians at least seem quite happy with their current arrangements: In a recent poll, 64% said they prefer having easier options for voting, even if takes longer to tally the votes. The rest of us are simply going to have to display the same patience.
● CA-08: GOP Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, who has the support of Donald Trump and retiring Rep. Paul Cook, leads with 35% of the vote and 100,000 votes counted, and the Associated Press projects he'll be in the general election. Engineer Chris Bubser, who is the only notable Democrat in the race, leads former GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly 27-22 for second. This northern San Bernardino County seat backed Trump 55-40.
● CA-10: Self-funder Ted Howze, who earned the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just before the primary, beat San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Harder. With 75,000 votes in Harder is at 40%, while Howze led his fellow Republican 38-14. This Modesto-area seat backed Hillary Clinton 49-46.
● CA-16: While the Associated Press has not called either spot in the general election as of Wednesday evening, it looks like Democratic Rep. Jim Costa has successfully fended off a challenge from his left. Republican Kevin Cookingham is at 39% with 68,000 ballots counted, while Costa leads his fellow Democrat, Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria, 37-18 for second. This Fresno-area seat backed Hillary Clinton 58-36, so Cookingham is unlikely to be much of a threat.
● CA-22: Financial advisor Phil Arballo appears to have earned a spot in the general election against GOP incumbent and Trump sycophant Devin Nunes, though the Associated Press has not called the race. Nunes is at 59% with 105,000 votes in, while Arballo leads his fellow Democrat, former healthcare administrator Bobby Bliatout, 24-12. Nunes won a very expensive contest 53-47 last year in a Central Valley seat that Trump carried 52-43.
● CA-25: With 88,000 votes in, Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith is in first place with 30% of the vote in the regularly-scheduled top-two primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. Navy veteran Mike Garcia leads former Rep. Steve Knight, a fellow Republican, 26-20 for second place, though the Associated Press has not yet called either general election spot. Progressive commentator Cenk Uygur was a distant fourth with 5% of the vote.
The first round of the special election for the final months of Hill's term also took place on Tuesday, and while the candidates are in the same order, the result was a bit different: Smith takes a larger 34%, while Garcia leads Knight 27-18. Unless there's a big surprise in late counting, the same two candidates will compete for this competitive northern Los Angeles County seat twice this year.
The final round of the special election will take place May 21, while the race for the regular two-year term will be on Nov. 3. This seat swung from 50-48 Romney to 50-44 Clinton, and the May election should attract plenty of attention from both sides.
● CA-45: Several Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in this competitive Orange County seat, and the Associated Press has not yet projected which one will face her in November. Porter leads with 48% with 130,000 votes counted, while Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths holds a 19-14 lead over Laguna Hills Mayor Don Sedgwick. This district, which includes Irvine, swung from 55-43 Romney to 50-44 Clinton.
● CA-50: The Associated Press has called the first spot in the general election to succeed the disgraced former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter for 2018 Democratic nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar, but the race for second remains up in the air with 123,000 votes counted. Campa-Najjar has 34% of the vote, while former 49th District Rep. Darrell Issa leads his fellow Republican, ex-San Diego City Councilor Carl DeMaio, 25-21. This inland San Diego County seat backed Trump 55-40, so either Issa or DeMaio would be favored in November.
● CA-53: The Associated Press has projected that former State Department official Sara Jacobs will advance to the general election in this safely blue San Diego seat, and it remains to be seen if she’ll end up facing a fellow Democrat. Jacobs leads with 30% with 110,000 ballots counted, while San Diego City Council president Georgette Gómez is beating Republican Chris Stoddard 19-14 for second.
● Fresno, CA Mayor: Former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who identifies as a Republican, has 54% of the vote with 57,000 ballots counted in the officially nonpartisan race to succeed outgoing Republican incumbent Lee Brand. Democrat Andrew Janz, who ran a competitive 2018 race against GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, is in second with 36%. A second round would take place in November if no one ends up with a majority once all the votes are in.
● San Diego, CA Mayor: Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria is in first place with 40% of the vote in the nonpartisan race to succeed termed-out GOP incumbent Kevin Faulconer, while two city councilors are in a tight race for the second spot in the November general election. With 196,000 votes counted, Republican Scott Sherman leads Democrat Barbara Bry 25-24.
● Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: With 966,000 votes counted, incumbent Jackie Lacey is at 50.7% of the vote, which is just above the majority she needs to avoid a November general election. Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, a fellow Democrat who is challenging Lacey from the left, leads public defender Rachel Rossi 27-22 for second.
● Orange County, CA Board of Supervisors: Democrats need to flip two seats to take their first majority on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in living memory, and one of those crucial races is up in the air. With 89,000 votes counted in District 3, Republican incumbent Don Wagner leads Democrat Ashleigh Aitken 54-46. There are no other candidates in this officially nonpartisan race, so one of these two will take the majority of the vote needed to avert a November general election.
It's a different story in District 1, where GOP incumbent Andrew Do is at 45% with 60,000 votes counted. Westminster Councilman Sergio Contreras leads Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a fellow Democrat, 21-20 for the second spot in the general election.
● San Diego, CA Board of Supervisors: It appears that two Democrats are assured to advance to the nonpartisan general election for the open District 1, which would give Team Blue an automatic pickup in a year where they're trying to take their first majority on the San Diego Board of Supervisors in decades.
Democrats need to defeat Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar in District 3 in November to win control of the Board, but it remains to be seen which Democrat will oppose her. Gasper leads with 46% with 98,000 votes in, while former Treasury official Terra Lawson-Remer leads Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz 29-25.
● NC-02: Former state Rep. Deborah Ross decisively won the Democratic nod for this redrawn and reliably blue Raleigh-based seat. Ross, who lost an expensive contest to GOP Sen. Richard Burr in 2016, took 70% of the vote on Tuesday, while Wake County School Board member Monika Johnson-Hostler was in second with 22%.
● NC-06: Attorney and 2018 House nominee Kathy Manning won the Democratic primary for this redrawn and reliably blue seat in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem area by beating former congressional chief of staff Rhonda Foxx 48-20. Manning is a prominent Greensboro philanthropist and former lawyer, and she lost an expensive contest last cycle to GOP Rep. Ted Budd under the old lines in the 13th District.
● NC-11: Businesswoman Lynda Bennett and businessman Madison Cawthorn advanced through the 12-way GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Mark Meadows in this 57-40 Trump seat. Bennett, who had Meadow's endorsement, took 23% in this Appalachian North Carolina district, while Cawthorn led state Sen. Jim Davis 20-19 for second.
We hadn't written about Cawthorn until days before the primary, though he's been the subject of several nonpolitical local stories in the years since he survived a near-fatal 2014 car wreck that left him in a wheelchair. Cawthorn, who is now 24, has been portraying himself as a representative of an "emerging generation of Americans," and he's so far self-funded $281,000 for this campaign.
On the Democratic side, Air Force veteran Moe Davis, who had the support of VoteVets, won outright with 47% of the vote. Republican Pat McCrory carried the seat by a modest 52-45 margin as he was very narrowly losing the 2016 gubernatorial race, so a strong Democratic nominee may be able to make things interesting.
● TX-Sen: Air Force veteran MJ Hegar will face state Sen. Royce West in the runoff to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn. Hegar, whose campaign has the support of the DSCC and other national Democratic organizations, took first with 22%, while West outpaced nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez 14.5-13.3 for second. Tzintzún Ramirez conceded on Wednesday afternoon.
● TX-02: Attorney Sima Ladjevardian took first place in the Democratic primary with 48%, while Navy veteran Elisa Cardnell earned the second runoff spot 31-21. The winner will go up against GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw in a northern Houston seat that Donald Trump carried 52-43.
● TX-03: Attorneys Lulu Seikaly and Sean McCaffity will face off in the Democratic runoff to take on GOP Rep. Van Taylor in this 55-41 Trump seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. Seikaly took first on Tuesday with 45%, while McCaffity was just behind with 44%.
● TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who had the support of Donald Trump, defeated former Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel by a wide 61-27 margin. Hunt will try to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in an ancestrally red West Houston seat that swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton.
● TX-10: 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Siegel took first place with 44%, while physician Pritesh Gandhi beat attorney Shannon Hutcheson 33-23 for the second runoff spot. The winner will take on longtime GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in a 53-42 Trump seat that was gerrymandered to stretch from Austin east into the Houston area.
● TX-11: Air Force veteran August Pfluger, who previously served as a National Security Council adviser to Donald Trump, won the GOP nomination outright for this safely red seat based around Midland and San Angelo. Pfluger, who had Trump's endorsement and a massive cash advantage over his rivals, beat former congressional aide Brandon Batch 52-15.
● TX-12: Rep. Kay Granger turned back businessman Chris Putnam 58-42 after a very expensive GOP primary for this safely red Fort Worth seat. Granger, who is the top Republican on the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, had Donald Trump's endorsement, and she also benefited from $1.2 million in outside spending from the Congressional Leadership Fund. The anti-tax Club for Growth and the Protect Freedom PAC, meanwhile, together spent over $2 million to support Putnam.
● TX-13: Lobbyist Josh Winegarner, who has the support of retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry, took first place in the GOP primary for this safely red Texas Panhandle seat with 39% of the vote. The second spot went to former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson, who beat self-funding businessman Chris Ekstrom 20-15. Jackson is best known for his unsuccessful 2018 nomination to be secretary of veterans affairs, which ran aground after whistleblowers accused him of drinking to excess while on the job and overprescribing medications.
● TX-17: Former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions' campaign to return to the House in a seat far from his old district passed its first test on Tuesday when he took first with 32% of the vote. Sessions lost his bid for a 12th term in his Dallas-based seat in 2018 less than a year before relocating 100 miles away to his childhood home of Waco to stage a comeback.
The Associated Press has not yet called the second runoff spot as of Wednesday afternoon, but businesswoman Renee Swann leads self-funding perennial candidate George Hindman 19-18. Retiring Rep. Bill Flores is supporting Swann in this reliably red seat, which includes College Station and Waco, and he's loudly made his displeasure at Sessions' carpetbagging known.
● TX-22: 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni defeated Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed 53-25 to claim the Democratic nod for this 52-44 Trump seat in the southern Houston suburbs. The GOP nod to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Pete Olson, who defeated Kulkarni by a surprisingly small 51-46 margin last cycle, will not be decided until the May runoff, though.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls took first place with 41%, while self-funder Kathaleen Wall beat nonprofit head Pierce Bush 19-15 for second. Bush is a grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, and his defeat marks the first time that a member of the family has lost an election in Texas since his uncle, George W. Bush, lost a 1978 House general election.
Gonzales, who has the support of retiring Rep. Will Hurd, took just 28% of the vote; businessman Raul Reyes, who launched a quixotic campaign against Hurd months before the incumbent retired, was just behind in second with 23%. The winner of the runoff will face 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, who has once again proven to be a very strong fundraiser.
● TX-24: Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who had Donald Trump's endorsement, won the GOP primary for this open seat by a wide 64-21 margin. Democrats are hoping to score a pickup in this 51-44 Trump seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth, and the nomination will be decided in the May runoff. 2018 state agriculture secretary nominee Kim Olson took first place with 41%, while local school board member Candace Valenzuela beat 2018 nominee Jan McDowell 30-10 for second.
● TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar turned back a well-funded Democratic primary challenge from immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros by a close 52-48 margin. Texas does not have party registration, and it's likely that Republican voters gave the incumbent his winning margin by voting for him rather than participating in Donald Trump's uncompetitive primary.
Cuellar won't have any trouble prevailing in November in this 58-38 Clinton seat in the Laredo area, but his close call on Tuesday could encourage future primary opposition.
● TX-31: Physician Christine Mann and tech businesswoman Donna Imam advanced to the Democratic primary runoff to face GOP Rep. John Carter in this suburban Austin seat. Mann took first with 35%, while Iman led Round Rock City Councilor Tammy Young 31-14 for second. Actor Dan Janjigian, who played Chris R in the legendary bad movie The Room, was dead last with just 4%. (Yes, Daily Kos Elections Editor and noted bad movie fanatic Jeff Singer is torn apart.)
● TX-32: Businesswoman Genevieve Collins beat retired Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon 53-34 to win the GOP nod to face freshman Democratic Rep. Colin Allred. Allred flipped this Dallas-area seat two years after it swung from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton, and the GOP is hoping that it's not too late to take it back.
● Harris County, TX District Attorney: Democratic incumbent Kim Ogg held back a primary challenge from the left by beating former prosecutor Audia Jones 54-24. Mary Nan Huffman, who works as an attorney for the Houston Police Officers Union, won the GOP nod 63-21, and she'll take on Ogg in November.
● Special elections: Super Tuesday also featured a number of legislative special elections, including a very big hold for Maine Democrats in a Trumpy district. Here's our recap:
CA-SD-28: As of Wednesday afternoon, Republican Melissa Melendez led this five-candidate all-party primary for this GOP-held seat with 42% of the vote. Democrats Elizabeth Romero and Joy Silver were in close competition for second with 22% and 21%, respectively. Republican John Schwab and Democrat Anna Nevenic rounded out the field with 13% and 3% respectively.
Melendez is assured of a spot in the May 12 runoff, but a large proportion of the vote remains uncounted, so the close race for second could shift. For their part, both Romero and Silver have expressed positive sentiments about their performances, but neither has outright declared themselves the runner-up.
Republican candidates combined to outpace Democrats 55-45 in this Southern California district that backed Donald Trump 49-47 and Mitt Romney 53-46. Democrats hold a 29-10 majority in the Senate, with just this seat vacant.
GA-SD-13: Carden Summers held off Jim Quinn 52-48 to win this all-Republican runoff election. Summers narrowly led Quinn 43-42 in the first round of voting in this South Georgia district. Georgia's Senate chamber is now at full strength with Republicans in control 35-21.
MA-HD-Middlesex 32: Democrat Kate Lipper-Garabedian defeated Republican Brandon Reid in dominating fashion, 83-17. Lipper Garabedian's win was large even for a Democrat in this district, which voted for Hillary Clinton 63-32 and Barack Obama 59-40. Democrats have a massive 126-31 advantage in this chamber with two other seats vacant.
ME-HD-128: Democrat Kevin O'Connell defeated Republican Garrel Craig 58-42 to hold this seat for his party. O'Connell's impressive win represents a huge overperformance and a reversal of recent trends at the presidential level: Romney carried this district 50-48, but Trump won it by an even wider 50-42 margin. O'Connell's victory also represents an improvement for Democrats at the legislative level. In 2018, Democrat Arthur Verow (whose death last year triggered this special election) recaptured this seat from Craig 52-48, two years after Craig had unseated him 51-49.
Democrats have a 88-56 lead (with six independent members) in this chamber with one other seat vacant.
● Israel: A stalemate between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to continue after a third consecutive election provided neither side with the votes to form a government. Netanyahu's radical-right Likud party and its allies (parties of the far-right and Orthodox Haredi religious parties) won 58 out of 120 seats, up three seats from the election in September but down two seats from the election last April.
Opponents of Netanyahu, including the centrist Blue and White, center-left Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, and the Joint List, an ideologically diverse alliance of Arab-majority parties, won 55 seats, down two from September. However, the Joint List won two additional seats for 15 total, while the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance won four fewer seats than last time for only 7. The alliance between Labor-Gesher and Meretz, which happened for the first time this election, seemed to have hurt it both among centrist Labor voters who didn't like allying with Meretz and defected to Blue and White, while left-wing Meretz voters who didn't like allying with Labor and Gesher defected to the Joint List.
Lastly, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party won seven seats, down one from September. Though Lieberman is right-wing nationalist, his party is also secular and he has refused to join a Netanyahu government propped up by religious parties. But he also refuses to support a government supported by the Joint List, even if that support is from outside of government.
WIth no obvious governing coalition, Israel is back where it was after the first two elections. Rumors of a Blue and White or Labor defector swirled when exit polls showed the Netanyahu alliance with 60 seats, just one short of a majority, but three defectors seems likely impossible. Likud, Blue and White, and Lieberman have all committed to their positions so firmly that it seems difficult for any sort of compromise to be reached.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu's trial for breach of trust, accepting bribes and fraud is set to begin on March 17, though it's possible that could be delayed. Potential alternative solutions have been proposed, such as a direct election for prime minister between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. But if nothing changes to break the stalemate, Israel is looking at a fourth election in August of this year.