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Corinne Wolyniec

Corinne Wolyniec is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Hawaii governor appoints Linda Ann Ha‘i Clark to state House of Representatives

Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) appointed Linda Ann Ha‘i Clark (D) to the District 13 seat of the Hawaii state House on July 23. The seat became vacant in June when Ige appointed former state Rep. Lynn DeCoite (D) to the Senate to succeed Jamie Kalani English (D). Clark will serve the remainder of DeCoite’s term, which was set to expire in November 2022.

“I am extremely grateful for the appointment. I’d like to thank Gov. Ige for entrusting me. I’d also like to thank Sen. Lynn DeCoite and outgoing Sen. Kalani English for their years of service. I look forward to meeting my constituents as soon as possible,” Clark said in a statement released by Gov. Ige’s office.

At the time she was appointed, Clark worked as an independent process server for the State of Hawaii’s Child Support Enforcement Agency. 

Hawaii is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

Additional reading:

Lynn DeCoite

State legislative vacancies, 2021



Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney dies

Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney (R) died while in office on July 17, 2021, due to long-term health issues. 

Carney was first elected to represent House District 51 in 2008. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Richard Steele (D) 78.6% to 21.4%. He was elected as state House majority leader in 2018 and served in that role until January 2020, when House Republicans named Rep. Steven Rudy (R) to serve as acting majority leader while Carney was ill. 

Carney was admitted to the ICU with pancreatitis in December 2019. He had spent the past year and a half in hospitals and was diagnosed with pneumonia in June 2021. He died on July 17 at age 51.

“Our hearts are broken at the loss of our friend and brother, Bam Carney. Bam was a passionate educator, an outstanding legislator, and a tremendous leader for our Commonwealth,” House Speaker David Osborne (R) said in a statement. 

Carney is the second member of the Kentucky legislature to die this month; former state Senator Tom Buford (R) died on July 6.

When a vacancy occurs in the Kentucky General Assembly, a special election must be held to fill the vacant seat. The governor must call for an election if the General Assembly is not in session. If lawmakers are in session, the presiding officer in the house where the vacancy happened calls for the election. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Carney’s term was set to expire on December 31, 2022.

Kentucky is one of 25 states to fill state legislative vacancies through special elections.

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Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes retires

Keith Haynes (D)—who was first elected to the state legislature in 2002—retired from the Maryland House of Delegates on July 15. Haynes most recently won re-election in 2018 after running unopposed in the primary and general elections.

“After 18 1/2 years of service, I am retiring from the Maryland House of Delegates as of July 15, 2021,” Haynes wrote in a statement to the Baltimore Sun. “I would like to thank my constituents for the opportunity to serve them.”

When a vacancy occurs in the Maryland General Assembly, the governor must appoint a replacement within 30 days after the vacancy happens. The governor selects from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat. The person appointed to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Haynes’ term was set to expire on January 10, 2023.

Maryland is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

Additional reading:

Maryland House of Delegates District 44A

State legislative vacancies, 2021



Kathryn Hackett King appointed to Arizona Supreme Court

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kathryn Hackett King to the state supreme court on July 8. The seat became vacant in April when former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew W. Gould retired. King is Gov. Ducey’s sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

At the time she was appointed, King was a partner at the law firm of BurnsBarton PLC. From 2015 to 2017, King served as Gov. Ducey’s deputy general counsel. She previously practiced law at Snell & Wilmer LLP. After graduating from law school, King clerked for former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan from 2007 to 2008. 

A newly-appointed justice must stand for retention in the next general election after two years to remain on the court. That means King must run for retention in 2024. If retained, King will then begin a six-year term on the bench.

Additional reading:

Arizona Supreme Court

State Supreme Court Vacancies, 2021



Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger retires

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Joel Bolger retired on June 30. Former Gov. Sean Parnell (R) appointed Bolger to the state supreme court in 2013, and voters retained him in 2016 with 57% of the vote. When he retired, Bolger was the court’s chief justice, a position he had held since 2018.

Bolger is the only justice in Alaska’s history to have been appointed to all four levels of the state court system. Before joining the Alaska Supreme Court, he was a judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2013, the Kodiak Superior Court from 2003 to 2008, and the Valdez District Court from 1997 to 2003. 

When there is a midterm vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court, the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from the Alaska Judicial Council. To remain in office, the new appointee must stand for retention in the first general election after they serve at least three years on the bench. After that, the judge is subject to a retention election every 10 years.

Republican governors appointed three of the four active Alaska Supreme Court justices; an independent governor appointed the fourth. Bolger’s replacement will be Gov. Dunleavy’s (R) second appointee to the state supreme court.

In 2021, there have been 14 state supreme court vacancies caused by retirements in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

Additional reading:

Alaska Supreme Court

Joel Bolger

State supreme court vacancies, 2021

Judicial selection in Alaska



Lynn DeCoite appointed to Hawaii State Senate, creating vacancy in state House

Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) appointed Lynn DeCoite (D) to the District 7 seat in the Hawaii State Senate on June 17. The seat became vacant in May when former state Sen. Jamie Kalani English (D) retired due to the long-term health effects of a past COVID-19 infection. DeCoite to serve the remainder of Kalani English’s term, which was set to expire in November 2022.

At the time she was appointed, DeCoite was serving her fourth term in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Governor Ige appointed DeCoite to represent District 13 in February 2015, after former state Rep. Mele Carroll (D) resigned. DeCoite won re-election in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

DeCoite’s appointment to the state Senate creates a vacancy in the state House. When a vacancy occurs in the Hawaii legislature, the governor must appoint a replacement within 60 days after the vacancy happens. The governor selects from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat.

Hawaii is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

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Jennifer Konfrst elected as minority leader of Iowa House

Democrats in the Iowa House of Representatives selected Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (D-43) as the new House minority leader on June 14. Konfrst replaces Rep. Todd Prichard (D-52), who announced on June 2 that he would be stepping down as minority leader. Konfrst is the first woman to lead the Iowa House Democrats. 

“I’m honored to earn the trust of my colleagues to lead our fight to ensure Iowans’ voices are heard and truly represented in Des Moines,” Konfrst said in a statement following the vote.

Konfrst was first elected to the Iowa House in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020. She had been serving as House minority whip since the start of her second term in January 2021.

The minority leader of a state house is responsible for directing the minority party strategy, assembling party members for important votes, and acting as a spokesperson for the party’s policy positions.

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Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigns

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11, 2021. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party. 

Guzman was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.

Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort for civil matters and has nine judgeships. Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointment is subject to confirmation from the Texas State Senate. Once confirmed, the judge will serve until the next general election, at which point they must run in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the rest of the unexpired term.

In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

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Amy Beard appointed commissioner of Indiana’s Department of Insurance

Amy Beard assumed office on June 2 as commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance. Governor Eric Holcomb (R) appointed Beard to the position in May to replace outgoing commissioner Stephen Robertson. Robertson announced in April he would resign as commissioner, effective June 1.

Beard has worked at Indiana’s Department of Insurance since 2013, serving as a legal counsel from 2013 to 2017 and a general counsel from 2017 to 2021.

The Indiana Commissioner of Insurance is an appointed state executive position in the state government. The commissioner is appointed by the governor and is responsible for overseeing the Department of Insurance, which regulates insurance companies operating in the state.

Insurance commissioners are elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. Of the 39 states in which the insurance commissioner is appointed, 37 give the power of appointment to the governor; in New Mexico and Virginia, the insurance commissioner is appointed by a multi-member commission.

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May 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats: 54.3% Republicans, 44.9% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s May partisan count of state legislative seats found that 54.30% of state legislators are Republicans and 44.93% are Democrats.

At the end of every month, Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, which refers to which political party holds a majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans currently control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber, the Alaska House of Representatives, has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the end of May, Republicans held 1,091 of the 1,972 total state senate seats, while Democrats held 867. The Democrats lost two seats since April, while the Republicans’ number of seats stayed the same. Democrats also held 2,450 of the 5,411 total state House seats (up one from last month), while Republicans controlled 2,918 (also up one). Third-party or independent officeholders held 38 seats, and there were 19 vacancies.

In May, Democrats had a net loss of one seat, while Republicans had a net gain of one. Compared to May 2020, Democrats have lost 142 state legislative seats, while Republicans have gained 153 seats. 

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