Your questions answered via Ballotpedia’s candidate survey

Welcome to the Thursday, October 21, Brew. 

By: David Luchs

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Expansion Project brings your questions to candidates in six cities
  2. How many state legislative vacancies have opened this year? Ballotpedia has the numbers
  3. San Francisco school board recall elections scheduled for Feb. 15

Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Expansion Project brings your questions to candidates in six cities

Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey offers candidates the opportunity to connect with voters by answering questions that speak to who they are as a person and what their motivations are for seeking political office as well as questions about their message and policies. In 2020, 4,745 candidates completed the Candidate Connection survey.

This year, Ballotpedia launched the Candidate Connection Expansion Project to give voters a more direct connection to the candidates they elect. Our readers in six pilot cities submitted custom questions for their candidates. An advisory board selected between three to five questions in each city to be incorporated into our candidate survey.

As of Oct. 20, 2021, 52 candidates running for office in all six cities have answered the questions submitted by Ballotpedia readers like you. The respondents include five mayoral candidates—four in Minneapolis and one in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, both candidates for city council District 9—Devin Barrington-Ward and Dustin Hillis—answered community questions in their Candidate Connection surveys. Selected responses from both are reproduced below:

What do you think about the transit options currently available in Atlanta? Would you make any changes?

Barrington-Ward: Transit options overwhelmingly favor bus service and the rail service that is available favors communities with high incomes and more access. I would shift our transit expansion projects to prioritize northwest, west, and southwest Atlanta communities and ensure that low income communities are afforded opportunities to work on these projects to help increase household incomes.

Hillis: I believe bus routes should be modified to go more places, more frequently – with the priority being areas where residents need and rely on public transportation the most. I supported the More MARTA plan, which will bring a new and full-sized Bankhead MARTA station to District 9 and more light rail lines.

What plans do you have regarding infrastructure?

Barrington-Ward: Use large public infrastructure projects to address issues around transportation, housing, and climate change while also putting people to work as a means of reducing poverty, income disparities, and crime throughout District 9 and Atlanta.

Hillis: I support the city going to voters in May 2022 to approve the Renew Atlanta Bonds and TSPLOST 2.0 in order to fund hundreds of millions of dollars more in much-needed infrastructure improvements.

What question would you have for a candidate running for political office in your local elections? Let us know—maybe your nomination could make it into a future survey!

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How many state legislative vacancies have opened this year? Ballotpedia has the numbers

A vacancy opening in Congress, as last happened with Rep. Steve Stivers’ (R) resignation in May to serve as president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, often invites national media coverage and attention. However, vacancies opening in state legislative chambers tend to draw less attention. Starting in 2019, Ballotpedia has published publicly available articles summarizing each state legislative vacancy that opened in a given year, how and when it was filled, and whether control of the seat changed as a result.

So far in 2021, there have been 113 state legislative vacancies opening in 41 states. A plurality (52) were opened when the legislator resigned, with another 20 opening when a legislator died. The remaining vacancies include 37 that opened when the legislator took a different office and four that opened when a legislator was removed from office.

Seventy-two of the 113 vacancies opened this year (64%) have been filled. Forty-two of those vacancies were filled via appointment and 30 were filled via special election. This year, there have been three seats where a legislator of a different party filled a vacancy—two where a Republican legislator succeeded a Democrat and one where a Democrat succeeded a Republican.

In 2019, the last odd-numbered year, 177 state legislative vacancies opened across 45 states. Republicans lost a net two seats owing to vacancies opening in 2019, while Democrats and independents each gained a net one seat.

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San Francisco school board recall elections scheduled for Feb. 15

Recall elections against three of the seven members of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education in California have been scheduled for Feb. 15, 2022. Petitions to recall board members Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga were certified in October 2021.

Recall sponsor Siva Raj said the effort was “a campaign to get politics out of education…What we saw consistently was a pattern where the school board leadership focused on a lot of political stunts and symbolic gestures like trying to rename schools, and doing that ultimately badly.”

In response to the recall effort, López said, “The people who are behind this don’t know us, they don’t know our work, they don’t know what we’ve been doing, they don’t know what we are dedicated to…They hear what’s out there and they recognize this is an opportunity to bring down someone who is me.”

All three board members named in the recall petitions were first elected to the board on Nov. 6, 2018. They received the most votes in an at-large election, defeating 16 other candidates. The other four members of the board were not eligible for recall at the same time as López, Collins, and Moliga as they had not served in their current terms for six months. They were elected or re-elected to the board on Nov. 3, 2020.

To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had 160 days to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in the city. The total number of signatures needed was 51,325 per board member, and the deadline to submit them was Sept. 7. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the recall on Feb. 15, the mayor of San Francisco will appoint replacements.

Ballotpedia has tracked 81 school board recall efforts against 209 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

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.

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