Florida House District 44’s special election received little attention compared to other more high-profile races like St Petersburg Mayor and Senate District 40. The district was opened when Rick Scott appointed Incumbent GOP Representative Eric Eisnaugle to be a circuit judge. This meant a traditionally GOP seat that flipped to Clinton last year would be open. The question was, how competitive would the race be?
The premier special election for Florida took place last night; the fight for Senate District 40. Deep in the heart of Miami-Dade County, the district was vacated by scandal-plagued Frank Artiles, setting up a multi-million dollar special election that both parties felt they had a chance at winning. SD40 is solidly Democrat for President but has a long streak of Republican support further down ballot. Once the special election was announced, both parties prepared for a major fight which in the end saw the Democrats take the seat from the GOP.
St Petersburg’s 2017 Mayoral Election is one of the most unique municipal races in Florida. A democratic city (giving Hillary Clinton 59% of the vote) with a popular Democratic Mayor who raised $700,000 for his re-election — August should have been a formality. Yet for months that Democratic Mayor, Rick Kriseman, was expected to lose the August 29th first round of voting. Kriseman was a former Democratic State Representative that beat an incumbent, Republican Bill Foster, in 2013, to capture the job as mayor. The first four years had some stumbles but overall Kriseman was popular with voters and seen as a shoo-in for re-election. That is, he would have been as long as former Mayor Rick Baker did not decide to run; which he did earlier in the year.
Kenya held its 2017 Presidential Election on August 8th. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term in the first round of voting with 54% over Raila Odinga. This also marked the 2nd election for Kenya where widespread violence and vote rigging did not occur. The 2017 contest was a repeat of the 2013 race, which saw Kenyatta score a narrower victory over Odinga. However, some unrest following the vote remains as Odinga has claims the vote was rigged and is challenging the results in court. The independent election board and international observers all rank the election as fair. There is a concern of renewed tensions however as the challenge moves forward. Unrest following the election has left some 25 dead, but this pails in comparison to the hundreds or thousands left dead following the rigged 2007 election.
Ethnic Division in Kenya
Like many African nations, ethnic and tribal tensions remain in Kenya. Kenya’s history has been scarred by ethnic tensions and warfare, which blew up again following major unrest following a rigged 2007 round of voting. While the situation has improved and 2013’s vote was heralded for its relative peacefulness, their is still strong tension between major ethnic groups. These tensions have spilled over into the political realm with the main political parties organized along ethnic lines. This map from Odyssey Safaris shows the major ethnic groups in Kenya. The two major political parties are formed around these groups.
Lets look at the candidates for President compared to the ethnic group they are supported by.
- President Uhuru Kenyatta is Kikuyu and his running mate, William Ruto, is Kalenjin. Both of these ethnic groups support Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.
- Challenger Odinga, meanwhile, is Luo and his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, is Kamba. Their ODM party is heavily backed by those ethnic groups.
Of Kenya’s “big five” ethnicities, only the Luhya are not on a ticket. However, they backed Odinga in both 2013 and 2017. Kenyatta has managed victories by doing well with other small ethnic groups and with the support of the 1st and 3rd largest ethnic groups.
In 2013, Kenyatta won with just over the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, while Odinga was down at 44%. The results fell across very stark ethnic lines. Many counties in Kenya saw a candidate win over 80% to 90% of the vote. Counties with more diverse ethnic makeups or made up of the smaller tribes saw a more split vote. In 2017, Kenyatta won with 54% to Odinga’s 44%.
Kenyatta improved in counties made up of smaller ethnic groups, but the loyalty of the “big five” ethnicity remained the same.
Kenyatta made slightly improvements in most counties. However, he made major gains in northern counties made up of assorted groups and the the Turkana. Kenyatta also improved in the Luhya regions, but so did Odinga. In 2013, Musalia Mudavadi, a Luhya politician, ran and pulled large vote shares in the those counties. Most of Kenyatta’s biggest gains were in lesser populated counties, but his general improvements across the board helped edge his vote total up.
The chart shows how strongly counties in the big five vote for one side. Counties dominated by smaller tribes are more modest in support and some flipped allegiance between 2013 and 2017. The limit of ethnic data by county (at least that I could find) is a shame but the general overview shows a clear pattern between the two elections. Kenyatta held on in counties loyal to his party and was crushed again in those loyal to Odinga. Meanwhile, most of Kenyatta’s best improvements where among the smaller ethnic groups that have far fewer ties to the major parties.
Overall, Kenyatta’s win holds up to the historic results and the ethnic makeup of the counties. Paired with international sign-off, and it appears clear to me that the vote was fair. Of course, Kenya’s stark ethnic divide is driving its political divide, and the current coalition appears to make Kenyatta’s Jubilee a solid favorite in any election. The political health of Kenya would be better served by the parties not forming along such strong ethnic lines. Unfortunately, that change may not take place anytime in the near future.
The GOP primary for special election in Utah’s 3rd district has received very little attention. More focus has been placed on the Alabama Senate Primary occurring that same day and many politicos and the media are burned out by a flurry of special elections early this year. However, the special election for Utah’s 3rd district, trigger by the resignation of Jason Chaffetz, does offer some key intrigue regarding Mormon voters and their dislike for bombastic President Trump.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) has been a major thorn in the side of the Republican Party this year. The Alaskan Senator, along with Maine Senator Susan Collins, has been instrumental in killing assorted efforts to repeal Obamacare, as well as nearly tanking Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. Murkowski has quickly found herself on Trump’s bad side, but has brushed off veiled attacks. Murkowski seems to be acting like someone not worried about re-election or a primary challenge in her home state.
July 25th is the date of two special election primaries in Miami-Dade County. The specials are a result of the resignation of Republican Senator Frank Artiles. Artiles was forced to resign before the end of the spring legislative session when news broke of racially-charged language and cursing he directing at African-American lawmakers. Artiles remained defiant in the wake of calls for resignation for a few days, but eventually quit.
The special election for Montana’s At-Large seat is upon us. The election was triggered by Donald Trump appointing Congressman Zinke as Interior Secretary, leaving a seat up for grabs that Democrats have not held since 1996. The seat has attracted money and interest, but Republicans, aiming to avoid a shock result, have been the largest spenders in the race. Republicans are running Greg Gianforte, a businessman who narrowly lost a Gubernatorial bid last year. Democrats are running Rob Quist, a folk singer who falls into the Bernie Sander’s wing of the party. Quist has run an aggressive campaign while Gianforte has relied more on money and paid advertising. Polling has put Gianforte in first, with wide variations from small to modest. Montana was solid for Trump in 2016, but its history of voting Democrat for Governor and Senator, coupled with Trump’s falling approvals, mean nothing can be taken for granted.
Montana is sparsely populated, but does host some key population centers. Only seven cities have a populations over 20,000 people. Much of Montana’s population is in the western part of the state while the east remains much more rural.
A super-simple summary of these cities/areas is as follows
- Missoula — home to University of Missoula, solid democratic area
- Butte — old mining and union town
- Bozeman — growing city, tourism site, white-collar, high educated
- Billings — site of large growth by rich people moving in out of state
- Helena — Capital, more Republican/swing area, home to lots of outdoor recreation
- Great Falls — rust-belt style city that has seen declining economy
- Kalispell — trading port city
Montana is also one of the whitest states in the nation. The largest non-white group is Native Americans, which are clustered in assorted reservations in the state.
Montana was solid for Trump in 2016, giving him an over 20% margin. Clinton’s wins where clustered in the west and along the Indian Reservations. Clinton won in Bozeman, a booming city with a growing white-collar and a major tourist destination (close to Big Sky), and Missoula, home to the University of Missoula. Clinton won in Butte, an older union, mining-town region but by a narrow margin.
While Clinton was losing Montana by 20 points, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock was winning by four. Bullock won the counties hosting Great Falls and Helena and only narrowly lost in Yellowstone, home to Billings. Bullock racked up much stronger wins in Butte and did better out west.
Bullock’s win was just by winning more counties, he outperformed Clinton across the state. Bullock did over 15% better in many counties in the western part of the state, with a very rural counties in the east staying stead-fast GOP.
Obama’s 2012 run in Montana was not strong, though he did win more counties than Clinton. His 15 point loss was much weaker than his 2008 run, where he came very close to taking the state.
In 2008, Obama won more counties than he did in 2012, but he also had narrower margins in counties he lost. Like any state, its not just about winning key population centers, but also keeping margins as low as possible in the rural regions.
Below is each county and how they voted in key recent elections, sorted by total votes cast in 2016. Just a handful of counties control a majority of the vote in Montana.
Montana’s East-West Split
People who study Montana’s politics and culture note a distinct east-west divide in the state. Eastern Montana is much more rural and like the great plains, losing population every census. Western Montana, dominated by the Rocky Mountains, is home to most of the states tourist hot-spots. The region is growing, the site of retirees and young workers, with a growing population. Population projects show the east continuing to lose population and the west on track to keep gaining people.
The western portion of the state is also much more educated than the east, with more and more residents holding bachelors degrees.
Compare the education map to a map showing how the partisan margin for President between 2012 and 2016 shifted.
As was seen in the rest of the nation, there was a clear correlation between how the Presidential votes shifted and the education/economy of an area.
The Democratic margin improved in one county, the one with the highest Bachelor’s degree %. The GOP margin, meanwhile, improved in many counties with lower-education, often sites of mines that do or did dot the west (Map from Montana Mining Association).
Democrat’s weakening in the mining and working class areas are part of a nationwide trend. While Clinton performed weak in these areas, Bullock managed to do better, aiding his re-election.
The combination of old union, mining towns and a growing educated population have continued a long trend of Western Montana being more Democratic than the east.
Until 1992, Montana had two congressional districts, with the western 1st district held by a Democrat, and the eastern 2nd held by a Republican. When Montana lost a seat in 1992, the two congressmen went against each-other for that At-Large seat. Democrat Williams won by a 3% while winning his old district and losing the 2nd.
Looking at several recent election in Montana broken down by the old 1st and 2nd district, the political split in the state is clear. The old 2nd district is solidly Republican while the first leans Democratic.
Clinton under-performed in the West, but tanked by record levels in the east. Clinton’s drop in mining, working-class areas gave her one of the weakest showing in the west for any high-profile race. Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Jon Tester only narrowly lost in the east in his 2012 re-election. The east and west often produce large splits in how they vote, but Tester’s 2012 win saw the lowest split thanks to his strength in the east. Democrats may under-perform in the east, but they still can keep things close, as Tester demonstrates.
The east/west split is worth keeping an eye on for the future. Montana has narrowly missed out on a 2nd district in the last two censuses and still stands in the running for 2020. A split in Montana could produce a western district more favorable to Democrats. The line’s would be different from 1992 (the west is too over-populated now) — but any western variation (absent an aggressive gerrymander) would be in play for Democrats.
Montana is often written off in the political conversation most of the time, lumped in with deep red states like Idaho or Wyoming. However, Montana’s politics are much more complex than other parts of the region. The state’s east-west divide is real and the state’s history of electing Democrats mean nothing can be written off.
The special election in the Kansas 4th district is not supposed to be on anyone’s radar. When Donald Trump picked Congressman Mike Pompeo to be his CIA director, ratings for the special election started at “Safe R.” The district is solid red, voting for Trump by 27 points. It includes Wichita and several rural farm counties. Both party candidates where chosen at local conventions, with Democrats choosing James Thompson, an attorney and avowed progressive and Republicans choosing State Treasurer Ron Estes.
Last week, the Florida House passed a bill creating 12 year term limits for Supreme Court Justices. Florida justices already must retire around or shortly after their 70th birthday and face a retention election every 6 years. The main argument for the term limits proposal was that justices have never lost their retention votes, making them less checked than the other chambers of FL government. The Florida legislature’s conflicts with the FL Supreme Court are well documented in FL politics.