Madison Adkins

Madison Adkins is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Oklahoma governor appoints new state attorney general

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed John O’Connor (R) as the state’s attorney general on July 23. O’Connor was sworn in on the same day for a term expiring in 2023.

O’Connor succeeded former attorney general Mike Hunter (R), who resigned on June 1. Hunter had served as the attorney general since 2017.

O’Connor has worked as an attorney in private practice and served on the Board of Trustees of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. Trump nominated O’Connor to a split seat on the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma on April 10, 2018. The U.S. Senate did not confirm O’Connor during the 115th Congress, and O’Connor withdrew his name from consideration for re-nomination by the next Congress on Apr. 12, 2019.

The Oklahoma Attorney General is an elected executive position in state government. The attorney general serves as the state’s chief legal officer and prosecutes violations of state law, represents the state in legal disputes and issues legal advice to state agencies and the legislature.

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Attorney General of Oklahoma

United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma 

Federal judges nominated by Donald Trump

New Jersey state Sen. Chris Brown resigns to take new role in Murphy administration

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed state Sen. Chris Brown (R) to a position in the Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services on July 19. The position required Brown to leave the state Senate. Brown started his new job on July 20.

Brown first won election to the Senate to represent District 2 on Nov. 7, 2017, defeating incumbent Colin Bell (D) 53.52% to 46.48%. Brown had announced in February that he would not seek re-election.

Vacancies in the New Jersey Legislature are filled by interim appointment by the county leadership of the party that last controlled the district. 

The New Jersey Senate is the upper chamber of the state legislature. Currently, there are 25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and one vacancy in the Senate.

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Louisiana Rep. Malinda White leaves Democratic Party

Louisiana state Rep. Malinda White switched from the Democratic Party to no party on July 1. According to the Advocate, White said, “this decision came after many years of consideration for the people I represent. It was not a snap decision but one I have struggled with for a while.”

White was first elected to House District 75 in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019.

Of the 105 members in the Louisiana House, 33 are Democrats, 68 are Republicans, 3 are independents, and one seat is vacant.

Ballotpedia has been tracking state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. White is the thirteenth state legislator in Louisiana we’ve identified that has switched parties and the only one to switch to independent. The other 12 legislators switched to the Republican party.

Nationwide, Ballotpedia has identified 22 state legislators who have switched from the Democratic Party to independent since 1994.

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State legislators who have switched political party affiliation

Louisiana House of Representatives

Louisiana House of Representatives District 75

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retires

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retired on June 30. She joined the court in 2012 after winning election to an open seat on the court against Paul J. Kennedy, 55% to 45%. Vigil won a retention election for a full eight-year term in 2016, with 72% of voters retaining her. Before that, Vigil served for 12 years as a New Mexico First Judicial District Court judge.

In the event of a midterm vacancy, New Mexico Supreme Court justices are chosen by assisted gubernatorial appointment, which means that the governor will select a nominee based on recommendations from the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. To remain in office, the new appointee must stand for partisan election in November 2022 and retention election in 2024. 

All five New Mexico Supreme Court justices have been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor. Vigil’s replacement will be Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) fourth nominee to the five-member supreme court, and Chief Justice Michael Vigil (no relation) was elected as a Democrat.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies caused by retirements in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

Ohio House of Representatives expels former speaker Larry Householder

The Ohio House of Representatives voted 75-21 on June 16 to expel former House Speaker Larry Householder (R).

Householder was arrested on July 21, 2020, and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. He allegedly participated in a $60 million bribery case related to the legislative passage of a $1.5 billion funding bill for two nuclear power plants. Four other people, including former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, were also arrested.

“I have not nor have I ever taken a bribe or solicited or been solicited for taking a bribe,” Householder said. Majority leader Bill Seitz (R) defended Householder, saying, “There is no evidence against Larry Householder, only allegations.”

Minority leader Emilia Sykes (D) said in a statement, “There’s no enjoyment in today’s news which will no doubt lead to the further deterioration of the public’s trust in our institutions.”

Householder previously served in the House from 1997 to 2004 and was again elected to represent District 72 in 2016. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2019.

Householder is the fourth state legislator to be removed from office so far in 2021. In 2020, only one legislator was removed from office.

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Federal judge rules California’s ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional

Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez ruled on June 4 that California’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned all assault weapons in California, violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and unlawfully restricts the kinds of firearms protected under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings. ​He wrote, “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 was California’s first assault weapons act. It defined an assault weapon as any firearm specified in Penal Code 12276 and made it illegal for such firearms to be sold, purchased, manufactured, distributed, or imported. The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in Kasler v. Lockyer in 2000.

The current case originated in 2019, when James Miller, a state resident, and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee, filed a lawsuit against then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statement in response to the judge’s ruling, saying, “Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”

To read the full ruling, click here.

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Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigns as Texas Secretary of State

Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as Texas secretary of state effective May 31, after the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate did not take up her nomination for another term.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Hughs on August 19, 2019, to succeed David Whitley after he did not receive enough confirmation votes from the state Senate to remain in office. Hughs previously served as the chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas secretary serves as the chief election officer for Texas, assists election officials at the county level, and ensures that election laws are uniformly throughout Texas. Additionally, the secretary publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public.

Texas is one of nine states where the governor selects the secretary of state. So far, Gov. Abbott has appointed four secretaries of state.

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Tennessee Representative Mike Carter dies

Tennessee state Representative Mike Carter (R) died from pancreatic cancer on May 15, 2021.

Carter first won election to the 29th District on Nov. 6, 2012. He was subsequently re-elected four times, most recently in 2020. 

Governor Bill Lee (R) said in a post on Twitter, “I will miss Mike Carter who was a leader, friend and brother in Christ. Maria and I pray for the Carter family and we give thanks for his life.”

Tennessee uses special elections to fill vacancies in the legislature when 12 months or more remain in an unfilled term. However, the legislative body in the county where the vacancy occurred may also appoint an interim officeholder until the special election is held.

This is the sixth vacancy in 2021 caused by the death of a serving legislator. So far this year, there have been 48 vacancies in 28 state legislatures. Twenty-nine (29) of those vacancies have been filled.

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Annette Ziegler becomes chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Annette Ziegler became chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on May 1, beginning a two-year term in that role. Ziegler succeeds Patience Roggensack, who had served as chief justice since April 2015.

Ziegler was first elected to the court in 2007. She previously served as a Washington County Circuit Court judge, becoming the first female judge in that county.

Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan. Ballotpedia’s State Court Partisanship Study identifies Ziegler as a mild Republican.

Until 2015, the justice with the longest continuous service on the Wisconsin Supreme Court served as the chief justice, unless that justice declined (in which case the role passed to the next senior justice of the court). Voters passed a state constitutional amendment in April of that year that changed the selection method to a vote by current justices. 

Chief justices in Wisconsin and 22 other states are selected by chamber vote. Fourteen (14) states select chief justices by appointment, seven by popular vote, and six by seniority.

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Aaron von Ehlinger resigns from Idaho House of Representatives

Idaho state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger resigned on April 29 after the Idaho House Ethics and Policy Committee found his “conduct unbecoming” of a representative and voted unanimously to recommend his immediate suspension and expulsion from the House. 

Von Ehlinger said in his resignation letter, “I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing of which I have been accused in this matter, let alone any violation of any law, rule, or policy of the state of Idaho or of this body.”

Representative Wendy Horman (R) said, “His behavior has poisoned the reputation of all of us and tarnished and discredited other elected officials who serve.”

Von Ehlinger was appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives to represent District 6A by Gov. Brad Little (R) on June 3, 2020.

If there is a vacancy in the Idaho State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 15 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.

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