Rob Oldham

Rob Oldham is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) passes away

Thad Cochran, a Republican senator from Mississippi from 1979 to 2018, passed away on May 30, 2019. He was 81 years old.
Cochran resigned from the Senate on April 1, 2018, citing health concerns. He was replaced by interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), who later won a November 2018 special election to serve the rest of Cochran’s term through 2020. At the time of his resignation, Cochran was the 10th longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
Before his election to the Senate in 1978, Cochran had served in the U.S. House since 1973. Prior to his time in public office, he worked as an attorney in Mississippi and served in the U.S. Navy.

Mississippi gubernatorial candidates report fundraising totals from first quarter of 2019

Candidates running in the Democratic and Republican primaries for Mississippi governor submitted campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2019 (Jan. 1 through April 30).
Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves $1 million, the most of the Republican candidates, and reported $6.7 million in cash on hand. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who raised $583,000 and reported $513,000 in cash on hand, followed Reeves. State Rep. Robert Foster raised $73,000 and had $18,900 in cash on hand.
Attorney General Jim Hood was the only Democratic candidate to raise more than $20,000. He brought in $755,000 and reported $1.2 million in cash on hand. The other Democratic candidates who reported contributions were Hinds County DA Robert Shuler Smith ($11,000), Velesha Williams ($18,000), and William Bond Compton ($1,000). Only Smith reported cash on hand with $300.
The primaries will be held August 6 with possible runoffs on August 27. The general election will be held November 5.
Click the links below to view coverage of the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announces retirement after nearly three decades in Congress

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announced on May 4 that he would retire at the end of his term in 2020. Enzi was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and previously served in the U.S. House (1991-1996) and the Wyoming House of Representatives (1987-1991). He last won re-election in 2014, defeating his Democratic opponent by 54.8 percentage points.
Enzi is the fourth U.S. senator to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 elections. Democrat Tom Udall (N.M.) and Republicans Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Pat Roberts (Ks.) are also not seeking re-election. Six U.S. House members—three Democrats and three Republicans—have announced that they will not seek re-election or will run for another office. Fifty-five members of Congress did not seek re-election in 2018—37 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
Election forecasters rated Wyoming “Safe Republican” in the 2018 election cycle. Given the state’s partisan lean, the Republican primary in the race to replace Enzi will be important. During the 2018 cycle, Ballotpedia covered 10 battleground U.S. Senate primaries—two for Democratic-held seats and eight for Republican-held seats. The Republican primaries in Arizona and Utah were for seats where no incumbent was running. Three of the primaries (Delaware Democratic primary, Utah Republican primary, and Virginia Republican primary) were in seats that were not rated competitive in the general election.
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Maryland House of Delegates selects Adrienne Jones (D) as speaker

The Maryland House of Delegates voted 139-1 to make Adrienne Jones (D) the speaker of the house in a special session on Wednesday. She replaces Michael Busch (D), who passed away on April 7 after developing pneumonia. Busch had served as speaker since 2003 and was the longest serving speaker in Maryland history.
Jones, who was first elected in 1996, is the state’s first woman speaker and first black speaker. She emerged as a compromise candidate Wednesday afternoon after the Democratic caucus split between Maggie McIntosh (D) and Dereck Davis (D). According to the Washington Post, McIntosh was the more liberal candidate for speaker, and Davis was the more centrist candidate. Moreover, a majority of the 45-member Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) endorsed Davis, who is black, in a non-binding vote.
A candidate needed 70 votes on the floor to be elected. McIntosh won a Democratic caucus vote Wednesday, 58-40, but Republicans pledged to give Davis all of their 42 votes on the floor. Davis could have been elected by a cross-party coalition with over 70 votes if at least 28 of the 40 Democrats who supported him in caucus voted for him on the floor.
After the caucus vote, Democrats reconvened and unanimously decided to elevate Jones to the speakership over both declared candidates. After she was elected, Jones said, “Discussion went back and forth within our caucus in terms of who could get the [votes], and because of these two individuals that put unity of this House before their own ambition … they both came and talked with me separately that they would want me to be that person.”
Jones had been formally running for speaker prior to April 26, but she dropped out of the race, endorsed Davis, and called for members of the LBC to form an alliance to elect the first black speaker in state history.
Democrats hold a 98-42 majority in the Maryland House with Busch’s seat still vacant. The state is under divided government with Larry Hogan (R) as governor and Democratic control of the legislature.
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Tate Reeves launches first campaign ad in Mississippi Republican gubernatorial primary

Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves released the first campaign ad in Mississippi’s Republican gubernatorial primary. In the ad, Reeves said that he would help Mississippi reach its full potential by cutting regulations, lowering taxes, and training the workforce. He said Attorney General Jim Hood (D), who is running in the Democratic primary, would not help the state reach its potential.
Reeves faces two challengers in the August 6 primary: state Rep. Robert Foster and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. Media outlets have cast Reeves as the frontrunner due to his fundraising ($6.7 million in cash on hand as of January 1), his 15 years as a statewide officeholder, and his endorsements, including the support of sitting Gov. Phil Bryant (R). If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote on August 6, a runoff will be held August 27.
Foster says he is a conservative outsider who is not beholden to any groups at the state capitol. He criticized Reeves for his long tenure in office, saying, “I would like to ask [Reeves]: How many favors does he have? How many promises has he made, in order to build up a $7 million campaign fund?”
Waller says he would be a stronger candidate than Reeves in the general election if Hood (who has been in office since 2004) is the Democratic candidate. Waller criticizes Reeves for his opposition to increasing the state gas tax to pay for infrastructure repairs. Four former state GOP chairmen endorsed Waller and criticized Reeves for his leadership style.
Reeves’ campaign responded to a Mississippi Today report highlighting support for his opponents by saying, “More than 300 conservative Mississippi leaders have endorsed Tate Reeves, including the governor. That didn’t get covered by Mississippi Today because it showed the party is united not divided. Hundreds more conservatives turned out for rallies and events across the state last week. The Republican Party is going to nominate the proven conservative in this race, and that’s Tate Reeves.”
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Former state GOP chairs split endorsements in Mississippi gubernatorial primary

Six former chairmen of the Mississippi Republican Party have endorsed a candidate ahead of the August 6 Republican gubernatorial primary. Two former chairmen support Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, who media outlets call the front runner due to his fundraising advantage and 15 years in statewide office. Four past chairmen support former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who has criticized Reeves for opposing a gas tax increase and the expansion of Medicaid coverage.
Mississippi Today reported on the following statements from Waller’s endorsers:
• Billy Powell, the chairman from 1993 to 1996, said, “Waller has a much more even temperament to beat [Democratic Attorney General] Jim Hood in November. What bothers me about Tate is his arrogance. He doesn’t have the tendency to really want to work with people. It’s more of a ‘my way or highway’-type position. His arrogance really turns me off.”
• Clark Reed, the chairman from 1966 to 1976, said, “Our infrastructure is crumbling. It’s a crime where we are. We need a gas tax increase. Everybody knows it. I think Tate’s a conservative, but he doesn’t want to seem to pull the trigger at these critical times. He’s a good man, but gosh, you’ve got to have the courage to do the things that might be risky.”
In response to the endorsements, Reeves’ campaign said, “More than 300 conservative Mississippi leaders have endorsed Tate Reeves, including the governor. That didn’t get covered by Mississippi Today because it showed the party is united not divided. Hundreds more conservatives turned out for rallies and events across the state last week. The Republican Party is going to nominate the proven conservative in this race, and that’s Tate Reeves.”
Current Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has endorsed Reeves, said, “I am fully behind Tate Reeves as our next governor. It is time for a new, younger generation of Republicans to take up the torch of conservatism. A young leader who doesn’t believe raising taxes and expanding Obamacare are good ideas. We will win this race.”
Freshman state Rep. Robert Foster is also running in the gubernatorial primary. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote on August 6, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff of August 27.
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94 state legislative seats have flipped in special elections since 2010

Ninety-four state legislative seats have changed partisan control, or flipped, in special elections since 2010. Democrats have won 51 of these special elections, Republicans have won 37, and independent and third-party candidates have won six.
So far, six partisan flips have occurred in 2019—four Republican wins, one Democratic win, and one independent win.
The year with most flips was 2017 when 17 seats (14 Democratic wins and three Republican wins) changed party control. There were 16 flips in 2018—12 Democratic wins and four Republican wins—and 15 flips in 2015—five Democratic wins, eight Republican wins, and two third-party wins.
2017 and 2018 saw the largest net partisan gains in state legislative special elections as Democrats picked up 11 seats and eight seats, respectively. The largest net partisan gain favoring Republicans occurred in 2013 when they picked up five seats.
The states with the most flipped seats are New Hampshire and Connecticut. There have been 10 flips in New Hampshire—nine Democratic wins and one Republican win. Five of the Democratic flips in New Hampshire occurred in 2017 and 2018.
Connecticut has seen nine flips—one Democratic win, seven Republican wins, and one third-party win. So far in 2019, one Connecticut House seat and one Connecticut Senate seat have flipped from Democratic to Republican control.
About two-thirds of state legislative flips in special elections have occurred in state house seats rather than state senate seats. Since 2010, there have been 62 flips in state house seats (66.0 percent of total) and 32 flips in state senate seats (34.0 percent).
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Update on the Alaska House power-sharing arrangement

Members of the Alaska House ended a month-long leadership deadlock by electing Rep. Bryce Edgmon as speaker on February 14, 2019. Edgmon was elected by a bipartisan coalition under the condition that he establish a power-sharing arrangement where both Democrats and Republicans held positions of power.
The coalition that elected Edgmon speaker included all 15 House Democrats, four Republicans, and independent Daniel Ortiz. Eighteen Republicans voted against him. Edgmon, who previously served as House speaker from 2017 to 2018, was a Democrat until February 11, when he changed his party affiliation to unenrolled.
Under the power-sharing arrangement, there is a 25-member bipartisan majority coalition led by Edgmon (15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two independents) and a 15-member minority led by Lance Pruitt (all Republicans). Here are the details:
  • Although Edgmon is speaker, Republicans Steve Thompson and Louise Stutes serve as majority leader and majority whip, respectively.
  • The Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation to the floor, is chaired by Republican Charles Kopp.
  • Of the nine standing committees, three have Democratic and Republican co-chairs (including the powerful Finance Committee) and six are Democratic-led. Of the four special committees, two are Democratic-led and two are Republican-led.
  • Of the eight Republicans serving in the majority, four voted for Edgmon, three voted against Edgmon, and one—Gary Knopp—did not participate.
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In 2018, 105 state legislative races were decided by less than 100 votes

One-hundred and five of the 6,073 state legislative races in 2018 were decided by fewer than 100 votes. Ninety-eight of these races were in state house races, and seven were in state senate races.
Fifty-four of the races resulted in a change in partisan control—36 favoring Democrats and 18 favoring Republicans. In the seats that did not change control, Republicans held 36 and Democrats held 15.
Seventy-eight of the races (74.3 percent) occurred in state legislative districts with populations of less than 25,000. Districts of this size make up 26.3 percent of all state legislative districts.
The New Hampshire House, which has the smallest legislative districts in the country, had 34 of the races—more than any other chamber. The Vermont House, which has the second smallest districts in the country, had eight races—the second most of all legislative chambers. The other 63 races were spread across 32 chambers. Twenty-two of these chambers had just one race.
One race in this analysis—Alaska House District 1—was critical for partisan control of state governments. Bart LeBon (R) defeated Kathryn Dodge (D) by one vote. His win caused a 20-20 split between Republican-led and Democratic-led coalitions in the Alaska House. Control was eventually split between the parties after a month-long period where neither party had control.

President Trump issues first veto of presidency

President Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday when he blocked Congress’ resolution of disapproval of his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump declared the national emergency on February 15 after Congress did not meet his request for border wall funding in a government funding deal.
The resolution of disapproval passed the House February 26 in a 245-182 vote. All 232 Democrats who voted and 13 Republicans supported the resolution, while 182 Republicans opposed it. The resolution passed the Senate March 14 in a 59-41 vote. All 47 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the resolution, and 41 Republicans opposed it.
The Constitution allows Congress to override presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each chamber. If all members participate, the House would need 290 votes and the Senate would need 67 votes to override Trump’s veto.
Trump’s veto was the 2,575th in U.S. history. Of those vetoes, 111 have been overridden by Congress.
The two previous presidents—George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D)—issued 12 vetoes each. President Franklin Roosevelt had the most vetoes with 635. Seven presidents–John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Q. Adams, William H. Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, and James A. Garfield–did not issue any vetoes.