Mercedes Yanora

Mercedes Yanora is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Kirsten Engel, Wesley Breckenridge resign from state legislatures

Two Democrats, Kirsten Engel and Wesley Breckenridge, resigned from their state legislatures on Sept. 8 and 10, respectively. Senator Engel represented Arizona Senate District 10 from Jan. 11, 2021, to Sept. 8, 2021, while Rep. Breckenridge represented Iowa House District 29 from 2017 to 2021.

Engel resigned to focus on her 2022 campaign for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. As of Sept. 10, Engel was one of three Democrats Ballotpedia identified as running in the primary. Before joining the state Senate, Engel represented Arizona House District 10 from 2017 to 2021.

Breckenridge resigned to take a job with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. He most recently won re-election in 2020, winning with 51.5% of the vote to Jon Dunwell’s (R) 48.4%.

Arizona is one of seven states to fill state legislative vacancies through appointments via Board of City Commissioners. Iowa is one of 25 states to fill such vacancies through special elections. 

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Seven new judges join the Virginia Court of Appeals

Seven new judges joined the Virginia Court of Appeals on Sept. 1. The Virginia General Assembly elected eight judges to the court on Aug. 10, 2021. The eighth judge, Dominique Callins, will take office on Nov. 1, 2021, following the retirement of Judge William Petty. 

Established in 1985, the Virginia Court of Appeals was originally made up of 11 judges, but the passage of Senate Bill 1261 in March 2021 increased the number of judges to 17. The bill also expanded the “jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals of Virginia by providing for an appeal of right in every civil case.” Apart from the increase in judges, the bill has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2022. 

The following seven people joined the court on Sept. 1. Their terms end on Aug. 31, 2029:

  1. Doris Henderson Causey 
  2. Vernida Chaney
  3. Frank Friedman
  4. Junius P. Fulton III
  5. Lisa Lorish 
  6. Daniel E. Ortiz
  7. Stuart Raphael

Virginia is one of two states to use legislative elections to select judges. The legislative election method of judicial selection is a process by which state legislators choose judges to serve on a court. This method is unique among selection types in that neither the governor (via appointment powers) nor the public (via direct elections) has a role in this selection process. South Carolina is the other state to use this method.  

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Tony Navarrete resigns from the Arizona state Senate

Senator Tony Navarrete (D) resigned from the Arizona state Senate on Aug. 10. He represented District 30 from 2019 to 2021. He also represented Arizona House District 30 from 2017 to 2019.

Phoenix police arrested Navarrete on Aug. 5, 2021, on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor. According to authorities, the alleged sexual conduct took place in 2019. Navarrete resigned on Aug. 10, stating, “I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence. In doing so, I will be focusing the vast majority of my time and energy on my defense.”

If there is a vacancy in the state Senate, the board of county supervisors must select a replacement. The appointee will serve the remainder of Navarrete’s term, which ends on Jan. 8, 2023.

As of Aug. 12, there have been 82 state legislative vacancies in 36 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled, with 32 vacancies remaining. Navarrete’s vacancy is one of 38 Democratic vacancies to have occurred in 2021. So far, Democrats have filled 23 vacancies, while Republicans have filled 27.  

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Arizona State Senate

Arizona State Senate District 30

State legislative vacancies, 2021

Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole resigns to become state finance director

Bill Poole (R) resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on July 31 to accept a position as the director of the Alabama Department of Finance. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) appointed him to the position on July 16, effective Aug. 1, to replace Kelly Butler. Poole represented District 63 from 2010 to 2021. Poole was first elected to the state House on Nov. 2, 2010, and was most recently re-elected in 2018, winning 96.1% of the vote.

Vacancies in the Alabama legislature are filed by special election. If a vacancy occurs on or after Oct. 1 in the year of a regular election, the district will remain vacant until filled at the regular election. Otherwise, the governor must call for a special election if the vacancy happens before the next scheduled general election and the legislature is in session. 

As of Aug. 2, there have been 72 state legislative vacancies in 35 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 72 vacancies, 38 were Republican and 34 were Democratic. Republicans have filled 27 vacancies, while Democrats have filled 23.

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Margo Davidson resigns from Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Margo Davidson (D) resigned from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 23 after state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) filed criminal charges against Davidson on July 22. The charges included theft, solicitation to hinder apprehension, and election code violations. 

According to Politics PA, Shapiro’s office said Davidson allegedly “‘requested overnight expenses for nights she did not spend in Harrisburg and received personal reimbursements’ from the state ‘for expenses that had been paid for by her campaign,’ and that she’s also been charged for ‘failure to report campaign finance information, as well as soliciting a witness to lie during the course of the investigation.'”

In her resignation letter, Davidson said, “Today, I sadly announce my resignation and take legal responsibility for improper record keeping and reimbursement of expenses…I further take responsibility for and regret not fully participating with the investigation.” Her arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Davidson initially was elected to the state House in November 2010, defeating Maureen Carey (R), 54% to 46%. She was most recently re-elected in 2020 unopposed. 

If there is a vacancy in the Pennsylvania House, a special election must be held to fill the vacant district. As of July 26, there have been 67 state legislative vacancies across the United States this year. Of those 67, 37 are filled through special elections. 

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Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif dies

Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif (R) died on July 22, creating a vacancy in the state legislature.

County commissioners from Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties had originally appointed Leif to the legislature on April 30, 2018, replacing former Rep. Dallas Heard (R) upon Heard’s appointment to the Oregon Senate. Leif defeated Charles Lee (D) to win re-election to the state House in 2020, 72% to 28%. Before his appointment to the legislature, Leif served as a county commissioner in Douglas County.  

If there is a vacancy in the Oregon House, the board of county commissioners representing the vacant district must select a replacement. The board must consider three candidates who are members of the party that last controlled the district and must select a replacement within 30 days. The new representative will serve the remainder of Leif’s term, which expires in January 2023.

As of July 26, three vacancies have occurred in the Oregon House during 2021. On a national level, there have been 67 state legislative vacancies in 35 states this year. Forty-seven of those vacancies have been filled.

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Governor Brian Kemp appoints new state supreme court justice, public service commissioner

Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed Verda Colvin to the Georgia Supreme Court and Fitz Johnson to the Georgia Public Service Commission on July 20 and 21, respectively. Colvin will fill the vacancy left by Justice Harold Melton, who retired on July 1 of this year, while Johnson will take former Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s position. Governor Kemp appointed Eaton to the Fulton County Superior Court on July 20. 

Founded in 1845, the Georgia Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has nine judgeships. The current chief of the court is David Nahmias. As of July 2021, Republican governors appointed seven judges (eight once Colvin is sworn in) on the court and one was initially selected in a nonpartisan election. Judges are selected using the nonpartisan election of judges system. They serve six-year terms. When an interim vacancy occurs, the seat is filled using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection with the governor picking the interim justice from a slate provided by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission. 

The Georgia Public Service Commission is a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative state body responsible for regulating Georgia’s public utilities: electric, gas, telecommunications, and transportation firms. The commission is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms. If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until the next general election. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson must win election in November 2022 to serve the remainder of Eaton’s term, which expires in 2024.

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Justin Fecteau resigns from Maine House of Representatives

Justin Fecteau (R) resigned from the Maine House of Representatives on July 4 to accept a teaching job outside his legislative district. He represented District 86 from 2018 to 2021. Fecteau was first elected to the state House in 2018. He defeated Adam Turner (D) to win re-election in 2020, 57% to 43%.

When there is a vacancy in the Maine state House, a special election must be held to fill the seat. The governor must call for an election and allow all political committees representing the vacant seat to set all deadlines. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Fecteau’s term was set to expire on Dec. 6, 2022. 

District 86 is one of 710 state legislative districts nationwide that intersects with one or more Pivot Counties. These 206 Pivot Counties voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012. The 206 Pivot Counties are located in 34 states. Iowa, with 31, has the most such counties. Maine has eight Pivot Counties.

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June 2021 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 54.33% Republicans, 44.87% Democrats

According to Ballotpedia’s June partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States, 54.33% of all state legislators are Republicans, and 44.87% are Democrats.

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. Republicans control 61 chambers, while Democrats hold 37. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber to be organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Nationally, the state legislatures include 1,966 state senators and 5,397 state representatives. Democrats hold 867 state Senate seats—the same as last month—and 2,446 state House seats, a loss of four. Republicans hold 4,011 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—1,092 state Senate seats (up one since May) and 2,919 state House seats, also an increase of one. Independent or third-party legislators hold 39 seats, of which 32 are state House seats, and seven are state Senate seats. There are 20 vacant seats.

During the month of June, Democrats saw a net decrease of four seats, while Republicans saw a net increase of two seats. Compared to June of last year, the state legislatures are 1.95% less Democratic (46.82% to 44.87%) and 2.17% more Republican (52.16% to 54.33%).  

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State legislative vacancies, 2021

Partisan composition of state houses

State senators

State representatives

Bernalillo County Commission appoints Pamelya Herndon to New Mexico House of Representatives 

The Bernalillo County Commission appointed Pamelya Herndon (D) to District 28 in the New Mexico House of Representatives on June 22. Herndon replaces Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who was elected to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on June 1 of this year. 

The Bernalillo County Commission voted 4-0 to appoint Herndon, who was one of eight candidates seeking the District 28 seat. Upon her appointment, Herndon said, “I will serve this district very well. I will represent every single person. I want to thank the commissioners for their faith in me and it starts immediately.” She will serve the remainder of Stansbury’s term, which ends on Jan. 17, 2023.

Before her appointment, Herndon served as the president and CEO of KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change and the CEO of The Women’s Center for Social Justice and Change. She also worked with the Southwest Women’s Law Center, Herndon Legal Services, and the State of New Mexico. She received a B.B.A. in accounting from Howard University in 1975 and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1978. 

As of June 24, there have been 57 state legislative vacancies in 32 states during 2021. Forty-one of those vacancies have been filled. Herndon is one of 21 Democrats to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021. 

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