Author

Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at kate.carsella@ballotpedia.org.

New federal court vacancy after judge assumes senior status

On October 15, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen assumed senior status in the District of Minnesota, which created a vacancy on that court. Ericksen had first joined the court in 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush (R).
 
As of October 18, there were 98 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of 870 total Article III judgeships, and there were 37 presidential nominees awaiting a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another 15 nominees were awaiting a committee vote, and 23 other nominees were awaiting a confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate.
 
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota now has six active Article III judges:
 
  • John Tunheim – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Patrick Schiltz – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
  • Susan Richard Nelson – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Wilhelmina M. Wright – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Nancy E. Brasel – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
  • Eric Tostrud – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
 
The court has eight judges on senior status, including Ericksen. The other seven judges on senior status are:
 
  • Michael James Davis – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Richard Kyle – nominated by President George H.W. Bush (R)
  • David Doty – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Paul Magnuson – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Donovan Frank – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Ann Montgomery – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Donald Alsop – nominated by President Richard Nixon (R)
 
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota is one of 94 United States district courts, which are the general trial courts of the nation’s federal court system and where both civil and criminal cases are filed. The District of Minnesota’s main courthouse is based in Minneapolis.
 


California school board recall election does not go to vote

A recall effort seeking to remove three of the Antelope Valley Union High School District board of trustees’ five members did not go to a vote in 2019. In order for the recall to be included on the ballot, supporters were required to submit petitions with the signatures of 25,000 registered voters from the three trustee areas to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk by October 1, 2019. In total, 12,000 recall petition signatures were collected across the three trustee areas.
 
The recall effort targeting board President Robert Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell was initiated in April 2019. The filed notice of intent cited concerns regarding personnel, spending, and relationships with community members. In response to the effort, Davis said he believed the board was on track with its new vision and that change can be hard to accept. Ruffin said that she believed district residents were troubled by the board’s efforts to shed light on issues.
 
The notice of intent to circulate recall petitions was filed with the county on April 15, 2019, and the county approved the petitions for circulation on June 3, 2019. To trigger the recall election, Davis’ petition required 7,964 signatures by registered voters in his trustee area, Parrell’s required 6,833 signatures, and Ruffin’s required 7,388 signatures.
 
Ballotpedia has tracked 17 school board recall efforts targeting 41 board members in 2019. One recall effort against two board members was on the ballot on February 19, 2019. A second recall election against three board members was held on August 27, 2019. A third recall election against one member will be held on November 5, 2019, and a fourth recall election against one member will be held on December 10, 2019.
 
In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 
 


Special district spotlight: Miami-Dade County, Florida

The South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District is a special district in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Special districts are a form of municipal government created to fulfill a specific, stated purpose within a certain geographic area and are empowered to tax residents in order to fund operational expenditures. Common examples of special districts include airport, conservation, fire control, flood control, hospital, library, sanitation, transportation, and utility districts.
 
The South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District was established by the Florida Legislature with a mission to administer programs for soil conservation and for water quality and quantity improvement. The District is responsible for overseeing water and environmental conservation projects in Miami-Dade County.
 
The board has five members who supervise the district’s work and revenue sources. Each board member represents a geographical district within the county, distinguished by five “Group” seats. The office is nonpartisan and members are elected to a four-year term. As of October 2019, current officeholder details are as follows:
 
• Lovey Clayton is the Group 1 member. Clayton assumed office in 2019 for a term ending on January 3, 2023.
• Thomas Davenport is the Group 2 member. Davenport assumed office in 2017 for a term ending on January 5, 2021.
• Jeremy Weinstock is the Group 3 member. Weinstock assumed office in 2019 for a term ending January 3, 2023.
• S. Cooper McMillan is the Group 4 member. McMillan assumed office in 2017 for a term ending January 5, 2021.
• The Group 5 seat is currently vacant.
 
The board’s Group 2, 4, and 5 seats are scheduled for election on November 3, 2020. The election for Group 5 will cover an unexpired term ending in 2023. The candidate filing period for the election begins on June 8, 2020, and ends at noon on June 12, 2020.
 


At-large results certified in Nashville council runoff

Four out of five at-large seats on the Nashville Metro Council were on the ballot in a nonpartisan runoff election held on September 12. Eight of the 15 general election candidates had advanced to the runoff; after the vote totals were certified, the four seats were ultimately won by three incumbents and one challenger.
 
Incumbents Burkley Allen, Sharon Hurt, and Steve Glover were re-elected to new four-year terms. Hurt received 15.3%, Allen received 13.2%, and Glover received 13.1% of the vote. Challenger Zulfat Suara was also elected to the council with 13.0% of the vote. The four runoff candidates who lost were incumbent Fabian Bedne (11.3%) and challengers Sheri Weiner (12.6%), Howard Jones (11.5%), and Gary Moore (9.6%). The fifth at-large seat was previously won in the August general election by incumbent Bob Mendes.
 
Races for city council seats in Districts 2, 7, 13, 16, 21, 23, 26, and 30 also advanced to a runoff on September 12. The Nashville Metro Council has 35 district seats and five at-large seats. It also includes Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, who won re-election in the August general election with 80.5% of the vote.
 
Nashville is the largest city in Tennessee and the 25th-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 


One school board seat up for election in West Ada, Idaho, after other two races canceled

In Idaho, the West Ada School District was originally scheduled to hold a general election for three of its five school board seats on November 5, 2019. However, elections for two of the seats were canceled after only the incumbents filed to run.
 
Consequently, Zone 4 incumbent Phillip Neuhoff and Zone 5 incumbent Rene Ozuna won new terms by default. The Zone 2 race, which features incumbent Mike Vuittonet and challenger Amy Johnson, is still on the November 5 ballot. The candidate filing deadline passed on September 6 for this election.
 
Members of the West Ada school board are elected by district to four-year terms. Staggered elections are held every odd-numbered year with two seats on the ballot in 2013 and 2017 and the other three seats on the ballot in 2015 and 2019. In 2016, a recall election was held targeting the board members from Zones 1, 3, and 5; all three were successfully recalled.
 
The West Ada School District, which is also referred to as Joint School District No. 2 and was previously known as the Meridian School District, served 36,804 students during the 2014-2015 school year. This made it the largest district by student enrollment in the state of Idaho.
 


16 Colorado school districts holding nonpartisan elections for 47 seats

Seventy candidates filed to run for 47 school board seats up for nonpartisan election across 16 Colorado school districts in 2019. Of those, 10 races for seats on five school boards were canceled due to lack of opposition. The unopposed candidates automatically won and will be sworn in after the general election on November 5. The filing deadline for school board elections in Colorado was August 30.
 
Fifteen incumbents filed for re-election, while 22 races had no incumbent candidate file. The term length for board members is four years in each of the school districts holding elections.
 
The largest Colorado school district covered by Ballotpedia and holding elections in 2019 is Denver Public Schools. The district served 91,138 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


Mississippi candidate petitioning judge for special re-election after 1-vote margin race

On August 6, Mississippi held its statewide primary. In the Republican primary for the District 50 seat in the state Senate, candidate Scott DeLano’s vote totals initially led his opponent’s, Dixie Newman. However, after the affidavit ballots were counted, Newman took the lead with one vote. This one-vote lead persisted after the results were certified and a recount was conducted.
 
On September 3, the Republican Executive Committee of Harrison County, Mississippi, met to consider a petition filed by DeLano that contested the certified results and claimed that not all votes cast in the district were counted. The committee stated that it did not have the power to call a new special election, but it did vote to allow DeLano to petition a judge for a special election in five of the district’s 16 precincts. If the judge orders a new election, any registered voter in the five precincts would be eligible to vote.
 
In a Facebook post, DeLano wrote, “Both candidates have agreed to re-voting in the five split precincts. The actions of today will require a petition to the court and a special judge will have to be appointed. The date of a special election will be determined after the court hearing. We are committed, as we have always been, to see this through. We are pleased that the voice of the voters will be heard.”
 
Newman wrote in a Facebook post, “I won the primary election. I was still ahead after the recount/certification. Today, the Harrison County Republican Executive Committee took no action on Mr. DeLano’s petition for a new election. I understand that he will continue his quest to overturn this election through the courts. However, I am continuing to prepare myself to represent the voters of Senate District 50 when the Legislature convenes in January.”
 
In District 50, incumbent Tommy Gollott (R) did not file for re-election and retired before the end of his term on July 1, 2019. The filing deadline for candidates passed on March 1, and the general election for this race was canceled since no Democratic candidates filed to run for the seat. The winner of the Republican primary will automatically win the District 50 seat.
 
Entering the election, the Mississippi State Senate had 18 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and three vacancies. All 52 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 27 seats. Mississippi has had a Republican trifecta since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
Mississippi is also holding elections for governor and all 122 state House seats in 2019. The general election date is November 5.
 


One-vote victory margin challenged in Mississippi State Senate primary

On August 6, Mississippi held its statewide primary. In the Republican primary for the District 50 seat in the state Senate, candidate Scott DeLano’s vote totals initially led his opponent’s, Dixie Newman. After the affidavit ballots were counted, Newman took the lead with one vote. The totals were then certified and the primary was called in favor of Newman, but DeLano contested the results. Following a recount, the results were upheld with the one-vote margin intact.
 
On August 26, DeLano filed a petition with the Republican County Executive Committee of Harrison County, Mississippi, officially contesting the certified race results. He cited his concern that not all votes cast in the district were counted. DeLano stated his intention to take his case to the circuit court if the committee did not rule on the matter.
 
After the recount’s results were announced, Newman wrote on her campaign’s Facebook page, “We have now completed the recount of votes and this process has proven there was no tampering with the election and the numbers still have me in the lead. Thank you to our Circuit Clerk, Connie Ladner and her office for conducting a seamless and thorough process. Now, we can all rest assured.”
 
In District 50, incumbent Tommy Gollott (R) did not file for re-election and retired before the end of his term on July 1, 2019. The filing deadline for candidates passed on March 1, 2019, and the general election for this race was canceled since no Democratic candidates filed to run for the seat. The winner of the Republican primary will automatically win the District 50 seat.
 
Entering the election, the Mississippi State Senate had 18 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and three vacancies. All 52 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 27 seats. Mississippi has had a Republican trifecta since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
Mississippi is also holding elections for governor and all 122 state House seats in 2019. The general election date is November 5.
 


Primary results certified in Seattle races

In Washington state, vote totals for Seattle and King County’s nonpartisan primaries were certified on August 20. The primaries were held on August 6, but the state uses a vote-by-mail system that delayed when the results would be counted and finalized.
 
The primaries included seven of Seattle’s nine city council seats, two of nine King County Council seats, and two of five Port of Seattle Commission positions. The general election is scheduled for November 5, 2019.
 
Here are the results of the Seattle City Council primaries:
 
District 1: Incumbent Lisa Herbold, first elected in 2015, advanced to the general election with 50.6% of the vote. Attorney Phil Tavel advanced with 32.3%.
District 2: Community organizer Tammy Morales and Seattle Police Department crime prevention coordinator Mark Solomon advanced to the general election with 50.1% and 23.2% of the vote, respectively. Incumbent and council president Bruce Harrell did not file to run for re-election.
District 3: Incumbent Kshama Sawant, first elected in 2013, advanced to the general election with 36.7% of the vote, as did Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director Egan Orion, who received 21.5% of the vote.
District 4: Alex Pedersen, who previously worked as a legislative aide for former councilmember Tim Burgess, and journalist Shaun Scott advanced to the general election with 40.4% and 23.3% of the vote, respectively. Incumbent Abel Pacheco did not file to run for a full term on the council.
District 5: Incumbent Debora Juarez, first elected in 2015, advanced to the general election with 45.1% of the vote, and attorney Ann Davison Sattler advanced with 26.7% of the vote.
District 6: Dan Strauss, policy advisor to councilmember Sally Bagshaw, advanced to the general with 34.1% of the vote, and former councilmember Heidi Wills advanced with 21.2%. Incumbent Mike O’Brien did not file to run for re-election.
District 7: Assistant City Attorney Andrew Lewis advanced to the general with 31.7% of the vote, as did former Police Chief Jim Pugel with 24.8% of the vote. Incumbent Sally Bagshaw did not file to run for re-election.
 
Here are the results of the other four primaries:
 
King County Council District 2: Incumbent Larry Gossett, last elected in 2015, advanced to the general election with 36.7% of the vote, as did Girmay Zahilay with 56.1% of the vote.
King County Council District 8: Incumbent Joe McDermott, last elected in 2015, advanced with 83.9% of the vote, along with Michael Robert Neher, with 11.0%.
Port of Seattle Commission Position 2: Sam Cho advanced to the general with 31.1% of the vote, and Grant Degginger advanced with 24.5%. Incumbent Courtney Gregoire did not file to run for re-election.
Port of Seattle Commission Position 5: Incumbent Fred Felleman, last elected in 2015, advanced to the general with 72.4% of the vote, as did Garth Jacobson with 20.0% of the vote.
 
Primaries were canceled for two King County Council seats, assessor, elections director, superior court judgeships, and special district races since two or fewer candidates filed to run per position.
 
Seattle is the largest city in Washington state and the 22nd-largest city in the U.S. by population. King County had a population of 2,149,970 in 2013, according to the United States Census Bureau.
 
 


Trump announces intent to nominate law professor to federal court

On August 14, 2019, President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to nominate Richard Myers II to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Myers was nominated to succeed Judge Malcolm Howard, who assumed senior status on December 31, 2005. There is one current vacancy out of the court’s four judicial positions.
 
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has three active Article III judges:
• Chief Judge Terrence Boyle – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
• Louise Flanagan – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
• James Dever – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
 
The court’s two judges on senior status are:
• Malcolm Howard – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
• Earl Britt – nominated by President Jimmy Carter (D)
 
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is one of 94 United States district courts. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals based in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
 


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