Two congressional districts are holding special elections today.
Ohio's 5th district is a conservative district (Bush won 60% there in 2004) that, to the surprise of many, is being hotly contested by Democrat Robin Weirauch, whose only political experience thus far is losing the last two elections by wide margins. The seat came open when Rep. Paul Gillmor, a Republican, died in a fall at his apartment in September.
The Republican Party thought their candidate, Bob Latta, would win handily. A state representative, Latta has the right bloodline: his father represented this district for three decades. And the GOP has represented Ohio-5 since the 1930s, according to the AP. But Latta has run a poor campaign that has left Republican bewildered. "It's like the Latta campaign is trying to write a handbook on how to lose a Congressional campaign in 60 days or less," a D.C. Republican told Roll Call.
The already cash-strapped National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has thrown $428,000 at the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $244,000 in the district. (Those numbers are from the very good Swing State Project.) Though this race will likely be closer than anyone would have expected a year ago, and though Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) took the district in the 2006 midterm elections, Ohio-5 should stay red. A win for Weirauch would be a real coup.
The race in Virginia's 1st district is garnering less attention. The seat became vacant when Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R) died of breast cancer in October. The Republican candidate, state delegate Rob Wittman, is described as a moderate on the war and on the environment. He has a 4-to-1 fundraising advantage over the Democrat, a Navy reservist named Paul Forgit who won a Bronze Star in 2005 while serving in Iraq. Forgit has no prior political experience. He has the backing of Virginia's heavy hitters—Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), Sen. Jim Webb (D), and former Gov. Mark R. Warner (D)—but the DCCC has thrown no money his way.
MSNBC's First Read quotes a political analyst as saying, "This may be the election where we see what happens when you have an election and no one comes."
So if you're from Ohio's 5th or Virginia's 1st, get out and vote! Turnout matters a ton in off-year elections. We'll do our best here at MoJoBlog to keep you updated on the results.