3 congressional special elections in 4 weeks

Welcome to the Friday, July 9, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Voters to decide primaries, runoffs in three U.S. House races by Aug. 3
  2. Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether voters can cast ballots on Detroit’s proposed city charter
  3. Alaska governor appoints new state supreme court justice

Voters to decide primaries, runoffs in three U.S. House races by Aug. 3

This summer, voters will decide primary or runoff races in three U.S. House districts between now and Aug. 3. Here’s an update on all three elections:

  • Texas’ 6th Congressional District
  • Ohio’s 11th Congressional District
  • Ohio’s 15th Congressional District

Texas’ 6th Congressional District

A runoff election will take place on July 27 in this Dallas-area district between two Republicans—Jake Ellzey and Susan Wright. Both candidates advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1, where Wright received 19% of the vote to Ellzey’s 14%.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from complications related to COVID-19 on Feb. 7. Susan Wright is his widow, and she has served as district director for two Republican state representatives. Ellzey is a state representative, first elected in 2020. In 2018, he ran against Ronald Wright in this district’s Republican primary, losing in the primary runoff, 52% to 48%.

The Club for Growth has spent more than $500,000 supporting Wright and opposing Ellzey. Former President Donald Trump (R) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) endorsed Wright. Ellzey’s supporters include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND.

Ohio’s 11th Congressional District

Voters will decide primary elections on Aug. 3 in this district which includes parts of Cleveland and Akron. The previous incumbent, Marcia Fudge (D), resigned in March after the Senate confirmed her as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Biden administration. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 special general election Solid Democratic.

Of the 13 candidates in the Democratic primary, Shontel Brown and Nina Turner have led in fundraising, endorsements, and media attention. Brown is a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton endorsed her. Turner was a state senator and national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential primary campaign. Sanders endorsed Turner.

Ohio’s 15th Congressional District

Primary elections will also take place on Aug. 3 in this Columbus-area district.  Steve Stivers (R) resigned in May to become the President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 special general election Solid Republican.

Eleven candidates are running in the Aug. 3 special Republican primary. Mike Carey, Jeff LaRe, and Bob Peterson have led in endorsements and media attention. Stivers endorsed LaRe—a state representative since 2019— who has a background in law enforcement. President Trump endorsed Carey, who served in the Army National Guard and describes himself as a conservative outsider. Peterson is a state senator and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau. The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed him.

Three special elections have already taken place to fill vacancies in the U.S. House this year. In all three, the special election winner was a member of the same party that previously held the seat. Fifty congressional special elections took place from 2013 through 2020. The table below details the net change in party affiliation in those elections:

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Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether voters can cast ballots on Detroit’s proposed city charter 

Here’s an interesting local ballot measure situation that I learned about recently when chatting with our ballot measures team.

The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments on July 7 in a lawsuit challenging a Detroit ballot measure that would establish a new city charter. The measure, known as Proposal P, would replace Detroit’s current charter with one that changes city policies on broadband access, police practices and training, health care, taxes, reparations, and other topics. If the state supreme court rules the measure is valid, voters will decide whether to adopt it on Aug. 3. 

In 2018, Detroit voters approved Proposal R, a ballot measure authorizing a charter revision commission. City voters then elected nine members to the Detroit Charter Revision Commission in November 2018. The commission completed the 145-page draft charter earlier this year and approved the text of Measure P in March. Voters last approved Detroit’s city charter—which is 120 pages—in 2011. 

Four city residents filed lawsuits challenging the charter revision measure, arguing that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) must approve the charter before it goes before voters. Whitmer provided comments to the charter revision commission but did not approve the measure. On June 4, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the measure was invalid without the governor’s approval. The Michigan Supreme Court suspended both lower court decisions blocking Proposal P from the ballot.

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Alaska governor appoints new state supreme court justice

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed state superior court judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson to the Alaska Supreme Court yesterday—July 8. Henderson is Gov. Dunleavy’s second appointee to the five-member supreme court. She replaces former chief justice Joel Bolger, who retired on June 30 and had served as chief justice since 2018.

Bolger is the only justice in Alaska’s history to have been appointed to all four levels of the state court system. Before joining the Alaska Supreme Court, Bolger was a judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2013, the Kodiak Superior Court from 2003 to 2008, and the Valdez District Court from 1997 to 2003. 

Republican governors have appointed four Alaska Supreme Court justices. Gov. Bill Walker (I) appointed the fifth.

When there is a midterm vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court, the governor selects a nominee from a list compiled by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC). The AJC is a seven-member body consisting of three attorneys, three people who are not attorneys, and the chief justice of the state supreme court.

Alaska is one of 22 states that fills supreme court vacancies using a method known as assisted appointment. In these states, the governor makes the final selection after a commission or board submits a list of names for consideration. 

The second part of Ballotpedia’s state supreme courts study determined that the Alaska Supreme Court issued 127 unanimous rulings in the 138 cases it ruled on last year. Want to know more facts about state supreme courts nationwide? Click here to read Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters.

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About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.