DemDaily: Deadline to Dropout

June 18, 2019


Although the presidential is a federal office, candidates who jump into the race for the White House enter with varying advantages and disadvantages, based on their state laws.

A closer look at the presidential field provides perspective on the decisions of some candidates to take the leap, the next steps for those who don't make the cut and, for some, pending deadlines that will affect their decisions as the race progresses.

Each state determines its own candidate filing deadlines for state office, for Congress, and for the presidential election, determining the level of risk to contenders throwing their hats into the ring.

Of the 24 major contenders for the Democratic nomination, 16 are current elected officials, 14 of whom are eligible for reelection to their current offices.

Under NJ law, Booker can run for Pres and Senate at same time (Getty)

Several of the candidates, including six of the seven US Senators, are not up for reelection for at least three years or more, freeing them of the immediate pressures of running for reelection and providing them with the ability to focus almost entirely on a presidential run.

Six candidates, however, are up for reelection in 2020, at the same time as the presidential, putting them in the position of, at some point, having to make a choice between relection or running for president -- either to preserve their seat or because of filing deadlines that impose a time-sensitive decision.

However, five of those candidates up for reelection, in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Ohio and New Jersey, are permitted under state law to run simultaneously for both their current federal office and president, providing a fallback if they are not successful in their presidential bid.

Home State Candidate Current Office (if any) Up for Reelection 2020 Re/election
Filing Deadline
Colorado Michael Bennet US Senator (2009 to present) 2022 __
Delaware Joe Biden Former Vice President (2009-2017) __ __
New York Bill de Blasio Mayor, New York City (2014 to present) 2021 __
New Jersey Cory Booker US Senator 2020 Senate: March 30, 2020. Can run for US Senate and Pres simultaneously
Montana Steve Bullock Governor (2013 to present). Term ends in 2021. By law, limited to two terms __
Indiana Pete Buttigieg Mayor of South Bend (2011-present), declined to run for 3rd term in 2019 __ __
Texas Julian Castro Former HUD Secretary __ __
Maryland John Delaney Former US Congressman (2013-2019), declined to run for reelection in 2018 __ __

Gabbard. Hawaii has its own rules (HPN)

Hawaii, for example, allows exceptions for would-be presidents or vice presidents, but otherwise prohibits running simultaneously for more than one office.

The "LBJ law" is based on the 1959 change to previously restrictive Texas law, in order to allow Lyndon B. Johnson to seek both the vice presidency and re-election to his Senate seat in 1960.

Regardless, presidential contenders run a risk of incurring primary opponents in their current offices who are building a campaign against them as they get closer to the election. Gabbard and Moulton, for example, already have primary opposition for their congressional seats.

Current federal office holders who are running for president and drop out, also have the advantage of being able to transfer some of the funds raised from their presidential campaign to their US Senate, US House race, and in some cases, state campaign, as long as they do not exceed the aggregate limit of individual or PAC contribution between the two accounts.

Home State Candidate Current Office (if any) Up for Reelection 2020 Re/election Filing Deadline
Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard US Congresswoman (2013 to present) 2020 Congress: June 2, 2020. Can run for Congress & Pres simultaneously
New York Kirsten Gillibrand US Senator (2009 to present) 2024 __
Alaska Mike Gravel Former US Senate (1969 to 1981) __ __
California Kamala Harris US Senator (2017 to present) 2022 __
Colorado John Hickenlooper former Governor (2011-2019) By law, limited to two terms US Senate: April 6, 2020
Washington Jay Inslee Governor (2013-present) 2020. Eligible to run for third term
Governor: May 15, 2020
Amy Klobuchar US Senator (2017 to present) 2024 __
Florida Wayne Messam Mayor, Mirimar Florida (2015-present) 2023 __

Hickenlooper for Senate 2020?

The remaining contenders and former office holders, while free to dedicate themselves full time to unseating President Trump, may be under other filing deadlines if they are considering dropping out and running for another elected office in their state.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, for example, is being encouraged to leave the presidential contest and run against first-term Republican US Senator Cory Gardner in 2020.

Former Texas US Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, who came within 3% of beating Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in 2018, is also being pushed to run against Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn in 2020.

Home State Candidate Current Office (if any) Up for Reelection 2020 Re/election Filing Deadline
Massachusetts Seth Moulton US Congressman (2015 to present) 2020
Congress: May 5, 2020. Can run for Congress & Pres simultaneously
Texas Beto O'Rourke former Senate Candidate (2018) __ US Senate: December 9, 2019
Tim Ryan
US Congressman (2003 to present)
Congress: December 11, 2019. 
Can run for Congress & Pres simultaneously
Vermont Bernie Sanders US Senator (2007 to present) 2024 __
Eric Swalwell
US Congressman (2013 to present)
Congress: December 6, 2019.
Can run for Congress & Pres simultaneously
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren US Senator (2013 to present) 2024 __
California Marianne Williamson __ __ __
New York Fred Yang __ __ __

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Sources: FEC, Ballotpedia, Roll Call, Secretary of State Offices

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