Our weekly summary of state and local news highlights New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announced resignation and the California GOP’s vote to not endorse a recall candidate. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State and Local Tap.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Aug. 24
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he would resign effective Aug. 24. Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 and 2018. He was New York’s attorney general from 2007 to 2010. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D) will serve the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2023. New York’s next gubernatorial election will take place in November 2022.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report on Aug. 3 that said Cuomo “sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.” James began the investigation in February.
Cuomo denied these allegations, saying, in part, “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.” At a press conference announcing his resignation, Cuomo said, “Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”
Hochul was elected lieutenant governor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Before that, she served in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2013 after winning a special election. Hochul will be the first woman governor in the state’s history.
Since 1776, 218 state governors have resigned before the expiration of their terms. Cuomo is the ninth governor of New York to resign. Six resigned to take another office and three resigned following allegations of misconduct. New York’s last elected governor, Eliot Spitzer (D), resigned in 2008 amid allegations of misconduct. Twelve governors of New Jersey have resigned, more than any other state.
California GOP votes “No endorsement” for recall election
On Aug. 7, the Republican Party of California voted not to endorse a candidate in the Sept. 14 recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). About 90% of the delegates attending the virtual party meeting voted to skip the endorsement vote and not endorse a candidate. The vote came amid concerns from delegates and party leaders that an endorsement of one candidate would decrease turnout among voters who support other candidates.
Republican National Committee members Harmeet Dhillon and Shawn Steel, who KPBS called two of the most powerful figures in the party, sent an email asking delegates to vote against an endorsement. “The polls are showing that the recall is in a statistical tie, and we cannot afford to discourage voters who are passionate about a particular candidate, yet may not vote because their favored candidate didn’t receive the endorsement,” they wrote.
State party chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in response to the vote, “Today’s overwhelming decision by our delegates to offer no endorsement speaks to the strength of our field of candidates and the outstanding position our party is in going into the recall election.”
Tony Navarrete resigns from the Arizona state Senate
Senator Tony Navarrete (D) resigned from the Arizona state Senate on Aug. 10. He represented District 30 from 2019 to 2021. He also represented Arizona House District 30 from 2017 to 2019.
Phoenix police arrested Navarrete on Aug. 5, 2021, on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor. According to authorities, the alleged sexual conduct took place in 2019. Navarrete resigned on Aug. 10, stating, “I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence. In doing so, I will be focusing the vast majority of my time and energy on my defense.”
As of Aug. 12, there have been 82 state legislative vacancies in 36 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled, with 32 vacancies remaining. Navarrete’s vacancy is one of 38 Democratic vacancies to have occurred in 2021. So far, Democrats have filled 23 vacancies, while Republicans have filled 27.
California mandates vaccines for school teachers and staff
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that teachers and staff in K-12 public and private schools would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing.
According to the California Department of Public Health, the requirement will take effect on Aug. 12.
Although governors in other states have mandated that state employees get vaccinated, California is the first to extend the mandate to include school teachers and staff.
Ann Davison and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy advance from Seattle city attorney primary
Pete Holmes, the incumbent Seattle city attorney, conceded to challengers Ann Davison and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy on Aug. 6, meaning the two will advance to the general election on Nov. 2, 2021. The latest election results showed Thomas-Kennedy with 36.5% of the vote followed by Davison with 32.8% and Holmes with 30.7%.
Holmes won re-election in 2017 against challenger Scott Lindsay with 75% of the vote to Lindsay’s 25%, and ran unopposed in the 2013 general election. David Kroman of Crosscut called Holmes’ concession “a tectonic political upset that sets the stage for a stark and divisive race to succeed him as the city’s top lawyer.”
In Seattle, the city attorney heads the city’s law department and supervises all litigation in which the city is involved. The city attorney supervises a team of assistant city attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to the city’s management and prosecute violations of city ordinances.
Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases 2020 data necessary to begin redistricting process (and other news)
The U.S. Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census on Aug. 12. The data includes county-level demographic information on the ethnic, racial, and age makeup of neighborhoods across the country and will allow states to begin the process of drawing congressional and state legislative district maps.
The Bureau will also release a complete tabulated version of the census dataset on Sept. 30. In addition to drawing district maps, federal agencies and local governments use census data for allocating funds and other planning and decision-making processes.
Here are some overall findings from the data, as described in the Bureau’s press release:
- “The 2020 Census showed that the adult (age 18 and older) population group grew 10.1% to 258.3 million people over the decade.”
- “The population of U.S. metro areas grew by 9% from 2010 to 2020, resulting in 86% of the population living in U.S. metro areas in 2020, compared to 85% in 2010.”
- “The 2020 Census used the required two separate questions (one for Hispanic or Latino origin and one for race) to collect the races and ethnicities of the U.S. population. … Building upon our research over the past decade, we improved the two separate questions design and updated our data processing and coding procedures for the 2020 Census. These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.”
Also, a majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court voted on Aug. 6 to select retired state supreme court justice John Wallace as the 13th member of the Congressional Redistricting Commission. His selection came after the six Democrats and six Republicans on the commission did not agree on a 13th member by the July 15 deadline.
Oregon Supreme Court Justice Lynn Nakamoto announces retirement
On Aug. 9, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Lynn Nakamoto announced she would retire on Dec. 31, 2021. Nakamoto’s replacement will be Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.
Under Oregon law, midterm vacancies on the state supreme court are filled via gubernatorial appointment. Appointed judges serve until the next general election more than 60 days after they were appointed, at which point they must run for election in order to remain in office.
Justice Nakamoto joined the Oregon Supreme Court in 2016. She was appointed to the court by Gov. Brown. Upon her appointment, Nakamoto became the first Asian Pacific American on the state supreme court.
In 2021, there have been 15 state supreme court vacancies in 13 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.
Ballot measures update
Thirty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in eight states so far.
- The Washington attorney general certified ballot language for three automatic advisory questions on tax increases passed in the 2021 legislative session. The nonbinding measures will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
- Signatures were submitted and are pending verification for three additional initiatives in Colorado.
Fifty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 26 states so far.
- No new measures were certified for the 2022 ballot last week.
State legislative special elections
Fifty-one state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-four 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:
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 approved a property tax renewal. Voters in Detroit rejected a revised city charter that would have made 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 approved a property tax measure.
- Aug. 3 – Washington: Voters in King County and Thurston County decided property tax measures. Both measures were ahead according to election night results.
States in session
Eight states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.