Trump Nominations Could Prompt Special Elections for Two GOP Seats

Republicans already jockeying in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump announced Friday his intent to nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino to oversee the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Donald Trump’s long-expected nomination of two Republican congressmen to posts in his administration could set up special elections in two safe GOP House seats with already crowded fields of potential candidates.

Trump on Friday evening announced his intent to nominate Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be administrator of NASA and Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino to be director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

Bridenstine, a member of the House Freedom Caucus from Oklahoma’s 1st District, was first elected in 2012 after defeating GOP incumbent John Sullivan in the primary. The congressman had previously promised to abide by a three-term limit, so jockeying for this seat began early.

State Sen. Nathan Dahm, former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, Tulsa pastor Danny Stockstill, businessman Kevin Hern, and nonprofit executive and retired Army intelligence officer Andy Coleman are all eyeing the race. 

Dahm raised just $36,000 (including a $5,500 personal loan) in the second quarter of the year that ended June 30, and had $29,000 in the bank. Harris raised $80,000 (including a $27,000 personal loan) during the quarter, finishing with $63,000 in cash on hand. In the same time period, Coleman raised $37,000, ending with $59,000 in the bank while Stockstill raised only $11,000, and had $11,000 in cash. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Oklahoma’s 1st District race Solid Republican. Trump carried the district by nearly 30 points last fall, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, while Bridenstine ran unopposed.

Marino, a onetime U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania under President George W. Bush, was first elected in 2010 when he defeated incumbent Democrat Christopher Carney.

The four-term lawmaker was an early congressional supporter of Trump’s candidacy and his name had been mentioned for drug czar earlier this year. But in May, he withdrew from consideration citing a “critical illness” in his family. At the time, he’d said he planned to stay in Congress. 

The race for Pennsylvania’s 10th District is also rated Solid Republican. Trump carried the district by 36 points last fall, while Marino was coasting to re-election by 40 points. In the event of a special election, party representatives from each county in the district will vote on the nominee at a nominating conference. 

A handful of Republicans were interested in the seat when Marino’s name was first floated for the job. Names that have been mentioned include state Rep. Fred Keller, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko, Lycoming County Commissioner Tony Mussare, state Sen. Mario Scavello, Marino’s district director Dave Weber, and state Rep. Jeff Wheeland.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

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