Jungle primary elections
Georgia Senate District 17 (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Phyllis Hatcher (D), Brian Strickland (R), Ed Toney (R), Nelva Lee (R)
Overview: For the first competitive special election in 2018, we head to the Southeastern suburbs of Atlanta. This seat became open when Rick Jeffares resigned to focus on running for Lieutenant Governor. 4 candidates filed for Tuesday’s primary to replace him. Georgia uses a jungle primary system, which means that candidates from both parties are combined on one ballot. If one candidate gets over 50%, they win the seat. Otherwise, the top two take part in a runoff election four weeks later. The only Democrat to file was Phyllis Hatcher, and her best chance of winning this seat is to get 50% now, as Republican voters will not be unified and will be less likely to turn out. This isn’t entirely impossible, given that Donald Trump only won this district 56–40. However, it would be a big swing for Hatcher to manage to get 50%, especially since Jeffares won by a wider 59–40 margin in his 2016 election. On the Republican side, State Representative Brian Strickland resigned his slightly blue seat in the state house to run for this seat, but more on that in a moment. Strickland has the endorsement of the district establishment, including Jeffares, and is the clear favorite to advance to the runoff, but doesn’t have a good chance of getting 50%. Also running for the Republicans is Neiva Lee, who ran against Jeffares in 2012 as a conservative Democrat. She lost that election 63–37 and it’s hard to see how previously being a Democrat will do her any favors among Republican voters. The final Republican candidate is Ed Toney, who appears to be a bit of a long shot who focuses mostly on local representation issues. However, he profiles as someone who could pull out a surprise ground game so you never know. That being said, I would be surprised if Strickland isn’t the highest finishing Republican.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this as Lean Runoff, with Hatcher being a safe bet to make the runoff and Strickland also being extremely likely. I’ll say Hatcher finishes first with about 47%, with Strickland coming in second at 35%.
Georgia House District 111 (Republican defense)
Candidates: El-Mahdi Holly (D), Tarji Leonard Dunn (D), Geoffrey Cauble (R), Larry Morey (R)
Overview: This district, which is part of the 17th Senate District as well, is the best chance the Democrats have for a flip this month. Republican Brian Strickland resigned to seek election to Senate District 17 and it makes sense why he wanted a change in electorate. This seat has swung increasingly blue over the past few years, with Hillary Clinton winning the district 50–47 in 2016. Strickland barely held on to his seat, winning 52–48, and was in serious danger of losing the seat in the 2018 midterms already given the way suburban parts Georgia are shifting left. Both parties had two candidates run for the seat in the jungle primary. The Democratic favorite is El-Mahdi Holly, who has both the backing of establishment Democrats and progressive support. Holly was notably endorsed by Our Revolution, a Bernie Sanders group that has had a fair amount of success raising money for progressive candidates in smaller races. Holly will almost definitely be the highest finishing Democrat, but his ability to get 50% will likely be blocked by Tarji Leonard Dunn, the other candidate in the race. Dunn doesn’t seem to have much of a chance in the race, but will get a significant number of votes. On the Republican side, Geoffrey Cauble is the slight favorite, having received the endorsement of Strickland in the race. However, his opponent Larry Morey has strong connections in business as a real estate developer and will also receive votes from anti-establishment Republicans. Either Cauble or Morey will likely grab a spot in a runoff, but the other outside possibility, and the worst one for Republicans, is Dunn getting more votes than both Cauble and Morey if Republicans don’t turn out.
Rating and prediction: We rate this as Lean Runoff, with Holly a clear favorite to be in a runoff spot. The other spot is a tossup, but the most likely outcome is Cauble narrowly getting the spot. I’ll say Holly is first with 40%, and Cauble grabs second place with 25%
One-Party General Election
Connecticut House District 15 (Democratic Defense)
Candidates: Bobby Gibson (D), Joseph Suggs (D)
Overview: This district, located primarily in the small Hartford suburb of Bloomfield, opened up when incumbent Democrat David Baram resigned to take a position as a judge. First time candidate and football coach Bobby Gibson received the endorsement of the local Democratic town committee. Candidates in Connecticut are nominated by their parties without a primary. However, establishment Democrats are very unpopular in Connecticut right now, and as a result former Bloomfield mayor and Connecticut Treasurer Joseph Suggs managed to make the ballot as a Democrat through a signature petition process. Suggs already had the name recognition to be a major threat to Gibson but was given a major boost when it was revealed last week that Gibson was arrested for DUI in November. This arrest, combined with an establishment endorsement, quite possibly may doom Gibson. If Suggs wins, it wouldn’t be the first time this happened in a Connecticut State House special election recently. Last April, Joshua Malik Hall won in House District 7 as a petitioning candidate, defeating endorsed candidate Robert Pinckney. The Republicans did not run a candidate in this heavily Democratic district, which Hillary Clinton won 81–16.
Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Lean Suggs. I actually have a hunch it won’t be close at all and Suggs wins 65–35.
Competitive Primary Elections
New Hampshire House District Belknap 3 Republican Primary (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Les Cartier, William Henry Davies
Overview: For this next race, we head to the small town of Laconia in central New Hampshire where one of this district’s four house seats opened up when incumbent Republican Donald Flanders passed away. The Republicans have two strong candidates running in the primary. Les Cartier is a retired state fire marshall coordinator and William Davies is a retired computer specialist. New Hampshire state house districts are very small and a low turnout primary like this one is almost impossible to predict so it definitely is a tossup. Philip Spagnuolo is unopposed on the Democratic side and will have a decent chance of winning this seat on February.
Oklahoma House District 51 Republican Primary (Republican Defense)
Candidates: Brad Boles, Dustin Payne
Overview: We end in Oklahoma, with a Republican primary for a seat that opened when incumbent Republican Scott Biggs resigned to take a job with the federal government. Brad Boles, who is the mayor of a town named Marlow in the district, is the favorite to win the Republican primary over restaurant owner Dustin Payne. The winner will face Democrat Charles Murdock in the general election on March 6.