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Ethan Rice

Ethan Rice is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Hala Ayala wins Virginia’s lieutenant governor Democratic primary

Hala Ayala (D) won the Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial Democratic primary on June 8, 2021, defeating five other candidates. Ayala received with 39.1% of the vote, followed by Sam Rasoul (D) with 25.2% and Mark Levine (D) with 11.7%.

Andria McClellan, Sean Perryman, and Xavier Warren also ran in this election. At the time of the election, Ayala, Levine, and Rasoul all served in the Virginia House of Delegates. McClellan was elected to the Norfolk City Council in 2015. Perryman’s career experience includes working as the director of social impact at the Internet Association. Warren has worked as an NFL sports agent and lobbyist for non-profit organization.

Ayala will face Republican nominee Winsome Sears in the Nov. 2 general election. Sears won his party’s nomination at a May 8 nominating convention.

The lieutenant governor serves as the president of the Virginia State Senate and may cast tie-breaking votes. The lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to the governor; in the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor.

Of the four lieutenant governors who have been elected since 2002, three were Democrats and one was a Republican. Two of them, Tim Kaine (D) and Ralph Northam (D), went on to become governor. The lieutenant governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and, unlike the governor, may run for re-election.

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State FOIA request response times

Each state has different laws governing the release of information by public entities. Often called open records laws, public records laws, or FOIA laws after the federal Freedom of Information Act, these laws regulate the process through which a person can request public records. Those laws often set the length of time within which a public body must respond to a records request.

As of May 2021, 13 states do not have a mandated response time. Of the 37 states that have response time limits, 10 allow agencies to extend response times in certain cases, while 27 states allow no exceptions. Eight states require responses in 3 days or less, 10 in 5 days or less, 13 in 10 days or less, and 6 in 20 days or less. The longest possible response times are in Iowa and South Carolina, which both require responses to be made within 10 days but allow extensions of up to 20 days. The shortest possible response times are in Indiana and Mississippi, where public entities must respond to most requests within 24 hours.

Some states do not specify a required time to respond to a FOIA request and only require that responses be prompt or made within a reasonable amount of time. State statutes with clear response time limits either require all responses to be made before a certain number of days or allow a range of response time based on certain circumstances. For example, California law states that a response must be given within 10 days for most requests, but also allows responses within 14 days under unusual circumstances.

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Winsome Sears wins convention to become Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor

The Republican Party of Virginia nominated Winsome Sears (R) for lieutenant governor at their May 8 convention. Sears defeated Puneet Ahluwalia (R), Lance Allen (R), Glenn Davis (R), Tim Hugo (R), and Maeve Rigler (R). She was announced as the winner on May 11 after she defeated Hugo in the fifth round of ranked-choice voting with 54.4% of the vote to Hugo’s 45.6%.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the 2021 Virginia Republican convention was an unassembled convention held across 39 satellite locations. Unlike previous conventions in the state, there was no limit on how many delegates could cast votes, which were weighted according to the number of delegate votes allocated to each locality.

Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting instead of holding multiple rounds of voting. In a ranked-choice vote, voters rank their preferred options rather than picking one. Ballot-counting takes place in rounds, with each voters’ first-place preference receiving their vote in the first round. If one candidate has more than 50% of votes, they win the election outright. Otherwise, the last-place finisher is eliminated and their votes redistributed among their voters’ next choices. The process is repeated until one candidate wins more than 50%.

Sears is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 2002 to 2004. She served on the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as vice president of the Virginia Board of Education, and as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The lieutenant governor serves as the president of the Virginia State Senate and may cast tie-breaking votes. The lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to the governor. In the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Of the four lieutenant governors who have been elected since 2002, three were Democrats and one was a Republican.

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Anchorage mayoral race remains uncertain as ballots continue to be counted

The outcome of the Anchorage, Alaska, mayoral election remains unclear after preliminary results posted by the city showed Forrest Dunbar leading Dave Bronson with 50.8% of the vote. As of the posting, at least 6,600 ballots had not yet been counted, and mail-in ballots continued to arrive. Mail-in ballots postmarked no later than election day, May 11, will continue to be counted if they arrive by May 21. Overseas ballots must arrive by May 25.

Based on the over 78,000 ballots received so far, the voter turnout rate is at 30.5% of registered voters and already exceeds the 75,441 votes cast in the April 6 general election. The city’s highest recorded voter turnout was in the 2018 mayoral election in which 36.3% of registered voters cast 79,295 votes. If the race remains within the current margins, the city will conduct a recount. The candidates are currently separated by 0.16% of the vote, and Anchorage municipal code stipulates that an automatic recount be conducted for city elections in which a candidate wins by less than 0.5%.

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Troy Carter wins special election in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District

Troy Carter (D) won the special election for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District on Saturday, April 24. Carter received 55.2% of the vote, and fellow Democrat Karen Peterson received 44.8%. The two advanced to the general election from the March 20 all-party primary. Carter was elected to the state Senate in 2015 and has previously served in the Louisiana House of Representatives and the New Orleans City Council.

Former incumbent Cedric Richmond (D) and several U.S. House members endorsed Carter, a state senator. Peterson, who is also a state senator, had endorsements from 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) and Gary Chambers (D), who finished third in the primary. 

Richmond resigned in January to become a senior adviser to President Joe Biden (D) and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He was first elected in 2010 and won re-election last year with 63.9% of the vote. Since 2000, the seat has been occupied by a Democrat in all years except 2009-2011, when it was occupied by Joseph Cao (R).

Carter and Peterson both expressed support for legalizing marijuana, ending cash bail, forgiving student debt loans for up to $50,000, and a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters. Both candidates supported increasing the federal minimum wage but disagreed on what it should be raised to. Carter supported a $15 per hour minimum wage, while Peterson said she would support raising it to $20 per hour. The candidates also differed on healthcare policy, with Carter supporting a public option and Peterson supporting a Medicare for All plan.

This is the second special election to be decided for the 117th Congress. On March 20th, voters in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District elected Julia Letlow (R) in a special election to fill the vacancy left by Luke Letlow (R), who died before being seated in the 117th Congress from complications related to COVID-19.

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https://ballotpedia.org/Louisiana%27s_2nd_Congressional_District

https://ballotpedia.org/Troy_Carter

https://ballotpedia.org/Karen_Peterson_(Louisiana)



Incumbents win reelection in Newark Public Schools election

Incumbents Dawn Haynes, Asia Norton, Vereliz Santana and Daniel Gonzalez won in the Newark, New Jersey school board election on April 20, 2021. Haynes, Norton, and Santana, all incumbents, defeated challengers Nadirah Brown, Yolanda Johnson, and Philip Wilson in the regular election with 29.9%, 28.2%, and 27.1% of the vote, respectively, and will serve three-year terms on the board. No other candidate received over 6%.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, won a special election for an open fourth seat against Sheila Montague, 65.6% to 34.4%. The special election was called after board member Tave Padilla died on November 25, 2020. On January 28, 2021, the board appointed Santana to fill Padilla’s seat until the April election. Padilla took office in 2016 and won reelection to another three-year term on April 16, 2019. Gonzalez will serve the remainder of the term, which will end after the next election in 2022.

Haynes, Santana, Norton, and Gonzalez ran on the Moving Newark Schools Forward ticket, a candidate slate backed by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. Haynes and Norton previously ran on the slate in 2018 when they were both first elected to the board.

Newark Public Schools is overseen by a nine-member board, all of whom are elected at large to three-year terms. All registered voters can vote for seats on the ballot in an at-large election as opposed to a by district election, in which only the registered voters of a particular geographic area may vote for a particular seat up for election.

The district was the largest school district in the state in the 2019-2020 school year and served 36,676 students. From 1995 to 2017, the New Jersey state government oversaw the school district. Local control was returned to the district on September 13, 2017.

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Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District special election to be held April 24

Troy Carter (D) and Karen Peterson (D) are running in a special runoff election to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House on April 24, 2021. Carter and Peterson received the most votes in March 20 special primary election. They advanced to the general runoff under Louisiana’s majority-vote system, which stipulates that if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election.

Carter and Peterson have both emphasized their experience and careers as lawmakers during the campaign. “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 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.”

Both candidates support legalizing recreational marijuana, ending cash bail, forgiving student debt loans for up to $50,000, and a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land and water. Both support increasing the federal minimum wage, but disagree on how high. Carter supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while Peterson said she would support raising it to $20 per hour. The candidates also differ on health care policy, with Carter supporting a public option allowing people to choose between a government-funded plan and private insurance and Peterson supporting a Medicare for All universal health care plan.

Carter raised $610,000 in the period from March 1 to April 4 compared to Peterson’s $362,000. Both candidates garnered noteworthy endorsements in recent weeks, with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) endorsing Peterson and Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams (D) endorsing Carter.

The special election will fill the vacancy left by Cedric Richmond (D). On November 17, 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden (D) announced that Richmond would join his administration as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond was first elected in 2010, and in the November 3, 2020 elections, he won with 63.9% of the vote. Since 2000, the seat has been occupied by a Democrat in all years except 2008-2010, when it was occupied by Joseph Cao (R).

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Anchorage mayoral race remains undecided

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.”

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Rita Hart (D) withdraws contest of IA-02 election results

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. 

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Mayoral election in Anchorage, Alaska to be held April 6

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.

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