Corinne Wolyniec

Corinne Wolyniec is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

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.

Additional reading:

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.

Additional reading:

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.

Additional reading:

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.

Additional reading:

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. 

Additional reading:

Lori McCann appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives

Governor Brad Little (R) appointed Lori McCann (R) on May 17 to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives. The seat has been vacant since April 29, when former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R) resigned.

McCann’s professional experience includes working as a professor at Lewis-Clark State College, where she was also the director of the paralegal and legal assistant programs. McCann also worked as a paralegal at her family’s law firm and helped manage her family’s property and livestock business.

As of May 20, there have been 48 state legislative vacancies in 28 states so far this year. Thirty-one (31) of those vacancies have been filled. McCann is one of 15 Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.

Additional reading:

Clark Chapin confirmed as Connecticut’s Republican auditor of public accounts

Clark Chapin (R) assumed office as an auditor of public accounts in Connecticut on May 6. The Office of the Auditors of Public Accounts is a legislative agency in the Connecticut state government responsible for the state’s financial and accounting functions. Unlike any other state, Connecticut’s auditing agency is led by two partisan auditors—one Democrat and one Republican. Chapin occupies the Republican seat and will serve alongside the Democratic auditor, John C. Geragosian. 

Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly nominated Chapin on April 8 to fill the vacancy created by Robert Kane’s (R) death in February. The General Assembly confirmed Chapin as the new Republican auditor on May 6, for a term beginning that day. He will serve for the remainder of Kane’s term, which ends on June 30, 2023.

Chapin was a member of the Connecticut State Senate, representing District 30 from 2013 to 2017. He did not seek reelection in 2016. Before being elected to the state Senate, Chapin was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, representing the 67th District from 2001 to 2013.

Forty-eight (48) states have a statewide auditor, with New York and Tennessee being the two states that do not. The state auditor’s office belongs to either the executive or legislative branch, depending on the state. While both offices are similar in function, a legislative auditor functions primarily under the state legislature and is not considered a state executive office. Connecticut is one of 23 states that have legislative auditors. Thirty-three (33) states have executive branch auditors, and eight states have both.

According to the Office of the Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts, the agency “can trace its origin to a charter granted in 1662 to the Colony of Connecticut by King Charles the Second of England… Its organization, with two state auditors not of the same political party, makes Connecticut unique among state auditing agencies. From its colonial origin, Connecticut’s audit function has been performed by more than a single auditor.”

Additional Reading:

Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English resigns

Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English (D-7) resigned on May 1, citing the long-term health effects of a past COVID-19 infection. 

English said he contracted COVID-19 in November 2020. “After many discussions with my doctors, talks with those close to me and careful thought, I am announcing my retirement from the Hawai‘i State Senate, effective May 1, 2021,” English said in a press release. “Having been deemed a long hauler, I was diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. My new normal will require me to address some of the challenges left to my short and long-term memory and other cognitive issues derived from the virus. These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health.”

English represented Hawaii’s 7th state senate district from 2000 to 2021. He ran unopposed in the 2014 and 2018 general elections. He served as the Hawaii Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021. The state Senate appointed Sen. Dru Kanuha (D-3) as the new majority leader on May 5.

If there is a vacancy in the Hawaii State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.

Additional reading:

Illinois’ U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos announces she’s not running for re-election in 2022

U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) announced on April 30 that she would not run for re-election in 2022. 

Bustos was first elected to the U.S. House to represent Illinois’ 17th Congressional District in 2012. She most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Esther Joy King (R), 52% to 48%.

As of April 30, eight members of the U.S. House—three Democrats and five Republicans—have announced they will not seek re-election in 2022. Five members of the U.S. Senate—all Republicans—have announced they will not run for re-election.

Thirty-six members of the U.S. House did not run for re-election in 2020—26 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Libertarian. In 2018, 52 members of the U.S. House did not run for re-election, including 34 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

Additional Reading: