Maine ballot initiative would prohibit foreign election spending

Welcome to the Wednesday, October 25, 2023, Brew. 

By: Joe Greaney 

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

  1. Maine ballot initiative would prohibit foreign election spending
  2. Six candidates are running for three seats on the Wichita, Kansas school board on Nov. 7
  3. 47 candidates filed for federal and statewide offices last week

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Maine ballot initiative would prohibit foreign election spending

On Nov. 7, Maine voters will decide Question 2, a ballot initiative that would prohibit foreign governments, or entities with at least 5% foreign government ownership or control from spending money to influence ballot measures or candidate elections. This is one of 28 measures on the Nov. 7 ballot in five states. We’ve written about this measure before (here). In light of Louisiana voters’ recent approval of Amendment 1, let’s get caught up on what Maine will be deciding.

Currently, seven states prohibit foreign spending on ballot measure campaigns: California, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington. Federal law addresses foreign spending in candidate elections but not ballot measure elections.

The issue of foreign contributions to ballot measure campaigns arose in 2021, when Maine voters approved Question 1. That initiative prohibited the construction of electric transmission lines defined as “high-impact” in the Upper Kennebec Region, and required a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve such high-impact electric transmission line projects.

The campaign around Question 1 brought in significant foreign campaign spending. Hydro-Quebec, a government-owned enterprise of Québec, spent $19.9 million to oppose the initiative. In response, 25 current and former state legislators sent a letter to Quebec Premier François Legault and Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu in 2021 requesting that Hydro-Québec cease campaign activities in Maine. 

In 2021, the Maine Legislature passed LD 194, which was designed to prohibit contributions from foreign government-owned entities to influence ballot measures. The Maine House of Representatives voted 87-54 to approve the bill on June 14, 2021. The Maine State Senate approved it 23-11 on June 15, 2021. Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed the bill on June 24, 2021, saying that “entities with direct foreign investment employ thousands of Mainers” and that “legislation that could bar these entities from any form of participation in a referendum is offensive to the democratic process, which depends on a free and unfettered exchange of ideas, information, and opinion.”

Maine Question 2 was cleared for signature gathering on Oct. 27, 2021. Supporters ultimately gathered the necessary signatures and submitted the measure to the legislature, which approved it. Gov. Mills vetoed the initiative on July 19, 2023, which put the measure on the ballot for voters to decide in November. 

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Six candidates are running for three seats on the Wichita school board in Kansas on Nov. 7 

Thousands of school board members will be elected in races across the country on Nov. 7. Over the past few weeks, we’ve brought you in-depth coverage of elections across the country—including in Douglas County School District and Woodland Park School District in Colorado, the Central Bucks School District outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  the Richland School District in Benton County, Washington, and the Anoka-Hennepin County school board races in Minnesota. Today we turn our attention to Kansas. 

Six candidates are running in the nonpartisan general election for three seats on the Wichita Public Schools school board in Kansas on Nov. 7. 

Wichita Public Schools (WPS) is the largest Kansas school district by enrollment, with 46,657 students during the 2021-2022 school year. The school board consists of seven members elected to four-year terms. Six board members are elected by district, and one is elected at large. Members are elected on a staggered basis in November of odd-numbered years.

While school board elections are nonpartisan, in 2021, the Sedgwick Republican Party  endorsed a slate that ultimately won three of the four seats up for election. According to The Wichita Eagle’s Mathew Kelly, the results of this year’s election could decide the ideological majority on the seven-member board.

District 3, District 4, and the At-Large District are up for election. School safety, behavioral issues, and community engagement are among the issues that have come up during the campaign. 

According to The Wichita Eagle, Vuong, Reeser, and McCray-Miller are Democrats. Carmichael and Carpenter are Republicans, while Davis ran as part of the Republican-endorsed slate in 2021.

The United Teachers of Wichita, a teacher’s union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, endorsed Vuong (District 4), Reeser (District 6), and McCray Miller (At-Large). According to The Wichita Eagle’s Kelly, Vuong and Reeser are Democrats, while McCray-Miller served as a Democratic member of the Kansas House. 

Kansans for Life, an organization that opposes abortion, endorsed Carpenter (District 4), Carmichael (District 6), and Davis (At-Large). Davis ran as part of the Republican-endorsed slate in 2021.

Vuong, Reeser, and McCray-Miller have oriented their campaigns around issues including supporting teachers, boosting student success, improving behavioral issues, and increasing transparency and accountability. Carpenter, Carmichael, and Davis have campaigned on issues including parental rights, improving test scores, local choice, and addressing student behavior. 

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47 candidates filed for federal and statewide offices last week

Forty-seven people declared candidacies for federal or statewide offices in the past week, 27 fewer than last week. All of these candidates declared before their state’s official filing deadline.

Nineteen of those candidates were Democratic, while 26 were Republican. Two are minor or third-party candidates.

Thirty-two candidates are running for Congress, 13 for state legislatures, and two for a lower state executive office.

Since the beginning of the year, Ballotpedia has identified 2,011 declared candidates for federal and statewide offices. At this time in 2021, Ballotpedia had identified 2,245 declared candidates for 2022, 2023, and 2024 races.

An official candidate is someone who registers with a federal or state campaign finance agency before the candidate filing deadline or appears on candidate lists released by government election agencies. A declared candidate is someone who has not completed the steps to become an official candidate but who might have done one or more of the following:

  1. Appeared in candidate forums or debates
  2. Published a campaign website
  3. Published campaign social media pages
  4. Advertised online, on television, or through print
  5. Issued press releases
  6. Interviewed with media publications

For more on Ballotpedia’s definition of candidacy, click here.