Author

Mandy Gillip

Mandy Gillip is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Spring elections held in Wisconsin

The statewide nonpartisan general election for Wisconsin was held on April 6. The primary was held on February 16, and the filing deadline to run passed on January 5. Candidates ran in elections for special elections in the Wisconsin State Legislature, three judgeships on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and in municipal and school board elections.

Wisconsin State Legislature

• State Senate District 13: John Jagler (R) defeated four candidates to win the special election, winning 51.2% of the total (37,385) reported votes. The seat became vacant after incumbent officeholder Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House to represent Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District on Nov. 3. Fitzgerald vacated his seat on Jan. 1.

• State Assembly District 89: Elijah Behnke (R) defeated challenger Karl Jaeger (D) to win the special election. Behnke received 60.3% of the total (8,413) votes, while Jaeger received 39.7% of the votes. The seat became vacant on Dec. 2, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals

• In District 1, Judge Maxine A. White won re-election unopposed.

• In District 2, Judge Jeffrey Davis was defeated by challenger Shelley Grogan.

• In District 3, newcomer Greg Gill Jr. defeated Rick Cveykus.

Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas:

• Dane County and Milwaukee County

• The cities of Madison and Milwaukee

• DeForest Area School District

• Madison Metropolitan School District

• McFarland School District

• Middleton-Cross Plains School District

• Milwaukee Public Schools

• Sun Prairie Area School District

• Verona Area School District

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Chief Judge Timothy Stanceu to assume senior status in April 2021

Chief Judge Timothy Stanceu of the United States Court of International Trade announced that he will assume senior status on April 5, 2021. Stanceu joined the court in 2003 after being nominated by President George W. Bush (R). He became the chief judge on July 1, 2014. 

Stanceu graduated from Colgate University with his bachelor’s degree in 1973 and received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1979. Prior to joining the court, Stanceu served as a private practice attorney and on multiple government councils.

The United States Court of International Trade is an Article III federal court. The Customs Court Act of 1980 replaced the former United States Customs Court with the United States Court of International Trade. The court sits in New York City, although it is authorized to sit elsewhere, including in foreign nations.

As of March 10, 2021, there were 70 vacancies out of 890 active federal judicial positions. Of those, 67 were for Article III life-term judgeships.

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Filing deadline passed Feb. 11 for special election in California Assembly district

Candidates interested in running in the special election for California State Assembly District 79 had until February 11, 2021, to file. The primary election is scheduled for April 6, and the general election is scheduled for June 8.

The special election was called after Shirley Weber (D) left office due to her appointment as California Secretary of State by Gov. Gavin Newson (D). The previous secretary of state—Alex Padilla (D)—resigned following his appointment to the United States Senate. Newsom formally appointed Weber to the office on January 18, and the California legislature unanimously confirmed Weber as the first Black person to hold this position on January 28. Weber served in the state assembly from 2012 until she was sworn in as secretary of state on January 29.

As of February 2021, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Oklahoma school districts to hold primary elections on Feb. 9

The nonpartisan primary election for school board seats in Oklahoma is on February 9, 2021. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for April 6, 2021. The filing deadline passed on December 9, 2020.

Five school districts within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope are holding primary elections for five seats. In Oklahoma, school districts cancel primary elections if fewer than three candidates file to run for each seat up for election, and the candidates automatically advance to the general election. Both the primary and general elections are canceled if only one candidate files for a seat up for election, and the unopposed candidate is automatically elected. The following school districts are holding primary elections:

• Edmond Public Schools

• Owasso Public Schools

• Putnam City Schools

• Tulsa Public schools

• Oklahoma City Public Schools

In all, a total of 33 school board seats across 26 Oklahoma school districts covered by Ballotpedia are up for election in 2021.

The largest school district covered by Ballotpedia and holding elections in Oklahoma in 2021 is Oklahoma City Public Schools. The district served 39,806 students during the 2016-2017 school year.

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Oklahoma school board candidates vie for 33 seats in 2021

On December 9, 2020, the filing deadline passed to run for 33 school board seats across 26 school districts covered by Ballotpedia in Oklahoma. Of the 58 candidates who filed in these school board races, 24 are incumbents seeking re-election to their seats. 

The primary is scheduled for February 9, 2021, and the general election is scheduled for April 6, 2021. In Oklahoma, school districts cancel primary elections if fewer than three candidates file to run for each seat up for election, and the candidates automatically advance to the general election. Both the primary and general elections are canceled if only one candidate files for a seat up for election, and the unopposed candidate is automatically elected. 

The largest school district covered by Ballotpedia and holding elections in Oklahoma in 2021 is Oklahoma City Public Schools. The district served 39,806 students during the 2016-2017 school year.

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Thomas Kirsch confirmed to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

The U.S. Senate confirmed nominee Thomas Kirsch to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. He was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump (R) on November 16, 2020, and confirmed by a 51-44 vote of the U.S. Senate on December 15, 2020. He will join the court upon receiving his judicial commission and taking his judicial oath. He replaces judge Amy Coney Barrett. 

Kirsch previously served as the United States attorney for the Northern District of Indiana from 2017 to 2020.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 232 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—three Supreme Court justices, 54 appellate court judges, 172 district court judges, and three U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

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Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice to retire in June 2021

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger is retiring on June 30, 2021. Bolger’s replacement will be Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) second nominee to the five-member supreme court.

Bolger joined the Alaska Supreme Court in 2013. He was appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell (R) to succeed Justice Walter Carpeneti. He became chief justice of the court in July 2018. Bolger is the only justice to have served on every level in the Alaska state court system. Before joining the Alaska Supreme Court, Bolger was a judge on the Alaska Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2013, the Kodiak Superior Court from 2003 to 2008, and the Valdez District Court from 1997 to 2003. Bolger received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Iowa in 1976 and his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1978.

Under Alaska law, state supreme court justices are selected by the governor with help from a seven-member nominating commission. The commission provides a list of two or more candidates to the governor, who must choose from that list. New justices serve an initial term of at least three years, after which the justice must stand for retention in a yes-no election to remain on the bench. Subsequent terms last 10 years. The chief justice of the supreme court is selected by peer vote and serves a three-year term.

In addition to Chief Justice Bolger, the Alaska Supreme Court currently includes the following justices:

  • Daniel Winfree – Appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin (R) in 2008
  • Peter Maassen – Appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell (R) in 2012
  • Susan Carney – Appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell (R) in 2012
  • Dario Borghesan – Appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) in 2020

In 2021, there will be three supreme court vacancies in two of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies are due to retirements. One vacancy—South Dakota—is in a state where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. The second vacancy—Colorado—is in a state where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement, and the vacancy in Alaska is in a state where a Republican governor appoints the replacement.

In 2020, there have been 23 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, one vacancy occurred when a justice was not retained, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Johnson, Beaton receive judicial commission as U.S. District Court judges

On December 1, 2020, Kristi Johnson received her judicial commission to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. On the same date, Benjamin Beaton received his judicial commission to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. 

Johnson was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump (R) on May 4, 2020, to succeed Judge Keith Starrett, who assumed senior status on April 30, 2019. Johnson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 17, 2020, by a vote of 53-43.

Beaton was nominated by President Donald Trump (R) on September 8, 2020, to succeed Judge Justin Walker, who was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 18, 2020. Beaton was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 17, 2020, by a vote of 52-44.

Following nomination by the president, a federal judicial nominee completes a questionnaire that is reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee then holds a hearing to question the nominee regarding their judicial philosophy and their previous rulings. The committee also sends the nominee’s home state senators a blue slip, permitting them to express their approval or disapproval of the nominee.

After the hearing, the committee votes to approve or return the nominee. If approved, the nominee is reported to the full Senate for a vote. If returned, the president may renominate the person. If the Senate confirms the nomination, the individual receives commission to serve as a federal judge for a life term. If the individual is not confirmed, they do not become a judge.

As of December 1, 2020, President Trump had made 227 Article III judicial appointments—three supreme court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 168 district court judges, and three judges on the Court of International Trade.

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SCOTUS postpones case hearing

Department of Justice v. House Committee on the Judiciary, which was previously scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court of the United States on December 2, 2020, has been removed from the court’s December argument calendar after the court granted the House Judiciary Committee’s motion for the move.

The case came on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It concerns the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and whether an impeachment trial conducted by the U.S. Senate counts as a judicial proceeding for the purposes of disclosing secret grand jury information.

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary requested access to secret grand jury materials referenced in Robert Mueller’s report about his investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed to disclose the materials, ruling that a potential U.S. Senate impeachment trial counted as a judicial proceeding that allowed disclosure of secret grand jury materials. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision.

As of November 20, 2020, the United States Supreme Court had agreed to hear 45 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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California governor confirms Jenkins to state supreme court

The California State Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Martin Jenkins to the California Supreme Court on November 10, 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Jenkins on October 5. Jenkins succeeds Justice Ming Chin, who retired on August 31. Jenkins is Newsom’s first appointee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under California law, state supreme court justices are recommended by the Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation to the governor. The governor then selects the new justice, who must be confirmed by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Jenkins was an associate judge on the California First District Court of Appeal, Division Three, from 2008 to 2019. He was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). He stepped down in 2019 after he was appointed judicial appointments secretary by Gov. Newsom.

From 1997 to 2008, Jenkins was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. President Bill Clinton (D) nominated Jenkins on July 24, 1997, to a seat vacated by Eugene Lynch. The U.S. Senate confirmed Jenkins on November 9, 1997, and he received commission on November 12. Jenkins served on the U.S. district court until his resignation on April 3, 2008.

Jenkins earned his A.A. from the City College of San Francisco in 1973, his B.A. from Santa Clara University (formerly the University of Santa Clara) in 1976, and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1980.

A press release from Gov. Newsom’s office said Jenkins “would be the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice and only the third African American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court. It has been 29 years since an African American man has served on the California Supreme Court.”

The California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of October 2020, four judges on the court were appointed by Democratic governors, and two judges were appointed by Republican governors.

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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