Author

Chris Henderson

Chris Henderson is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Angelica Allen-McMillan appointed as New Jersey commissioner of education

On Oct. 20, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that he was appointing Angelica Allen-McMillan as the New Jersey commissioner of education. She will replace outgoing interim Commissioner Kevin Dehmer, who had served since the resignation of Lamont Repollet on July 1. Allen-McMillan will serve in an acting capacity until her confirmation by the New Jersey State Senate. 

In a press release, Murphy said, “A product of New Jersey’s public schools, Angelica has worked at all levels of education and knows exactly what our teachers and students need to succeed. She is an exemplary educator and I’m confident she is the leader we need to carry our school communities through the remainder of this pandemic and beyond.”

Allen-McMillan previously served as interim Executive County Superintendent for Morris County. She has also worked as Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education for the Newark Public Schools system, and as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instructions in the Irvington School District.

The New Jersey commissioner of education is the chief executive school officer of New Jersey, overseeing all public schools in the state. The commissioner’s responsibilities include recommending legislative changes, producing research on education, and serving as secretary to the State Board of Education, among other duties. The commissioner is appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the state senate and serves at the pleasure of the governor. 

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SCOTUS allows Trump administration to end 2020 census count

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order on Oct. 13 which allows the Trump administration to end the 2020 census count. SCOTUS stayed an order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had directed the Trump administration to continue to gather data through the end of October.

The Trump administration had argued that they must be able to conclude the count before the end of October in order to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to report the results to the president. The Justice Department had told the court that “there is virtually no prospect that the [U.S. Census] Bureau will be able to comply with the statutory deadline,” unless they were allowed to end the count.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying: “[T]he harms associated with an inaccurate census are avoidable and intolerable,” and that “meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying.”

After the order was issued, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that they would be shutting down on Oct. 15. It has also set that date as the postmark deadline for paper census forms sent by mail, and as the end date for collecting responses through phone calls and door-knocking.

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a nationwide census in order to provide a comprehensive count of the population with demographic information. This information is used by the government in many ways, including for the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the allocation of federal funds.

Additional reading:
Supreme Court cases, October term 2020-2021
Supreme Court of the United States
United States Census Bureau
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Sonia Sotomayor



Toomey announces he won’t run for re-election to U.S. Senate in 2022

On Oct. 5, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced that he would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate and would be retiring from Congress. Toomey also stated that he would not run for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022.

At a press conference, Toomey said, “I will not be running for reelection in 2022 and I will not be running for governor. I will serve out the remainder of my term for a little over two years that are left to the current term and after that my plan is to go back to the private sector.” While he said he had no specific plans, he said he looked forward to spending more time with his family.

Toomey was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, defeating Joe Sestak (D) 51% to 49% for the seat previously held by Arlen Specter (D). Toomey won re-election in 2016, defeating Katie McGinty (D) 48% to 47%. Prior to his time in the Senate, Toomey represented Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District from 1999 to 2005.

Republicans are currently in the majority in the U.S. Senate with 53 seats. Democrats hold 45 seats and two are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party.

Thirty-five Senate seats are up for election in 2020. If Republicans lose no more than two seats, they will retain control of the Senate. If Democrats win four or more seats, they will gain a majority. If Republicans lose exactly three seats, whichever party wins the presidential election will have the majority, as the vice president serves as president of the Senate.

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Trujillo resigns from New Mexico House of Representatives

On Sept. 28, Rep. Jim Trujillo (D) resigned from the District 45 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives, citing health and family reasons. Trujillo was first appointed to the seat in 2003 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Patsy Trujillo, to whom he is not related.

Trujillo’s successor will be appointed by the Santa Fe County Commission and will serve until his term ends in January. Linda Serrato (D) and Helen Milenski (L) are running for the District 45 seat in the Nov. 3 general election. In 2018, Trujillo was unopposed for reelection to the seat.

All 70 seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are up for election this year. Ballotpedia has identified the New Mexico House of Representatives as one of 22 state legislative battleground chambers for the 2020 cycle. With Trujillo’s resignation, the current partisan breakdown of the chamber is 45 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and one vacancy. Republicans need to win 12 more seats, or 17% of the total seats, to gain a majority in the House. Democrats will retain control of the New Mexico State House if they lose fewer than 12 net seats. New Mexico is currently one of 15 states with a Democratic trifecta.

Additional reading:
New Mexico House of Representatives elections, 2020
State legislative battleground chambers, 2020
State legislative vacancies, 2020
State government trifectas



Frostman resigns as Wisconsin Secretary of Workforce Development

Caleb Frostman resigned as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) on September 18 at the request of Gov. Tony Evers (D). Evers said he requested Frostman’s resignation due to the long wait times Wisconsin residents experienced for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, Evers said, “people across our state are struggling to make ends meet, and it is unacceptable that Wisconsinites continue to wait for the support they need during these challenging times.”

Amy Pechacek will replace Frostman on an interim basis. Pechacek has served as deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections since 2019.

Frostman is a former Democratic member of the Wisconsin state Senate. He was first elected to the legislature in a June 2018 special election to succeed Frank Lasee (R). Gov. Evers first appointed Frostman to lead the Department of Workforce Development in January 2019.

According to its website, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s responsibilities include providing job services and training, working with employers to fill job openings, and providing assistance to those looking for employment. The secretary of the DWD is a state executive position nominated by the governor and is subject to confirmation by the Wisconsin State Senate.

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