Washington Report

lobbyist-on-capitol-steps-300x200 The votes cast on November 4 were most likely not the definitive end to this election cycle as we may hope. In fact, you’re probably hearing about at least one so-called “runoff” in the election news, so let’s take a closer look.
A runoff election occurs when none of the candidates garner 50 percent plus one in states that require a majority of votes for victory.  They are generally caused by third-party or independent candidates who siphon votes from the major party candidates.  States that require runoffs then winnow the field to the top two vote-getters, and hold another election, usually within 30 to 60 days.
Not all states require runoffs — some allow victory for the candidate who wins the plurality of votes, which is simply more votes than any other candidate.  But this cycle, unless there is a “wave” of support for either party that is thus far undetected in polling, we are nearly certain to see a runoff in the Louisiana Senate election, which would take place on December 6.
In addition, the chances are about even that the Georgia Senate race will go to a runoff, and this election wouldn’t happen until January 6, 2015.  The new Congress will convene the day before, so it’s entirely possible that the U.S. Senate will open its session under the control of one party, then switch to control of the opposition party the very next day.
To complicate matters, there’s also a possibility that the Georgia governor’s race will also go into a runoff, which would take place on December 2.  Got all that?   Political consultants refer to runoff elections as the “post-season,” but unlike in sports, the post-season doesn’t highlight the winning teams.
Why does all this matter?  Because control of the U.S. Senate could very well depend upon it.  And that has implications in both the short and long term.  In the short term, the Congress will be forced to return to Washington for a “lame duck” session after Election Day.  If it is well established that control of the Senate will switch to the Republicans in January, the Democrats in the Senate will want to jam-pack the lame duck session with every imaginable pending vote while they still have a majority.
If it’s even possible that control of the Senate will switch, they are likely to have the same response.   So instead of a pro forma lame duck session of a few days duration to extend government funding, we could see the Senate abruptly undertake sudden and unplanned major action on a host of controversial issues.
The end of the year could be interesting at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, as well.  The White House Council on Wildlife Trafficking is scheduled to release new regulations before the year is out.  These could run the gamut from formally criminalizing the possession of any “undocumented” ivory, to mandating arbitrary new restrictions on hunting in Africa.  If these regulations embody the typical overreach of this White House – politically retaliatory in nature, but lacking any scientific basis – it will fall to the new Congress to rein them in.
And of course next year, the hunting community will once again mount an effort to pass pro-hunting legislation of the kind we have now passed through the U.S. House in two successive Congressional sessions.  These bills have all died at the doorstep of Harry Reid’s Senate, but change in control of that body can change that outcome in 2015.
No matter what happens on November 4, these are the reasons that SCI’s Political Action Committee will stand ready to leap into any Senate runoff elections, no matter where they may occur.  SCI-PAC is already stretching its resources thin as we try to affect hundreds of other key Congressional races, so if we do go into postseason, you may receive a solicitation for a special contribution to the PAC.  If so, please keep in mind that the stakes are very high – and the results of your contribution will outlast what’s left of Barack Obama’s final White House term.–Patrick O’Malley


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