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Republicans win runoff for Texas House District 28

Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) 58-42 in the runoff election for the District 28 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Before the runoff, _The Hayride_, a conservative political commentary site, described the race as “a test case to see if [Republicans] can hold turf in the ‘urban suburbs’ of Houston.” ABC 13 said that Democrats could use this race to “create a domino effect that alters more seats, which shifts control in Austin.”

The race gained national attention when several Democratic presidential candidates endorsed Markowitz. Gates was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and both candidates received funding by ~outside~ national groups affiliated with their political party: the Democratic* *Legislative Campaign Committee for Markowitz and the Republican State Leadership Committee for Gates.

The two candidates advanced from a field of seven in a November 5, 2019, general election. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received 39.1 percent of the vote. Gates received 28.4 percent of the vote, while three other Republican candidates split another 30 percent of the vote. In the 2018 general election, then-incumbent Rep. John Zerwas (R) defeated Meghan Scoggins (D) 54-46.

The candidates could potentially face off again in the November general election. Markowitz is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Gates faces Schell Hammel in the Republican primary. That primary will take place on March 3.

The seat became vacant after Zerwas resigned on September 30, 2019, to take an executive position with the University of Texas System. Heading into the election, Republicans held an 82-64 majority in the House with three seats vacant. All 150 seats in the chamber are up for election in November 2020.

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Governor Newsom appoints Jackson to California Court of Appeal

On January 21, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) appointee to the California First District Court of Appeal—Justice Terri L. Jackson—was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Justice Jackson is now the first female, African-American justice to sit on the California First District Court of Appeal.

Before her appointment, Jackson served as a judge on the Superior Court of San Francisco from 2002 to 2020. She was also the first African-American woman appointed to the Superior Court of San Francisco. Before serving as a judge, Jackson worked as an attorney and served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

California’s First District Court of Appeal is one of six courts of appeal in California. The First District Court serves the residents of 12 Northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma. The district reviews more than 2,000 criminal, civil, and juvenile appeals and more than 1,300 original proceedings annually.

Justice Jackson replaced Justice Martin Jenkins, who resigned from the bench to serve as Governor Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary. Jenkins served on the California First District Court of Appeal from 2008-2019.

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California will hold two primaries for the same congressional seat on March 3

Two top-two primaries will take place on Mar. 3, 2020, in elections to represent California’s 25th Congressional District. The seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Katie Hill (D) on Nov. 1, 2019.

The top two finishers in the primary for the regularly scheduled House election will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The top two finishers in the primary for the special election that was scheduled as a result of Hill’s resignation will advance to the May 12, 2020, election to complete Hill’s term.

Eleven candidates are running in both primaries, so it will be possible for voters to vote for the same candidate twice.

Media coverage and endorsements in both races have focused on four candidates: Raytheon executive and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia (R), former Congressman Stephen Knight (R), California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D), and The Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur (D). All four are running in both primaries on Mar. 3.

The other candidates in both primaries are Robert Cooper (D), Getro Elize (D), Kenneth Jenks (R), David Lozano (R), Daniel Mercuri (R), David Rudnick (D), and Anibal Valdez-Ortega (D). Otis Lee Cooper (I) and George Papadopoulos (R) are only running in the regular primary, while Courtney Lackey (R) is only running in the special primary.

On the Democratic side, Smith was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the California Democratic Party. Uygur says his campaign is not accepting endorsements and has rejected PAC donations. He has criticized Smith for accepting money from several private industries. In response, Smith said, “I am determined to fight within the system as it is set up to make sure that we hold this seat.” On the issue of healthcare, Smith has said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” On the issue of healthcare, Uygur has said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who is in favor of Medicare for All.”

On the Republican side, Garcia was endorsed by the Los Angeles Republican Party. Knight was endorsed by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Garcia has focused his messaging around issues regarding service members, stating he would “make it a priority to ensure our men and women in uniform have the funding and tools necessary to keep America safe.” He also says he supports congressional term limits. Knight has highlighted his previous experience representing California’s 25th District from 2015 to 2019. According to his campaign website, “As a Congressman, Knight quickly became known as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety in our nation’s Capitol.”

In the 2018 general election, Hill (D) defeated Knight (R) 54% to 46%. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was EVEN, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average. Race raters have given Democrats a slight edge in the race. Of the three major race rating outlets, one rates the race as Lean Democratic, one rates it as Likely Democratic, and one rates it as Solid Democratic.

Eight special elections have been called during the 116th Congress.

Click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District election, and click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District special election.

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Matthews appointed to fill late Representative’s New Mexico House seat

Bernalillo County commissioners appointed Marian Matthews (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on January 7, 2020. She was sworn in that same day to represent District 27, which was represented by the late Rep. William Pratt (D) until he passed away on December 25, 2019. Pratt first assumed office in January 2019 following the death of Lorenzo “Larry” Larranaga.

Prior to her appointment, Matthews declared her candidacy for the District 27 seat. Before his death, Pratt had announced that he would not run for re-election.

Matthews is an attorney and longtime resident of the district. She previously served as the Deputy Attorney General to then-Attorney General Tom Udall (D). Her professional experience includes teaching at Central New Mexico Community College.

Matthews’ appointment fills the only vacancy in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

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Johnson appointed to state House seat in Washington

On January 13, 2020, Jesse Johnson (D) was appointed to fill the District 30-Position 2 seat in the Washington House of Representatives. The seat had been vacant since former Rep. Kristine Reeves (D) resigned in December 2019 to run for U.S. Congress.

Johnson represents District 30 along with Position 1 Rep. Mike Pellicciotti. Both of their terms end in January 2021.

Johnson’s appointment leaves zero vacancies in the Washington House of Representatives. All 98 House seats are up for election in 2020. The Democrats currently have a state government trifecta in Washington, holding a majority in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.

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Filing deadline passes for Maine House special election

On January 23, the filing deadline passed to run in the Maine House of Representatives District 128 special election. Political parties in Maine had until that date to submit candidate nominations to the secretary of state. Two candidates, Kevin O’Connell (D) and Garrel Craig (R), are competing in the general election on March 3, 2020.

The special election was called after Arthur Verow (D) passed away on December 19, 2019. Verow represented District 128 from 2012 to 2016 and from 2018 to 2019.

Heading into the election, Democrats have an 87-61 majority with five independent members and two vacancies in the state House. Maine has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

As of January, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Bernie Sanders leads Democratic pageviews for third week as all Democratic pageviews decline

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential campaigns on Ballotpedia. These numbers reflect the time investments of our community of thousands of readers who visit a Ballotpedia because they think the candidate is worth knowing more about, whether they believe the candidate has a strong chance of winning or is an unknown who warrants a closer look.

Last week, Bernie Sanders led all Democratic campaigns in pageviews. His campaign page was viewed 2,795 times, equaling 14.8% of pageviews for all Democratic campaigns this week. He was followed by Joe Biden with 12.4% of pageviews and Michael Bloomberg with 12.3%.

All Democratic candidates received fewer pageviews this week relative to last week. The candidate with the smallest decrease from last week was Bloomberg. His campaign page decreased in pageviews by 0.1 percent. Tom Steyer saw the largest decrease in pageviews relative to last week among Democratic candidates with 40.2 percent.

The top three Democratic presidential candidates in lifetime pageviews are Andrew Yang with 164,835, Pete Buttigieg with 154,741, and Biden with 148,696.

As in previous weeks, every other Republican candidate led Donald Trump in pageviews. Trump received 2,042 pageviews, while Joe Walsh received 4,128, Roque de la Fuente received 4,021, and Bill Weld received 2,042.

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2,388 major party candidates filed for 2020 races, no new congressional retirements

As of January 27, 2020, 2,388 major party candidates have filed to run for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2020.

So far, 338 candidates are filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. Of those, there are 152 Democrats and 135 Republicans. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.

For U.S. House, 2,292 candidates are filed with the FEC to run in 2020. Of those, there are 1,013 Democrats and 1,088 Republicans. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.

No new congressional retirements were announced last week. Four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) and 35 representatives (26 Republicans and nine Democrats) are not running for re-election. A special election won’t be held to fill the seat vacated by Republican Duncan Hunter (CA-50) on January 13, bringing the total of open-seat House elections in 2020 to 36.

In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.

On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, where all seats are up for election, Democrats currently hold a majority with 232 seats.

Additional Reading:

Buttigieg, Steyer, Warren air new Iowa ads

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
January 28, 2020: Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren are airing new ads in Iowa. Michael Bloomberg became the first 2020 presidential candidate to visit all 14 Super Tuesday states. blank    blankblank   

Presidential poll highlights, 2019-2020 (Emerson College • Iowa • January 23-26, 2020)
Presidential poll highlights, 2019-2020 (Suffolk University • Iowa • January 23-26, 2020)

Notable Quote of the Day

“Political experts in the state told me that the vast majority of New Hampshire’s undeclared voters aren’t really independent in the true sense of the word; they are typically Democrats or Republicans who don’t like labels and want flexibility. And while independents like Dustin can certainly juice a candidate’s numbers (they helped give independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders his historic 22-point win in 2016 and propelled John McCain to victory in 2008), they’re typically not enough to swing an election.

‘Nobody’s ever won because they won the independents,’ said Andy Smith, a University of New Hampshire pollster. Smith, who has polled voters in the state for decades, told me no candidate since 1972 has won without capturing a plurality of the state’s registered voters.

Undeclared voters’ ‘influence is greatly exaggerated,’ he said. ‘Feared, but exaggerated.’”

– Ella Nilsen, Vox


  • Michael BennetAmy KlobucharBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren remain in Washington, D.C., for the impeachment trial.

  • Bennet said he would spend any available time away from the impeachment trial in New Hampshire, including Feb. 3, when the Iowa caucuses take place.

  • Politico reported that Joe Biden was focusing on Iowa and Nevada and had scaled back spending in New Hampshire. His first ad buy of the year in New Hampshire came on Monday for $105,000.

  • After campaigning in Vermont and Maine on Monday, Michael Bloomberg became the first 2020 presidential candidate to visit all 14 Super Tuesday states.

  • Pete Buttigieg launched his final ad in Iowa on Monday. He says in the clip that it’s time to turn “to a bold vision for the next generation.”

  • Tulsi Gabbard will campaign in North Conway, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. She crossed the donor threshold for the Feb. 7 debate but has not yet met the polling requirement.

  • Deval Patrick discussed his campaign strategy in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday.

  • Sanders launched his first television ads in Nevada. The ads, two in English and one in Spanish, focus on economic issues and healthcare.

  • Tom Steyer is holding a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa, on Tuesday. He is airing a new ad in the four early nominating states that features Greenwood City Councilwoman Edith Childs.

  • Warren is airing two new ads in Iowa: one features her Republican family members and the other writer Roxane Gay.

  • Andrew Yang continues his bus tour across Iowa on Tuesday with town halls in Perry and Nevada.


Flashback: January 28, 2016

Donald Trump boycotted the Republican primary debate on Fox News.

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Utah legislature to repeal tax bill after signatures filed for veto referendum

Supporters of a veto referendum petition effort targeting the repeal of Utah Senate Bill 2001 reported submitting 152,000 signatures on January 21 to put the bill on the November ballot. SB 2001, titled Tax Restructuring Revisions, was designed to make changes to the state tax code including decreasing the individual and corporate income tax rates and increasing the sales tax on food. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures are required. As of 8 a.m. on January 24, county clerks had verified 97,208 signatures as valid. County clerks have until February 4, 2020, to verify the signatures.

A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law passed by the state legislature. There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level.

On January 23, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R), Senate President Stuart Adams (R), and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson (R) announced that the legislature would repeal Senate Bill 2001 on January 27, the first day of the legislative session, therefore rendering the referendum effort moot. Herbert and legislative leaders said, “We applaud those who have engaged in the civic process and made their voices heard. We are not foes on a political battlefield, we are all Utahns committed to getting our tax policy right. That work is just beginning. Once the repeal is signed into law, the legislature will begin work under the reinstated tax code to prepare the fiscal year 2021 state budget. Repealing SB 2001 will enable the legislature to draft the budget without the uncertainty of a referendum potentially changing the tax code midway through the budget year.”

Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee said county clerks will continue verifying signatures and that the state legislature is being asked to clarify what will happen if the tax reform bill is repealed and the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

SB 2001 was sponsored by Republican Sen. Lyle Hillyard and was passed by the Utah Legislature in a special session on December 12, 2019.

The referendum, filed by individuals including former state representative Fred Cox (R), seeks to repeal SB 2001. Among other things, SB 2001 was designed to make the following changes:
1. decrease the individual income tax rate;
2. decrease the corporate franchise tax and corporate income tax rate;
3. changes how the personal exemption tax credit is calculated;
4. create a nonrefundable tax credit for social security benefits;
5. increase the sales tax on food and food ingredients;
6. create a refundable grocery tax credit;
7. create a sales tax exemption for menstrual products; and
8. create a tax on gasoline (motor fuel) and special fuels, adds a new tax on diesel fuel.

Supporters of the referendum effort, who would be advocating for a “no” vote on the tax bill if it appears on the ballot, include the Utah Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Utahns Against Hunger, Harmons Grocery, and candidates for Governor, Zachary Moses (D), Aimee Winger Newton (R), Jeff Burningham (R), Jason Christensen (R), and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R). The Utah Parent Teacher Association said, “It is Utah PTA’s position that the tax reform legislation that was recently approved by Utah’s Legislature in a special session is a threat to the long-term funding of education in Utah. It cuts Utah’s funding source for education and places an untenable burden on Utah’s most vulnerable populations, including families with children who are already going hungry without adequate means to purchase food.”

Utah Senate Majority Whip Daniel Hemmert (R), who voted in favor of the tax bill in the Senate, said, “The education fund will still be better off [under the bill] than it has been in prior years, to the tune of about $200 million.” The Sutherland Institute in Utah, which describes itself as a conservative nonpartisan think tank, opposes the referendum effort. The institute said the tax bill would result in “a substantial tax cut” for 90% of Utahns, increase public school funding, and “stabilize and enhance social services.”

There have been four veto referendum measures on the ballot in Utah from the first in 1954 to the latest, which appeared on the ballot in 2007. In all four cases, the referendums resulted in the targeted law being repealed.

Between 1906 and 2018, a total of 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3%) of the targeted laws. Conversely, voters upheld 181 (34.7%) of the targeted laws.

See additional reading below:
Utah Changes to State Tax Code Referendum (2020) 
Utah 2020 ballot measures 
List of veto referendum ballot measures
Veto referendum