Voters in the country’s top 100 largest cities and state capitals approved 91% of local ballot measures

Welcome to the Tuesday, January 3, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Ballotpedia’s analysis of 2022 local ballot measures in top 100 largest cities and state capitals
  2. Rouse, Adams running in Jan. 10 special election for Virginia state Senate District 7 
  3. Four top-100 mayoral offices changed party control in 2022

Ballotpedia’s analysis of 2022 local ballot measures in top 100 largest cities and state capitals

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2023! We hope you found time to relax and enjoy the holidays. What better way to start the year than to look back at local ballot measures from 2022.

 Ballotpedia covered 382 local ballot measures in 39 different states in the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and state capitals. Voters approved 348 (91.1%) of those measures and defeated 34 (8.90%). In 2018 and 2020, voters approved an average of 84% of local measures. 

Twenty (5.23%) of those measures were citizen initiatives—meaning supporters mounted petition drives to get the questions on the ballot. Local legislative bodies—such as city councils and school boards—referred the other 362 (94.76%) measures to the ballot.

Last year, we covered local ballot measures for the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and in state capitals not among the 100 largest cities, including citywide measures and countywide, special district, and school district measures. We also covered all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures in the country. California local measures in the top-100 cities are included in this report.

Among the top 100 largest cities, we covered the most local measures in California (75 measures—19.63%), Texas (55 measures—14.40%), and Ohio (21 measures—5.50%). 

The 2022 local ballot measures addressed a variety of topics, from bond issues and taxes to local marijuana and local housing: 

  • 113 measures (29.58%) were bond issues. 
  • 85 measures (22.25%) concerned local taxes.
  • 84 (21.99%) concerned city, county, or district governance; local budgets; and public officials. 
  • 16 measures (4.19%) concerned elections, campaigns, and term limits. 
  • 13 measures (6.4%) concerned local law enforcement.

One hundred-thirteen measures were for bond issues totaling $32 billion. Voters approved 107 of the measures, amounting to $31.34 billion. Voters rejected six, amounting to $697.6 million.

We also covered thirteen local ballot measures in California, Colorado, Florida, and Washington Washington that would move municipal election dates from odd to even-numbered years to coincide with statewide elections. All of those were approved. Voters in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, approved measures to adopt ranked-choice voting for certain elections.

To learn more about last year’s local ballot measures, click the link below. 

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Rouse, Adams running in Jan. 10 special election for Virginia State Senate District 7 

One of the year’s first elections will take place in Virginia.

Aaron Rouse (D) and Kevin Adams (R) are running in the Jan. 10, 2023, special general election for Virginia State Senate District 7. The special election was called after the previous incumbent, Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R), resigned on Nov. 15, 2022, after being elected to represent Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. 

Although new state legislative maps take effect on Jan. 11, 2023, at the start of the legislative session, this special election will take place under previous district lines. According to Daily Kos’ David Nir, District 7 “has been very swingy: In 2019, Kiggans won it by less than one point, while Joe Biden carried it by 10 points the following year, only to see Youngkin prevail by 4 points in 2021.” 

Democrats currently have a 21-18 majority in the state Senate (with the District 7 vacancy). On Dec. 20, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) won a special Democratic convention to replace former U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D), who died on Nov. 28. McClellan will face Leon Benjamin Sr. (R) in the Feb. 21 special general election. Going into the Nov. 8, 2022, election, Republicans controlled 62 state legislative chambers and Democrats controlled 36 (and a power-sharing agreement between both parties in the Alaska House). When new legislative sessions begin this year, Republicans will control 57 chambers and Democrats will control 40 (and a power-sharing agreement between both parties in the Alaska Senate). Control of the Alaska House remains undetermined as of this writing.  

Rouse, a former NFL player, has been an at-large member of the Virginia Beach City Council since 2018. Rouse said, “so much is at stake in this upcoming election, from a woman’s fundamental right to choose, which I will fiercely defend, to the efforts that will set us back on voting rights, to addressing climate change, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and waterways, to criminal justice reform.” Rouse listed education as his top priority, including raising teacher salaries and expanding access to preschool. Rouse also listed the economy, healthcare, and public safety as priorities. 

Adams is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander who founded and operated a handyman business. Adams said he will “continue working to pass Governor Glenn Youngkin’s pro-veteran agenda, cut taxes, ease regulations, keep our communities safe, and make it easier for small business owners like me to get started and stay in business.” Adams’ platform includes working to improve education and workforce training, supporting veterans, lowering gas, grocery, and sales taxes, and growing “school funding while shrinking the power of left-wing idealogues.” 

Abortion has been an issue in the race. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia endorsed Rouse, and its associated PAC is spending around $100,000 on the race. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is spending $30,000 in support of Adams

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Four top-100 mayoral offices changed party control in 2022

Twenty-four of the 100 most populous U.S. cities held mayoral elections in 2022. Mayoral offices changed partisan control in four of those races, resulting in no net change in the number of offices held by Republicans and Democrats. Once all mayors elected in 2022 are sworn in, Democrats will hold 62 top-100 mayoral offices, Republicans will hold 26, independents will hold three, and nonpartisan mayors will hold seven. One current mayor and one mayor-elect have not responded to our inquiries about their partisan affiliation. 

Mayoral offices in the following cities flipped as a result of 2022 elections:

  • In Anaheim, California, Ashleigh Aitken (D) defeated Acting Mayor Trevor O’Neil (R) and two other candidates on Nov. 8. Former mayor Harry Sidhu (R) resigned in May 2022. 
  • In Chula Vista, California, City Councilman John McCann (R) defeated Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) in the election to succeed term-limited mayor Mary Salas (D) on Nov. 8.
  • In Henderson, Nevada, Michelle Romero (R) was elected to succeed incumbent Debra March (D), who ran for lieutenant governor of Nevada. Romero won the June 14 primary outright with 76% of the vote.
  • In North Las Vegas, Nevada, City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown (D) defeated state Sen. Patricia Spearman (D) in the election to succeed outgoing mayor John J. Lee (R) on Nov. 8. Lee was first elected mayor in 2013 as a Democrat and switched parties in 2021. 

In Laredo, Texas, Victor Treviño defeated Mercurio Martinez III in the Dec. 17 runoff to succeed outgoing mayor Pete Saenz (I). We haven’t been able to determine Treviño’s partisan affiliation. 

In cities where mayoral elections are nonpartisan, we use one or more of the following sources to identify each officeholder’s partisan affiliation: (1) direct communication from the officeholder, (2) current or previous candidacy for partisan office, or (3) identification of partisan affiliation by multiple media outlets.

Twenty-nine top-100 cities will hold mayoral elections in 2023. You can read more about last year’s mayoral elections at the link below. 

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