Amee LaTour

Amee LaTour is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Incumbents lose outright in Houston ISD elections, open races head to runoffs

Four out of nine seats on the Houston Independent School District (HISD) school board in Texas were up for election Tuesday. Incumbents Sergio Lira (District III) and Diana Davila (District VIII) lost their re-election bids to Daniela Hernandez and Judith Cruz, respectively.
District II and IV are open, and those races head to runoff elections as no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. Katherine Blueford-Daniels and John Gibbs Sr. advanced in District II. Three other candidates ran for that seat. In District IV, Patricia Allen and Matthew Barnes advanced from a four-candidate field. The runoff takes place December 14.
The Houston ISD school board faces the possibility of being replaced by a state-appointed board of managers for either of two reasons: as a result of a Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigation into the board’s governance, or as a result of poor academic performance ratings at a high school in the district. If appointed, the board of managers would assume the responsibilities of the elected board, while elected board members would not have any power until reinstated.

Houston mayoral race heads to Dec. 14 runoff between incumbent Sylvester Turner and Tony Buzbee

Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner and former Texas A&M Board of Regents member Tony Buzbee advanced from Tuesday’s election to a Dec. 14 runoff election for mayor of Houston, Texas. Turner received 47 percent of the vote to Buzbee’s 28 percent. The runoff will take place as no candidate received a majority.
Ten other candidates ran in the general election. In third place was Bill King with 14 percent of the vote.
Turner has said his accomplishments during his first term in office include balancing the city’s budget, leading the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey, reforming the city’s pension system, improving infrastructure, and strengthening the economy.
Buzbee, who served on the Texas A&M Board of Regents, has pledged to self-fund his campaign and proposed independent financial audits, process audits, and zero-based budgeting to improve the efficiency and transparency of the city’s resource allocation.
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, with a population of 2.2 million.

Preliminary results from Seattle City Council elections

Seven seats on the Seattle City Council were up for election Tuesday. No races have been called. Washington uses a vote-by-mail system, and election officials will continue counting ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 5. King County will certify election results Nov. 26. The races saw record-breaking satellite spending of more than $4 million, which was more than 5 times the amount spent in 2015, the last time the same seven council seats were up for election.
Unofficial, incomplete election returns from ballots counted as of Tuesday night showed the following:
  • District 1: Lisa Herbold (incumbent) 51.3%, Phil Tavel 48.3%
  • District 2: Tammy Morales 56.1%, Mark Solomon 43.5%
  • District 3: Kshama Sawant (incumbent) 45.6%, Egan Orion 54.0%
  • District 4: Alex Pedersen 57.8%, Shaun Scott 41.9%
  • District 5: Debora Juarez (incumbent) 57.2%, Ann Davison Sattler 42.3%
  • District 6: Dan Strauss 52.3%, Heidi Wills 47.1%
  • District 7: Andrew Lewis 49.1%, Jim Pugel 50.3%
Amazon contributed $1.5 million to the local chamber of commerce’s PAC, which endorsed candidates in each race, including challengers to incumbents Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant. A 2018 head tax proposal, which the council passed and subsequently repealed, met with opposition from the chamber of commerce and Amazon. PACs affiliated with labor groups endorsed and spent in support of candidates opposing those backed by the chamber in most races.
This was the second election in which a voter voucher program was used to provide public funding to campaigns. Participating candidates, including those who did not advance from primaries, received a total of $2.5 million from more than 98,000 returned vouchers. It was also the second election in recent history in which councilmembers were elected by district; from 1910 to 2013, all Seattle councilmembers were elected at large.

Kentucky gubernatorial race too close to call

Kentucky’s gubernatorial election was too close to call as of 10:30 p.m. EST Tuesday night with 100% of precincts reporting. Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) received 49.2% of the vote to incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R)’s 48.9%, according to unofficial results. John Hicks (L) received 2.0%.
The election followed nearly four years of conflict between Bevin and Beshear, which began when each was elected to his current position. Before Bevin’s 2015 victory, Democrats held the governorship for 16 of the previous 20 years.
Daniel Desrochers of the Lexington Herald-Leader said of the relationship between Bevin and Beshear that “the two men found in each other a rival to battle in courtroom filings, newspaper headlines and social media posts.” Throughout the election, Bevin called Beshear’s family “crooked and corrupt,” while the Beshear campaign called Bevin wild, a bully, and “an unhinged failure.”
Healthcare and education, main issues in the race, were evident as priorities in each candidates’ selection of a lieutenant gubernatorial running mate. Beshear chose assistant high school principal Jacqueline Coleman. Bevin chose state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a physician, as his running mate, becoming the third governor in a row to select a new running mate for their re-election bid.
This race will decide the state’s trifecta status until at least the 2020 state legislative elections. Kentucky is currently a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. A win by Beshear would break the trifecta, while a Bevin win would maintain it.
In other statewide elections, Republicans Daniel Cameron and Michael Adams won the attorney general and secretary of state offices, respectively. Both offices had Democratic incumbents. If Beshear’s lead holds, Kentucky will remain under divided triplex control because control of these offices and the governorship will be split. Kentucky has been under divided triplex control since the 2015 elections. If Bevin wins, Republicans will have triplex control.

Cameron (R) defeats Stumbo (D) in Kentucky attorney general election

Daniel Cameron (R) defeated Gregory Stumbo (D) in Kentucky’s attorney general election Tuesday night with 58% of the vote to Stumbo’s 42%. The results mark a party change; the incumbent attorney general is Andy Beshear (D), who ran for governor against incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R).
Democrats have controlled Kentucky’s attorney general office since 1948.
Before running for attorney general, Cameron served as a law clerk to Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, worked at a private firm in Louisville, and was legal counsel to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Stumbo’s experience includes 30 years in the Kentucky General Assembly and four years as the attorney general of Kentucky from 2004 to 2008.
The state’s recent election results suggested the 2019 race could be competitive. In 2015, Beshear defeated Whitney Westerfield (R) by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9%. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won Kentucky with 62.5% of the vote. Trump endorsed Cameron on July 29, 2019.

Nov. 5 Seattle City Council elections have seen record-breaking satellite spending

Seattle, Washington, holds nonpartisan elections for seven district city council seats on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The races had seen a record-breaking $3.5 million in satellite spending through October 25—more than four times the amount in 2015, the last time the seven district seats were on the ballot. Seattle-based online retailer Amazon contributed $1.5 million to a political action committee (PAC), which had spent that amount toward the races as of Oct. 25.
New York Times technology correspondent Karen Weise said Amazon’s PAC contribution was “a staggering sum for a city election, let alone from a company that was M.I.A. in local politics for years. Four years ago, Amazon gave just $25,000 to the PAC.” GeekWire‘s Monica Nickelsburg wrote, “It’s a sign that local politics can have a big impact on this global corporation and an example of Amazon’s newfound appetite for civic engagement at all levels of government.”
Four council races are open. Incumbents Lisa Herbold (District 1), Kshama Sawant (District 3), and Debora Juarez (District 5) are seeking re-election.
The elections are occurring a year and a half after the repeal of the 2018 head tax proposal, which would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee in order to fund housing programs for the homeless. The city council voted to pass the head tax 9-0 in May 2018 but then repealed it by a 7-2 vote in June 2018 after running into opposition from the city’s business community, including Amazon and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Sawant and Position 8 At-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda voted against repealing the tax. Juarez and Herbold voted with five others to repeal it.
Amazon has contributed $1.5 million to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the local chamber of commerce’s PAC. CASE is among more than a dozen satellite groups spending toward the council races. The following are spending highlights as of Oct. 25:
  • CASE had spent $1.5 million supporting endorsed candidates and opposing Herbold, Sawant, and District 4 candidate Dan Strauss.
  • Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE), a PAC affiliated with the labor group Working Washington, had spent $280,000. CAPE endorsed candidates in five council races—different candidates than those backed by CASE.
  • Labor union UNITE HERE’s local and federal PACs had spent more than $550,000 in support of candidate Andrew Lewis (District 7). He faces Jim Pugel, who was endorsed by CASE.
The following are other noteworthy features of the 2019 Seattle City Council races:
  • Across all seven elections, 56 candidates filed to run in the August 6 primaries. In 2015, 37 candidates filed for the same seven seats. (Ten additional candidates filed for the two at-large seats in 2015.)
  • This is the second election in which a voter voucher program is being used to provide public funding to campaigns. Twelve of 14 general election candidates are participating in the program. Including the primaries, 42 candidates have participated, and $2.4 million from the program had gone to campaigns as of Oct. 23.
  • This is the second election in recent history in which councilmembers are being elected by district; from 1910 to 2013, all Seattle councilmembers were elected at large. Two at-large seats remain on the council. They are next up for election in 2021.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announces 2020 retirement

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced that he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2020. He said in a statement, “[F]or me, the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities. So, I will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, nor election to any other office.” Walden was first elected to represent Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District in 1998 and most recently won re-election in 2018 with 56 percent of the vote.
Walden is the 19th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he will not seek re-election in 2020 and is the second one to do so in October. Seven Democratic members of the U.S. House have announced 2020 retirements so far. In the 2018 election cycle, 52 members of the U.S. House—18 Democrats and 34 Republicans—did not seek re-election.
Currently, Democrats hold a 234-197 majority in the U.S. House with one independent member of the chamber and three vacancies. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.
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Early voting dates and deadlines in states holding November 2019 elections

Seven states with early in-person voting are holding at least one statewide election during the remainder of 2019. The following list provides start and end dates for early voting by state.
Election: Nov. 5
Start date: Oct. 16-Oct. 29 (varies by county)
End date: Nov. 4, 12pm
Election: Nov. 16
Start date: Nov. 2
End date: Nov. 9
Election: Nov. 5
Start date: The Maine Secretary of State’s office says, “You may vote absentee at the clerk’s office as soon as absentee ballots are available. Absentee ballots are available at least 30 days before the election at the municipal clerk’s office. You don’t need to complete an application if you vote in person at the clerk’s office.”
End date: Oct. 31 (unless special circumstances exist)
New Jersey
Election: Nov. 5
End date: Nov. 4-5. New Jersey uses in-person absentee voting, where voters may apply in person for a mail-in ballot and submit the ballot in person. The deadline to apply in person is Nov. 4 at 3 pm, and the deadline to return the ballot is Nov. 5 at 8 pm.
Election: Nov. 5
Start date: Oct. 21
End date: Nov. 1
The following states use vote-by-mail systems, meaning ballots are sent to voters through the mail and most are returned by mail. In each state, voters may still vote in person ahead of Election Day.
Election: Nov. 5
Start date: Oct. 28
End date: Nov. 5
Coloradans may cast ballots and register to vote in person at voter service and polling centers (VSPCs). Each county will have at least one VSPC open from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5 (except Sunday, Nov. 3).
The deadline for county clerks to mail ballots to eligible voters for the Nov. 5 elections in Colorado was Oct. 18. The deadline to mail ballots to voters registering after Oct. 18 or requesting replacement ballots is Oct. 28.
Election: Nov. 5
Start date: Oct. 18
End date: Nov. 5
Ballots were mailed and Accessible Voting Units (AVUs) became available at voting centers on Oct. 18.
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Seattle City Council election update: Amazon gives $1 million to Chamber of Commerce PAC

Amazon gave an additional $1 million to Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, on October 14. This brings Amazon’s total contribution to $1.5 million throughout the Seattle City Council election cycle.
Seattle is holding elections for seven city council districts on November 5; the council’s two at-large seats are up for election in 2021. Four races are open, while incumbents Lisa Herbold (District 1), Kshama Sawant (District 3), and Debora Juarez (District 5) are seeking re-election. CASE endorsed Juarez in her re-election bid and endorsed challengers to Herbold and Sawant.
One CASE-endorsed candidate advanced from each of the seven primary races in August. In five of the seven races, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE)—a PAC formed by the group Working Washington—endorsed a different candidate than CASE (the group has not endorsed in Districts 5 or 7). 
CASE had spent around $1 million supporting and opposing candidates through October 17. CAPE had spent around $240,000. The races had seen $2.6 million total in satellite spending. In 2015—the last time the seven district seats were on the ballot—satellite spending totaled $785,000.
The elections are occurring a year after the repeal of a head tax proposal, which would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee in order to fund affordable housing programs for the homeless. The city council voted to pass the head tax 9-0 in May 2018 but then repealed it by a 7-2 vote in June 2018 after running into opposition from the city’s business community, including Amazon. Sawant and Position 8 At-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda cast the two votes against repealing the tax. Juarez and Herbold voted with five others to repeal it.

Edwards, Rispone advance to Louisiana gubernatorial general election

Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and businessman Eddie Rispone (R) advanced from Louisiana’s primary election Saturday as the top two finishers. Edwards received 46% of the vote and Rispone received 27% with 92% of precincts reporting. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) was third with 24% of the vote. The general election will be held November 16.
Louisiana uses what’s known as a blanket primary, where all candidates in any race appear on the ballot—regardless of party. A candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the primary vote. Otherwise, the top two finishers advance to a general election. Six candidates ran in the gubernatorial primary.
Edwards has campaigned on what he considers the accomplishments of his administration, including the state’s budget going from a deficit to a surplus, teacher pay raises, and Medicaid expansion. Rispone has emphasized his background as a businessman, referring to himself as a conservative outsider and job creator. He has criticized Edwards’ tenure, saying the state’s economy ranks last in the nation.
Rispone and Abraham were both endorsed by President Donald Trump (R) and the Louisiana Republican Party. Each candidate described himself as the stronger challenger to Edwards. Several polls leading up to the primary showed either Rispone and Abraham tied within margins of error for second place or Rispone with a small advantage.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. Donald Trump won the state by 20 percentage points in 2016. The Republican Governors Association has described Louisiana as a top pickup opportunity, while the Democratic Governors Association has said Edwards’ popularity positions him for re-election.
Of the five gubernatorial elections between 1999 and 2015, three were won outright in the primary and two (in 2003 and 2015) proceeded to general elections. Edwards was elected governor in 2015 with 56% of the vote, defeating U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) in the general election. He succeeded Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).