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The Last 3 State Legislative Special Elections In March: Louisiana, Virginia And Massachusetts

Raymond Delaney, Jr.

The special election in Maine this week went great (Details are here but this very swingy district went 62.6% to 37.4% for a black gay Democratic organic farmer). And now there are 3 more state legislative races this month, although none of them look like anyone I know will be celebrating.

Early voting ends tomorrow in the first-- a primary in east Jefferson Parish, Louisiana for the seat Scalise-vassal Charles Henry just resigned from in January. The 82nd House District is west of New Orleans between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, and includes Elmwood and part of Metarie. It's a pretty red district-- Henry won the seat in 2019 with 70.5% of the vote; his brother had it before him-- and it's been in Republican hands since 1984, long before Republicans took over the state. But... it's not hopelessly red. Though Trump won the district with 63% in November, in 2019 Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards won it with 53%.

There are 3 candidates, all first-timers: Republicans Edwin Connick (Harry Connick, Jr's cousin) and Laurie Schlegel and Democrat Raymond Delaney Jr. If no one wins a majority on March 20, there will be a runoff on April 24. "Logically, " wrote Christopher Tidmore for the Louisiana Weekly, "Democrat Dr. Raymond Delaney Jr. should not have a prayer of victory in a district whose largest portion, Old Metairie, once elected David Duke to the Louisiana Legislature. The SUNO professor of criminal justice also serves as the president and CEO of the nonprofit Louisiana Coalition for Offender Resources (LaCOR), which helps formerly incarnated inmates re-enter society. A Black advocate for the recently jailed would seem to be the most improbable candidate to win the metro’s most affluent suburb, especially one where in 2019, the last Democrat to stand for District 82 only earned 29.6 percent."

But Tidmore sees a path to victory for Delaney, primarily because the election is on the same day as the LA-02 congressional race-- the one in which Gary Chambers, Jr. is running-- and only the more Democratic precincts of HD-82 (Shrewsbury/New Harlem neighborhood) are part of LA-02. So that will juice Democratic turnout for Delaney. With Connick, the frontrunner and Schlegel dividing the Republican vote, Delaney is likely to make the runoff and when that runoff is decided the only other race on the ballot will be the congressional race. Tidmore suggests that if Delaney can count on a surge of Black voters in April matched with crossover educated woke white swing voters in Old Metairie, he might have a chance for a runoff victory.

Three days later, on March 23, southwest Virginia's SD-38 will be voting to replace Republican Benton Chafin who died of COVID on January 1. This is a rural Republican hell-hole west of Roanoke, north of Kingsport, TN, east of Kentucky and south of West Virginia. Most of the voters live in Tazewell, Pulaski, Russell, Buchanan, Wise and Dickenson counties and Radford City. Right-wing Republicans running statewide routinely pull in over 70% of the vote. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary 75% to 22%. The next year Ed Gillespie beat Ralph Northam 73% to 26%. The Republican in the race is Travis Hackworth and the Democrat is Laurie Buchwald.

So we have a long-shot in Louisiana, a Republican lock in Virginia, but the worst is yet to come: a March 30 Massachusetts general election in Suffolk's HD-19. It's a safe Democratic seat. So what's the problem? You can't imagine how bad the Democratic candidate, Jeffrey Turco, is.

First of all, the longest-serving House speaker in Massachusetts history, Robert DeLeo, resigned, triggering the special election. The 4 person primary was a mess. Turco, who is vehemently anti-Choice, very conservative in general and a Trump voter, took 36.2% of the vote but there are no runoffs like there are in Louisiana, so the Democrats are stuck with him. Upon winning the primary, he crowed that HD-19 is a "middle-of-the-road district made up of working class people…We’re not Somerville and we’re not Cambridge and it’s OK in today’s Democratic Party to have moderates." Moderate Democrats don't vote for Trump and contribute to Republican candidates, but why quibble? Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, called Turco a "Trump supporter and anti-abortion activist... who wants you to believe that he's a moderate Democrat."

The progressives split the left's vote between between the real deal progressive candidate, Juan Pablo Jaramillo (who was endorsed by Bernie and Ayanna Pressley) and an identity politics candidate who bitter anti-progressives Attorney General Maura Healey and ex-Rep. Joe Kennedy III, endorsed and then unendorsed, Valentino Capobianco.

Most of the voters live in Winthrop, which is where Turco is from and that's where he won big. He was endorsed by every local and regional police union and Jaramillo's better than 2-1 win in Revere still wasn't enough:

Republican Paul Caruccio and unenrolled candidate Richard Fucillo Jr will be on the ballot against Turco. I would vote for Fucillo to keep Turco out of office. An actual Democrat would be able to take him out next time if he turns out to be no good-- and the 160 seat Massachusetts House has 128 Democrats, 30 Republicans and an independent. Losing the seat won't hurt them nearly as much as Turco winning would.


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