Tracking the Senate and House races

November 3, 2020

Senate:


35 out of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs tonight. Democrats need to gain four seats in order to claim a blue majority in the Senate after six years of a Republican majority. Important Senate races in battleground states to look out for today are Georgia, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina.

 

What happens to California’s representation in the Senate if Biden-Harris win?

California’s two Senate seats are filled by Diane Feinstein, serving since 1992, and Kamala Harris, who was elected in 2017. Although neither seat is up for grabs, if Harris is elected to the office of Vice President, Governor Newsom would appoint a replacement who would serve until end of Kamala’s six-year term in 2022. 

The Constitution requires that vacated House seats be filled by special election, but the Senate is more complex. Senators have only been appointed by direct election beginning in 1913, following the passage of the 17th amendment; they were earlier appointed by state legislatures. 

States each have their separate laws for filling Senate seats. California allows gubernatorial appointment for a replacement who serves the remainder of the term until the next general election, following the model of 35 other states. 

Nine states allow temporary gubernatorial replacement until a special election occurs, and five states require the seat to remain vacant pending a special election. Additionally, six states require that the appointee be of the same political party as the original Senator, but California is not one of them. 

The last Senate vacancy from California to be filled occurred in 1991, when Pete Wilson (R) resigned to assume the position of governor, appointing John Seymour to replace him. Seymour served until the next general election in 1992, losing the election. 

Although Gov. Newsom has not commented on replacements for Harris, some analysts believe that the appointee, almost certainly a Democrat, would likely be a woman of color to preserve the historic representation that Harris has represented. Candidates include Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17), and Mayor London Breed of San Francisco.

House of Representatives:

In the House of Representatives, Democrats are expected to keep their 232-197 majority over the Republicans and perhaps even expand their control. Many Republicans are focusing on Democrat representatives elected during the 2018 midterms, while Democrats are also competing in traditionally conservative strongholds. Important things to watch out for are more elected women, continuing the trend from 2018, North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, and Georgia’s 14th congressional district.

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