Trump nominations set up more special elections, chances for Dems to upset

President Trump has announced the names of dozens of likely nominees for top administration jobs, including two House Republicans, setting up another possible round of special elections that will against test the president’s political strength and give Democrats another opportunity for an upset win.

GOP Reps. James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, and Tom Marino, of Pennsylvania, were among the 42 names released late Friday by the White House.

Bridenstine, if confirmed, would lead NASA, and Marino would be the director of the Office of National Drug Control, or White House “drug czar.”

"Congressman Marino has a lifetime of experience protecting American families as a U.S. attorney and in Congress, and is immensely qualified for this new role," Republican strategist Joe Desilets told Fox News on Saturday. "As a public servant and as a man, Tom has the highest ethical and moral standards. I look forward to him serving in this new role."

Neither Marino nor Bridenstime has publically commented on Trump’s intentions to nominate them.

But at least one Democrat in the Senate, which holds the presidential confirmation hearings, has expressed concern about the Bridenstine nomination.

“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson told Politico.

Bridenstine and Marino are in solid conservative districts. But the special elections would give Democrats another opportunity to win a Republican-held House seat after failing a handful of times this year, despite their best efforts to capitalize on Trump’s low approval ratings.  

Democrats are so far winless in the four 2017 opportunities to gain a House seat in a conservative district in special elections to replace a GOP member appointed to the Trump administration.

Perhaps the most stinging defeat occurred in Georgia when establishment favorite and political newcomer Joel Ossoff lost to former Secretary of State Karen Handel for the seat of Republican Rep. Tom Price, now the Health and Human Services secretary.

The changing demographics of the suburban Atlanta district, endorsements from the upper echelons of the Democratic Party and millions in outside money was supposed have the collective potential for victory.

But Handel prevailed in a late-June runoff in what became the most expensive House race in history.

Democrats also lost in bids for GOP Houses seats in Kansas, after Rep. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director; in Montana after Rep. Ryan Zinke became Interior secretary and in South Carolina when Rep. Mick Mulvaney became White House budget director.

They also lost a race in August for the open seat of retiring Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, though amid long odds. They have another outside chance in December, in the Alabama special election for the Senate seat of Republican Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general.

In Congress, Marino has worked to expand access to treatment for people struggling with opioid addiction.

The 64-year-old lawmaker served as U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania under President George W. Bush.

Marino was the first Pennsylvania congressman to endorse Trump in the presidential primary contest. He had previously withdrawn his name from consideration in May, citing a family illness.

Bridenstine is a pilot in the Navy Reserve. He was elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.