Previewing special elections in January and early February: A rising Democratic star, wingnut Republicans

Thought election season was over? Sorry, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and people who enjoy life more than me, it’s always election season somewhere.

January 8th

Virginia: Special election for State Senate, District 33

Democrat Jennifer Wexton won her race for Congress this fall, necessitating a special election to fill her northern Virginia State Senate. Wexton was first elected to the seat in a 2014 special election and won a full term in 2015. She won that race by 13% and the seat has been in Democratic hands since the 2005 election, making it a pretty safe blue seat.

Still, given the tight margins of the Virginia State Senate —- Republicans hold a two-seat majority — it’s important to not take anything for granted.

The Democratic nominee for this special election is Jennifer Boysko, who represents the 86th district in the House of Delegates. She has a long history in Democratic and progressive activism, having gotten involved with the Dean campaign early on in the 2004 election cycle. She wound up chairing Howard Dean’s campaign in Virginia, then ran for office herself for the first time in 2012. After losing by 32 votes, Boysko ran again and won her rematch for the House of Delegates in 2014.

During this very shortened campaign, Boysko has focused mostly on economic opportunity, pushing for independent redistricting to break the GOP’s gross gerrymander in Virginia, and reducing gun violence.

CLICK HERE to donate to Boysko’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Georgia: Special election for House of Representatives, District 5

The death in November of Rep. John Meadows necessitates a special election in this very red district, where three Republicans and one Democrat have declared their candidacy.

On the GOP side, the candidates are Scott Tidwell, a local pastor and licensed insurance agent; Jesse L. Vaughn, a local attorney; and Larry Massey, a Gordon County Board of Education member. In interviews with the Calhoun Times, both Tidwell and Massey promise to pass more “religious freedom laws,” which in Georgia is code for letting white Christians opt out of the bare minimum of modern civil responsibility. Tidwell, in particular, feels he has been “compelled by the Lord” to run for office. Yikes.

On the Democratic side, Brian Rosser is running again after being blown out by Meadows in November, 81-19%.

He is a very progressive Democrat with a bio that gives few specifics but still sort of tells you all you need to know: “I’m not a wealthy business executive. I’m not a fossil fuel tycoon. I’m not some corporate-fat-cat bribing career politicians to get a fatter slice of everyone else’s pie.”

According to his LinkedIn, he is employed as a studio musician, an assertion backed up by the guitar in his campaign videos.

January 24th

Tennessee: Special Election for State Senate District 32. The primary will take place on January 24th, with the general election slated for March 12th.

The election will replace former Republican State Senator Mark Norris, who was appointed to U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee. This is a very red district — Norris ran unopposed in the 2012 and 2016 general elections. There are four Republicans running in the special primary, including former Rep. Stephen McManus, while Eric Coleman is the only Democrat running.

January 29th

Texas: Special elections for Districts 79 and 145 in the State House of Representatives. 

District 79, located in El Paso, will replace Democratic Rep. Joe Pickett, who is resigning due to health issues. According to the El Paso Times, two candidates have filed to run thus far: Art Fierro, chairman of the El Paso Community College board, and Dr. Michiel Noe, a city representative.

District 145, in Houston, must replace Democratic Rep. Carol Alvarado, who was just elected to the State Senate in another special election.

February 5th

Rhode Island: A special election for the Rhode Island House of Representatives, District 68. The primary is set for February 5th, with the general on March 5th.

It’s basically a do-over for the district, as Democratic Representative-elect Laufton Ascencao had to step aside after being caught lying about a campaign mailer. Just 25, he tried to hide the fact that he didn’t complete a mailer to help local candidates by fabricating evidence. The incident and subsequent fall-out truly embody the old adage that it’s the cover-up, not the crime, especially when the crime wasn’t really a crime.

There are a number of candidates thinking about running in this election, but it should be safe for the Democrats; a Republican didn’t even run in November, as Ascencao’s only opponent was a libertarian.

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