Initiative that would amend Prop.47 in California qualifies for November ballot

Welcome to the Monday, June 17, Brew. 

By: Briana Ryan

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

  1. California initiative that would make changes to Prop. 47 qualifies for the November ballot
  2. Number of candidates running for U.S. House in Virginia most in the last 10 years
  3. Biden has appointed 201 federal judges through June 1 of his fourth year

California initiative that would make changes to Prop. 47 qualifies for the November ballot

Californians for Safer Communities qualified an initiative for the November 5 ballot that would amend Proposition 47, including increasing drug and theft penalties. The office of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced on June 11 that the campaign had submitted at least 652,100 valid signatures, exceeding the 546,651 signature threshold to qualify for the ballot.

Proposition 47 was approved by a vote of 59.6% to 40.4%. Proposition 47 classified certain crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies unless the defendant had prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses, or certain gun crimes; allowed resentencing for those currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduced to misdemeanors; and created the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to receive appropriations based on savings from the initiative.

The initiative would amend Proposition 47 through four provisions:

  • Classifying certain drug offenses as treatment-mandated felonies.
  • Increasing penalties for certain drug crimes by increasing sentence lengths and level of crime.
  • Requiring courts to warn individuals convicted of distributing illegal drugs of their potential future criminal liability if they distribute deadly drugs like fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
  • Increasing sentences for theft based on the value of the property stolen.

The initiative has been endorsed by the Republican Party of California, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the California District Attorneys Association, the California Retailers Association, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Greg Totten, chief executive officer for the California District Attorneys Association, said, “We continue to see an outcry of overwhelming support from Californians of every political affiliation and geographic region across the state demanding for change that will improve community safety and hold repeat offenders of theft and serious drug crimes including those involving fentanyl accountable. Californians want to feel safe in their neighborhoods and when they shop, and this initiative amends Prop 47 to effectively hold individuals accountable for repeat crimes of theft and serious drugs like fentanyl while making sure individuals receive and complete drug and mental health treatment they need.”

Through March 31, the campaign had received over $7.2 million in contributions. The top donors include Walmart, Home Depot, and Target.

Meanwhile, the state legislature is crafting alternatives, with 14 bills moving through the legislature. The aim is for the campaign to withdraw the initiative before the June 27 initiative deadline. Senate Pro Tempore Mike McGuire (D-02) said, “I do not believe that this state needs to touch Prop. 47 to be able to help make our communities safer, full stop. … Governing must also be about learning from our mistakes in the past. And that was a clear mistake. Mass incarceration simply isn’t the answer. In fact, we hear from all the experts that it makes addiction even worse.”

The initiative is the 11th initiative to qualify for the ballot in California. However, one veto referendum that targeted a bill to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers was withdrawn in Sept. 2023 after the sponsors reached a legislative compromise with the state legislature. 

From 1985 to 2022, an average of between eight and nine statewide ballot measures appeared on California ballots each election cycle, with 57.5% of them approved.

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Number of candidates running for U.S. House in Virginia most in the last 10 years

Continuing our coverage of statewide primaries, today we are going to dive into elections in Virginia. The state is holding primaries for congressional offices on June 18.

Why it matters at the national level

In the U.S. Senate, Democrats currently have a majority. There are 47 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and four independents, though two independents caucus with the Democratic Party. Two other independents, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), count towards the Democratic majority for committee purposes. Thirty-four of 100 seats are up for election, including one special election. Of the seats up for election in 2024, Democrats hold 19, Republicans hold 11, and independents hold four.

In the U.S. House, Republicans currently have a 217-213 majority with four vacancies. Virginia’s House delegation includes six Democrats and five Republicans. Three of Virginia’s House districts are general election battlegrounds: the 2nd Congressional District, the 7th Congressional District, and the 10th Congressional District.

Primary Elections

U.S. Senate

Five candidates are running in the Republican primary. Two Republican candidates—Hung Cao (R) and Scott Parkinson (R)—lead in media attention and endorsements. Jonathan Walker Emord (R), Eddie Garcia (R), and Chuck Smith (R) are also running in the primary. The Democratic primary is uncontested, and the incumbent, Tim Kane (D), will face the Republican primary winner in November. Kane won re-election with 57.0% of the vote in 2018.

As of June 13, 2024, The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rated the general election Solid Democratic. Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rated the general election Safe Democratic.

U.S. House

Fifty-two candidates are running for Virginia’s 11 U.S. House districts, including 33 Democrats and 19 Republicans. That’s an average of 4.72 candidates per district. Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • The number of candidates running for the U.S. House in Virginia this year is also higher than any other year in the past 10 years.
  • The 7th and 10th Congressional Districts are open this year. The last time a seat was open in Virginia was 2018 when two seats were open.
  • Incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-07) is not running for re-election because she is running for Governor of Virginia in 2025. Incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexon (D-10) is retiring from public office.
  • Sixteen candidates—12 Democrats and four Republicans—are running for the open 10th Congressional District, the most candidates running for a district in Virginia this year.
  • Eight primaries—five Democratic and three Republican—are contested this year, the most since 2018, when there were nine.
  • Two incumbents—Gerald Edward Connolly (D-11) and Bob Good (R-05)—are in contested primaries this year.
  • The 3rd Congressional District is guaranteed to Democrats because no Republicans are running. Democrats are running in every district, meaning none are guaranteed to Republicans.

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Biden has appointed 201 federal judges through June 1 of his fourth year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed 201 Article III federal judges through June 1, 2024, his fourth year in office. That’s 20 new appointments since our previous report. This is also the most Article III judicial appointments through this point for all presidents since Ronald Reagan (R).

  • Presidents have appointed an average of 173 judges through June 1 of their fourth year in office. By June 1 of his fourth year, Reagan had the fewest confirmations with 137.
  • The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. Four presidents—George H.W. Bush (R), Bill Clinton (D), Barack Obama (D), and Trump—made two. George W. Bush (R) did not appoint any Supreme Court justices by this point in his presidency.
  • The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 32. Trump had the most appointees with 51. Reagan appointed the fewest with 25.
  • The median number of United States District Court appointees is 142. Biden had the most appointees with 156. Reagan appointed the fewest with 109.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Courts of Appeal, U.S. District Courts, and the Court of International Trade.

Click here to view an overview of the number of judges each president has appointed, a historical comparison of presidential judgeship appointments from 1933 to 2024, and a comparison over time by president and court type from 1945 to 2024.

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