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November 21, 2016

GOP Unites; Already, An Open Seat
Though the media has obsessed over stories about internal Republican skirmishes for the last four years, the House GOP Conference came together yesterday in a strong show of unity just as the Democrats begin to see division in their own ranks.
In the GOP leadership elections, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) was re-nominated for the House’s top post without opposition, with his re-election bid seconded by the congressional liaison to the incoming Trump Administration, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY-27). 
The other incumbent party leaders, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA-1), and Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) were also re-elected without opposition, all enjoying at least tacit support from the President-Elect.
In the major contested internal battle, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) claimed the National Republican Congressional Committee chairmanship with a 60% victory over Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX-25).  Mr. Stivers replaces Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-2), who was ineligible to seek a third term in the position. 
The many leadership incumbents winning with unanimous backing suggest a possible new coming era of cooperation within the Republican House, now that moving significant legislation through Congress is actually a realistic possibility.
On the other hand, the Democrats could be headed for a period of disarray.  While the Republican elections were transpiring, the Democratic conference was simultaneously voting to postpone their own leadership elections to after Thanksgiving, in what is being viewed as a distinct defeat for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12).  Like the Republicans who voted immediately upon returning for the lame duck session, Pelosi’s desire was to hold the party hierarchy elections this week.
Speculation is now surfacing that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) may challenge Pelosi for leader.  Mr. Ryan’s name comes up frequently as a potential statewide candidate in Ohio, for Senate, Governor, and Lt. Governor, but he has yet to risk his safe Youngstown anchored congressional seat to attempt securing any other office. 
Therefore, it would not be surprising to also see him back away from a challenge to his own conference leader, an individual who has held the top Democratic House position since the beginning of 2003, including four years as the Speaker.  But, the postponement development certainly brings intrigue to the Democratic elections, which will most likely be conducted on or around November 30th.

Yesterday also brought us the 2018 election cycle’s first open seat.  Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL) announced that she will run for Governor in the next election.  Incumbent Dennis Daugaard (R) is ineligible to run for a third term under South Dakota election law, so the open seat is guaranteed.
The timing of her announcement, extremely early in the brand new election cycle, directly related to a new South Dakota election law.  Beginning tomorrow, a new campaign finance initiative, passed by voters last week, takes effect.  This will limit to $4,000 the amount an individual or entity can contribute to a South Dakota statewide candidate.  By officially declaring herself a candidate yesterday, Ms. Noem can still transfer all $1.9 million remaining in her congressional campaign account to her new gubernatorial campaign committee.  Obviously, this will give her a major advantage in preparing for a different statewide run.
The Congresswoman can count on drawing tough primary and general election opponents, however.  Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has also indicated his intention to run, and many others are soon likely to follow suit.
We can now expect a spirited battle for the open at-large congressional race, particularly in the Republican primary.  Even though this race has almost one and one-half years remaining before any votes are cast, the new 2018 election cycle is apparently already underway.

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