Janie Valentine

Janie Valentine is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

General election for Louisiana House of Representatives will determine whether Republicans secure veto-proof majorities in House and Senate

Heading into the Nov. 16 general election, Republicans are seven seats short of a 70-seat supermajority in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Louisiana has a two-round electoral system, sometimes referred to as a jungle primary or majority electoral system. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election. If a candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, he or she wins outright. If no candidate reaches that threshold, a general election is held between the top two vote-getters.
After the Oct. 12 primary election, 63 House seats are guaranteed to Republicans, 33 to Democrats, and one to an independent. Party control of eight House seats will be decided in the general election. Republicans need to win all seven of these general elections where they are on the ballot in order to win a veto-proof House majority. Democrats can prevent a Republican supermajority in the House by winning at least one of the races in which they are facing a Republican opponent.
Republicans secured a supermajority in the state Senate in the primary. With supermajorities in the House and Senate, Republicans would have the ability to both override a gubernatorial veto and vote to place a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the ballot.
These are also the last elections before the state government redraws congressional and state legislative districts following the 2020 census. In Louisiana, both congressional and state legislative districts are drawn by the state legislature.
The Louisiana gubernatorial general election will also be held on Nov. 16. Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and businessman Eddie Rispone (R) advanced from the primary. If Edwards wins, the state will remain under divided government. If Rispone wins, Republicans will have a state government trifecta.

Commission on Presidential Debates announces 2020 general election debate schedule

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced the dates of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate for the 2020 general election. The CPD has sponsored every presidential and vice presidential general election debate since 1988.
Presidential debates are scheduled for the following dates in 2020: September 29 at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, October 15 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. A vice presidential debate will be held on October 7, 2020, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The debates will be 90 minutes in length and start at 9:00 p.m. ET. Additional information, such as the debate format and moderators, will be released in 2020.
The CPD also announced its criteria for inviting candidates to participate in these debates. Candidates will be invited if they are constitutionally eligible, provide evidence of ballot access in enough states to win an Electoral College majority, and demonstrate 15% support in national polling.

Plastic bag ban preemption conflict ongoing in Florida

Preemption occurs when law at a higher level of government is used to overrule authority at a lower level of government. A recent sequence of events in Florida provides an example of the conflict that can emerge between state and local governments over the idea of preemption.
In August 2019, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal ruled that sections of Florida law that prohibit local governments from regulating plastic bags and other packaging were constitutional. That decision reversed a ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court that upheld the city of Coral Gables’ ban on the retail use of polystyrene, or Styrofoam, which had been approved in February 2016. The case was originally brought by the Florida Retail Federation.
On August 27, 2019, the Coral Gables City Commission voted to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.
Other local governments across Florida repealed or delayed their bans after Coral Gables lost its case, including Gainesville, Miami Beach, Palm Beach, Surfside, and Alachua County.
Advocates of plastic bag regulations say that reusable bags save retailers money and reduce the number of bags without recyclable materials that enter municipal recycling programs. Opponents say that comprehensive solid-waste disposal laws already cover the issues addressed by local bans in some states, plastic bags can be reused around the home rather than thrown away, and bans add an unnecessary financial burden for low-income families that would be required to buy reusable bags.
In 2019, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee passed legislation preempting local plastic bag bans.

School board elections happening amidst uncertainty in Houston, Texas

Four out of nine seats on the Houston Independent School District (HISD) board of education are up for general election on November 5, 2019. Heading into the election, the HISD school board faces the possibility of being replaced by a state-appointed board of managers. If the state appoints a board of managers, elected school board members would not have any power until the elected board was reinstated, although they could participate as non-voting representatives.
The state’s commissioner of education, Mike Morath, could decide to replace the HISD school board for either of two reasons: either as a result of a Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigation into the board’s governance or as a result of poor academic performance ratings at a high school in the district.
TEA Special Investigations Unit Director Jason Hewitt recommended in August 2019 that the state appoint a board of managers for the district. He cited the elected board’s “inability to appropriately govern, inability to operate within the scope of their authority, circumventing the authority of the superintendent, and inability to ensure proper contract procurement laws are followed.” HISD lawyers filed a lawsuit against the TEA on August 16 which claimed that school board members’ rights were violated and that allegations were not fully investigated. The lawsuit also said that a state-appointed board would violate the Civil Rights Act, since a majority of voters in the district are people of color.
According to preliminary ratings for the 2018-2019 school year, one HISD high school received a failing grade for the seventh year in a row. Texas House Bill 1842 requires that the commissioner of education either close a school that receives more than five consecutive failing grades or replace the district’s board of education. HISD received a waiver from state ratings for the 2017-2018 school year due to Hurricane Harvey. School board members voted to appeal the failing grade on September 5, which could delay a potential state takeover of the board.
As of the 2018-2019 school year, HISD was the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest school district in the United States, serving 209,772 students in 280 schools with a budget of $2.04 billion.
The last day to register to vote in this election is October 7. Early voting will run October 21 through November 1. The general election will be held November 5.

Half of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. have adopted local climate action plans

Half of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. by population have adopted local climate action plans. These plans include goals like community-wide and municipal operations greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy use, mostly with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Opponents say that such plans increase living costs and cause economic harm. Supporters say they are important for combating climate change and promoting public health.
Twenty-three of these 25 cities currently have Democratic mayors, and two cities, Miami, Florida, and San Diego, California, have Republican mayors.
Of the top 10 largest cities in the country, seven have adopted climate action plans: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Jose. Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are the largest cities without climate action plans, although all three cities have plans in progress.
Almost all of the cities with climate action plans are members of at least one climate association, such as 100 Resilient Cities, Climate Mayors, or C40 Cities.

Murphy defeats Thomas in NC-03 special election

State Rep. Greg Murphy (R) defeated Allen Thomas (D), Tim Harris (L), and Greg Holt (Constitution Party) in the special election for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 10, 2019. Murphy received 60.6% of the vote to Thomas’ 38.6% with 82% of precincts reporting, in addition to early voting results.
The special election was called after former incumbent Rep. Walter Jones (R) died on February 10, 2019.
Murphy campaigned on his support of President Trump and highlighted his work as a physician and state legislator. Thomas emphasized economic development, small-town revitalization, and improving access to healthcare in his campaign.
According to campaign finance reports through August 21, Murphy raised $902,000 and spent $803,000, and Thomas raised $565,000 and spent $476,000. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won the district with 61% of the vote.

NC-03 and NC-09 special elections set for September 10: A look at early voting so far

Special elections will take place in North Carolina’s 3rd and 9th Congressional Districts on Tuesday, September 10. These are the final two of three special U.S. House elections in 2019. Early voting began August 21 and was scheduled to end September 6, although many polling locations have been closed due to Hurricane Dorian. Here’s a look at each race and the early voting numbers so far.
Dan Bishop (R), Dan McCready (D), Jeff Scott (L), and Allen Smith (G) are running in the special election for North Carolina’s 9th District. The election was called after the state board of elections did not certify the results from the 2018 race following an investigation into allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
As of September 3—the 14th day of the 17-day early voting stretch— 54,372 ballots had been accepted, including mail-in absentee and in-person early ballots. That’s half of the total that had been accepted on the 14th day of early voting in the district during the 2018 election. Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College, attributes part of the discrepancy to the Labor Day holiday. In 2018, 156,935 absentee and early ballots were counted.
Bishop, a state senator, says he has a conservative record in the state legislature and has sought to connect McCready with Democrats in Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar, who Bishop calls radical socialists. McCready says he’d seek bipartisan legislation on healthcare, education, and taxes in the House. He has campaigned on his plan to lower prescription drug prices and criticized Bishop’s voting record on the issue.
In 2018, Republican candidate Mark Harris was 905 votes ahead of McCready, who also ran last year, in the unofficial vote count. Three polls for the special election have shown Bishop and McCready tied within margins of error. Donald Trump (R) won the district by 12 points in the 2016 presidential election.
The special election has drawn endorsements from prominent national figures and $8 million in ad spending from satellite groups, including $2.6 million from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and $1.2 million from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned for Bishop in the state, and former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed McCready.
Greg Murphy (R), Allen Thomas (D), Tim Harris (L), and Greg Holt (Constitution Party) are running in the special election for North Carolina’s 3rd District. The special election was called after former incumbent Rep. Walter Jones (R) died earlier this year. Jones first took office in 1995.
As of August 28, 2019, 14,349 ballots had been cast, including mail-in absentee and in-person early ballots. In the November 6, 2018, uncontested election for the same seat, 94,458 total early and absentee ballots were counted.
Murphy has campaigned on his support of President Trump and has described himself as a consistent conservative. He has highlighted his work as a doctor and state legislator. Thomas has emphasized economic development, small-town revitalization, and improving access to healthcare in his campaign.
In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won the district with 61 percent of the vote.

What you need to know about term limits in the 2019 gubernatorial elections

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are holding elections for governor in November 2019. All three states have gubernatorial term limits, but only Mississippi’s incumbent is prevented from running for re-election this year. Thirty-six states have some type of gubernatorial term limit.
Kentucky limits governors from serving more than two consecutive terms. Kentucky’s constitution states, “The Governor shall be ineligible for the succeeding four years after the expiration of any second consecutive term for which he shall have been elected” (Section 71). Incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) was elected in 2015 and is running for re-election on November 5, 2019, after advancing from the Republican primary on May 21, 2019.
Louisiana also limits governors from serving more than two consecutive terms. Louisiana’s constitution says, “A person who has served as governor for more than one and one-half terms in two consecutive terms shall not be elected governor for the succeeding term” (Section IV, Section 3b). Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) was elected in 2015 and is running for re-election in the Louisiana primary on October 12, 2019. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, a general election will be held on November 16, 2019.
Mississippi, on the other hand, limits governors from serving more than two terms in their lifetime. Mississippi’s constitution states, “Any person elected to the office of Governor shall be eligible to succeed himself in office. However, no person shall be elected to the office of Governor more than twice, and no person who has held the office of Governor or has acted as Governor for more than two (2) years of a term to which another person was elected shall be elected to the office of Governor more than once” (Article 5, Section 116). Incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015, making him ineligible to run for re-election. Mississippi’s Republican and Democratic primaries were held on August 6, 2019. The Republican primary runoff was held on August 27, 2019, and the general election is scheduled for November 5, 2019.

Early voting begins in NC-03 special election

The special election for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District will be held on September 10, 2019. Early voting began on Wednesday, August 21, and will continue through September 6. The district’s former incumbent, Rep. Walter Jones (R), died earlier this year. Greg Murphy (R), Allen Thomas (D), Tim Harris (L), and Greg Holt (Constitution Party) are running for the seat.
Murphy, who defeated Joan Perry in the Republican primary runoff on July 9, has campaigned on his support of President Donald Trump (R) and has described himself as a consistent conservative. He has highlighted his work as a doctor and state legislator.
Thomas won the April 30 Democratic primary and has emphasized economic development, small-town revitalization, and improving access to healthcare.
The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+12, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 12 percentage points more Republican than the national average. This made North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District the 108th-most Republican nationally.

This time next year, we will be between Democratic and Republican National Conventions

In just under a year, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will hold its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from July 13-16, 2020. A little over a month later, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, from August 24-27, 2020. At both conventions, delegates will select their party’s presidential nominee and vote to adopt a platform outlining the party’s priorities and values.
Between now and then, Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses will be held across the country, with the first caucus event taking place in Iowa on February 3, 2020. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will also hold primaries in February.
Super Tuesday, the day when the largest number of states and territories hold a presidential primary or caucus, will be March 3, 2020. States with more than one-third of the U.S. population are expected to vote on Super Tuesday.
The last primary elections will be held at the beginning of June 2020.