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Mercedes Yanora

Mercedes Yanora is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Gov. Hogan appoints Marlon Amprey to Maryland House of Delegates

On Dec. 29, 2020, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee nominated Marlon Amprey (D) to the Maryland House of Delegates to represent District 40. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) approved the nomination and formally appointed Amprey to the seat on Jan. 6, effective Jan. 13.  

Amprey will succeed Nick Mosby (D), who resigned in December 2020 when he was sworn in as Baltimore City Council president.

The Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee nominated Amprey on Dec. 29 by a 4-3 vote. Amprey was one of 15 to apply for the position. Prior to his appointment, Amprey worked as an associate with the law firm Cole Schotz P.C. He has also worked as a teacher.

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after a vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30 day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.

In 2020, there were 142 state legislative vacancies in 41 states. As of Jan. 13, 121 of those vacancies have been filled. Amprey is one of 59 Democrats to fill state legislative vacancies from 2020. 

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Longtime Maryland state Senator Miller resigns

Maryland State Senator Thomas Miller Jr. (D) resigned on Dec. 23 due to health reasons. He had announced in Jan. 2019 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Miller had represented District 27 since 1975. He served as Senate president for 33 years—from 1987 to 2020—the longest anyone has served as Maryland Senate president, according to The Washington Post. Prior to joining the state Senate, Miller served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1971 to 1975.  

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after the vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30-day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.   

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Kaiali’i Kahele resigns from Hawaii state Senate to join U.S. House of Representatives

Kaiali’i Kahele (D) resigned from the Hawaii state Senate on Dec. 16 after being elected to Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. Kahele defeated Joseph Akana (R), 63% to 31%, on Nov. 3. Kahele will be sworn in to the U.S. House on Jan. 3, 2021.

Gov. David Ige (D) appointed Kahele to the District 1 seat in February 2016 to replace Gil Kahele (D), Kahele’s deceased father. Kaiali’i Kahele represented District 1 from 2016 to 2020. 

According to Hawaii law, the governor appoints a replacement within 60 days when a vacancy occurs in the state Senate. The political party that last held the vacant seat has 30 days to provide the governor with a list of three prospective candidates. The party to submit a list of prospective candidates. According to a report in Big Island Video News, “The selection body will meet electronically on Wednesday, December 23, at 6:00 p.m. to identify three names to forward on to the Governor.” 

As of Dec. 21, there have been 129 state legislative vacancies in 41 states during 2020. Ninety-seven (97) of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 129 vacancies, 71 are Republican, and 58 are Democratic. Republicans have filled 49 vacancies, while Democrats have filled 48. 

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Todd Eddins joins Hawaii Supreme Court 

Image of the Hawaii Supreme Court building in Honolulu.

Todd Eddins was sworn in to the Hawaii Supreme Court as an associate justice on Dec. 11. Founded in 1959, the Hawaii Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. Of the five current justices, Democratic governors appointed four, and a Republican governor—Linda Lingle—appointed one. 

Gov. David Ige (D) appointed Eddins on Oct. 23 to replace retired Justice Richard W. Pollack. Pollack retired on June 30 when he met the mandatory retirement age of 70. The Hawaii State Senate unanimously confirmed Eddins on Nov. 19. Before joining the court, Eddins was a judge of the O`ahu First Circuit Court from 2017 to 2020.

Hawaii’s supreme court justices are selected using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection. The Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission forwards a list of candidates to the governor, who then appoints a candidate who must then be confirmed by the Hawaii State Senate. Justices serve renewable 10-year terms, which are approved or denied by the Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission. 

Eddins was Gov. Ige’s first nomination to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Upon nominating Eddins, Gov. Ige said, “Judge Eddins has the vast knowledge and experience necessary to serve on the Hawai‘i Supreme Court. He has the respect of his peers and I know that he will be a welcome addition to the state’s highest court.”  

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. As of Dec. 14, 20 of those vacancies have been filled.  

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New Hampshire House Speaker Dick Hinch dies 

Newly-sworn in New Hampshire House Speaker Dick Hinch (R) died on Dec 9, at the age of 71. According to the Boston Globe, Hinch unexpectedly passed away from COVID-19. 

Hinch won re-election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives to represent Hillsborough 21 on Nov. 3. Republicans gained control of the state House, and Hinch was elected speaker on Dec. 2. Rep. Sherman Packard (R) will serve as acting speaker of the house until the full state House votes on a new speaker on Jan. 6.

A special election will fill Hinch’s vacant seat. According to New Hampshire law, a town or city in the district must first make a formal request to the governor and executive council for a special election. The governor and council will approve or deny the request within 21 days and then set the filing deadline and election dates. 

Hillsborough 21 is represented by Republican Representatives Mary Mayville, Lindsay Tausch, Melissa Blasek, Jeanine Notter, Bob Healey, and Maureen Mooney and Democratic Representative Rosemarie Rung. Hinch’s death represents the only current vacancy in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. 

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U.S. Senate confirms three to Federal Election Commission

Graphic with the five pillars of the

The new commissioners are Shana Broussard (D), Allen Dickerson (R), and Sean Cooksey (R). They join current commissioners James “Trey” Trainor (R), Steven T. Walther (I), and Ellen L. Weintraub (D). Trainor chairs the commission, and Walther is vice chair. 

Broussard previously served as counsel to now fellow commissioner Walther, while Dickerson was the legal director of the Institute of Free Speech and Cooksey the general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Broussard is also the first person of color to serve as commissioner.

Congress created the FEC as an independent regulatory agency in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Elections Campaign Act. It is responsible for disclosing campaign finance information, enforcing limits and prohibitions on contributions, and overseeing the public funding of presidential elections.

The president appoints commissioners who serve six-year terms, with two seats up for appointment every two years. According to the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1976, no more than three members can be of the same political party, and there is a four-vote minimum for any proposal to be passed. Chairs of the commission serve one-year terms and are limited to one term as chair during their tenure. 

The FEC is one of 88 administrative state agencies tracked by Ballotpedia. The administrative state is a term used to describe the phenomenon of executive branch administrative agencies exercising the power to create, adjudicate, and enforce their own rules. Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project is an encyclopedic overview of the administrative state. It includes information about the administrative and regulatory activities of the United States government. It also covers concepts, laws, court cases, executive orders, scholarly work, and other material related to the administrative state. 

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John Nygren resigns from Wisconsin State Assembly

Rep. John Nygren (R) resigned from the Wisconsin State Assembly on Dec. 2 to pursue work in the private sector. He represented District 89 from 2007 to 2020. 

During the 2019-2020 legislative session, Nygren served on Employment Relations Committee, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Joint Finance Committee, Joint Legislative Council Committee, Audit Committee, Employment Relations Committee, Finance Committee, and Substance Abuse and Prevention Committees. He was the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee and chair of the Finance Committee. 

Nygren ran for re-election on Nov. 3 against Democratic candidate Karl Jaeger. Nygren was re-elected by a margin of 68.7% to 31.2%. Gov. Tony Evers (D) will call a special election to fill Nygren’s now-vacant seat. 

As of Dec. 8, there have been 121 state legislative vacancies in 40 states this year. Ninety-five of those vacancies have been filled, with 26 vacancies remaining. Nygren’s vacancy is one of 67 Republican vacancies to have occurred in 2020. So far, 48 vacancies have been filled by Republicans, while 47 have been filled by Democrats.  

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Lenk retires

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara Lenk retired on Dec. 1, one day before she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. 

Governor Deval Patrick (D) appointed Lenk in April 2011, and she was the first openly gay justice on the court. Before her appointment, Lenk was a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Massachusetts Superior Courts. Lenk received a B.A. from Fordham University in 1972, a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Yale University in 1978, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979. 

Under Massachusetts law, state supreme court justices are appointed by the governor and approved by the Massachusetts Governor’s Council. Justices hold tenured appointments until they reach 70 years old, the mandatory retirement age.

Governor Charlie Baker (R) appointed Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge Dalila Wendlandt to the state supreme court on Nov. 3. The Governor’s Council confirmed her appointment on Nov. 25, with a swear in date of Dec. 4. 

Baker has appointed all current members of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial 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, while retirements caused 21.

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New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Nakamura retires

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura retired on Dec. 1, 2020. She originally planned to retire on Aug. 1 but postponed her retirement date in June. 

Governor Susana Martinez (R) appointed Nakamura to the court in November 2015. Prior to her appointment, Nakamura was a judge on the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. She received an undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Under New Mexico law, state supreme court vacancies are filled through assisted gubernatorial appointment, where the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from a judicial nominating commission. On Nov. 19, the judicial nominating commission recommended four candidates to the governor, two of which have served as District Court judges and two as Court of Appeals judges. Nakamura’s replacement will be Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) third nominee to the five-member supreme court. The new appointee will stand for partisan election in November 2022.

As of Dec. 2, two justices of the New Mexico Supreme Court were elected in partisan elections as Democrats, two were appointed by Lujan Grisham, and one seat was vacant.

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, while 21 were caused by retirements.

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November 2020 breakdown of state legislative party membership—52.4% Republicans, 46.6% Democrats

According to Ballotpedia’s November partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States, 46.58% of all state legislators are Democrats and 52.39% are Republicans.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. This refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in each chamber. Prior to the general election, Republicans held a majority in 59 chambers and Democrats held a majority in 39 chambers. Alaska’s state House was the only chamber to have a power-sharing agreement between the two parties. Since the election, Republicans flipped two chambers, the New Hampshire state House and state Senate (effective Dec. 2), while control of Alaska’s state House and state Senate remained undetermined as of Nov. 30. 

Nationally, the state legislatures include 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives. Democrats hold 874 state Senate seats—losing one since October—and 2,565 state House seats, a loss of 15. Republicans hold 3,868 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—1,084 state Senate seats (no change since October) and 2,784 state House seats, an increase of 24. Independent or third-party legislators hold 34 seats, of which 30 are state House seats and four state Senate seats. There are 42 vacant seats.

During the month of November, Democrats saw a net change of -16 seats, while Republicans saw a net change of +24 seats. Some states, for example Alabama, swear new officeholders in during the same month as the general election, while others wait until December or the beginning of a new legislative session in January. The partisan count will likely fluctuate as state legislators are sworn in and out during the next two months.

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