Author

Avery Hill

Avery Hill is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org

Kent elected first female DFL state Senate leader in Minnesota

On February 1, 2020, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucus of the Minnesota State Senate elected Susan Kent (D) to serve as the party’s minority leader for the upcoming legislative session. Kent won the post over fellow senator Tom Bakk (D). Kent will serve as the DFL’s first female leader in the state Senate.

In Minnesota, the minority leader acts as the spokesperson for the minority party’s policy positions and helps direct the minority party’s overall legislative agenda. The current party composition of the Minnesota State Senate is 35 Republicans and 32 Democrats.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota is an affiliate of the national Democratic Party. It traces its roots in the state to the 1920s when the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party ran candidates on a platform of agrarian reform, the public ownership of railroads and a series of protections for farmers and union workers. The Farmer-Labor Party united with the Minnesota Democratic Party in 1944.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:



Maryland State Representative Hettleman appointed to state Senate

On January 31, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan (R) appointed Shelly Hettleman (D) to fill the vacant District 11 seat in the Maryland Senate. Hettleman assumed office on February 3, 2020. Her current term will end in 2022.

Hettleman’s appointment came after former senator Robert Zirkin (D) resigned on January 2, 2020, to focus on his law practice and a new business venture. Zirkin served in the Maryland Senate for 12 years.

Before Hettleman was appointed to the state Senate she served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2015 to 2020. During her time in the state House, Hettleman served as the vice-chair of the Education and Economic Development subcommittee and the House chair of the Joint Audit and Evaluation Committee.

The Maryland Senate has no remaining vacancies. The only current vacancy in the Maryland General Assembly is the vacancy created by Hettleman’s resignation. Vacant Maryland General Assembly seats are filled by gubernatorial appointment.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:


Mississippi state representative resigns after less than one month in office

On January 31, 2020, Mississippi representative Ramona Blackledge (R) resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives after being sworn in earlier in the month. Blackledge stepped down to maintain her Public Employees Retirement System of Mississippi (PERS) retirement benefits.

Blackledge’s resignation came after Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) stated that he would not challenge a section of the Mississippi Administrative Code which prohibits recipients of Mississippi’s public employees’ retirement system benefits from also receiving a salary from the state.

Blackledge had served in the Jones County tax collectors and assessors office before her election as a state representative. A special election will be held to fill the vacancy created by Blackledge’s resignation. Details about this upcoming special election, including when it will be held, have not yet been released.

Click here to learn more.

Additional Reading:


New York City Council member resigns

On January 26, 2020, New York City Council member Rafael Espinal (D) resigned his seat after representing New York City Council District 37 for seven years. Espinal stepped down to become the executive director of the Freelancers’ Union.

Espinal had two years remaining on his second consecutive four-year term as a New York City Council member. New York City Council members are limited to two consecutive four-year terms.

A special election will be held to fill the vacancy created by Espinal’s resignation. Details about the special election, including when it will be held, have not yet been released.

The New York City Council is the city’s primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, overseeing the use of municipal properties, levying taxes and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances.

Before his resignation from the New York City Council, Espinal served as a member of the New York State Assembly.

Click here to learn more.

Additional Reading:
New York, New York
List of current city officials of the top 10 cities in the United States



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.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:



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.

Click here to read more.

Additional reading:


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.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:


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.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:


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.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading: