Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

FL-13 Special Election Defined; Owens, Moran to Retire

In House on January 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The first phase of the special election to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R) was held last night in Pinellas County, Florida on the western Tampa Bay peninsula. Though the Democratic race was a non-event because former state Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink was unopposed, the Republican side featured a three-way race.

Lobbyist David Jolly, a former staff member to Congressman Young, won the nomination securing 45 percent of the vote. Jolly raised the most money (more than $400,000) on the Republican side and enjoyed support from the Young political organization, including the late congressman’s wife, Beverly Young, who voiced her support through a television ad.

Placing second was state Rep. Kathleen Peters who never seemed to get her campaign untracked. She garnered votes from 31 percent of the Republican electorate.

Bringing up the rear in both votes and finances was former Blue Angels pilot Mark Bircher, who had the backing of former Congressman Allen West (R-FL-22) and some Tea Party organizations. Considering his financial receipts were under $100,000, his 21 percent showing was more than respectable.

Jolly’s victory enables him to advance to the special general election against Sink. He is the clear underdog despite the seat being held by the House’s most senior Republican for 43 years. Sink has already raised well over $1 million for the special general vote, and her active campaign officially begins tomorrow.

Fewer than 46,000 voters went to the polls for yesterday’s special Republican primary election. The special general is scheduled for March 11. The winner takes the seat immediately upon election and serves for the remainder of the present Congress. The winner is then eligible to seek a full two-year term in November.

Owens / Moran

New York Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21) became the ninth member of the House to announce his retirement since mid-December, and the third to leave Congress after serving only a pair of full terms. The other two are Republican Reps. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2) and Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3).

Owens won a special election at the end of 2009 in former District 23 to replace Rep. John McHugh (R) who President Obama appointed as Army Secretary. He was re-elected in 2010, and then again in new District 21 during the last election. Though Obama carried the seat 52-46 percent against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the underlying voting patterns tend to be more Republican. So, this new open seat race should be rated a toss-up. Rep. Owens has never exceeded 47.2 percent of the vote, winning in three-way configurations because Conservative and Republican Party nominees continually split the right-of-center votes.

The congressman stated his reason for retiring is a desire to have greater family time, but another difficult re-election effort in a year that could be trending against his party over the Affordable Care Act’s implementation difficulties may have played the bigger role in his by-passing re-election.

Running for the seat since her announcement in August, 29-year-old former George W. Bush Administration staff member Elise Stefanik (R) appears to be the early front-runner for the Republican nomination against Tea Party-backed Joe Gilbert, a former Army officer. Now that the seat is open, others may jump in the race. Without Owens, the early Democratic field is undefined.

And saying it’s time for him to move onto another challenge, 68-year-old Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA-8) announces today that he is not seeking re-election in November.

Moran was first elected in 1990. His 8th District includes the city of Alexandria, Moran’s home, Arlington County, and parts of Fairfax. He is the tenth House member to announce a retirement or resignation since mid-December, and the seventh Democrat.

VA-8 is a safely Democratic seat. There are now 30 open House seats, 18 Republican-held, and now 12 on the Democratic side. Of the nine most recent retirees, including Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC-12) who is leaving the House to accept an appointment as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, six are Democrats.

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