Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights an update in the recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a Florida school district requiring masks in schools, violating the governor’s executive order. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot measures update
Thirty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in eight states so far.
- 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.
States in session
Eight states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.
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 approved property tax measures.
Fifty-one state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-five (35) specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats controlled 15 of the seats, and Republicans controlled 20. One seat flipped from Democratic control to Republican control.
- 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:
- Alabama House of Representatives District 78
- New Hampshire House of Representatives Cheshire 9 District (primary)
- New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough 7 District
Seattle’s primary election results certified
King County Elections in Washington certified results of the Aug. 3 primary elections for Seattle mayor, city council, and city attorney Tuesday.
Former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current City Council President Lorena González advanced in the mayoral primary with 34.0% and 32.1% of the vote, respectively. Fifteen candidates ran in the primary. Current Mayor Jenny Durkan didn’t seek re-election.
City council results
For the position 9 council seat, which González currently holds, Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson advanced with 40.2% and 39.5% of the vote, respectively. Thomas came in third with 13.4%.
Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda is running for re-election to the position 8 seat. She advanced from the primary with 59.4% of the vote and faces Kenneth Wilson in the general election. Wilson received 16.2% of the vote.
City attorney results
In the city attorney election, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison advanced after incumbent Pete Holmes conceded on August 6, 2021. Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote, followed by Davison with 32.7% and Holmes with 30.6%
General elections in Seattle are on Nov. 2.
Recall election for Montana sewer district to be held Aug. 24
A recall election seeking to remove two of the five board members for the Sanders County Sewer District in Montana is being held on Aug. 24. Board President Sunny Chase and board member Rick McCollum are on the ballot.
The recall effort was started by a group of residents who opposed putting a sewer system in Paradise, Montana. The board voted in favor of the sewer project in May 2020. The town received a $3.5 million grant to help cover the cost of the project and took out a loan of $770,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to cover the rest of the cost.
In reaction to the recall effort, Chase said the board had gone through the process of putting in a sewer system in good faith and that she saw it as a necessity for the town.
To get the recall on the ballot, supporters had to submit signatures equal to 15% of registered voters in the town of Paradise. The petitions were submitted with 43 signatures, which was over the threshold.
In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Republican flips seat in Connecticut State Senate special election
A special election was held on Aug. 17 for District 36 of the Connecticut Senate. Ryan Fazio (R) defeated Alexis Gevanter (D) and John Blankley (I) in the general election. Unofficial results had Fazio winning with 50.1% of the vote. Gevanter and Blankley earned 47.6% and 2.3% of the vote, respectively. Fazio will serve for the remainder of the term ending in January 2023.
The seat became vacant after Alex Kasser (D) resigned effective June 22, citing her ongoing divorce proceedings as the reason for her resignation. Kasser was elected in 2018, earning 50.4% of the vote and defeating incumbent Scott Frantz (R). She won re-election in 2020 with 51.4% of the vote.
Heading into the special election, Democrats had a 23-12 majority in the Connecticut Senate with one vacancy. Connecticut has a Democratic state government trifecta, holding the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
Fazio’s win marked the first flipped seat as a result of 2021 state legislative 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.
Ballots for Newsom recall mailed to voters
Aug. 16 was the deadline for California counties to mail ballots to all registered voters for the Sept. 14 recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Voters who are not currently registered but wish to do so may register by Aug. 30 to vote in the recall election.
Forty-six candidates, including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, are running in the election. The candidates to receive the most media attention and perform best in polls so far are YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), California State Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R).
Florida’s largest school district requires masks in schools, violating governor’s executive order
On Aug. 18, the school board for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest school district in Florida, approved a school mask requirement in a 7-1 vote. School districts in Hillsborough County and Palm Beach County also voted on Aug. 18 to implement school mask requirements.
This comes after Broward and Alachua County school boards also voted to require masks in schools on Aug. 10. Following a meeting on Aug. 17, the state Board of Education voted to pursue sanctions against those districts, which could include the withholding of funds or the removal of school officials, as outlined in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ July 30 executive order that banned local authorities from enacting mask requirements in schools.
On Aug. 18, President Joe Biden (D) announced the Department of Education would deter state policies banning school mask requirements, possibly by legal action. Several court cases are already underway in Florida regarding the school mask requirement ban, including one in Leon County where parents have filed suit, alleging the ban violates the state constitution by making schools unsafe and violating county self-governance. Attorneys for the state of Florida filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, with a hearing to be held on Aug. 19.
As of Aug. 19, 30 states left mask requirements in schools up to local authorities, seven states banned school mask requirements, and masks were required in schools by 13 states.
Virginia to begin official redistricting process on Aug. 26; Ohio Redistricting Commission schedules 10 public hearings
The Virginia Redistricting Commission voted on Aug. 16 to officially begin the state’s redistricting process on Aug. 26. The commission is expected to receive data that an outside consultant is reformatting by that date. The U.S. Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census on Aug. 12.
Virginia law requires that the commission submit proposed state legislative maps to the General Assembly within 45 days of receiving census data and proposed congressional district boundaries within 60 days. This means the commission will propose new state legislative districts by Oct. 10 and congressional districts by Oct. 25. When adopted, the new congressional map will take effect for the 2022 U.S. House elections, and new state legislative districts will be used in 2023. This year’s state legislative elections will continue to use maps that were enacted after the 2010 census.
Also, the Ohio Redistricting Commission announced on Aug. 13 that it had scheduled 10 public hearings across the state. The hearings will take place at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily between Aug. 23 and Aug. 27 at eight colleges and universities.
New Mexico Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart resigns
Ryan Stewart resigned as New Mexico’s secretary of education on Aug. 20, citing health issues in his family. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) first appointed Stewart to the position in August 2019. Stewart said he would continue serving at the Public Education Department in an advisory role.
Lujan Grisham announced on July 29 that former Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus would become the new secretary of education. Steinhaus retired as superintendent in May. He previously served as deputy cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department and as director of student and education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Steinhaus began his career as a music teacher at Alamogordo Public Schools.