DemDaily: The Last Special Elections of the 117th Congress

September 30, 2022

Now less than six weeks before the 2022 midterms, there are still technically three special elections remaining to fill the terms of members of the 117th Congress who vacated their seats early.

Those include one in the US House and two in the US Senate.

A special election is one called by respective state governors to fill vacancies that occur when a Member of Congress passes away, retires or resigns before the completion of his or her full term.

Traditionally, special election outcomes are a foreshadowing of what can be expected in the mid-term elections. The three remaining contests, however, will be held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled general election nationwide. The winners of two of these elections will serve just through January 3, 2023, but are also running separately on November 8, 2022 for a full term in the next Congress.

A total of 14 US House special elections have taken place during the 117th Congress to date, with just two briefly changing the partisan makeup of the US House.

In the June 14 special election, the GOP flipped Texas' 34th Congressional District, held for five terms by Democratic Congressman Filemon Vela, who resigned March 31, 2022.

Republican Mayra Flores secured 51% to Democrat Dan Sanchez's 43.3%. The redistricted Rio Grande Valley-based 34th CD, however, pits Flores against three-term Democratic Congressman Vincente Gonzalez (15th CD), in the even bluer D+9 seat.

Democrats flipped the Alaska At-Large seat held for almost five decades by Republican Congressman Don Young, who passed away March 18, 2022.

Mary Peltola (D) won the August 16 special election to fill Young's remaining term through January 2023, beating Trump-endorsed former Governor and 2008 GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, 51.5% to 48.5%.

Peltola is now running in November for a full term to the 118th Congress. In the open, ranked-choice general election, Peltola again faces Palin and Nick Begich III (R), who came in third in both the special and the regularly scheduled congressional primary.

There are two remaining vacancies in the US House.

In Florida's 13th Congressional District, vacated August 31, 2022 by three-term incumbent Charlie Crist (D) to focus on his 2022 Florida gubernatorial election, the seat will remain vacant until the November election. The redrawn Pinellas County-based 13th CD moved from a split seat to a Republican-favored R+6 district.

In Indiana's Second Congressional District, represented by five-term GOP Congresswoman Jackie Walorski until her death in a car accident August 3, 2022, a special election will be held November 8.

In late August caucuses, the state Democratic and Republican parties nominated their candidates for both the special election under the old district lines and the regular general election under the new R+13 map.

The GOP nominee for both is Rudy Yakym, a supply chain management executive and former finance director for Walorski. The Democrat nominee for both elections is environmental consultant Paul Steury.

Going into the election, the partisan breakdown of the US House, including the vacancies, is 222 Democrats to 213 Republicans. As it stands now, the GOP will have to win a net gain of five seats to take over Congress' lower chamber in November.

US Senate specials are much rarer and most commonly due to health issues or the passing of senior members.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, 87, is retiring two years into his fifth term, with a special general election scheduled for November 8, 2022. In this case, the winner will hold the seat until January 2027, the end of Inhofe's current term.

Five-term Congressman Markwayne Mullin won the August 23, 2022 GOP primary runoff to face former Congresswoman Kendra Horn, the Democratic nominee.

In solidly blue California, voters cast their ballots in the June 7, 2022 primary in two elections for the same US Senate seat.

The first was in the special primary election to fill the remaining term of former Senator Kamala Harris, who resigned the seat in January of 2021 to become Vice President. Former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D), who was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) as interim US Senator on December 22, 2020, has since been representing the Golden State.

In California's "jungle primary" system where all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run against each other, Padilla (58%) and Republican constitutional attorney Mark Meuser (18.8%) advanced to the general election as the top two vote-getters. The winner of the special general election on November 8 will serve through the remaining two and half months of the 117th Congress.

The two also advanced from the regular Senate primary to the November 8 general election for a new, full six-year term, beginning with the 118th United States Congress on January 3, 2023.

Going into the election, the partisan breakdown of the US Senate is 50 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats) to 50 Republicans. As President of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris may cast a tie-breaking vote, officially giving Democrats control of the Senate.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Ballotpedia, Politico, New York Times, USHouse, State Dailys

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