Special election races resurface with new Democratic challengers
The biggest special elections of 2017 and 2018 are back, but this time they each have to share the limelight with dozens of other close, crucial House races.
With much less national attention being paid to them, the elections aren’t drawing nearly as many dollars in outside spending. Still, Democrats — riding an enthusiastic donor base and flush with cash — are taking another swing at all of the special election districts Republicans won by slight margins.
Ohio’s 12th District
Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) has only been able to enjoy his extremely-close special election win for three months before his inevitable rematch with Democratic challenger Danny O’Connor.
Balderson, who is favored to win in the Republican-leaning central Ohio district, has received serious support from the GOP. More than $1 million in outside money has been spent in opposition of O’Connor since the special election and approximately $4.8 million between both elections.
Vice President Mike Pence visited Columbus to campaign for Balderson and President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the brand new congressman.
O’Connor has held the cash advantage throughout. He raised $7.3 million between the two election cycles — drawing 79 percent of his large individual contributions from out-of-state — and had $879,369 cash on hand as of Oct. 17.
Balderson, on the other hand, has collected $2.1 million in total and has $176,000 to spend.
Georgia’s 6th District
In the most closely-watched special election and the most expensive House race in history, Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.) defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff by 4 points, despite being outraised $23.6 million to $4.5 million.
Running in a Republican-leaning district, Ossoff went up against more than $14 million in negative outside spending, including more than $6 million in opposition ads from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
This time, Handel is going up against Lucy McBath, a gun control activist who tragically lost her son to gun violence. She has drawn a stunning $4.6 million in outside spending support, more than $4 million of which comes from Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
Opposition spending has also been focused on McBath, with $1.6 million dedicated to negative ads.
The two are neck-and-neck in fundraising. Handel has outraised McBath $1.9 to $1.8 million since the special election.
The race has significantly tightened as time has gone on. A Nov. 4 poll from Siena/New York Times gives McBath a two-point edge. FiveThirtyEight gives Handel a 4 in 7 chance to win.
Montana at Large
Though Democratic opponent Robert Quist outraised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mt.) during the 2017 special election $6.6 million to $4.8 million, Gianforte was victorious thanks in part to $5.4 million in negative advertising against Quist.
However, with little attention being paid to the Montana battle between Gianforte and Democratic state legislator Kathleen Williams, the flow of outside money has all but dried up.
It’s actually Williams, not the Republican incumbent, who is getting outside support. Independent expenditures supporting Williams add up to $230,253 and more than $194,000 has been spent in opposition to Gianforte.
Williams won a six-way Democratic primary in June, despite being outraised by her opponents. She’s raised nearly $3.3 million, compared to Gianforte’s $4.5 million haul since the special election.
FiveThirtyEight gives Williams a 25 percent chance to take the seat.
Arizona’s 8th District
This district is less competitive, as Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz) beat Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni by 5 points in April. Still, all of the heavy hitters, including the NRCC, CLF and the Republican National Committee spent in the race to support Lesko.
That support largely hasn’t been there for the candidates’ rematch. Lesko has received $245,398 in outside spending support and no money has been spent against her opponent.
Still, after losing in the special election, Tipirneni isn’t getting national support from Democratic groups. Of her total $4 million haul, 57 percent comes from small individual contributions.
Tipirneni, an Indian-American physician, has a slim chance of winning in the very red Arizona district, despite doubling her opponent in fundraising between the two races.
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