Donald Trump’s biggest accomplishment as President is that he has inspired thousands of Americans to run for public office. Unfortunately for Trump, most of these people are running because they are horrified by what he has done as President.
Ballotpedia is tracking the number of Americans who are running for the U.S. Senate, the House, state legislatures, state executives, state supreme courts and appellate courts. Over 3,114 people have filed to run for 1,138 seats in 2018. This is a dramatic improvement over the 2,118 people who ran for 947 races 2016 or the 2,299 who ran 1,073 in 2014. More primaries are being contested, more incumbents are facing primary challengers, and more candidates are running for open seats than in 2016 or 2014.
As the special elections have repeatedly shown since Trump’s election, these races have been far more competitive than they have been in the past. Typically, special elections are fairly quiet affairs that inspire little turnout. That has changed.
More importantly, this has translated into numerous extremely competitive U.S. House races. The Cook Political Report currently has classified 3 Democratic seats (all open) and 20 Republican seats as Toss Ups. Another 19 seats are listed as Lean Republican. Another 11 seats are listed as Lean Democratic and 6 of these were formerly held by Republican lawmakers.
Beto O’Rourke’s senate campaign against Ted Cruz has shown that competitive races can inspire turnout even in states like Texas. O’Rourke’s campaign coupled with Trump’s incompetence has inspired Texas to vote. Texas has not been competitive in statewide races since 1994. Clearly, Doug Jones’ campaign in Alabama convinced Democrats that it was worth voting, because he had a legitimate shot to win and did. Texans have now realized that O’Rourke has better than a puncher’s chance to win.
Competition is critical to maintaining the vitality of American democracy. When more candidates run, we get better candidates. Contested primaries force incumbents and challengers to create better campaigns and force them to better define themselves for voters. Competitive elections are the best way to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Please, get out to vote in the March primaries and special elections.
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