Voters in Detroit, Seattle to decide nonpartisan mayoral primaries

Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights next week’s nonpartisan mayoral primaries in both Detroit and Seattle on Aug. 3 and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent appointments of a state supreme court justice and state attorney general. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap:

Voters in Detroit, Seattle to decide nonpartisan mayoral primaries 

Detroit and Seattle will both hold top-two nonpartisan primaries for mayor on Aug. 3. Here are previews of both races.

In Detroit, 10 candidates are running, including incumbent Mike Duggan. Media coverage has focused on Duggan, Anthony Adams, and Tom Barrow. Duggan was first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017 with 72% of the vote. Adams is an attorney and served as deputy mayor of Detroit under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Barrow was a certified public accountant, and this is his fifth bid for mayor. He advanced from the primary in 1985, 1989, and 2009. In 2013, he received 3.9% of the primary vote.

Detroit is the largest city in Michigan, although between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population declined by 25%. Economic development and public safety have been major issues in the mayoral race.

In Seattle, 15 candidates are on the ballot for a chance to replace retiring incumbent Jenny Durkan. Six candidates have led in media attention—Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, City Council President Lorena González, former City Council President Bruce Harrell, architect Andrew Grant Houston, and former Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller. 

The race takes place following three years of conflict between a majority of city council members and the local chamber of commerce surrounding business taxes. Homelessness and affordable housing, policing and public safety, and economic recovery are key issues in the race.

Oklahoma governor appoints new state supreme court justice, attorney general

Governor Kevin Stitt (R) announced the appointment of Dana Kuehn to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on July 26. The appointment filled the vacancy created by former Justice Tom Colbert’s retirement on Feb. 1. Kuehn is Stitt’s third nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Kuehn is currently a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, a position she has held since November 2017. With her appointment to the supreme court, Kuehn is the first woman to serve on both of Oklahoma’s high courts.

The governor of Oklahoma appoints judges to the supreme court from a list of three candidates selected by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission. After Kuehn’s swearing-in, Republican governors have appointed five state supreme court justices. Democratic governors have appointed four.

Gov. Stitt also appointed John O’Connor (R) on July 23 to be the state’s attorney general. O’Connor succeeds former attorney general Mike Hunter (R), who resigned on June 1. Hunter had served as the attorney general since 2017. Oklahoma’s attorney general is next up for election in 2022.

O’Connor has worked as an attorney in private practice and served on the Board of Trustees of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. Trump nominated O’Connor to a federal district court judgeship in April 2018. The U.S. Senate did not confirm O’Connor during the 115th Congress, and O’Connor withdrew his name from consideration for re-nomination on Apr. 12, 2019. 

The attorney general is an executive office in all 50 states. It is the state’s chief legal advisor and has the power to prosecute violations of state law. State attorneys general also represent the state in legal disputes and issue legal advice to the legislature and state agencies. The current partisan affiliation of attorneys general nationwide is 26 Republicans and 24 Democrats.

Local Ballot Measures: The Week in Review

In 2021, Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage of elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population and all state capitals. This encompasses every office on the ballot in these cities, including their municipal elections, trial court elections, school board elections, and local ballot measures. Ballotpedia also covers all local recall elections, as well as all local ballot measures in California and a selection of notable local ballot measures about elections and police-related policies. Recent and upcoming local ballot measure elections are listed below:

  • Aug. 3 – Michigan: Voters in Lansing will decide a property tax renewal. Voters in Detroit will decide whether to adopt a revised city charter that makes changes to policy on broadband access, police practices, healthcare, taxes and utilities, and reparations, among other topics.
  • Aug. 3 – Missouri: St. Louis Community College District voters will decide a property tax measure.
  • Aug. 3 – Washington: Voters in King County and Thurston County will decide property tax measures.

California Republican Party announces candidate endorsement process in recall election of Gov. Newsom

The Republican Party of California announced on July 24 that it would meet on Aug. 7 to decide on a candidate endorsement in the Sept. 14 recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom. To gain the Republican Party’s endorsement, a candidate must get 60% support from delegates at the meeting, and delegates will be allowed to vote “no endorsement.”

The endorsement would carry several benefits, according to Joe Garfoli of the San Francisco Chronicle. The endorsed candidate would be able to use the party’s bulk mailing rate for campaign mailers, and the party would be able to spend money on the candidate’s behalf. Garfoli also said the potential endorsement could come with the risk of alienating grassroots voters if “the process is seen as an inside job run by party loyalists.”

Forty-six candidates are running in the election. Among those are 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R), former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R), and YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D). There are nine Democrats and 24 Republicans among the 46, with the remaining candidates having a third party or no party affiliation.

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.

States in session

Eight states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.

Legal challenges begin over local indoor mask requirements in Florida, Missouri

Several municipalities have instituted requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in indoor public settings. 

In Florida, Mayors Daniella Levine Cava and Jerry Demings of Miami-Dade County and Orange County issued indoor mask requirements on July 28. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation in March 2021 that gives the governor of Florida the authority to preempt local emergency regulations. As of July 29, it was unclear whether Miami-Dade and Orange counties’ mask requirements would stand.

In St. Louis, County Executive Sam Page issued an indoor mask requirement. On July 28, however, the city council voted 5-2 to invalidate that order. The issue of whether the mandate stands is expected to be decided in court. 

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas issued an indoor mask requirement on July 28 that would take effect on Aug. 2 through at least Aug. 28. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) announced that day that he planned to challenge the order in court. Schmitt has also filed a lawsuit against St. Louis over its mask requirement.

New Jersey Republicans ask for clarification regarding how prison inmates should be counted in redistricting 

The New Jersey Globe reported on July 26 that Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions requested clarification from Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) regarding how incarcerated people in the state should be counted in reapportionment and redistricting processes. A state law passed in 2020 requires New Jersey to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for legislative redistricting rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. A bill passed by both chambers of the state legislature would expand that requirement to redistricting for municipal, county, school board, and congressional purposes.

Under both laws, the secretary of state must submit an apportionment report based on numbers from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the U.S. Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data because “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics’.” 

Barlas and Steinhardt requested that Way responds by Aug. 2.

Special Elections

Forty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-four (34) specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 15 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 19. 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:

August 3

August 17

August 31

Iowa state Rep. John Landon dies

Iowa state legislator John Landon (R) died on July 29, at the age of 71. He was first elected in 2012 and was serving his fifth term representing District 37 in the state House. 

Landon graduated from Iowa State University and served with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. Before he was elected to the legislature, he worked in the agricultural business. In his most recent re-election, Landon defeated Andrea Phillips (D), 53% to 47%, in 2020.

In the Iowa General Assembly, vacancies are filled through special elections. The governor is required to call a special election within five days of the vacancy. Iowa is one of 25 states that fills state legislative vacancies through special elections. 

Federal court reverses earlier ruling upholding COVID-19 cruise restrictions in Florida

On July 23, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed its July 17 ruling that allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enforce its coronavirus restrictions on cruise lines in Florida. For cruise ships to set sail, the CDC required they mandate that 95% of passengers and 98% of crews be fully vaccinated. The Eleventh Circuit’s new order stops the CDC from enforcing its restrictions in Florida while the case is being litigated. 

The three Circuit Judges did not explain in the unsigned order why they reversed their earlier ruling. After the Court initially ruled in favor of the CDC’s restrictions, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) sought emergency relief from the United States Supreme Court. On July 26, following the Eleventh Circuit’s order, Moody withdrew her request for emergency relief.  

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing that the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan to reopen the cruise industry. DeSantis signed legislation on May 3 prohibiting businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. 

Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole resigns to become state finance director

Bill Poole (R) resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on July 31 to accept a position as the director of the Alabama Department of Finance. Governor Kay Ivey (R) appointed him to the position on July 16 to replace Kelly Butler. Poole was first elected to represent his district in the state House in 2010 and was most recently re-elected in 2018, receiving 96% of the vote. 

Vacancies in the Alabama state House are filled by special election. If a vacancy occurs on or after Oct. 1 in the year of a regular election, the district will remain vacant until filled at the regular election. Otherwise, the governor must call for a special election if the vacancy happens before the next scheduled general election and the legislature is in session. 

Ballot Measures Update

Thirty-three statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in seven states so far.

  • No new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week.

Fifty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 26 states so far. 

  • No new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week.