Democrats Flip Zero Seats in Four Blue State Special Elections

Hillary Clinton supporters on the night of the 2016 presidential election / AP
March 3, 2017

Democrats have failed since Election Day in November to take any Republican-controlled seats in four special elections in blue states, despite hefty investment from the Democratic Party.

Since President Trump's election, there have been several state-level special elections across the country. The Republican State Leadership Committee, or RSLC, published a memo this week showing Republicans have won every district they previously held across multiple states that Democrats have won in the last three or more presidential elections.

Republicans kept their seats despite "hefty financial investments and high profile Democrats lending star power to state-level candidates," RSLC noted.

There were four elections that Democrats hoped to win to show their resistance to Trump could be translated into electoral victories. The elections were in Virginia, Minnesota, and, most recently, Connecticut–all states Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election.


The Democratic Party targeted two seats in Virginia in early January. The first election was House District 85 in Virginia Beach, where the vote for Trump and Clinton was evenly split. According to RSLC, liberal groups coordinated 11,392 donations of $100 or less for the campaign. The Democratic candidate, Cheryl Turpin, also had a big fundraising advantage–$104,000 to $66,000–but the Republican, N.D. "Rocky" Holcomb, still won by a margin of six points.

The second election was a state Senate race for the 22nd district, where Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigned for the Democrat, Ryant Washington. Despite the Democratic Party spending 42 percent more money, the Republican, Mark Peake, still won the race by 13.5 percent.


Last month in Minnesota, Democrats brought out all their surrogates for the House District 32B race. Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan all campaigned for Democratic candidate Laurie Warner. Republican Anne Neu won the seat by six points, giving Republicans the largest majority after a presidential cycle in state history.


Republican State Rep. Eric Berthel beat his Democratic opponent, Greg Cava, by 12 points for an open Connecticut state Senate seat in the 32nd district. A liberal California Super PAC spent over $53,000 in the race to support Cava, according to RSLC.

Democrats did maintain control of a seat in the Delaware state Senate, which the party has controlled since 1972, RSLC noted. The Democratic Party reportedly spent 20 times more than the typical Delaware state Senate race on the special election.

In recent years Republicans have made significant gains at the state-level. The Democrat party lost a net total of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts–including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships, and the presidency–while Barack Obama was president.