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Special, Special, Special Elections

Gearing up for the midterms amid one special election after another


The spectacle of politics and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the nation’s culture. Subscribe to our newsletter here.

One Down, How Many More to Go?


UNITED STATES APRIL 25: Protesters for and against Arizona's immigration law SB1070 rally outside of the Supreme Court as the court prepares to hear the United States v. Arizona case on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The latest special election for the House, this one in Arizona, is just the latest. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Debbie Lesko won the latest special election for the House, but wait! There’s more. 

We’re mid-midterm prep for the 2018 elections, but it’s not like there has been much daylight between the 2016 general election and now, courtesy of the multitude of special elections that started early in 2017 and continue seemingly unabated.

Remember Georgia’s Tom Price? He was Health and Human Services Secretary for a cup of coffee and last year’s special election to replace him was the most expensive House race in history. Other members left for other job opportunities, like Utah’s Jason Chaffetz, who could not wait to get on television, and California’s Xavier Becerra, who saw a more rewarding life as California attorney general.  

All told, there were six special elections last year to replace those who left (not counting the primaries and run-offs), plus the special Senate election to replace current Attorney General Jeff Sessions

This year, we’ve had two. The first was the special in Pennsylvania that produced the newest member of the House, Democrat Conor Lamb

Lamb won’t be the newest member for long, though, once Lesko is sworn in. And as soon as she gets settled, she can start running again, perhaps in a rematch with her vanquished Democratic opponent, Hiral Tipirneni

In the latest Roll Call Political Theater podcast, we take a look at Lesko’s win, which provides a little bit for everyone: Republicans got a win and Democrats kept it close. What that means for November, when Arizona will host a marquee Senate and gubernatorial race as well, is an interesting question.


Vacancy Signs

An Architect of the Capitol employee goes through supplies that are up for grabs at a drop site for discarded items from the office moving process, December 03, 2008.
(CQ Roll Call file photo)

But even now, after all that early cycle churn, the House still has six vacancies:

Oklahoma’s 1st District (Republican Jim Bridenstine resigned)

Texas’s 27th District (Republican Blake Farenthold resigned) 

New York’s 25th District (Democrat Louise Slaughter died)

Ohio’s 12th District (Republican Patrick J. Tiberi resigned)

Michigan’s 13th District (Democrat John Conyers Jr. resigned)

Arizona’s 8th District (Republican Trent Franks resigned)

Once Lesko is sworn in, the vacancy roll will go down to five. But it’ll be back to at least six once Republican Charlie Dent bails, which will likely be sometime next month. 

Roll Call’s David Hawkings examined the recent rush of members of Congress leaving before their terms are up

Here a Special, There a Special

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Those vacancies mean there will be even more special elections, although it’s not even certain how many at this point. Because, everywhere is special in its own way. 

The special election for Tiberi’s seat will be August 7, with a May 8 primary. 

A special election in Texas to replace Farenthold is June 30. 

In New York, Michigan and Oklahoma, and eventually Pennsylvania, it’s not clear at this point when, or if, those specials will be held. Some might wait until Election Day in November. Stay tuned. 

Oh, and by the way, we’ll also have special Senate elections in Minnesota and Mississippi on Election Day. 

You Going to Pay For That?

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, takes a picture during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Rayburn Building on November 14, 2017, on oversight of the Department of Justice where Attorney General Jeff Sessions fielded a variety of questions including immigration and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The Great State of Texas wants former Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, to pay for the special election to replace him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaking of Farenthold, the governor in Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, wants the former congressman to pay for the cost of the special election. Welcome home!

The Kicker

UNITED STATES - APRIL 25: Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., speaks during a news conference outside of the Capitol on Thursday, April 25, 2013, on the
Tuesday’s special election was brought to you by: the resignation of Trent Franks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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