Meet the Special Election Class of 2017 (So Far)
This year’s elections have brought a new crop of freshmen to Congress
By CHRIS HALE, BILL CLARK and TOM WILLIAMS
California Democrat Jimmy Gomez became the newest member of the House on Tuesday after being officially sworn in by Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Gomez took his seat more than a month after he defeated fellow Democrat Robert Lee Ahn 59 percent to 41 percent in a June 6 special election in California’s 34th District. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthycriticized him for delaying his swearing-in, though Gomez, a former state assemblyman, has said he had voting obligations in the Assembly, and later, a family scheduling conflict.
He replaces former Rep. Xavier Becerra who resigned in January after California Gov. Jerry Brown tapped him to be the Golden State’s attorney general.
Gomez joins a group of other new freshman lawmakers following a string of special elections this year and one senatorial appointment. They will be joined by at least another House member this year. Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s resignation last month opened up his 3rd District seat. A special election is scheduled for November. And a Senate special election in Alabama this year could also add a new face.
Here is a quick roundup of the other newest additions to Congress:
In the year’s most high-profile special election, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff 52 percent to 48 percent in a June 20 runoff in Georgia’s 6th District. The race to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was the most expensive House race ever, with total spending topping $50 million.
In another special election on June 20, Republican Rep. Ralph Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell to win South Carolina’s 5th District seat by a tighter-than-expected 51 percent to 48 percent. Norman replaces former Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who resigned from the House in February to become President Donald Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.
On May 25, Republican Greg Gianforte won Montana’s special election to fill the at-large House seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who left to become Trump’s secretary of the Interior. Gianforte beat Democrat Rob Quist 50 percent to 44 percent, a day after he was charged with misdemeanor assault after attacking a reporter at his campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling, and had to pay $385 in fees.
Kansas witnessed the first special election of Trump’s presidency. Republican Rep. Ron Estes, the state treasurer, defeated Democratic lawyer James Thompson 52 percent to 46 percent. The race to fill the 4th District seat former Rep. Mike Pompeo, who left to become Trump’s CIA director, was also closer than expected for Team GOP.
The only new member so far this year who was not elected is Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, appointed by the state’s then-Gov. Robert Bentley on Feb. 9 to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions vacated his seat to become Trump’s attorney general and has since found himself embroiled in the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Strange is currently running in this year’s special election to complete the remainder of Sessions’ term. The GOP primary is Aug. 15.