Avery Hill

Avery Hill is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Governor Newsom appoints Jackson to California Court of Appeal

On January 21, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) appointee to the California First District Court of Appeal—Justice Terri L. Jackson—was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Justice Jackson is now the first female, African-American justice to sit on the California First District Court of Appeal.

Before her appointment, Jackson served as a judge on the Superior Court of San Francisco from 2002 to 2020. She was also the first African-American woman appointed to the Superior Court of San Francisco. Before serving as a judge, Jackson worked as an attorney and served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

California’s First District Court of Appeal is one of six courts of appeal in California. The First District Court serves the residents of 12 Northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma. The district reviews more than 2,000 criminal, civil, and juvenile appeals and more than 1,300 original proceedings annually.

Justice Jackson replaced Justice Martin Jenkins, who resigned from the bench to serve as Governor Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary. Jenkins served on the California First District Court of Appeal from 2008-2019.

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Massachusetts representative becomes Taunton’s first female mayor

On January 6, 2020, Shaunna O’Connell (R) resigned from the Third Bristol District seat in the Massachusetts State House after becoming the mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts. O’Connell defeated Taunton City Council member Estele Borges (D) to become Taunton’s mayor on November 5, 2019. Taunton’s incumbent mayor, Thomas Hoye Jr., did not run for re-election.

Before winning Taunton’s mayoral election, O’Connell served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for nine years.

In Massachusetts, state legislative vacancies are filled through special elections. The Third Bristol District special election has been scheduled by Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. The primary election will take place on March 3, 2020, and the general election will take place on March 31, 2020.

There are two other vacancies in the Massachusetts State House which will be filled via special elections. The 32nd Middlesex District became vacant when Paul Brodeur resigned after winning the mayoral election in Melrose, Massachusetts, in November 2019. The 37th Middlesex District became vacant when Jennifer Benson resigned after accepting a leadership position at the Alliance for Business Leadership.

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Multnomah County commissioners appoint Lawrence-Spence to Oregon House

On January 17, 2020, Akasha Lawrence-Spence (D) was appointed by Multnomah County commissioners to fill the vacant District 36 position in the Oregon House of Representatives. Lawrence-Spence will assume office on the first day of the Oregon General Assembly legislative session on February 3, 2020. Her current term will end on January 10, 2021.

Lawrence-Spence’s appointment came after former State Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D) resigned on December 30, 2019, to run for secretary of state. The Oregon Secretary of State is an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of the Oregon state government and is first in the line of succession to the governor. The secretary of state serves as the auditor of public accounts, chief elections officer, and administrator of public records.

Before Lawrence-Spence was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives she served on the Planning and Sustainability Commission in Portland, Oregon, and was a real estate developer and entrepreneur.

The Oregon House of Representatives has one remaining vacancy—the District 60 seat—which was vacated by Lynn Findley (R) who was appointed to the Oregon State Senate on January 6, 2020. There are no current vacancies in the Oregon State Senate.

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Harmon elected new Illinois Senate president

The Illinois State Senate elected Sen. Don Harmon (D) to be its president for the upcoming legislative session. Harmon won the post over fellow senator Kimberly Lightford (D).

In Illinois, the Illinois Senate president is the highest-ranking legislative officer, serving as the leader of the upper chamber of the Illinois General Assembly. He or she president presides over legislative sessions and ensures that members of the chamber abide by procedural rules.

Harmon replaces long-time senator John Cullerton (D), who resigned on January 20, 2020. Cullerton served a total of 41 years in the Illinois General Assembly and 11 years as Illinois Senate President.

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Vacancy committee appoints Hansen to Colorado Senate

On January 17, 2020, Chris Hansen (D) was appointed to fill the vacant District 31 seat in the Colorado Senate. Hansen assumed office on January 21, 2020, and his current term will end in January 2021. Vacancies in either chamber of the Colorado General Assembly are filled by a committee of members of the political party that last held the seat.

Hansen’s appointment came after former Colorado State Senator Lois Court (D) resigned on January 16, 2020. Court announced her resignation after discovering she was battling Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Before Hansen was appointed to the Colorado Senate he served in the Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 6 for four years. Before becoming an elected official, Hansen served on the executive committee of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation Board, the executive committee of the Central City Opera Board, and the advisory board for the University of Colorado, Denver Business School.

The Colorado Senate has no remaining vacancies. Hansen’s resignation from the House to accept his appointment to the Senate created Colorado’s second House vacancy this year. The first vacancy was created by Susan Beckman’s (R) resignation. Beckman resigned from the Colorado House to join President Donald Trump’s (R) administration.

Democratic party selects Feigenholtz to replace Cullerton in Illinois Senate

On January 21, 2020, Sara Feigenholtz (D) was appointed by Democratic Party leaders in Illinois Senate District 6 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of former Sen. John Cullerton (D). Feigenholtz’s Senate term will end on January 11, 2023.

Cullerton resigned on January 20 and served as the president of the Illinois State Senate from 2009 to 2020. Feigenholtz was the only person to formally announce her interest in Cullerton’s Senate seat. She was unanimously appointed by Democratic Party leaders tasked with appointing Cullerton’s replacement.

Before Feigenholtz was appointed to the Illinois Senate, she served in the Illinois House of Representatives, representing District 12. She served as a state representative for 26 years.

Before becoming an elected official, Feigenholtz served as the Chief of Staff to Cullerton and Executive Director of the Central Lakeview Merchants Association.

The Illinois Senate has no remaining vacancies. Feigenholtz’s resignation from the House to accept her appointment to the Senate created Illinois’ only House vacancy. Democratic leaders in Illinois House District 12 have not yet appointed a replacement for Feigenholtz.

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Colorado State Representative Beckman resigns to join the Trump administration

On January 17, 2020, Colorado State Rep. Susan Beckman (R) announced she was resigning to assume a position within President Trump’s administration. Beckman has not yet announced what position she will assume, nor has President Trump or his administration commented on her resignation. An announcement is expected from the Trump administration next week. Beckman was first elected from House District 38 in 2016 and was re-elected in 2018.

Vacancies in the Colorado state legislature are filled by a vacancy committee consisting of members representing the political party that last held the seat. The person appointed will serve the remainder of Beckman’s term, which ends in November 2020.

Beckman’s successor will be the 21st member of the Colorado General Assembly to be appointed to their position. There are currently eight Colorado state Senators and 12 Colorado state Representatives that were appointed to their respective positions out of the 100 members of the Colorado General Assembly.

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Colorado State Senate
Colorado House of Representatives
Colorado General Assembly

Hunter becomes chair of Federal Election Commission

On January 1, 2020, FEC commissioner Caroline C. Hunter (R) assumed the role of Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairwoman. Hunter is serving her second non-consecutive one year term as FEC Chairwoman and 12th year on the commission.

The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency created by Congress in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Elections Campaign Act. The FEC is responsible for disclosing campaign finance information, enforcing limits and prohibitions on contributions, and overseeing the public funding of presidential elections.

The commission is led by six members that are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They each serve six-year terms, with two seats up for appointment every two years. To prevent partisanship, no more than three members can be of the same political party. The chairs of the commission serve one-year terms

After Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen (R) resigned on August 31, the FEC has three members. The minimum number of members that must be present to make the agency’s decisions valid—known as a quorum—is four. The FEC will continue to make campaign finance documents available to the public and issue recommendations regarding campaign finance complaints. However, it will be unable to vote on recommendations until a quorum is established.

All of the FEC’s current members are holdover members of the board, meaning they have served longer than their original six-year term. President Donald J. Trump nominated James E. Trainor III to the commission in 2017 but the nomination was returned to the president at the conclusion of the 115th Congress. There have been no new appointments to the FEC since Trainor’s appointment and no Senate confirmations of new FEC members since Lee E. Goodman and Ann Ravel were confirmed as new FEC members in October 2013.

Before serving as the FEC Chairwoman, Hunter served as the vice-chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, and in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Before working within the government, Hunter served as deputy counsel of the Republican National Committee.

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Evans resigns from Washington D.C., city council

Washington D.C., City Council Member Jack Evans (D) resigned on January 17, 2020, after serving on the council for 30 years. Evans’ resignation came after the council spent a year investigating Evans and reprimanding him for possible ethical violations stemming from his work as an attorney.

On December 10, 2019, the city council approved a report that recommended Evans be expelled from the council. A vote to expel Evans had been set for January 21.

A special election will be held to replace Evans on the council on June 16, 2020. The primary for this special election will be held on June 2, 2020.

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Whipple resigns from Kansas House of Representatives to become mayor of Wichita

On January 13, 2020, Kansas State Rep. Brandon Whipple (D) resigned from the District 96 seat in the state House after becoming mayor of Wichita, Kansas. Whipple defeated incumbent Jeff Longwell to become Wichita’s mayor on November 5, 2019.

Whipple was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2012.

In Kansas, state legislative vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The Sedgwick County Democratic Party has nominated Stephanie Yeager (D) to succeed Whipple. Governor Laura Kelly (D) has not yet approved Yeager’s nomination.

Kansas is currently under divided government since the governor is a Democrat and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature.

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Kansas House of Representatives
Kansas House of Representatives District 96