Author

Marielle Bricker

Marielle Bricker is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Governor sets special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for May 1

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The special election will fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19 on February 7, 2021. The general election will be held May 1, 2021. The filing deadline is March 3, 2021.

Two other special elections have been scheduled for vacant seats in the 117th United States Congress, both U.S. House seats in Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District became vacant after Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) joined the Biden administration as senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District became vacant when Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R) died on December 29, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19 before he was sworn into office.

Fifty special elections to the United States Congress were held during the 113th through 116th Congresses. During that time, special elections were called for 16 seats vacated by Democrats and 34 vacated by Republicans.

As of February 23, Texas’ U.S. House delegation has 13 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one vacancy. The U.S. House has 221 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and three vacancies. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Jill Underly, Deborah Kerr advance from Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction primary

The statewide spring primary for Wisconsin was held on Feb. 16, 2021. If two or fewer candidates filed for each seat on the ballot, the primary was canceled and the candidates automatically advanced to the general election on April 6.

The primary for the Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction was the only statewide nonpartisan race on the ballot. Incumbent Carolyn Stanford Taylor did not file to run for election. Taylor was first appointed to the position in January 2019 by Gov. Tony Evers (D), who resigned the seat after being elected governor in 2018. Seven candidates filed to run in the race. According to unofficial results, the highest number of votes went to Jill Underly (27.3%) and Deborah Kerr (26.5%). Both candidates advanced to the general election.

Two partisan state legislative special elections were on the otherwise nonpartisan ballot. 

Wisconsin state Senate District 13 became vacant on Jan. 1 after Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House. One Democrat, three Republicans, and two independent candidates filed for the seat. John Jagler defeated Todd Menzel and Don Pridemore in the Republican primary, receiving 57.1% of the unofficial vote. He faces Melissa Winker (D), Ben Schmitz (American Solidarity Party), and Spencer Zimmerman (Trump Conservative Party) in the general election.

State Assembly District 89 became vacant on Dec. 2, 2020, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector. One Democrat and five Republicans filed for the seat. Elijah Behnke won the Republican primary with 44.5% of the unofficial vote. He faces Karl Jaeger (D) in the general election.

The general election ballot will feature more offices, including three state appellate court seats and local nonpartisan seats.

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Previewing Wisconsin’s spring primary elections on Feb. 16

The statewide spring primary for Wisconsin is on February 16, 2021. The filing deadline to run passed on January 5. If two or fewer candidates filed for each seat on the ballot, the primary was canceled and the candidates automatically advanced to the general election scheduled for April 6.

Wisconsin’s spring elections feature nonpartisan offices, and the fall elections feature partisan offices. However, two partisan state legislative special elections are on the otherwise-nonpartisan ballot. Wisconsin State Senate District 13 became vacant on January 1 after Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House. State Assembly District 89 became vacant on December 2, 2020, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector.

Candidates are also running in the nonpartisan election for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Ballotpedia is also covering local primaries in the following areas: 

• Dane County (1 seats)

• Milwaukee County (2 seats)

• Madison (3 seats)

• Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education (1 seat)

• Milwaukee Board of School Directors (2 seats)

The general election ballot will feature more offices, including three state appellate court seats.

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Justice on Missouri’s highest court schedules retirement

Missouri Supreme Court Justice Laura Denvir Stith announced on February 2, 2021, that she would retire from the court effective March 8. Stith stated she planned to do pro bono work following her retirement from the court.

Justice Stith joined the Missouri Supreme Court in 2001. She was appointed to the court by Governor Bob Holden (D). Stith was retained by voters in 2002, and again in 2014 for a term that would have expired on December 31, 2026.

Stith’s replacement will be Governor Mike Parson’s (R) first nominee to the seven-member supreme court. Before Stith’s retirement, a Democratic governor appointed four justices on the court and a Republican governor appointed three justices. After Gov. Parson appoints Stith’s replacement, the composition of the court will flip to four justices appointed by a Republican governor and three appointed by a Democratic governor.

Before serving on the state supreme court, Stith served as a judge with the Missouri Court of Appeals from 1994 to 2001. She worked as a private practice attorney from 1980 to 1994. Stith worked as a law clerk for Robert E. Seiler with the Missouri Supreme Court from 1978 to 1979.

Stith earned a B.A. in political science and social psychology from Tufts University in 1975 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1978.

The Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission selects supreme court judges according to the Missouri Plan. When a seat on the court becomes vacant, the commission submits three names to the governor to determine the replacement. After one year on the court, an appointed judge must run in the next general election to retain the seat. After their first retention election, supreme court justices serve 12-year terms and must win their retention elections to remain on the court.

The current chief justice of the court is George Draper, who was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in 2012.

The remaining five active justices of the court are:

Zel Fischer – Appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt (R) in 2008

Paul C. Wilson – Appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) in 2012

Mary Rhodes Russell – Appointed by Gov. Bob Holden (D) in 2004

Patricia Breckenridge – Appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt (R) in 2007

Wesley Brent Powell – Appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens (R) in 2017

As of February 5, 2021, there are seven supreme court vacancies in six of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

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Filing deadline passes for special Louisiana congressional, state executive elections

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts and District 4 of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) had until January 22, 2021, to file. The primary is scheduled for March 20, and the general election, if needed, is set for April 24.

The 2nd Congressional District special election was called after it was announced that Cedric Richmond (D) had been chosen as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement for the then-incoming Joe Biden presidential administration. Richmond served from 2011 until he left office on January 15. Fifteen candidates filed for the seat, including eight Democrats, four Republicans, one Libertarian, and two independents.

The 5th Congressional District special election was called after newly elected officeholder Luke Letlow (R) died on December 29, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19. He was scheduled to assume office on January 3. Thirteen candidates filed for the seat, including two Democrats, nine Republicans, and two independents.

The BESE special election was called after Tony Davis (R) left office to devote more time to his job as a senior director at the National Association of Manufacturers on January 20. Davis served from 2016 to 2021. Six candidates filed for the seat, including two Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents.

Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Ballotpedia is also covering two Court of Appeals special elections and one state legislative special election in Louisiana on March 20. The state legislative special filing deadline is January 27.

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Ballotpedia’s 2020 Candidate Connection report: 16.4% of candidates completed surveys this election cycle

For the third year in a row, Ballotpedia invited candidates to take part in our Candidate Connection initiative. The survey was open to the 29,002 federal, state, and local candidates that Ballotpedia covered in 2020. Ballotpedia received submissions from 4,745 candidates—or 16.4%—who were running for seats across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report answers questions such as:

  • Which state had the highest number of respondents? Texas, with 391 candidates.
  • Which type of office saw the highest completion rate? Congress, 32.9% of congressional candidates completed the Candidate Connection survey.
  • What percentage of respondents won their election bids? 15.7% of respondents.

Ballotpedia’s 2020 Candidate Connection report includes comparisons to the 2018 and 2019 response rates, information about the surveys completed in 2020, and responses from notable candidates in 2020. Learn more by clicking the link.

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Republican incumbent re-elected to Public Service Commission in Georgia’s statewide runoff election

District 4 Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. (R) won re-election to Georgia’s Public Service Commission (PSC) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. He defeated challenger Daniel Blackman (D) with 50.6% of the vote, according to unofficial results posted on January 7. There were 4.40 million votes cast in the race.

The runoff was held after no candidates received a majority of the vote in the general election on November 3, 2020. McDonald received the highest number of votes in that race, winning 49.9% of the 4.84 million votes cast, roughly 0.1 percentage points below what he needed in order to win the election outright. Blackman received 47.0% of the vote, and Libertarian candidate Nathan Wilson received 3.1% of the vote.

While the PSC race had the lowest total votes of the night, McDonald received the third-highest number of votes (2.22 million votes), behind U.S. Senate challengers Raphael Warnock (D) (2.26 million) and Jon Ossoff (D) (2.24 million). Both Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) (2.19 million) and Sen. David Perdue (R) (2.20 million) received fewer votes than McDonald. Each U.S. Senate race saw approximately 4.45 million total votes.

The Georgia Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating Georgia’s public utilities—that is, electric, gas, telecommunications, and transportation firms—and is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms.

Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

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U.S. Senate confirms two nominees to federal judgeships

The U.S. Senate has confirmed two nominees to federal district court judgeships. The 94 U.S. District Courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

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.

The nominees are:

• Katherine Crytzer, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee by a 48-47 vote. After she receives her federal judicial commission and takes her judicial oath, the five-member court will have one Democrat-appointed judge, three Republican-appointed judges, and one vacancy. Crytzer will join one other judge appointed by President Trump.

• Joseph Dawson, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina by a 56-39 vote. After he receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the 10-member court will have five Democrat-appointed judges, five Republican-appointed judges, and no vacancies. Dawson will join two other judges appointed by President Trump.

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Rhode Island governor nominates two justices to state supreme court

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) made her first and second nominations to the state Supreme Court on December 8, 2020. Raimondo nominated Erin Lynch Prata to succeed Justice Gilbert Indeglia, who retired on June 30, 2020, and Melissa Long to succeed Justice Francis Flaherty, who is retiring on December 31, 2020.

Selection of Supreme Court justices begins with the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission submits three to five names to the Governor of Rhode Island, and upon receiving the names, the governor selects and appoints one. The nominations must be confirmed by both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly, which have Democratic majorities as of the nominations.

Before Justice Indeglia’s retirement, all five judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor. If both nominees are confirmed, the Rhode Island Supreme Court will have a majority of female justices for the first time in the state’s history. Long would also be the first black justice to sit on the court.

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Sonya Halpern wins Georgia State Senate runoff

Headshot photo of Sonya Halpern.

A special Democratic primary runoff election was held for Georgia State Senate District 39 on December 1, 2020. A special primary election was held on November 3.

The special election was called when incumbent candidate Nikema Williams (D) withdrew from the race after being chosen by the Democratic Party of Georgia to replace incumbent candidate John Lewis (D) on the general election ballot for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District race after Lewis’ death on July 17.

Because Williams was unopposed in the regular general election, no special general election was needed to replace her. The race was determined in the primary runoff. When no candidates in the November 3 primary received a majority of the votes, top-two vote-getters Sonya Halpern and Linda Pritchett advanced to the primary runoff. Halpern won the runoff after receiving 80.8% of the vote.

As of December 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Georgia has held 63 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2019.

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