Our weekly summary of state & local news previews the statewide primaries in New Jersey and Virginia on June 8, municipal election runoffs taking place on June 5 in Texas, and updates to the recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
New Jersey, Virginia to hold statewide primaries
New Jersey and Virginia will both hold statewide primaries on June 8. New Jersey will hold primaries for governor, state Senate, and state House. Virginia will hold Democratic primaries for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Both parties will hold primaries for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in New Jersey and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Virginia.
Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) faces a write-in candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Murphy defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), 56% to 42%, in the 2017 general election to win his first term. Four candidates—Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh—are competing for the Republican nomination. All 40 seats in the New Jersey State Senate and all 80 seats in the New Jersey General Assembly are up for election in 2021. Two local elections are also taking place, with Essex County holding a primary for county sheriff and Hudson County holding a primary for county register.
In Virginia, five candidates are running in the Democratic primary for governor, six in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, and two in the Democratic primary for attorney general. Glenn Youngkin defeated six candidates in the Republican Party of Virginia’s convention on May 8 to become that party’s gubernatorial nominee. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election in 2021. The cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach will also hold municipal election primaries.
Voters in Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas to decide municipal runoff elections on June 5
The cities of Fort Worth, Arlington, and Dallas, Texas, will hold runoff elections for municipal offices on June 5.
Voters will decide between Deborah Peoples and Mattie Parker in Fort Worth’s mayoral election. Incumbent Betsy Price (R), the longest-serving mayor in Fort Worth’s history, chose not to seek re-election to a sixth two-year term. Peoples and Parker advanced to the runoff after receiving 34% and 31% of the vote, respectively, in the city’s ten-way May 1 general election.
While mayoral elections in Fort Worth are nonpartisan, Peoples, an AT&T executive, was chairwoman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party before the mayoral election. Parker, an attorney and former city chief of staff, received endorsements from noteworthy Republicans, including Price and Gov. Greg Abbott.
Voters will also decide runoff elections in four city council races, two of which feature incumbents and two of which are open seats.
Voters will decide between Mike Glaspie and Jim Ross in Arlington’s first open-seat mayoral election since 2003. Incumbent Jeff Williams (R) is term-limited. Glaspie and Ross advanced to the runoff after receiving the two largest vote totals in the seven-way May 1 general election. Ross placed first with 47.9% of the vote followed by Glaspie with 21.3%.
While mayoral elections in Arlington are officially nonpartisan, the Arlington Spectator, a local blog, posted a spreadsheet showing that Glaspie had voted in two of the previous six Republican primaries and Ross had voted in two of the previous six Democratic primaries. The mayorship in Arlington has been held by Republicans since at least 2003, making it one of 25 of the country’s largest 100 cities led by a Republican mayor.
Six of Dallas’ 14 city council seats advanced to runoff elections. Three races are for open seats and three feature an incumbent. During the May 1 general election, eight incumbents won re-election outright.
In Districts 2, 11, and 13, incumbent council members are not running for re-election due to term limits. Incumbents advanced to runoff elections in Districts 4, 7, and 14.
Voters can remove signatures on Newsom recall petitions until June 8
Voters who signed a recall petition targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have until June 8 to request to have their signatures removed. At that point, if at least 1,495,709 signatures remain, the recall election will be certified and proceed to a budgeting and scheduling phase. If certified, political analysts expect the recall to take place in October or November 2021.
So far, 37 candidates have officially filed with the California secretary of state to run in the recall election. Among those candidates are eight Democrats, 17 Republicans, two Green Party candidates, and a Libertarian Party candidate. The remaining candidates filed with no party preference. Ballotpedia has tracked an additional 14 candidates who have declared their intent to run in the recall election but have not yet officially filed. In the 2003 recall election, 135 candidates ran.
Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D) and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Ballot Measures Update
Twenty-five statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in six states so far.
Two new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week:
- Texas Right to Designated Essential Caregiver Amendment (2021)
- Texas Authorize Counties to Issue Infrastructure Bonds in Blighted Areas Amendment (2021)
Forty-seven statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 25 states so far.
One new measure was certified for the 2022 ballot last week: Louisiana Increase Maximum Amount Invested in Equities for Certain State Funds Amendment (2022).
Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for three additional 2022 initiatives in California and Michigan.
Mike Hunter resigns as Oklahoma attorney general
Mike Hunter (R) resigned as attorney general of Oklahoma on June 1. Hunter cited “personal matters that are becoming public” as the reason for his resignation. The Oklahoman reported that Hunter allegedly had an affair with another state employee.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) appointed Hunter attorney general in 2017 after former state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) was sworn in as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hunter was elected to a full term in 2018.
The attorney general is an elected position in 43 states and the District of Columbia, including Oklahoma. When a vacancy occurs in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, the governor appoints a successor to serve until the next election.
Ohio, Rhode Island end face-covering mandates
Gov. Mike DeWine (R) ended Ohio’s statewide mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on June 2, along with most of the state’s other COVID-19 health orders. An order requiring masks at healthcare facilities and nursing homes, however, remains in effect.
Governor Dan McKee (D) ended Rhode Island’s statewide outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on June 2. McKee did not revise or end the indoor mask mandate, which applies only to unvaccinated individuals as of May 18.
In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 15 states had statewide mask orders, including 13 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 15 states with statewide mask orders, at least 13 states exempted fully vaccinated residents from most indoor and outdoor masking requirements.
States in session
Seventeen states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.
Colorado Supreme Court strikes down proposed bill providing directions to state’s redistricting commissions
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on June 1 that Senate Bill (SB) 21-247, a bill that would have directed the state’s redistricting commissions “to take certain actions to account for census data delays,” would violate the state constitution. Specifically, SB 21-247 would have instructed the commissions to develop preliminary redistricting plans “using the data on the total population by state that will be released by the Census Bureau on April 30, 2021, and other population and demographic data from federal or state sources that are approved by the commissions.”
The court ruled 5-2 on the matter, with Justice Monica Márquez writing the court’s opinion. Márquez noted that, because the constitutional amendments (Amendments Y and Z) forming the redistricting commissions did not require the “exclusive use of final census data,” the commissions were “thus free to consult other reliable sources of population data.”
Thirty-eight state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 16 states so far this year. Twenty-seven special elections have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 13 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 14. No seats have changed party hands as a result of the special elections.
- In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
- An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
- An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).
Upcoming special elections include:
- Georgia House of Representatives District 34
- Georgia House of Representatives District 156
- Wisconsin State Assembly District 37 (primary)
Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigns as Texas secretary of state
Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as Texas secretary of state effective May 31, after the Nominations Committee of the state Senate did not take up her nomination for another term. Hughs previously served as the chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Hughs on August 19, 2019, to succeed David Whitley after he did not receive enough confirmation votes from the state Senate to remain in office.
The Texas secretary of state serves as the chief election officer for Texas, assists election officials at the county level, and ensures that election laws are uniform throughout Texas. Additionally, the secretary publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public. Texas is one of nine states to select its secretary of state by gubernatorial appointment. So far, Gov. Abbott has appointed four secretaries of state.
Maryland to end $300 pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 3
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that Maryland would end its participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs, which included a $300 weekly add-on to state unemployment benefits, on July 3. Hogan also said he would reinstate weekly work-search requirements starting July 4.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) was the first governor to announce on May 4 that his state would opt out of the federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits programs on June 30. Twenty-five states—all with Republican governors—have announced plans to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. Two states that have Republican governors have not announced an end to federal pandemic-related unemployment programs.
The American Rescue Plan, signed on March 11, 2021, extended federal unemployment benefit programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including the federal government’s $300 per week add-on to state unemployment benefits, through Sept. 6, 2021.