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Madison Adkins

Madison Adkins is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Three state legislators switch parties in December

Ballotpedia has identified three state legislators who switched their party affiliation in December. One switched from Democrat to independent, one from Republican to Libertarian, and one from Democrat to Republican. 

• On Dec. 7, Georgia Rep. Valencia Stovall announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Independent party. In a Facebook post, Stovall cited misleading, disruptive behavior from both parties during the Nov. 3, 2020 election as her reasons for switching.

• On Dec. 11, West Virginia Rep. Jason Barrett announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republican Party. After changing his party affiliation at the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, Barrett said, “For me to be able to be the most effective legislator I can be and really move good policy forward in West Virginia, I think that joining the Republican Party in West Virginia is a way to do that.”

• On Dec. 14, Maine Rep. John Andrews announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and joining the Libertarian Party of Maine. In a Facebook post on Dec. 12, Andrews cited House minority leader Kathleen Jackson Dillingham as his reason for leaving the party, saying, “My leaving the Republican party is a direct reflection of Kathleen Dillingham’s lack of leadership and vindictive nature. The House GOP is in severe lack of leadership.”

Ballotpedia also identified two state legislators—David Tomassoni and Thomas Bakk—who switched their partisan affiliation In November. Both are Minnesota state senators who left the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to form an independent caucus. Both senators cited extreme partisanship at the national and state level and a desire to work across the aisle.

Since 1994, Ballotpedia has identified 131 legislators—37 state senators and 94 state representatives—who switched parties. Seventy-two switched from Democrat to Republican, 19 switched from Republican to Democrat, and the remainder switched to or from independent or other parties.

The map below shows the number of party switches by state. The most party switches took place in Mississippi, which had 15 state legislators switch parties since 1994. Thirteen Democrats switched to the Republican party, and two Democrats became independents.

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Kansas governor announces appointment of new lieutenant governor after current LG becomes treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced on Dec. 14 that she would appoint David Toland to the position of lieutenant governor to fill the vacancy created by her appointment of Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) as state treasurer. Toland will take office after Rogers is sworn in as treasurer on Jan. 2, 2021.

Toland is currently the secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, and he will continue to serve in that position while taking on the duties of lieutenant governor. Rogers will serve as treasurer until 2022, when all elected state executive offices, including the governor, are up for election. Kelly’s appointments of Toland and Rogers do not require state legislative confirmation.

Toland will be the 52nd person to serve as Kansas’ lieutenant governor. Of the previous five officeholders dating back to 2007, two were gubernatorial appointees, and three were elected. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist. 

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Kansas governor appoints Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to become state treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced Dec. 10 that she will appoint Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) to the position of state treasurer to fill the vacancy created by Jacob LaTurner’s (R) election to the U.S. House. Rogers will be sworn in on Jan. 2, 2021, and will serve until the position is up for election in 2022.

Rogers was elected as lieutenant governor on Nov. 6, 2018. He also served in the Kansas State Senate from 2017 to 2019, representing District 25. 

Former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appointed LaTurner to the position of state treasurer in April 2017. LaTurner will represent Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House when he is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist.



Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell retires

On Nov. 18, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell retired, citing family obligations and a desire to return to private practice. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) appointed Blackwell to the court in June 2012 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of George H. Carley. Before serving on the supreme court, Blackwell served on the Georgia Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2012.

Blackwell first announced his retirement on Feb. 28, 2020. Following the announcement, the Georgia Supreme Court announced that the governor would appoint Blackwell’s replacement.

Former Congressman John Barrow (D) and former state Representative Beth Beskin (R), who both planned to run for Blackwell’s seat, challenged the appointment in court. They argued that the vacancy should instead be filled by a special election. The state supreme court ruled in a 6-2 opinion on May 14 that the secretary of state could not be compelled to hold the election.

On March 27, 2020, the Georgia JNC recommended four candidates to the governor to fill the vacancy. Three of the candidates are superior court justices; one is a justice on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Gov. Brian Kemp will select Blackwell’s replacement from this list. This will be his second appointment to the supreme court.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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President Trump names Christopher C. Miller acting secretary of defense

President Donald Trump (R) announced that Christopher C. Miller would be acting U.S. Secretary of Defense on Monday, following the termination of Mark Esper. 

Christopher C. Miller had been serving as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center since Aug. 10, 2020. Miller previously served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council from 2018 to 2019. 

Mark Esper had served as the secretary of defense since July 23, 2019, until his termination on Nov. 9, 2020. Trump nominated Esper to the position on July 15, 2019, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him by a vote of 90-8.

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Andy King expelled from New York City Council

The New York City Council voted 48-2 on October 5 to expel Councilman Andy King (D) for harassment and discrimination, conflicts of interest, disorderly conduct, and other violations. King represented the 12th district and was first elected in 2012.

A two-thirds vote is required to expel a city council member. The city council press office confirmed that this is the first time a council member has been voted off the council without a criminal conviction. King filed a lawsuit on October 5 in federal court challenging his expulsion.

The council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics had previously brought ethics investigations against King in February 2018 and in October 2019. The 2019 proceeding resulted in a 30-day suspension for King and a $15,000 fine. The council vote to expel King in that matter was defeated, 34-12.

In a statement, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “I agree with the recommendations of the Standard and Ethics Committee. Council Member King should be expelled from office. This is not a decision to be made lightly, but Council Member King has given us no alternative.”

King’s attorney filed suit against the council in federal court on October 5, 2020. King said, “Plaintiff is the first in the history of the New York City Council to be expelled without a separate concurrent criminal conviction.”

The New York City Council is composed of 51 members. The current partisan composition is 46 Democrats and three Republicans with two vacancies. The city’s charter requires Mayor Bill de Blasio to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy left by King.

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