Elected or appointed – bills tackle changing certain office selection methods

Welcome to the Wednesday, April 3, Brew. 

By: Ethan Sorell

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

  1. State legislatures consider bills changing selection methods for certain offices
  2. Six candidates are running in the Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District
  3. One state supreme court vacancy created and filled in March

State legislatures consider bills changing selection methods for certain offices

Legislators in 15 states have introduced at least 33 bills this year that would alter selection methods for various local and state officials, with a majority changing previously appointed positions to elected ones. One of the 33 introduced bills, Massachusetts’ S2524, was enacted on Feb. 6. Twenty-six bills would change previously appointed positions to elected ones, while seven bills would do the opposite, providing for the appointment of officeholders in offices who are currently elected.

Democrats sponsored 14 bills, with 11 changing an appointed position to an elected one. Eight of those 11 are in states with Democratic trifectas. Republicans sponsored 17 bills, and 15 would also require elections instead of appointments. Eleven of those 15 are in states with Republican trifectas. Two bills have both Democrat and Republican sponsors. Both of these bills would require appointments rather than elections. 

Nine bills affect state-level positions only, and all would change previously appointed offices to elected offices. Five of those bills affect individual state executive offices such as comptrollers and attorneys general. New Jersey ACR77 is a Republican-sponsored constitutional amendment that would change the attorney general position from appointed to elected. New Jersey would become the 44th state to elect its attorney general if the bill passes the state Legislature and is approved by voters. The Maine Legislature appoints its state’s attorney general. The state supreme court appoints Tennessee’s attorney general. Governors appoint the attorney general in Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wyoming.

Four of the nine bills affecting only state-level offices change selection methods for state boards of education. For example, North Carolina H17 would change the selection method for seats on the State Board of Education from appointed to elected. Ohio HB235 would reduce the number of members on the State Board of Education from 19 to 15 and require all members to be elected from a congressional district, removing governor-appointed positions. Every state except Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin has a state board of education. In 35 states, the governor appoints some or all members, usually with Senate approval. In 13 states, voters elect all or most members. 

Fourteen bills would change the selection of all local offices in the state, with 11 bills requiring elections for previously appointed positions and three bills changing elections to appointments. Missouri SJR55 would refer a question to the 2024 general election ballot to decide whether to adopt a constitutional amendment to remove the possibility of appointing county assessors. New York S02757, a Democrat-sponsored bill, would make all town assessors in the state appointed rather than elected, ending elections for the position.

Ten of these bills affect specific local offices. Six of these bills change appointed positions to elected ones, and four change elected positions to appointed ones. For example, New York A00781 requires Yonkers Public Schools board members to be elected instead of appointed. Massachusetts’ S2524, enacted on Feb. 6, changed the town clerk position in the Town of Wenham from an elected position to an appointed one.

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Six candidates are running in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District

Throughout the year, we’ll bring you coverage of the most compelling elections—the battlegrounds we expect to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in governments or to be particularly competitive. 

Today, we’re looking at the April 23 Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, where six candidates are running: John Broadhurst, Rick Coplen, Shamaine Daniels, Blake Lynch, Mike O’Brien, and Janelle Stelson. The winner will face incumbent Rep. Scott Perry (R) in the November general election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included the district in a list of 33 competitive Republican-held seats it is targeting this year. Perry is in his sixth term in Congress. He won the previous three general elections by single digits, increasing his margin-of-victory in each election from 2.6 to 6.6 to 8 percentage points.

As of Dec. 31, 2023, O’Brien and Stelson lead the field in campaign financing with $186,352 and $140,288 cash on hand, respectively. That was more than six times the amount Lynch raised, who had the next most cash on hand, with $21,890.

Daniels defeated Coplen in the 2022 Democratic primary 52.6% to 47.4%. Daniels then lost to Perry in the general election 53.8% to 46.2%.

In a debate on March 6, none of the candidates criticized each other’s positions and all attacked Perry’s record.

All of the candidates supported abortion access in all cases. Daniels, Stelson, and Coplen supported raising the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour. O’Brien also supported raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour but specified it should be indexed to inflation. Lynch and Broadhurst said the government should increase the minimum wage to a living wage of more than $15. 

O’Brien and Lynch were the only candidates who did not support a federal assault weapon ban, though O’Brien said he supported stopping the sale and transfer of those weapons. Lynch said he believed there should be increased regulations.

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Wyoming state supreme court vacancy created and filled in March 

March had one state supreme court vacancy created across the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Keith G. Kautz retired on March 26. The governor’s nominating commission approved his successor, Robert Jarosh, on Jan. 19. Jarosh assumed office on March 27 and will stand for retention in 2026 to remain on the bench.

Ten states, including Wyoming, use the assisted appointment method to select their state’s supreme court justices. When a vacancy occurs in Wyoming, the governor appoints a replacement from a list of three names a nominating commission provides. There are seven members on the commission. The state bar appoints three, and the governor appoints three-non-lawyers. In Wyoming, the chief justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court serves as chairman and only votes in the event of a tie. The governor must appoint a new justice from the commission’s list.

In Wyoming, newly appointed justices serve for at least one year, after which they must stand for retention in the next general election. If retained, a justice will finish their predecessor’s unexpired term. Subsequent terms last eight years.

Jarsoh is Gov. Mark Gordon’s (R) second nominee confirmed to serve on the state’s highest court.

Since the start of 2024, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies across these 29 states. Retirements were the reason for all 11 vacancies. Of those 11 vacancies, Democrats control the process for filling seven, and Republicans do so for the remaining four.

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