US off-year elections


Today is election day in the US, which tends to be a minor affair in odd-numbered years. This year, there are a number of interesting contests that I wanted to highlight.

A special election has been called in New York’s 23rd district to replace Rep. John McHugh (R), appointed as Obama’s Secretary of the Army. The Democrats and Republicans each declined to hold primaries, instead having local party leaders choose their candidates. Republicans chose state Assemblywoman Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava, while the Democrats chose attorney Bill Owens. The minor Conservative Party endorsed accountant Doug Hoffman.

NY-23 is a Republican district in upstate New York, which has comfortably reelected Republican candidates for many years. Scozzafava led in early polls, but her liberal positions saw national Republicans and local conservatives shift to Hoffman. Scozzafava is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, and has links to organised labor.

A number of prominent Republican figures endorsed Hoffman, including Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee and most of the figures in the ‘tea party’ movement. Hoffman and Owens shot ahead of Scozzafava in terms of fundraising and Scozzafava fell into third place in the polls just over a week ago.

On Saturday Scozzafava withdrew from the race, endorsing Democrat Owens on Sunday. Speculation has turned to the possibility of Scozzafava switching to the Democrats. Since that time polls have indicated that Hoffman is leading in the race, although low turnout makes polling for US special elections incredibly hard to predict, with high numbers of undecided voters and a high margin of error.

In other races tomorrow:

  • New Jersey governor’s race – Incumbent governor Jon Corzine faces an uphill battle against Republican Chris Christie. Recent polls have put Christie a nose in front while a solid part of the electorate appears to be leaning towards independent Chris Daggett.
  • Virginia governor’s race – Virginia’s governors are term limited to a single term, and the Democrats have won the last two elections, with Mark Warner winning in 2001 and Tim Kaine in 2005. Former Attorney-General Bob McDonnell (R) is leading over State Senator Creigh Deeds (D).
  • New York City mayor’s race – Incumbent mayor Mike Bloomberg (Independent, formerly Republican) is solidly leading by about 10% ahead of City Comptroller Bill Thompson (D), and should win a third term comfortably.
  • CA-10 special election – Another special election is being held in the solidly Democratic 10th district of California, where sitting Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher resigned to take a job in the Obama administration. The Democratic candidate should win.
  • Gay marriage referendums – Two initiatives are being held regarding gay marriage or similar initiatives. In Maine a referendum to reject a new law legalising gay marriage looks likely to be close, with the ‘No’ campaign (pro-gay marriage) slightly in front. In Washington state a referendum to approve domestic partnerships that would be effectively marriage in all but name looks set to pass comfortably.
Liked it? Take a second to support the Tally Room on Patreon!


  1. I would make one comment on the NY-23 race.
    It has very little or nothing to do with social issues, despite the explanations offered by most media commentators. It’s rather amusing really to read all the conservative commentators in particular online who have been pushing him (Redstate in particular) and contrasting the arguments they put forward – Dede’s support for the Stimulus, for bailouts, for MUCH greater union power and abolishing the secret ballot in union elections, as well as her record of voting for tax hikes on 190 occasions – to how it’s been interpreted. Which is abortion/gay marriage. Which may have played slightly, but was a relatively minor feature in the debate.

    You have to remember the Hoffman campaign was launched into prominence by Club for Growth giving it $800K. Club for Growth is a fiscally conservative organisation, not one on social issues. Similarly, the tea party movement is about cutting the size of government, and cutting spending. Again, little to do with social issues.

    Even Palin et al only jumped on the bandwagon relatively late in the piece – and Huckabee never endorsed her, so you are mistaken there (although Tim Pawlenty did)

  2. Also, saying “Former Attorney-General Bob McDonnell (R) is leading over State Senator Creigh Deeds (D)” understates it slightly – all polling has him leading in double digits. More interesting there for me is the AG race, where effectivly a Ron Paul Republican is the candidate (but it looks like the R’s will pick up all 3 directly elected spots, (for the first time in history I believe).

    Also, considering how Obama won VA by 6 points, and NJ by 15%, the fact that the polls have swung so strongly to the R’s does have national implications.

  3. Seems to me the Republicans are over-stating the national implications of these elections. Surely these races are far more influenced by local factors rather than reflecting opinion on congress or the Obama administration, and the dynamics of these ‘off-year’ elections are clearly different.

    Fox calls the Va Governor’s race for McDonnell.

  4. 67-33. Big win for the GOP. First polls in New Jersey looking good for the Dems, but it’s a Dem district, so too early to call.

  5. The margin in Va will come down. The solid Dem voting areas like the DC suburbs tend to be the last to report. The results pages I’m looking at don’t include maps, so I stand to be corrected.

  6. Va looks to settle around 60-40 with 80% in. MSNBC has NJ at 54-40 to the GOP with 16% in, but have it as Too Close To Call, so there must be bluer districts to come.

  7. NYC called for Bloomberg.

    Gay marriage vote in Maine is very tight.

    In Pittsburgh, one of America’s youngest Mayors, 29 year-old Democrat Luke Ravenstahl has been re-elected.

  8. Hold the phone, MSNBC, which had called NYC for Bloomberg, has retracted its call and now has Bloomberg leading 49-48 with 21% in.

    NJ now 50-44 at 63% in, with the districts left blue, but I would guess at this point not blue enough. Expect that gap to close, but I would be surprised to see the Dems hit the lead.

  9. That gap in NJ looks pretty consistent hovering around that range.

    In NY-23 Owens leads Hoffman 50-45 with 13% of precincts reporting.

    New York Times are still calling Bloomberg the winner, though he now leads by less than 2,000 votes with 34% reporting.

  10. Bloomberg leads 48.8-47.9 with 58% reporting. Wow.

    Oh, and if you want to know where I’d heard of Luke Ravenstahl, I once read a random wikipedia article about him. The name sounded familiar when I saw it earlier, so I checked, and I was right, he was who I thought he was.

  11. Salem in and doesn’t save Corzine. MSNBC calls NJ for the GOP. Dems up in NY23 and did better than expected in NYC, but still behind.

  12. Owens (D) is looking good in NY-23. Leads 51-44 over the Conservative with 34% reporting.

    The anti-gay marriage vote has narrowly hit the lead in Maine, but it’s been consistently around 50-50 all along.

    Corzine has definitely lost, although the NYT’s numbers appear a little behind some other sources. Corzine is the guy who nearly died in a car accident a year or two ago isn’t he?

  13. 538 reckons that Bloomberg is safe because Dem districts have been over representated in early counts. Also that the pro-gay rights vote in Maine will lose because early counting is in the most liberal districts. That would be a shame if true.

  14. Owens’ lead narrowing in NY-23, but still looking strong on 49.1-45.5 with 67% now reporting. Spin the whole NY-23 saga as good news for the Republicans, someone.

  15. The Maine gay marriage referendum is really poised on a knife edge, lead keeps changing with each update. Yes (reject gay marriage) now leads by 1,300 with 46% reporting. Maine voters are far more clear cut when it comes to medicinal marijuana though, there’s a comfortable 60% Yes vote there.

  16. The anti-gay marriage vote has jumped to a 6,000 vote lead with 55% reporting.

    Just to pretend that I’m a real expert, I’m calling NY-23 for Owens.

  17. Domestic partnerships in Washington State are being rejected in early numbers, but that lead is dropping.

    In Maine the anti-gay marriage vote has jumped to an 11,000 vote lead with 61% reporting, but it is still tight.

  18. Those early Washington State numbers have now disappeared from the Times page. Don’t know what’s going on there.

    CA-10 looks to be a Dem hold.

  19. Ben, NYT always had the right labels, they kept switching them around so that whichever was leading was on top.

  20. Things are looking grim for gay marriage in Maine, the Yes (reject gay marriage) vote now leads by 21,000 with 78% reporting.

    In Washington State domestic partnerships have a 22,000 vote lead with 50% reporting, but there’s something odd about this count, as it started with a high number – must be postal or early votes of some sort that were counted first, and now other votes trickling in.

    Hoffman has reportedly conceded in NY-23, so Owens is the confirmed winner.

  21. Sorry Ben, didn’t notice you’d written a new post on this. Didn’t mean to hijack your blog. I’ll leave you to it.

  22. Wins: WA referendum, NY23.

    Losses: ME ref, NJ, VA, Master O’Reilly

    Draw: NYC (a loss, but one that will be seen as positive for the Dems if you believe the Times).

    Not the best couple of days.

Comments are closed.