School board deep dives continued—Virginia edition

Welcome to the Tuesday, October 10, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. School board battleground preview: Prince William County Public Schools
  2. On this date in 1911: California voters approved Proposition 21, allowing for impeachment of state officials for misdemeanors
  3. Marquee Managing Editor Cory Eucalitto talks with Ballotpedia alum and Princeton grad student Rob Oldham

School board battleground preview: Prince William County Public Schools

Thousands of school board members will be elected in races across the country on Nov. 7. Over the next month, we’re bringing you in-depth coverage of the races we’ve identified as battlegrounds. 

Last week, we previewed elections in the Douglas County School District, just south of Denver, Colorado, and the Richland School District in Benton County, Washington. Today, let’s skip over to the east coast to look at elections for seats on the Prince William County school board in Virginia. Virginia is one of 10 states in which we are covering all school board elections on Nov. 7.

First, some brief background on this district:

  • Nineteen candidates are running for seven districts and the chairman’s seat
  • The Prince William County Public Schools board consists of eight members elected to four-year terms.
  • The board’s chairman is elected at-large, while the rest are elected by district. 
  • The board’s chairman and incumbents in five of the seven districts are running for re-election.
  • Jennifer Wall, the incumbent in the Gainesville district, is the only unopposed candidate.
  • The district, located west of Alexandria, had approximately 90,070 students as of the 2020-21 school year—making it the second-largest district by enrollment in Virginia. Eight House of Delegates districts overlap the Prince William County Public Schools’ boundaries. Democrats currently represent all eight of those districts. In the 2021 gubernatorial election, Terry McAuliffe (D) won Prince William County, defeating Glenn Youngkin (R) 57% to 42%. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden (D) defeated Donald Trump 63% to 36%.   

School board races in Virginia are non-partisan, but the local political parties typically issue endorsements. The Prince William County Democratic Party has endorsed a candidate in all seven contested elections—including four incumbents running in those races. The Prince William County Republican Party has endorsed a candidate in six of the seven contested elections, including incumbent Jennifer Wall, who is running unopposed. The current board has a 7-1 Democratic-endorsed majority.  

The election for the at-large chairman seat has had some of the most noteworthy endorsements, including from incumbent members of Congress. High-profile endorsements from state and federal officials have become more common as school board elections have increasingly reflected national political debates. 

Incumbent Chairman Babur Lateef, first elected in a 2018 special election, Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, and Carrie Rist are running. The Prince William County Democratic Party endorsed Lateef, while the Prince William County Republican Party endorsed Rist. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D), who was the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, endorsed Lateef. Kaine is the only incumbent U.S. Senator to have endorsed a candidate in the Prince William County Public Schools elections. State Rep. Nick Freitas (R) endorsed Rist.

Here are some of the issues candidates are discussing in this race.

Lateef said, “If you were to listen to these folks tonight, you’ll hear folks who are talking about that the sky is falling. And I’ll tell you that the sky is not falling. I believe we are one of the best school divisions in the country and certainly one of the best in the Commonwealth.” Mehlman-Orozco said, “The Virginia Department of Education found that Prince William County Schools were out of compliance, found that these schools had discriminated against kids and had denied them a free and appropriate education.” Rist said, “Every single teacher that I talk to in door-knocking or in the community has said that they’re concerned about lack of discipline and lack of support. We have to fix the school safety crisis.” 

Click below to learn more about the candidates in this race, including their statements and the individuals and organizations who’ve endorsed them.

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On this date in 1911: California voters approved Proposition 21, allowing for impeachment of state officers for misdemeanors

We have tens of thousands of articles about statewide ballot measures that have appeared before voters stretching back to the early 19th century. Pick a random day of the year, and there’s a decent chance that voters in one or more of the 50 states decided at least one ballot measure—and that we have an article about it.  

We have several ways to look through our historical ballot measures repository. You can search for ballot measures by year, state, or topic.

So, what happened today, and where? When we punch Oct. 10 into our ballot measure database, we find that California voters approved Proposition 21 in 1911. Let’s explore it.

Proposition 21 was a constitutional amendment to provide that state officers, including the governor, and judges, could be impeached for any misdemeanor in office. The vote was 157,596 (76.16%) to 49,345 (23.84%).

The measure added the following to the California Constitution:

“Section 18. The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, surveyor general, chief justice and associate justices of the supreme court, judges of the district court of appeal, and judges of the superior courts, shall be liable to impeachment for any misdemeanor in office; but judgment in such cases shall extend only to removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the state; but the party convicted or acquitted shall nevertheless be liable to indictment, trial, and punishment according to law. All other civil officers shall be tried for misdemeanor in office in such manner as the legislature may provide.”

In all states except Oregon, the state legislature can impeach the governor. The process is typically similar to that used for the impeachment of presidents, in which the lower legislative chamber votes on impeachment and the upper chamber conducts the trial. There are exceptions, however. In Alaska, for example, the upper chamber votes to impeach and the lower chamber functions as trial court. In Missouri, The Missouri Senate selects a panel of seven judges who conduct the trial.

Governors have been impeached 16 times in U.S. history, with nine removed. The last time a sitting governor was impeached was in 2009, when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) was convicted and removed from office. 

In 2023, the Texas House of Representatives impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). The Texas Senate acquitted him on Sept. 16. 

1911 was a busy year for ballot measures in the Golden State. Voters decided 23 legislatively referred constitutional amendments, approving 22 of them. Voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have expanded the list of government officials who were eligible to receive a free or discounted railroad ticket from railroad companies. Voters rejected that proposition 49% to 51%. 

To read more about these and other statewide measures on the ballot in 1911, click the link below.

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Marquee Managing Editor Cory Eucalitto talks with Ballotpedia alum and Princeton grad student Rob Oldham

Last week, we released two episodes of On the Ballot, our (normally) weekly podcast. We’ve already told you about our interview on improving education journalism with The Grade’s Alexander Russo. Here’s the other episode we released last week. 

We frequently feature academics on the podcast who’ve published research on specific topics in American politics. This time, we’re featuring our first academic-in-training—Princeton Ph.D student and erstwhile Ballotpedia staff writer Rob Oldham. 

Oldham sits down with Marquee Team Managing Editor Cory Eucalitto, his old boss, to chat about their time working together and his research at Princeton University. As a staff writer, Oldham worked on, among other things, our 2018 Wave Election Analysis, which analyzed competing academic definitions of the term wave election and used the results of the 50 election cycles between 1918 and 2016 to provide our own definition. Oldham also chats about his research on congressional policymaking during crisis periods between 1981 and 2020. 

To listen to the full conversation, click the link below!

New episodes of On the Ballot drop every Thursday afternoon, so don’t forget to subscribe to catch our next one! 

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