Gov. Edwards (D), Rispone (R) advance to general election in Louisiana

The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, October 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Gov. Edwards (D), Rispone (R) advance to general election in Louisiana
  2. California governor vetoes pay-per-signature ban 
  3. Washington State Supreme Court chief justice announces retirement

Gov. Edwards (D), Rispone (R) advance to general election in Louisiana

Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and businessman Eddie Rispone (R) advanced from Louisiana’s primary election Saturday as the top two finishers out of six candidates. Edwards received 46% of the vote and Rispone received 27%. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) was third with 24% of the vote. The general election will be held November 16. 

Louisiana uses what’s known as a blanket primary, where all candidates in any race appear on the ballot—regardless of party. A candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the primary vote. Otherwise, the top two finishers advance to a general election.

Edwards campaigned on what he considers the accomplishments of his administration. Rispone emphasized his background as a businessman, referring to himself as a conservative outsider and job creator.  

President Donald Trump (R) and the Louisiana Republican Party endorsed both Rispone and Abraham. Trump held a campaign rally with both candidates in the state Friday. Several polls leading up to the primary showed either Rispone and Abraham tied within the margin of error for second place or Rispone with a small advantage.

Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. He defeated U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) in the general election in 2015 with 56% of the vote. Trump won the state—58% to 38%—in 2016. Louisiana’s previous governor—Bobby Jindal (R)—received 65.8% of the vote in the primary to win re-election in 2011.

According to unofficial vote totals, 1,343,478 total votes were cast in Saturday’s primary. This was  230,002 more than the 1,113,476 votes cast in the 2015 primary. The distribution of 2019 primary votes by party—based on unofficial vote totals—was 51.8% for the three Republican candidates, 47.4% for the two Democrats, and 0.8% for one independent candidate.

Of the five gubernatorial elections in Louisiana between 1999 and 2015, three were won outright in the primary and two—in 2003 and 2015—proceeded to general elections. 

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California governor vetoes pay-per-signature ban 

Twenty-six states allow citizen-initiated ballot measures, and supporters must gather a specific number of signatures to get a measure on the ballot. In California, for example, initiative supporters will need to collect 623,212 signatures—or 5% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election—to place an initiated state statute or veto referendum on the ballot in 2020 and 2022.  

Nineteen of the 26 states with statewide initiatives or referendums allow ballot measure campaigns to pay signature gatherers based on the number of signatures collected, a practice known as pay-per-signature. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill October 7 that would have banned pay-per-signature for citizen initiatives in the state. Newsom’s two immediate predecessors—Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Jerry Brown (D)—vetoed similar bills after the state legislature passed laws prohibiting pay-per-signature in 2011 and 2018. California is one of 14 Democratic trifectas, with Democrats controlling the legislature and the governor’s office. 

The 2019 bill—Assembly Bill 1451—would have:

  • required at least 10 percent of the required signatures for an initiative or referendum petition to be collected by volunteer (unpaid) circulators; 

  • changed the timeline for local elections officials to verify signatures for initiative and referendum petitions; 

  • required petitions to include information about whether the circulator is paid or volunteer; and 

  • made other changes regarding signature verification, circulators, and petition rules. 

Supporters of pay-per-signature say it is a cost-effective method for collecting signatures, making the process more accessible to efforts without significant funding. Opponents of pay-per-signature say the process encourages signature gatherers to forge signatures or illegally misinform voters.  

Pay-per-signature bans exist in seven states. The most recent states to ban paying circulators on a per-signature basis were Florida in 2019 and Arizona in 2017. The map below shows the current status of pay-per-signature nationwide:  

Status of pay per signature

Washington State Supreme Court chief justice announces retirement

There have been 19 supreme court vacancies in 2019 where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Earlier this month, we learned of the first such vacancy which will occur in 2020. 

Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst announced on October 3 that she would retire for health reasons on January 5, 2020. Fairhurst was first elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2002 and re-elected in 2008 and 2014. She became the chief justice in 2016. 

Vacancies on the Washington State Supreme Court are filled by gubernatorial appointment. Whomever Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appoints will serve until Fairhurst’s term was due to expire—in January 2021. This will be Inslee’s second nominee to the nine-member court. 

Washington Supreme Court justices are regularly determined by nonpartisan elections and serve six-year terms. Currently, six judges on the court were elected and three were appointed by Democratic governors. 

Each state has its own supreme court, which serves as the court of last resort. Two states—Oklahoma and Texas—actually have two different state supreme courts, one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. Like the U.S. Supreme Court, these courts hear and decide appeals of lower trial and appellate courts in cases at the state level. The number of justices on each court varies between five and nine in each state. There are 344 state Supreme Court justices nationwide.  

Of the 19 state supreme court vacancies that have occurred this year in states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected, 12 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Six vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies. One vacancy occurred in a state—Virginia—where the legislature appoints replacements.