Preliminary results from Anchorage’s April 6 mayoral election show Dave Bronson and Forrest Dunbar in the lead. As of 4:30 p.m. Alaska Time on April 7, Dunbar had 33% of the vote and Bronson had 32%. A candidate needs 45% of the vote to win election as mayor. If no candidate receives 45% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a May 11 runoff.
The city will continue to accept mail-in ballots from local voters through April 16 and from overseas voters through April 20, although only ballots postmarked by April 6 will be accepted. Deputy Municipal Clerk Erika McConnell said that it will take time to process the large volume of ballots.
Fifteen candidates were on the ballot. Media attention focused on six: Bronson, Dunbar, Bill Evans, Bill Falsey, George Martinez, and Mike Robbins. These candidates also led in endorsements and fundraising. Anna Anthony, Jeffrey T. Brown, Darin Colbry, Heather Herndon, Jacob Kern, Reza Momin, Albert Swank Jr., Jacob Versteeg, and Joe Westfall also ran.
Economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was a central issue in the race. Dunbar and Falsey said they support maintaining safety measures enacted by the Anchorage Assembly, such as a mask mandate and business restrictions, while Bronson, Evans, and Robbins said they supported reconsidering or removing restrictions. Homelessness and crime were also topics of debate, with candidates divided over homelessness prevention methods as well as shelter funding and locations.
Austin Quinn-Davidson, the current mayor, did not run for a full term. Quinn-Davidson became acting mayor after Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office on October 23, 2020, due to what he described as “unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required.”
On Wednesday, March 31, Rita Hart (D) dropped her petition with the House Administration Committee to investigate the Nov. 3, 2020, election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) defeated Hart by six votes in that race. House Administration Committee Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) said the committee would suspend its investigation of the election.
After announcing the decision, Hart said that she chose to end her challenge “after many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest.” “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” she said.
After the Nov. 3, 2020, general election, Iowa officials conducted three recounts of the results in the 2nd district. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) ordered a recount in Jasper County on Nov. 6 and then another in Lucas County on Nov. 10. On Nov. 13, Hart requested a full recount of votes in all 24 counties in the district. After this last recount, Miller-Meeks was certified as the winner by a margin of six votes on Nov. 30.
On Dec. 2, Hart announced she would contest the election with the House Administration Committee. She submitted a notice of contest on Dec. 22 that said 11 ballots were excluded due to poll worker errors and another 11 were excluded because of unsealed or damaged envelopes, having the voter’s signature in the wrong place, or being left in a drop box outside the county. Miller-Meeks was provisionally seated in the House on Jan. 3, and on Jan. 21, she filed a motion asking Congress to dismiss Hart’s challenge of the election results, saying that Hart should have pursued the matter through state procedures rather than filing a petition with the House.
On Mar. 10, the House Administration Committee voted 6-3 to consider Hart’s challenge and table Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss Hart’s challenge. After the decision to move forward with the investigation was announced, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) said Democrats are “literally trying to overturn a state-certified election here in Congress.” Some Democrats, such as Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (D), said overturning the results would be a mistake. “Overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America. Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should,” Phillips said.
Last year’s general election in Iowa’s 2nd District had the narrowest margin of victory in a U.S. House race since 1984. That year, Francis McCloskey (D) defeated Richard McIntyre (R) by four votes in Indiana’s 8th Congressional District. The House Administration Committee has dismissed most contested election cases that have come before it. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, out of 107 contested election cases filed between 1933 and 2009, the candidate who contested the election won three times.
The city of Anchorage, Alaska, is holding a nonpartisan general election for mayor on April 6. Fourteen candidates are running. Media attention has been focused on six candidates: David Bronson, Forrest Dunbar, Bill Evans, Bill Falsey, George Martinez, and Mike Robbins. These candidates also lead in endorsements and fundraising. Heather Herndon, Jacob Versteeg, Joe Westfall, Albert Swank, Reza Momin, Anna Anthony, Darin Colbry, and Jacob Seth Kern are also running.
Incumbent Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office on Oct. 23, 2020, due to what he said was “unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required.” The Anchorage Assembly selected Austin Quinn-Davidson to serve as acting mayor.
Economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a central issue in the race. Dunbar and Falsey said they support maintaining safety measures enacted by the Anchorage Assembly, such as a mask mandate and business restrictions, while Bronson, Evans, and Robbins said that they support reconsidering or removing restrictions. Homelessness and crime is also a key topic, with candidates divided over shelter funding and locations and prevention methods.
To be elected mayor, a candidate needs to win at least 45% of the vote. If no candidate wins 45% of the vote on April 6, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a runoff election held on May 11.
The city government of Anchorage combines a council-manager system with a strong mayor system. The city council serves as the city’s primary legislative body and the mayor serves as the chief executive of the city. The mayor is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations. The mayor also represents the city on the state, national and international levels.
Julia Letlow (R) defeated 11 other candidates to win the special election for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District on March 20. Letlow received 65% of the vote, followed by Candy Christophe (D) with 27% of the vote. Under Louisiana’s majority-vote system, Letlow won the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote.
Julia Letlow is the widow of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R), who was elected to represent the district on Dec. 5, 2020. Luke Letlow died from complications related to COVID-19 on Dec. 29. Julia Letlow has worked in marketing and as an administrator at the University of Louisiana Monroe and Tulane University.
Before the 2020 general election, Louisiana’s 5th District was represented by Ralph Abraham (R), who did not seek re-election. The district was last represented by a Democrat in 2004 when Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) changed his partisan affiliation from Democratic to Republican. In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) 65% to 34% in the district.
State Senators Troy Carter (D) and Karen Peterson (D) received the most votes in the March 20 special election for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Carter received 36% of the vote, and Peterson received 23%. Under Louisiana’s majority-vote system, Carter and Peterson will advance to a runoff election on April 24. Fifteen candidates—8 Democrats, 4 Republicans, 2 Independents, and one Libertarian—ran in the primary.
The 2nd Congressional District became vacant after Cedric Richmond (D) was appointed senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. President Joe Biden (D) announced Richmond’s appointment on November 17, 2020
Richmond was first elected in 2011. Since 2000, the seat has been occupied by a Democrat except from 2008 to 2010, when it was represented by Joseph Cao (R). Richmond was re-elected in 2020 with 63.9% of the vote.
The House Administration Committee moved to consider Rita Hart’s (D) challenge of the results in last November’s election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District March 10. The committee voted in favor of considering the challenge and tabling a motion by Hart’s opponent, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R), to dismiss the appeal. The decision will allow Hart to present evidence in support of her petition to the committee, which will then present a full report to the House recommending who should fill the seat.
After the November general election, Iowa officials conducted three recounts of the results in the 2nd district. Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) ordered a recount in Jasper County on Nov. 6 and one in Lucas County on Nov. 10. On Nov. 13, Hart requested a full recount of votes in all 24 counties in the district. After this recount, Miller-Meeks was certified as the winner by a six-vote margin on Nov. 30.
On Dec. 2, Hart announced she would contest the election before the House Administration Committee. She submitted a notice of contest on Dec. 22 that said 11 ballots were excluded due to poll worker errors and another 11 were excluded because of unsealed or damaged envelopes, having the voter’s signature in the wrong place, or having been left in a dropbox outside the county. The notice asked the House to invalidate the state-certified results, count the ballots Hart said were excluded, and initiate a uniform hand recount in all 24 counties in the district. Miller-Meeks was provisionally seated in the House on Jan. 3, and on Jan. 21, she filed a motion asking Congress to dismiss Hart’s challenge of the election results, saying that Hart should have pursued the matter through state procedures rather than filing a petition with the House.
After the House Administration Committee announced it would move forward with the investigation, Hart said the decision helps ensure that every vote is counted: “At least twenty-two Iowans’ legally-cast ballots still have not been counted due to a string of errors. We are glad to see the House Committee on Administration taking the next step towards ensuring that every legally-cast vote is counted in this race and that all Iowans’ voices are heard. Every legal voter in this country has a right to have their ballot counted and the remedy here is clear — count the ballots,” she said. Miller-Meeks said: “In Iowa, the votes were counted, recounted, and in some cases – recounted again. Now, Rita Hart is asking democrat politicians in DC to elect her because the voters of Iowa did not.”
If the committee recommends the matter to the full House, the chamber will decide the outcome by a majority vote as provided for in Article I, Section 5, of the U.S. Constitution. Historically, most contested election cases heard by the committee were dismissed. Out of 107 contested election cases filed between 1933 and 2009, the candidate who contested the election only won three times. The November 3 election was the narrowest margin of victory in a U.S. House race since 1984, when Francis McCloskey (D) defeated Richard McIntyre (R) by four votes in Indiana’s 8th Congressional District.
Early voting begins March 6 and is open until March 13 for Louisiana’s 2021 elections, including a special election in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. The election takes place on March 20. Fifteen candidates are running to fill the seat left vacant when then President-elect Joe Biden (D) picked Cedric Richmond (D), who represented the district since 2011, to serve as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Louisiana elections use the majority vote system in which all candidates compete in the same primary. A candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate wins more than 50%, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, no matter their partisan affiliation. If necessary, a runoff election will be held on April 24, 2021.
There are eight Democrats, four Republicans, two Independents, and one Libertarian running for the seat. Out of this field of candidates, media attention has largely focused on Troy Carter (D), Karen Peterson (D), and Gary Chambers (D). Carter represents Louisiana State Senate District 7 and Peterson represents Louisiana State Senate District 5. Chambers is an activist and publisher from Baton Rouge.
Both Carter and Peterson emphasized their experience and careers as lawmakers. “Throughout my career I’ve remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people’s day to day lives – like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 19 vaccine, equality pay for women, criminal justice reform and fighting for a living wage,” said Carter.
Peterson said “After Katrina hit, I told the truth, held people accountable, and fought to help our families and our businesses rebuild. And that’s what I’ll do in Congress to lead us out of this pandemic.”
Chambers, who has never run for public office, said district lawmakers have focused too heavily on New Orleans and that people in the district “want a leader that’s concerned about all people, not just a select demographic of the district.”
Democrats have represented Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District since 2000, except between 2009 and 2011, when Anh “Joseph” Cao (R) held the seat. The 2020 Cook Partisan Voter Index for Louisiana’s 2nd district was D+25, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 25 percentage points more Democratic than the national average.
A special election will also take place on March 20 in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.
On Feb. 18, the Alaska House of Representatives organized under the control of a multipartisan coalition caucus, voting 22-17 to approve a plan of organization placing members of the coalition in charge of committees. Since the start of the legislative session on Jan. 19, the House was split evenly between a Republican bloc and a coalition of Democrats, independents, and Louise Stutes (R). The group was joined by Reps. Sara Rasmussen (R) and Kelly Merrick (R) in the vote on organizing the House (another legislator, Rep. Mike Prax (R), was not present for the vote). Though the coalition caucus received enough votes to organize the chamber, two of the legislators who voted alongside the coalition to assign committee membership —Reps. Sara Rasmussen (R) and Geran Tarr (D)—said they would not join either the coalition or Republican caucuses, leaving both groups without a numerical majority in the 40-member House.
Rasmussen said she would serve as an independent Republican not affiliated with the coalition majority or the Republican minority. With Stutes and Kelly Merrick (R) already a part of the coalition caucus, Rasmussen’s decision left the Republican caucus with 18 members. Tarr (D) also said she would vote independent of the caucus, leaving it with 20 members—14 Democrats, four independents, and two Republicans. Though both Rasmussen and Tarr voted with the coalition caucus to approve committee assignments, neither has stated whether they will continue to support the coalition in future votes. “We’re still working on things here,” Tarr said. Rasmussen said that although she hasn’t “made an agreement to vote on anything,” she hopes that “with compromise, there will be some good policy that can move forward.”
Under the approved organization plan, Rep. Chris Tuck (D) will serve as majority leader and Rep. Cathy Tilton (R) will serve as minority leader. Reps. Neal Foster (D) and Kelly Merrick (R) will co-chair the House Finance Committee and Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I) will lead the Rules Committee, which determines whether bills receive a floor vote. Out of the other eight standing committees in the House, six will be chaired or co-chaired by Democrats, one will be chaired by an independent, and one will be co-chaired by a Democrat and an independent.
The situation in the Alaska House is unusual; generally, the party with a numerical majority organizes to select presiding officers, appoint committee members, and vote on legislation. A coalition caucus was formed in the House after the 2018 elections despite Republicans winning a majority of the seats in the chamber, but that coalition was composed of 25 members, four more than the 21 votes needed to assign committee membership and pass legislation. Republicans maintained a numerical majority of 21 members after the 2020 elections, but Stutes’ decision to join the coalition group left each faction with 20 members. Merrick later joined the coalition bloc as well, but Tarr’s decision to vote separately from the coalition kept it from reaching 21 members.
Jennifer Fletcher, a state legislative librarian, said she did not know of any previous case where a 20-member caucus negotiated with other legislators to acquire the votes necessary to control the chamber. Forrest Nabors, chair of the political science department at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said that the situation in the House was “highly unusual,” but that, in Alaska, “party affiliations are not the same as they are in other states and in the country in general. Hence, I think we err in trying to frame majorities and minorities in our state in terms of parties. For the last three legislative sessions, that mold has been formally broken, and our nomenclature should recognize that break.”
Out of the 99 legislative chambers in the country, the Alaska House is the only chamber under the control of a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition after the 2020 elections, with Republicans controlling 61 legislative chambers and Democrats controlling 37. Alaska is one of 12 states under divided government as opposed to a state government trifecta in which one party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house. There are currently 15 Democratic and 23 Republican trifectas.
On Feb. 11, twenty-four days after the 2021 legislative session began on Jan. 19th, the Alaska House of Representatives elected a permanent speaker of the House. Members elected Rep. Louise Stutes (R) in a 21-19 vote.
Since the start of the session, House members had been divided between supporters of a Republican-led majority and those favoring a multipartisan coalition. Republicans won a 21-19 majority in the 2020 general election, but in December, Stutes joined the coalition bloc composed of 16 Democrats and three independents, leaving each faction with 20 members.
In January, Reps. Bart LeBon (R), Laddie Shaw (R), and Neal Foster (D) were nominated for the speakership, but each vote ended in an even 20-20 split. On Feb. 4th, the House unanimously elected Rep. Josiah Patkotak (I) as temporary speaker. Rep. Ben Carpenter (R) said the House Republican Caucus nominated Patkotak, who is a member of the coalition bloc, to “alleviate the Lt. Governor from his temporary responsibility as presiding officer and to move the discussion forward about finding a permanent presiding officer.”
Rep. Kelly Merrick’s (R) vote for Stutes ultimately broke the recurring tie votes. Merrick said, “Today, I voted to elect Republican Representative Louise Stutes as Speaker of the House, ending more than three weeks of deadlock and allowing the Legislature to move forward. It was by no means an easy decision to make, but it ensured that no matter how organization comes together, there will be a Republican Speaker.”
The three-week period without a House speaker is the second-longest in the state’s history. In 2018, similar divisions kept House members from electing a speaker until Feb. 14th, 2019, when a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (I) as House speaker and agreed to split other key leadership and committee positions between the two parties.
With split control of the House and Republican control of the Senate and governor’s office, Alaska’s trifecta status remains divided. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. There are currently 23 Republican trifectas, 15 Democratic trifectas, and 12 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control. After the 2020 elections, Republicans had a net gain of two trifectas and two states under divided government became trifectas.
Forty-six state legislatures are currently in session. The Alaska House of Representatives has been in session since Jan. 19. But no regular business has taken place because legislators have not elected a permanent speaker or organized committees.
Partisan control of the House was uncertain after the 2020 elections, split between those favoring a Republican-led majority and those supporting a multi-party coalition. Republicans won 21 of 40 seats, but Rep. Louise Stutes (R) joined a coalition of 16 Democrats and three independents, leaving legislators split into two 20-member factions.
The Alaska House elected Josiah Patkotak (I) unanimously as temporary speaker on Feb. 4. Patkotak was elected to his first term on Nov. 3. He is presiding over the chamber until a permanent speaker is elected, taking over for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) who had filled the role of presiding officer since the legislative session began. Legislators have not submitted any nominations for a permanent speaker as of Feb. 9.
Alaska has a Republican governor, and Republicans control the state Senate, so final control of the chamber will also determine the state’s trifecta status.
The Alaska House faced a similar situation after the 2018 elections. That year, Republican-aligned candidates won 23 seats, and Democratic-aligned candidates won 17. A coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (I) as House speaker on Feb. 14, 2019. Edgmon was originally elected as a Democrat but changed his party affiliation to independent before he was elected speaker. Both parties split control of key leadership positions and committees.