Fight to Vote

Unsanitized, Election Edition: The Most Important Races Other than President

A look around the country on election eve. This is The Election 2020 Daily Report for November 2, 2020

Unsanitized, Election Edition: The Most Important Races Other than President

First Ballot

I don’t think there’s a lot more to say about the presidential election. Donald Trump’s chances of winning depend on a decent-sized polling error in Pennsylvania and a more modest polling error in numerous other states. It’s a real possibility and it shouldn’t be discounted, and I don’t think a single Democrat is discounting it. Here’s Nate Silver’s pre-election essay, and here’s Nate Cohn’s. I went through yesterday why I think the late deciders will swing to Biden. We’re in that moment where we wait to see what happens and fight to get every vote counted. That’s about it.

So it’s time to look at the rest of the election landscape. I’ve done a little of this, looking at state legislative chambers and where the money is going in House races. Daily Kos has put together a comprehensive independent expenditures tracker, which helpfully breaks out the money in the last week of the campaign, so you can see who’s been bolstered and who’s been abandoned.

So taking that into account, as well as other inputs, here’s a not-at-all-complete guide for what I’m looking at tomorrow:

Senate: We are very close to a situation with a 49-49 Senate, with the two Georgia races advancing to a January 5 runoff. In this instance, Democrats across the country will pour millions of dollars into the campaign of Jon Ossoff, again, just like they did in a special House election in 2017. Because Georgia requires statewide winners to collect 50 percent +1, the Ossoff/David Perdue race could go into overtime. (There’s a libertarian on the ballot who will pull some votes.) There’s no expectation that the Georgia special election will yield a majority, with multiple candidates from each party competing. So the two-runoff scenario is very real.

The way to lower the temperature on that outcome is with Democrats breaking through in one of the tossups. I’m looking at Iowa, where Theresa Greenfield looked like she had a narrow lead, but recent polling shows Joni Ernst back in front, and at North Carolina, where Cal Cunningham seems to be persevering despite scandal. More under the radar is the race in Kansas, a classic “Mods vs. Cons” election, with ex-Republican Barbara Bollier against replacement-level conservative Roger Marshall. If that race is at all close, in the most conservative state with a contested Senate election, then I’d gather with a relatively uniform swing that Democrats will break through somewhere. (Texas is a dark horse.)

House: There are interesting bellwether House races up and down the map. The ones with presidential implications include two seats in the tipping point state of Pennsylvania: PA-10 in Harrisburg and York, where completely mismatched hard-core conservative Scott Perry faces state auditor general Eugene DePasquale; and PA-01 in Bucks County (my hometown), where moderate Brian Fitzpatrick didn’t draw a particularly high-profile opponent (local councilwoman Cristina Finello) yet is still in a dogfight. If both of them lose, it makes it harder to see Trump taking the state. NE-02which we’ve discussed, is a district that could deliver its own electoral vote, and the race between progressive Kara Eastman and incumbent Republican Don Bacon is as tight as Biden/Trump here.

An out-of-nowhere race is AR-02, between Congressional Oversight Commission member French Hill and Democrat Joyce Elliot. While this seat includes the capital of Little Rock, it’s exactly the kind of red-area suburban district that Democrats overtook in 2018, and a win here would reveal that Republican suburban gap remains. I’ve written about the Ann Wagner race in MO-02, where one of Wall Street’s biggest supporters could lose a suburban Missouri seat; the same dynamic applies.

A couple competitive seats with far-right Republican candidates include CO-03, with open-carry gun-themed restaurant owner (yes) Lauren Boebert against Diane Mitch Busch; and NC-11, where 25 year-old Madison Cawthorn took the primary when Mark Meadows became chief of staff but could blow a completely winnable seat. The Dem-on-Dem races in CA-53 and WA-10 are little windows into the establishment vs. left battle, but in a general election the establishment has an advantage because the entire electorate gets a say.

Finally, there are seven seats in Texas that have drawn national interest, mostly in suburban and rapidly-growing counties, and it will be fascinating to see where they land.

Governor: There’s not much of interest here, but two races could offer clues. The Montana statewide races are all bunched together, and a Democratic gubernatorial victory could mean good things for the current governor, Steve Bullock, now running for U.S. Senate. Similarly, Roy Cooper has a lead for re-election in North Carolina, but the margin of victory could say something about the presidential battleground.

Prosecutors: Over the weekend we did a story on the Maricopa County race in Arizona, an important seat for policing reform. In my backyard of Los Angeles County, George Gascon (the former DA in San Francisco) challenges incumbent Jackie Lacey, who has favored longer sentences and the death penalty, while doing little on police violence. The indispensable Daniel Nichanian has more on prosecutor races at The Appeal.

State Supreme Court: The big races here are in Ohio, where a win for former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and one Democratic colleague could flip the high court; Michigan, where control is also on the line; and Arizona, where three Republican judges have their retention elections.

Ballot measures: California always looms large here. There’s a chance to end the legacy of Prop 13 with Prop 15, which would force businesses to pay fair assessment rates on their properties. And Prop 22 would give Uber and Lyft an entirely new classification of labor law, which they’ve spent a whopping $200 million so far to try to secure.

Florida has Amendment 2, a $15 an hour minimum wage, on the ballot. It needs a 60 percent margin to pass, and it’s plausible that it brings out a slightly more liberal electorate. Minimum wage hikes have passed almost everywhere they’ve been tried. Arizona’s Proposition 208, a surtax on incomes above $250,000 for teacher salaries and schools, is another bellwether to check the ideological leanings of a swing state.

Colorado has an important measure, Proposition 118, that would provide 12-16 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a payroll tax surcharge, split between employers and employees. Also in Colorado, Prop 113 is a referendum on the state’s switch to the National Popular Vote interstate compact. We wouldn’t be all that concerned about this election if it went by the national popular vote. We almost got a Constitutional amendment doing this 50 years ago, but the interstate compact would go around the Electoral College, allowing states to distribute electoral votes to the popular vote winner. Colorado entered into the compact last year, and this referendum would remove them. There’s an outside path to getting states with 270 electoral votes in the compact by 2024, so this is a critical vote if you think the Electoral College is a ridiculous anachronism.

Finally, I’m looking at Oregon, where Measure 110 would decriminalize practically all drugs, and Missouri, which is attempting to gut independent redistricting with Amendment 3.

Today at the Prospect

We had election stories running all weekend. Here’s Sarah Jaffe on blue-collar workers who lost manufacturing jobs organizing against Trump; Mike Elk on fracking losing its power as a wedge issue in western Pennsylvania; Alex Sammon on another election being waged on health care; Maciel Spotted Elk on voter suppression in Navajo Nation; and there’s much more. Check out our latest!

Days Until the Election

It’s tomorrow.

Today I Learned, Election Edition

David Dayen

David Dayen is the author of Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize. Follow him on Twitter: @ddayen.