Special Elections Update

In addition to the NY-3 upcoming special election on February 13th to replace expelled Rep. George Santos (R-Long Island), three more irregular US House elections will be held before the regular cycle commences, and immediate action is occurring this week in two.

The California Secretary of State has attested that nine candidates have qualified for the March 19th special election to replace resigned former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) in the Golden State’s 20th District, the most Republican seat within the 52-member delegation. Controversy, however, still surrounds the favorite to win the electoral contest, Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield). 

Since Mr. Fong had already filed for re-election before Rep. McCarthy resigned from Congress, Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) ruled that he could not enter the congressional race because such action would violate a California election law that prohibits individuals from simultaneously running for multiple offices. 

Mr. Fong sued over the administrative ruling and won in Superior Court. Therefore, he has been slated as a congressional candidate while still not being removed from the state Assembly ballot. The Secretary of State is appealing the court ruling so even if Mr. Fong wins the special election as expected, he could be hampered by a future court decision.

Also qualifying are Tulare County Sheriff Mike Bourdeaux (R), casino executive Kyle Kirkland (R), Republican activist Anna Zoe Cohen, Democratic educator Marissa Wood, clinical psychologist Harmash Kumar (D), and three No Party Preference entrants. 

If no one receives majority support on March 19th, the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation will advance to a special general election on May 21st. The regular cycle primary is scheduled for March 5th, featuring most of these candidates. The special election winner will serve the balance of Rep. McCarthy’s final term.

New York US Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo), who announced back in November that he would resign the House seat he has held for almost 20 years to take a position in the non-profit sector back in Buffalo, issued a statement yesterday saying that he will leave Congress on Friday. Once the seat is officially vacant, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will have ten days to call the special election for a period no less than 70 and no greater than 80 days from the scheduling announcement. 

The local Democratic county chairmen have already chosen state Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) as the party’s special election nominee. Republicans are not likely to be competitive in the Buffalo anchored district which carries a partisan rating of D+18 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. At this point, the local Republican county chairs have not even announced a special election nominee.

While Sen. Kennedy may not have much opposition for the special election, he has drawn a regular election Democratic primary opponent. Nate McMurray, a former local town supervisor who ran two close races in the former 27th District that has since been collapsed in 2020 reapportionment when New York lost a congressional seat, says he will challenge Sen. Kennedy for the regular election Democratic nomination. 

The regular election candidate filing deadline is April 4th. The New York state primary election is scheduled for June 25th.

The third special election, that in Ohio’s 6th District after Rep. Bill Johnson* (R) resigned to become president of Youngstown State University, is also scheduled for March 19th, and concurrent with the Buckeye State’s 2024 regular election primary. 

In a district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+31, the 3/19 GOP primary will determine Mr. Johnson’s successor. The special general election is scheduled for June 11th. The leading candidates are state Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Leetonia) and state Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Delaware).  

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