Exclusive: Candidate filings before/after Dobbs draft ruling

Welcome to the Friday, August 5, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Candidate filings before and after Dobbs draft ruling
  2. Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law
  3. Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski killed in car accident

Candidate filings before and after Dobbs draft ruling

Here at Ballotpedia, we meticulously track candidate data filings. One thing we’ve always watched are candidate filing numbers and in particular, how those might change around various events. For instance, in 2020 we looked at whether candidate filing numbers changed before/after COVID lockdowns began in March. 

This year, we wanted to see whether the draft Dobbs release impacted candidate filings. On May 2, Politico released a draft majority opinion from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court. The following month, the Supreme Court issued its formal decision, finding no constitutional right to abortion and overruling Roe v. Wade.

In most cases, this decision left state legislatures to decide whether or not to allow or prohibit abortions. 

Would the Dobbs ruling lead to any change in the number of state legislative candidates filing for office?

We compared filing deadline statistics—like the number of major party candidates per seat and the percentage of seats contested by both major parties—between those states whose filing deadlines came before May 2 and those whose filing deadlines came after.

In the 32 states with filing deadlines before the release of the draft opinion, 2.2 major party candidates filed per seat up for election, and 55% of all seats up for election were contested by both major parties.

In the 10 of the 15 states with filing deadlines after May 2 for which we have finished gathering data, we found the number of candidates per seat was lower at 2.0, and the percentage of major party competition was higher at 61%.

From here forward, we will refer to the 32 states with filing deadlines before May 2 as BD and the 10 states with filing deadlines after May 2, which we have data for, as AD.

While the figures between BD and AD states vary from one another, they remain similar to what we have seen in these states across previous election cycles.

When taken collectively and over time, the number of candidates per seat in the BD states has ranged from 2.0 to 2.3, with the 2.2 figure from this year being slightly higher than what we saw in 2020.

Among the AD states, the figure has ranged from 1.8 to 2.1, with 2.0 actually representing a decrease from what we saw in 2020.

Major party competition is another helpful metric when comparing filing deadline statistics. These figures tell us what percentage of seats are being contested between both major parties—indicating competition on the ballot—and, inversely, what percentage are contested by just one of the two major parties.

Major party competition is higher in the AD states, but, historically, these states have tended to have more major party competition than the BD states. 

In every election cycle since 2014, the AD states have had a rate of major party competition between two and nine percentage points greater than in BD states except for 2018.

For both BD and AD states, the rate of major party competition is lower this year than it was in 2020.

Of the 32 BD states, eight have Democratic trifectas, 19 have Republican trifectas, and five have divided governments.

Of the 10 AD states, four have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and four have divided governments.

New York is counted twice since its Assembly’s filing deadline came before May 2 and its Senate deadline came after.

We have not finished processing data for five additional states with filing deadlines after May 2: Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. There are two Democratic trifectas, one Republican trifecta, and two divided governments among this group.

Use the link below to view total and state-specific filing deadline statistics at all levels of government.

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Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law

On July 28, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-2 to downgrade the accreditation status of the Tulsa and Mustang Public Schools for violating a 2021 law that prohibits teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another.” Local commentary describes the law as prohibiting critical race theory in public schools.

This is the first time the law has been enforced in Oklahoma.

The Tulsa downgrading stemmed from a high school teacher’s complaint in 2021 that mandatory staff training materials contained “statements that specifically shame white people … and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature.

The board downgraded Mustang Public Schools over a January 2022 complaint regarding a teacher’s anti-bullying lesson.

Board member Estela Hernandez, who voted in favor of the downgrades, said the decision was “sufficient in this case because we need to send a message that the deliberate breaking of the law needs to be on probation.”

State Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister, the state’s Democratic nominee for governor, voted against the downgrades, saying, “The penalties are heavily weighted against Tulsa … because of an obsession or peculiar focus that [Gov. Kevin Stitt (R)] has with them … And then Mustang became collateral damage.”

The districts have one year to make changes in order to improve their accreditation statuses. The Oklahoma Department of Education could revoke the districts’ accreditation altogether if more violations occur, forcing the districts to close.

The Oklahoma Board of Education is made up of six members representing the state’s six congressional districts, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. The state superintendent of education, elected statewide in midterm election cycles, also serves on the board.

For more information about the latest in school politics and governance, subscribe to Hall Pass, our weekly newsletter covering elections, commentary, and research across the political spectrum on the issues facing school boards.

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Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski killed in car accident

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) died in a car accident on Aug. 3. Walorski had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District since 2012. Before serving in Congress, Walorski worked as a television reporter and a nonprofit director. She also served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 2004 to 2010.

A special election will be called to fill the vacancy created by Walorski’s death since the vacancy occurred more than 74 days before the general election. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said his office had not yet begun the process of setting the election, though it is likely the special election will take place at the same time as the district’s regular general election on Nov. 8.

Walorski was also on the ballot for the regular general election, seeking another term. 

Democratic Party officials in the 2nd District will select a candidate for the special election. Republican Party officials will select both a candidate for the special election along with a candidate to replace Walorski on the regular general election ballot.

The winner of the special election will serve in Congress until Jan. 3, 2023, the end of Walorski’s current term. The winner of the regular general election will serve a full, two-year term beginning on Jan. 3.

Since 2019, eight members of Congress—three Democrats and five Republicans—passed away while in office. In addition to Walorski, two other incumbents passed away this year: U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska). 

Special elections to fill the remainder of those terms will coincide with each state’s regularly-scheduled primary elections: Aug. 9 in Minnesota and Aug. 16 in Alaska. 

The special election in Indiana’s 2nd District will be the 17th to take place during the 117th Congress, tied for the most special elections in a single Congress over the past three decades.

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