Previewing the 2022 Senate battlegrounds

Welcome to the Thursday, November 18, Brew. 

By: David Luchs

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

  1. The 2022 Senate battlegrounds (so far)
  2. Signatures submitted to Loudoun County Circuit Court advancing recall of school board member Brenda Sheridan
  3. Biden issues no pardons or commutations through Sept. 30

The 2022 Senate battlegrounds (so far)

We’re still weeks away from the first set of filing deadlines, but let’s take a sneak peek at the midterms landscape. The Democratic and Republican caucuses currently split the Senate 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) casting tie-breaking votes. Thirty-four Senate seats are up for election next year. Republicans currently hold 20 of those and Democrats, 14. 

Senate races in eight states are rated Battlegrounds by Inside Elections and as Toss-ups, Lean, or Likely Democratic or Republican races by Cook Political Report and/or Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The table below shows information about each of these states that suggests competitive elections.

If you’re interested in following the primary contests in these and other key races on next year’s ballot, you may be interested in our free Heart of the Primaries newsletter, now in its third election year. Beginning later today and running through the end of primary season, we will send out two newsletters per week—one each covering what you need to know about primaries in the Democratic and Republican parties.

Click here for more information and to subscribe to one or both editions.

Click below for further analysis of the 2022 Senate election landscape, including candidate lists, analysis from media outlets, and more details on all seats up for election.

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Signatures submitted to Loudoun County Circuit Court advancing recall of school board member Brenda Sheridan

Supporters of a recall against six of the nine members of the Loudoun County Public Schools school board in Virginia submitted signatures against Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan on Nov. 9. Supporters said they filed 1,859 signatures, with 803 valid signatures required to move the recall forward.

A judge with the Loudoun County Circuit Court will review the petition before the case moves forward. If the case is accepted, a trial will be held. Recall supporters must “demonstrate the officer engaged in neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance” at the trial in order to remove Sheridan from office.

Sheridan is one of six members on the board included in the recall effort. All six were supported by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee in their last elections. Here is the status of those six recall efforts.

  • One set of petitions was filed on Nov. 9
  • One of the targeted members died Aug. 31
  • One resigned effective Nov. 2. 
  • Three board members have yet to have petitions filed against them.

Recall supporters said they launched the effort due to school board members’ involvement in a private Facebook group. They said the board members’ involvement was a violation of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act as well as the school board’s Code of Conduct because the members discussed public matters in a private setting. Recall supporters also alleged that the district was using Critical Race Theory in its employee training and student curriculum, which they opposed.

Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler said the district uses what he described as a Culturally Responsive Framework that “speaks to providing a welcoming, affirming environment and developing cultural competence through culturally responsive instruction, deeper learning, equitable classroom practices and social-emotional needs for a focus on the whole child.” He said the district did not use Critical Race Theory in its staff training or student curriculum. 

Sheridan assumed office in 2011 and was last re-elected to a four-year term on the board in 2019.

In other recall news, the Leyton Board of Education in Nebraska voted Nov. 5 to hold recall elections for two of its six members on Jan. 11, 2022. The recall petitions against Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman were approved for the ballot Oct. 12 after supporters of the recall turned in the 138 required signatures calling for both members’ recall. Click here for more on that recall.

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 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. 

Out of the 215 board members included in recall efforts this year, 16 faced recall elections. One was removed from office in the election, while 15 kept their seats. Five board members will face recall elections scheduled in 2022. Another eight board members resigned from office after recall efforts were started against them. Efforts against 122 members did not go to the ballot, while efforts against 64 members are still ongoing. 

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President Biden has issued no pardons or commutations since taking office

Since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021—302 days ago today—President Joe Biden (D) has issued no pardons or commutations. Since 1968, three other presidents have not issued pardons during their first 300 days in office—Barack Obama (D), George W. Bush (R), and Bill Clinton (D). Bush and Clinton did not issue a pardon or commutation until their third year in office. As of Nov. 2021, presidents have issued an average 120.4 pardons and 55.8 commutations annually.

The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a record of statistics about pardons and commutations. These figures are broken down by fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. When presidential transitions occur (such as between Donald Trump and Biden), both presidents can issue pardons and commutations in the same fiscal year.

The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 2, grants the president the power of executive clemency. Executive clemency includes the power to pardon, in which the president overturns a federal conviction and restores “an individual to the state of innocence that existed before the conviction.” Executive clemency also includes the power of commutation, which allows a president to shorten or reduce a federal prison sentence. 

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