Six state financial offices at stake in November’s elections

Welcome to the Wednesday, August 30, Brew. 

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

  1. November elections to determine six state financial officers
  2. Voters in three Michigan cities to decide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in November
  3. 71 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

Note: When published, this newsletter said 14 state financial officer positions were up for election in 2024. We corrected this number to 17 on Oct. 23, 2023. We apologize for the error.

November elections to determine six state financial officers

This year’s elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia will determine who controls six state financial officerships (SFOs) across those states.

Before we dig into these races, let’s catch up about what SFOs are and why they matter. 

SFOs include treasurers, auditors, and controllers. Broadly, these officials are responsible for things like auditing other government offices, managing payroll, and overseeing pensions. In some states, certain SFOs are also responsible for investing state retirement and trust funds.

Voters will directly elect five SFOs across three states. Republicans currently control all five offices.

In Kentucky, voters will elect a new treasurer and auditor, as both positions are open. Incumbent Treasurer Allison Ball (R) is running for auditor. Incumbent Auditor Mike Harmon (R) ran in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, where he placed fifth in the 12-candidate field.

In Louisiana, voters will similarly fill an open treasurer’s office. Incumbent Treasurer John Schroder (R) is running in the state’s Oct. 14 gubernatorial primary.

In Mississippi, incumbents David McRae (R) and Shad White (R) are running for re-election as treasurer and auditor, respectively.

The major parties have candidates in all five elections, meaning at least one Democrat and one Republican are running.

The sixth SFO we are watching this year is Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. Unlike the five SFOs listed above, it is not the voters but the General Assembly who fills this position.

The General Assembly appointed Staci Henshaw as auditor in 2021, when Democrats controlled both legislative chambers.

Democrats still control the Senate, but Republicans won a majority in the House of Delegates in 2023.

Henshaw’s term expires in 2025, meaning the outcome of this year’s House and Senate elections will determine which party has control over the appointment then.

Last year, either directly or indirectly, voters decided control of 68 out of the 105 state financial offices nationwide (65%). 

Five directly elected offices changed partisan control, all from Democrats to Republicans:

  • Iowa Treasurer
  • Kansas Treasurer
  • Missouri Auditor
  • Nevada Controller
  • Wisconsin Treasurer

The indirect changes can be harder to telegraph. In 2022, the appointment authorities for two SFOs changed—one in Minnesota and another in Massachusetts—giving Democrats full appointment control.

In Minnesota, the governor appoints the Commissioner of Management and Budget pending Senate approval. Before 2022, Democrats controlled the governorship, and Republicans controlled the Senate. But Democrats won the Senate last year.

On Aug. 14, Jim Schowalter—whom Gov. Tim Walz (D) appointed in 2020 with Republicans’ approval—left office. Walz named Erin Campbell as his replacement.

In Massachusetts, the change in appointment authority did not affect that state’s comptroller. 

Last May, Gov. Maura Healy (D) reappointed Comptroller Bill McNamara to a full four-year term. Healy’s predecessor, Charlie Baker (R), originally appointed McNamara in 2020.

Looking a bit further ahead, 17 SFOs will be on the ballot in 2024. Appointing authority over another 13 SFOs will also be determined in next year’s elections.

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Voters in three Michigan cities to decide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in November

A few weeks ago, we told you how state legislators introduced more than 100 ranked-choice voting bills this year compared to 44 in 2022. Today, we’re looking at another area where ranked-choice voting has been a hot topic: local ballot measures.

Voters in East Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Royal Oak, Michigan, will decide on ballot measures to anticipatively adopt ranked-choice voting on Nov. 7.

Anticipatively is the keyword here. While Michigan does not explicitly prohibit ranked-choice voting—as is the case in Florida, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Tennessee—its laws do not allow localities to adopt the voting method. 

If voters approve these measures, they will begin using ranked-choice voting only if legislators change state law to allow it.

The last time lawmakers introduced legislation allowing localities to adopt ranked-choice voting was during the 2022 session when Republicans controlled both legislative chambers. Ballotpedia has not identified similar legislation since Democrats won legislative majorities last year.

If any of these three localities approve their measures, they will join Ferndale and Ann Arbor, which adopted ranked-choice voting in 2004 and 2021, respectively.

There is one locality in Michigan that uses ranked-choice voting despite the statewide prohibition: Eastpointe. This Detroit suburb implemented ranked-choice voting in 2019 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in federal court following a lawsuit alleging the town’s previous voting methods violated the Voting Rights Act. This federal order expires in 2024.

Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system where voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. A candidate who gets a majority of the vote wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and ballots are counted again, taking second-choice preferences into consideration. Click here to learn more.

Since 2020, Ballotpedia has cataloged 22 local ranked-choice voting-related ballot measures. Voters approved 20 and rejected two.

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71 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

Last week, 71 candidates filed to run for congressional and state offices—including for elections in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026.

That’s up from 54 the preceding week. Since the start of the year, we’ve logged an average of 44 candidate filings per week.

This year, we’ve identified 1,490 declared candidates for federal and state offices. At this time in 2021, we had identified 1,812 candidates for 2022, 2023, and 2024 races.

Of last week’s declared candidates:

  • 33 are Democrats;
  • 35 are Republicans; and,
  • Three are minor party candidates.

Twenty-seven of last week’s candidates are running for state legislatures, one for a governorship, and two for other state executive offices. Most of last week’s candidates—41—are running for Congress: nine in the Senate and 31 in the House. Here’s a look at where those House candidates filed:

We cover elections for tens of thousands of offices across the country. Part of that work includes keeping tabs on the candidates—both declared and official—running for those offices.

For more information about how we determine candidacies and a full list of candidates running for Congress in 2024, click the link below.
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