While all eyes are are on the Virginia legislature, where Democrats can win control for the first time in a quarter century on Tuesday night, 11 states are hosting 20 legislative special elections around the country as well, and a number of them are interesting. Below we preview the most compelling set of races, but you can also find a complete list here.
• TX-HD-28: This seat, which is located in the western suburbs of Houston, had been held for many years by Republican John Zerwas until he resigned in September to take a post at the University of Texas. Six Republicans and one Democrat are all vying for this seat. All the candidates will compete on one ballot and if no one takes a majority, there would be a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
The GOP field features attorney Tricia Krenek, physician Anna Allred, businesswoman Sarah Laningham; and three businessmen: Gary Gates, Gary Hale, and Clinton Purnell. By contrast, educator Eliz Markowitz has the Democratic side to herself. Markowitz has attracted strong local and national support, and there’s a chance she could win outright on Tuesday.
The stakes are high for this race because Democrats need to net just nine seats next year to take control of the state House for the first time since 2002, and a win for Markowitz would whittle that target number down to eight. As a result, this contest has become much more expensive than a typical legislative special election. Markowitz dwarfed the rest of the field in the last fundraising period by raking in $294,000, while Allred and Krenek were the leaders on the Republican side with $66,000 and $55,000, respectively. The rest of the field posted paltry fundraising totals totals, though Gates self-funded a hefty $445,000 for himself.
This will likely be a very competitive race, as this district has moved sharply away from Republicans in the last few cycles. Mitt Romney easily carried this district 64-35 in 2012, while Ted Cruz won it by a similar 64-34 margin that year. In 2016, however, Donald Trump won by a much smaller 53-43 spread, which collapsed to a 51-48 win for Cruz in his reelection bid last year.
• CA-AD-01: Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt and Republican Megan Dahle will face each other in a runoff in this geographically large, rural Northern California district. The candidates are vying to replace Dahle’s husband, Brian Dahle, who was elected to the state Senate earlier this year. In the first round of voting, Betancourt led the way with 39% while Dahle finished with 36%; three other Republican candidates in the race combined for 26%.
This is a strongly Republican district that voted for Mitt Romney 57-40 and for Donald Trump by a larger 57-36 spread. Betancourt's 39% was the highest total a Democrat has earned in this district since its current boundaries took effect in 2011, but Dahle is the heavy favorite.
• MO-HD-99: This is a Republican district in western St. Louis County that became vacant after former state Rep. Jean Evans resigned earlier this year to become the executive director of the state Republican Party. The Democratic candidate is marketing professional Trish Gunby and the Republican is accountant Lee Ann Pitman. Though this is a traditionally Republican district, Gunby has crushed Pitman in fundraising, boasting a $123,000 to $16,000 cash advantage over the course of this race.
This district is located in exactly the type of suburban area that has grown more favorable for Democrats in the Trump era, moving from 55-43 Romney to 49-44 Trump. Additionally, this seat is wholly contained in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Ann Wagner won re-election last year just 51-47 after years of racking up double-digit wins.
• NJ-SD-01: This is a Democratic district in South Jersey, located in the Vineland area, and had been occupied by Bob Andrzejczak, who served in the state House until he was appointed to succeed now-Rep. Jeff Van Drew in January. (Each of New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts send two representatives and one senator to the state capitol, so Andrzejczak had already represented this entire constituency before his promotion.) Andrzejczak is running for the remainder of Van Drew’s Senate term, which expires in 2021, and his opponent is Cumberland County GOP chair Michael Testa.
This district swung from 53-46 Obama to 53-44 Trump, and Andrzejczak has positioned himself as more conservative than most other Democrats. Much like Van Drew, who's loudly criticized fellow Democrats for moving forward with impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, Andrzejczak has also set himself apart from his party by suggesting he might vote for Trump next year.