Voters in East Cleveland, Ohio, to decide third mayoral recall election since 2016

Welcome to the Monday, December 4, 2023, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

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

  1. East Cleveland, Ohio, mayor faces second consecutive recall effort
  2. Previewing what’s on the ballot in California’s March 5 primary 
  3. State supreme courts issue 108 opinions from Nov. 20-26

East Cleveland, Ohio, mayor faces second consecutive recall effort 

Later this month, Ballotpedia will release its 2023 year-end recall analysis, one of two reports we publish each year on recall efforts against elected officials nationwide. ICYMI, we published our mid-year report back in June—click here to check it out.   

One of the recall efforts we’re following in the second half of the year is in East Cleveland, Ohio, on Dec. 5 (tomorrow!). It’s an interesting case where voters will decide whether to recall their mayor for the second year in a row.

The recall election involves incumbent Mayor Brandon King (D). Clerk of Council Eric J. Brewer said, “Based upon the resident who pulled the recall petition, his concern was the deficit that the mayor created, a $62 million deficit, the 19 indicted police officers, the obstruction of city council, the tall grass in the community and the overall condition of the city and mismanagement and public corruption that has taken place at city hall.”

This is the second recall election King has faced in the span of 13 months. On Nov. 8, 2022, voters rejected a recall against King by a margin of 19 votes (1,278 to 1,297). That recall effort stated, “The Mayor does not reside in the City of East Cleveland as the charter requires … has spent money not appropriated by Council … [and] has used City contractors for personal work (demolition of the home he received from the land bank) which he should have returned to the city when he did not rehab it,” as some of the reasons for recalling King. 

According to local news outlet WKYC 3, King has had several disputes with the East Cleveland City Council, including over the budget, council vacancies, and the employment status of several appointees.

Earlier this year, King said his critics would “come up with something else to then try and get me thrown out of office or recalled or something other than doing the job. They’ll do anything to get me out of office.” King also said the city council was the “most disrespectful, uneducated, unorganized, illogical city council in the history of the city.”

If voters recall King, City Council President Juanita Gowdy will replace him as mayor until a special election is held to fill the rest of King’s term, which expires in 2026. Gowdy, a critic of King, lost her council seat in November, but would still be in office at the time of the recall election. 

King is not the first East Cleveland mayor to face a recall in recent years. King assumed office in December 2016 after voters recalled the previous mayor, Gary Norton (D), by a margin of 20 votes. 

King is also not the first East Cleveland elected official to face multiple recall efforts in the past decade. Former City Council President Thomas Wheeler survived recall votes in December 2015 and June 2016 before voters successfully recalled him and Norton in December 2016. King, the council’s vice president at the time, became mayor as he was next in the line of succession.

The organizers of this year’s recall had 30 days to submit at least 396 valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot. Brewer certified 417 valid signatures.

There have been 15 recall efforts against 27 officials in Ohio in 2023. That includes another effort in East Cleveland to recall three city council members—Gowdy, Patricia Blochowiak, and Korean Stevenson. That effort did not go to a vote.

The East Cleveland recall vote is also one of two recall elections Ballotpedia has identified in December 2023. On Dec. 12, recall elections against four of the six members of the Sargent Public Schools Board of Education in Nebraska will take place.

Overall, Ballotpedia has covered 57 recall efforts against 56 mayors this year. 

From 2010 to 2022, Ballotpedia covered an average of 211 recall efforts against an average of 347 officials per year. Those recalls saw a 16.44% success rate.

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Previewing what’s on the ballot in California’s March 5 primary  

The 2024 primary season is fast approaching, and, believe it or not, the filing deadlines for state and congressional primary candidates have already passed in Alabama and Arkansas (Illinois’ is today). In this edition, we’ll look at the next state up, California, where the statewide primary filing deadline is Dec. 8. Primaries are March 5. 

California has a Democratic trifecta. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a Democrat, and the party has a 32-8 majority in the Senate and a 62-18 majority in the State Assembly. 

Here are the offices up for election in 2024:

  • U.S. Senate: One seat is up for both a special and regular election. Incumbent Sen. Laphonza Butler (D)—who replaced Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) after the latter died in September—is not running for re-election. The winner of the special election will serve from Nov. 2024 to Jan. 2025. The winner of the general election will be elected to a full six-year term. 
  • U.S. House: All 52 districts are up for election. Democrats represent 40 and Republicans 12.
  • State legislature: All 80 seats in the Assembly and 20 out of 40 seats in the Senate are up for election. 

California’s next gubernatorial election is in 2026. 

There are six qualified parties with automatic ballot access in California, and all six participate in the top-two primary: 

  • American Independent Party
  • Democratic Party
  • Green Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • Peace and Freedom Party
  • Republican Party

California also allows write-in primary candidates. The filing deadline for those candidates is Feb. 24, 2024.

Click below to read more about California’s 2024 dates and deadlines. 

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State supreme courts issue 108 opinions from Nov. 20-26

State supreme courts issued 108 opinions from Nov. 20-26. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court led the field with 25 opinions issued, followed by New York with 18 and North Dakota with 12. Last week’s 108 opinions account for 2% of the year-to-date total of 6,079. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia leads with 528 opinions issued since Jan. 1, followed by Texas with 423 and Delaware with 387.

State supreme courts have issued an average of 129 opinions per week so far this year. This figure is less than the 2022 weekly average of 143. It’s also less than the average of 160 opinions issued per week in 2021.

Supreme courts in two states have issued fewer than 25 opinions since the start of the year, while supreme courts in 24 states have issued more than 76 opinions during the same time period.

Some of the state supreme court opinions issued this year include those in:

  1. Pennsylvania, where the court found that PennDOT, the state’s highway agency, had “the authority to pursue a potential suspension of a major construction contractor based in Centre County after it was accused of millions in theft from employees;”
  2. Idaho, where the court ordered the state attorney general “to provide new short and general ballot titles that comply with Idaho law” in a case involving a ballot initiative that would end closed primaries; and,
  3. California, where the court ruled that “customers cannot sue the utility [Pacific Gas & Electric] over safety-related power shutoffs.”

Supreme courts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, and Delaware regularly end the year as some of the country’s most active courts. Collectively, they accounted for 26% of all opinions issued in 2021 and 2022, and, to date, 28% in 2023.

Every state and the District of Columbia have at least one supreme court, known as a court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas have two courts of last resort, one for civil cases and one for criminal proceedings. Supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. Instead, they hear appeals of decisions made in lower courts. The number of justices on each state supreme court ranges between five and nine.

In 2020, we conducted a study identifying the partisan balance in every state supreme court. You can find that research here. We also identified which justices ruled together most often in our Determiners and Dissenters report found here.

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