The wheels of democracy never stop turning, even in odd-numbered years. Between the 2020 presidential race and the 2022 midterm elections, hundreds of elections will be held in 2021 in states and cities whose election calendars are out of sync with most of the rest of the country. There will also be at least four special elections for the United States House of Representatives that could not only affect the narrow eight-seat majority of Democrats, but will also give us an early clue as to the political environment in 2022.
Here’s an introduction to the top races to watch out for this year, and if that’s not enough to whet your electoral appetite, you can subscribe to my Google Dark Election Calendar for an even more comprehensive schedule.
Governor and other statewide elections
The biggest election of 2021 is probably for governor of Virginia. This once-red state has moved closer to the left in recent years – President Biden won it by 10 points in 2020 and hasn’t picked a Republican to no state office since 2009, so Democrats start as favorites to win, but the race could be closed if the national environment turns more Republican-friendly. Additionally, because Virginia governors are unable to run for re-election, there are competitive races for nominations from both parties that largely reflect the national divisions in each party. The Democratic leader, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, channels Biden as a moderate white male with a lot of experience and name recognition. But just like in the 2020 presidential primaries, more progressive and demographically diverse candidates (including two who would be the first black female governor in American history) are championing a new generation of leadership. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8. Meanwhile, Republicans are figuring out how closely they want to bond with former President Donald Trump and balance prevailing grievances like the “cancellation culture” with traditional Republican messages. A multi-site convention on May 8 will decide whether its nominee is former state House Speaker Kirk Cox, pro-Trump pariah state senator Amanda Chase, or two self-funded entrepreneurs (or one of the other minor candidates). The general election will be on November 2.
The only other state with a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021 is New Jersey, a race that Democrats should easily win. Biden won New Jersey by 16 points, and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy (who is running for re-election) has a 59 to 36 percent approval / disapproval rating, according to a recent Stockton University poll.
However, it is highly likely that there will be at least one other gubernatorial election, added to the calendar in unusual circumstances. Activists in California have collected 2.1 million signatures in support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s retirement; If at least 1,495,709 of them are deemed valid, a recall election will be held sometime this fall. Judging from the rhetoric thus far, the campaign would likely be a devastating and devastating affair, but Newsom is off to a good start: Despite its lackluster approval ratings, 56 percent of Californians in a recent poll said they would not go until the point of voting him out of office. That could be because, at least so far, all of the top candidates running to replace him – like former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox – are Republicans, and California is a completely blue state. That’s not the only possible off-cycle gubernatorial election we might see in 2021 – there’s still a decent chance that the long-standing impeachment campaign against Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy will also qualify for the ballot this year.
While the gubernatorial races will likely be the highest-impact statewide elections of 2021, there are also notable races this year for lieutenant governor, attorney general, state superintendent of public instruction, state legislature, judges, and ballot measures. Keep an eye on the Virginia House of Delegates in particular. If Republicans can change the six seats they need to take control of the House, they will break Democrats’ full control of Virginia state government, even if Democrats win governor.
Special elections to the House
There are currently four vacant seats in the United States House of Representatives left to be filled by special election: Louisiana 2nd District on April 24, Texas 6 on May 1, New Mexico 1 on May 1. June 11 and Ohio on November 2.
The Louisiana District 2 and Ohio District 11 both are safe Democratic seats, but they could pick very different types of the Democrats. The Louisiana race is a runoff (the first round of voting took place last month) between State Senators Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (unrelated). Carter is a moderate Democrat, while Peterson has adopted more progressive policies. And in Ohio, the front-runner in the Aug. 3 Democratic primary is arguably former state senator Nina Turner, the president of Our Revolution who became a nationally recognized progressive leader as a co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. The main enemy aligned with Turner’s establishment is Cuyahoga County Councilor Shontel Brown, but there are also five other candidates in the running.
On the other side of the coin, either party could win the Texas District 6Although Republicans are probably the favorites: According to Daily Kos Elections, Trump won the district from 51 percent to 48 percent in 2020. But under unusual Texas special election rules, all 23 candidates will run on the same ballot, and if no one gets a majority of the votes, the top two finishers, regardless of party, will advance to a second round. Center suggest that Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Representative Ron Wright (whose death created the vacancy for this position), is the favorite. The Democrat most likely to get second in the second round is probably 2018 candidate Jana Lynne Sánchez, but a Republican like State Rep. Jake Ellzey could also do well enough to completely exclude Democrats from the second. round.
The fourth special choice – for him New Mexico District 1 – It will probably not be a source of much suspense: Democratic State Representative Melanie Stansbury is the big favorite to defeat Republican State Senator Mark Moores in a district Biden won by 23 points. However, the final margin between the candidates will still be worth noting, in this and all other extraordinary elections this year. Again, it is generally a good sign for a party’s prospects in midterm elections if it regularly outweighs its weight in pre-election special elections. For example, while they did not always win, Democratic candidates consistently outperformed the normal partisan leanings of their districts in the 2017-18 special elections, heralding the 2018 midterm elections in which they won a network of 40 House seats and seven governorships. .
Finally, countless cities and towns will hold municipal elections in 2021, including at least 548 who are electing mayors. The most important election of this type (in terms of the number of people affected), and certainly one of the most interesting, is taking place in New York June 22 (The winner of that day’s Democratic primary will be a big favorite in the November 2 general election in the deep blue of the Big Apple.) The field to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio is ideologically, occupationally and demographically diverse: 2020 technocrat and presidential candidate Andrew Yang leads the polls; City Comptroller Scott Stringer and attorney Maya Wiley are fighting for the “most progressive” mantle; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is regionally based thanks to his years of experience in local politics; and former Wall Street executive Ray McGuire has raised at least $ 7.5 million. To make things even more unpredictable, the race will take place using qualifying voting for the first time.
There are too many other competitive mayoral races to preview, but some deserve a brief mention. Two huge Texas cities feature fierce confrontations between the left and the right, oddities in modern urban politics. In San antonio (the seventh largest city in the country, with a population larger than Hawaii), conservative Greg Brockhouse is seeking a rematch with progressive Mayor Ron Nirenberg after losing the 2019 race by just 2 percentage points. And going up Interstate 35, Fort worth Mayor Betsy Price is one of only two Republican mayors left in the nation’s 25 most populous cities, but her retirement this year has sparked the first free-seat race there in 10 years. The result could be a barometer of how enduringly blue urban and suburban areas of Texas have become in the Trump era and, in the event of a Democratic change, solidify the national trend for cities to become uniformly Democratic. Both races will take place on May 1 and each will go into a runoff if no one gets a majority.
At the other end of the spectrum, the only question about SeattleThe next mayor is whether he or she will lean to the left or very leaning to the left. The field includes former City Council Speaker Bruce Harrell, whom the Seattle Times called “a swing vote between the activist and moderate wings of the Council”; former state representative Jessyn Farrell, an environmental and traffic activist close to organized labor; City Council President Lorena González, a progressive who has clashed frequently with outgoing Mayor Jenny Durkan; and Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk, Durkan’s ally. González and Echohawk would also be the first women of color to lead Seattle. The field will be narrowed to two candidates on August 3, with a second round of voting on November 2.
Across the country, a city with a dark history of racism also has a chance to make history with its mayoral race on September 21 (preliminary election) and November 2 (general election). Boston It has never elected a mayor other than a white male, but the top five contenders so far are people of color and three are women. Kim Janey, a black woman who became interim mayor when former Mayor Marty Walsh resigned to become Biden’s labor secretary, is also still considering a campaign and would immediately become one of the career heavyweights if accept it.