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Sarah Doyel

Sarah Doyel is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Grant leaves Florida legislature for state executive role, ends re-election bid

Florida state Rep. James Grant (R) ended his re-election campaign for his District 64 seat on August 12, resigning from the state legislature in order to take a position as the state’s chief information officer. Grant was first elected to represent the district in 2012, having previously represented District 47 in the 2011-2012 legislative session.

Grant’s departure leaves a vacancy on the November 3 general election ballot. The Republican and Democratic primaries for the seat were canceled when no challengers filed to run against Grant in the Republican primary and only one candidate, middle school teacher Jessica Harrington, filed to run in the Democratic race. Republican Party committee officials in the district will nominate a replacement candidate to run against Harrington in the general election.

Grant said that he would assume the chief information officer role two weeks from his announcement. The position was first filled in 2014 when the state legislature created the Agency for State Technology. The state executive role moved to the Department of Management Services under current Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

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Mason confirmed as New Hampshire Fish and Game executive

The New Hampshire Executive Council confirmed dairy farmer Scott Mason as the New Hampshire Executive Director of Fish and Game on August 5. Governor Chris Sununu (R) initially appointed Mason on June 10 of this year.

Mason will serve a term ending in March 2024. He succeeds three-term executive director Glenn Normandeau, whose third and final term was extended from March 31, 2020, to August pending his replacement’s confirmation. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission voted in September 2019 not to reappoint Normandeau to the role.

As the Fish and Game executive director, Mason is tasked with overseeing the conservation and protection of fish and game and their habitats, as well as keeping the public informed about these resources. Ballotpedia covers 11 other state executive offices in New Hampshire. All of these offices except for the offices of the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and executive council are non-partisan positions.

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DeSantis appoints judge, attorney to Florida Court of Appeals

On July 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ) filled two vacancies on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The court is one of five intermediate appellate courts in Florida. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. The Florida District Courts of Appeal were established in 1957 to relieve the case docket of the Florida Supreme Court.

John K. Stargel fills the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Samuel Salario, who resigned from the court on June 4, 2020, to take a job in the investment industry. Prior to joining the appellate court, he was a judge on Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.

Suzanne Labrit, who has worked in private law practice for over two decades, fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John Badalamenti to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Both judges must stand for retention election in 2022 in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.

Judicial positions in Florida are nonpartisan. Of the 16 judges currently sitting on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, two were appointed by a Democratic governor and 14 were appointed by a Republican governor. Of the 48 judgeships across the other four district appellate courts, only one sitting judge was appointed by a Democratic governor. The rest were appointed by a Republican governor.

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Davis joins Tennessee Court of Appeals after delayed confirmation

Over 60 days after Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Davis was confirmed and sworn into office. She resigned from her position on the state’s Sixth Circuit Court on July 31 and assumed office on the appellate court on August 3.

Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Lee appointed Davis on May 28, 2020, but her confirmation hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee state legislature suspended its legislative session this spring effective March 19 until June 1. The legislature then adjourned on June 19.

Had the legislature voted to confirm Davis upon returning to session in June, she would have been required to stand for retention election this month. Tennessee appellate judges are mandated to stand for retention election in the next general election occurring at least 30 days after the vacancy occurs, and general judicial elections in the state take place during the non-judicial primary in August.

The Tennessee courts reported that mail-in ballots for the August election had already been distributed and that it would have cost an additional $700,000 to send out ballots including Davis’ name. Tennessee law states that nominees not confirmed by the state legislature within 60 days are automatically confirmed the following day. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R) said of the decision to allow Davis to be automatically confirmed, “After talking about it and realizing that especially in these times of crunched budgets $700,000 is not an insignificant amount of money…What we decided to do would be to allow the nominee to be confirmed basically by default by us not acting.”

Judicial elections for the appellate court in Tennessee are held every two years in even-numbered years. Davis will thus stand for retention election in 2022, and her current term ends on August 31 of that year.

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Taylor leaves Wisconsin Legislature, replaces Karofsky on Dane County Circuit Court

Rep. Chris Taylor (D) resigned from the Wisconsin State Assembly on August 1 to be sworn in as the new Branch 12 judge on the Dane County Circuit Court that same day. Taylor fills the vacancy created by Jill Karofsky’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Karofsky left the circuit court to be sworn in as a state supreme court justice on August 1.

Taylor fills the third recent vacancy on the 17-branch Dane County Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over the state capital of Madison. Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed her to the court in June. He also appointed Mario White and Jacob Frost to the court that month. White filled the Branch 7 vacancy on the circuit court left by the resignation of William Hanrahan, who resigned to become an administrative law judge in March of this year. Frost filled the Branch 9 vacancy created by the retirement of judge Richard Niess. Judicial positions on the court are nonpartisan.

A fourth vacancy occurred on August 4, when Branch 12 judge Peter Anderson resigned. Gov. Evers is seeking applications for that and a fifth anticipated vacancy, which will occur when judge Shelley Gaylord resigns effective August 31.

Taylor, Frost, White, and the two pending appointees will each serve on the court for a term ending July 31, 2021. They must stand for retention elections in the spring of next year in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.

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Serafini resigns from Maryland State Senate

Maryland Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) resigned from the state legislature on August 1, citing the demands of his more than decade-long tenure in state government as a motivating factor. Serafini represented District 2A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2009 to 2015, assuming office in the Maryland State Senate in February 2015.

Serafini wrote in a letter to his senate colleagues that “leaving my family on a Monday and not returning home until Friday late afternoon” took a toll on him. He also wrote, “Frankly, being a Republican from a rural area has also worn on me.” Before he resigned, Serafini was one of 15 Republican senators in the 47-seat chamber. Democrats have held a majority in the chamber since at least 1990.

Governor Larry Hogan (R) will appoint Serafini’s replacement from a list of candidates recommended by Republican committee officials in the district. The appointee will serve the remainder of Serafini’s unexpired term, which is set to end on January 10, 2023.

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Conrad resigns from North Carolina House

At 5pm local time on July 31, North Carolina Rep. Debra Conrad (R) resigned from her position in the state legislature. She was first elected to represent District 74 in the North Carolina House in 2012.

Conrad didn’t specify the reason for her departure in her resignation letter, but told various media outlets that she is exploring lobbying roles. Upon the announcement of her resignation, Conrad said, “Lobbying is one of the exciting opportunities I am considering, as I have too much energy and passion for politics to retire. I look forward to being back in Raleigh in a new role next year.”

State legislators in North Carolina are required to have a six-month period between serving in the legislature as an elected official and registering as a lobbyist.

Conrad’s departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina House of Representatives this year and the eighth in the state legislature. July saw two other state legislators resign, former Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) on July 16 and former Sen. Andy Wells (R) on July 27. Farmer-Butterfield left the legislature to take another state government position, whereas Wells did not give his reason for resigning beyond exploring unspecified opportunities outside the legislature.

Vacancies in the North Carolina General Assembly are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The governor must make an appointment from a recommended list of candidates selected by party committee members of the party who last held the seat. Of the eight vacancies that have occurred this year in the General Assembly, four of the seats were last held by Republican legislators and four were held by Democratic legislators. Of the four that have thus far been filled, three seats are currently held by a Democrat and one is held by a Republican. Heading into this year’s elections, the Republican Party holds a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

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Bosma resigns from Indiana House of Representatives

More than seven months after he disclosed his plans to resign, Rep. Brian Bosma (R) stepped down from the Indiana House of Representatives on July 31. Bosma first made the announcement in November 2019 that he planned to resign from the state legislature at the end of the 2020 legislative session, which ended in March.

Bosma, who had represented District 88 in the chamber since 1986, was the longest-standing state Speaker of the House in Indiana’s history. He first served as speaker from 2005 to 2006 and again from 2011 until spring of this year. Bosma stepped down from his leadership position on March 9 in anticipation of his resignation from the legislature. House Republicans selected Rep. Todd Huston (R) of District 37 to replace Bosma as speaker.

Bosma’s resignation creates the only vacancy in the Republican-controlled chamber. A caucus of Republican Party committee officials from HD 88 will appoint Bosma’s replacement, who will serve the remainder of his unexpired term set to end on the same day as the general election: November 3, 2020.

In the November 2018 elections, the chamber’s Republican majority decreased from 70-30 to 67-33. All 100 seats are up for election this year.

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Householder removed as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives

Amid an ongoing federal investigation, the Ohio House of Representatives voted unanimously on July 30 to remove Rep. Larry Householder (R) from his leadership position as house speaker. State representatives introduced the motion for removal shortly after a federal grand jury indicted Householder on racketeering charges.

The House voted 55-38 that same day to select Bob Cupp (R) as the new speaker. House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes issued a statement that indicated no members of the Democratic Caucus voted for Cupp. In his address to the chamber, Cupp said, “It is a great privilege to lead this chamber. Sorry it is in such difficult and trying and unprecedented times as this, however, but I pledge to do so honorably and fairly and humbly.”

Both Householder and Cupp are running for re-election this year. Householder advanced unopposed from the April 28 Republican primary in District 72 and is running unopposed in the general election on November 3. Cupp ran unopposed in the District 4 Republican primary and faces Libertarian candidate Christina Marie Holloway in the general election.

Householder, along with four others, was arrested on July 21 and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. Householder was accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants.

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Lujan appointed to New Mexico House of Representatives

The Santa Fe County Commission appointed Tara Lujan (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on July 23. Lujan fills the District 48 seat vacated by Linda Trujillo (D) on July 9, when Trujillo resigned in order to focus on full-time work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lujan will serve in the New Mexico legislature until the end of the year. Since Trujillo was running for re-election when she resigned, the Democratic Central Committee in Santa Fe County will also select a replacement candidate for the November 3 ballot. Before she resigned, Trujillo advanced unopposed from the June 2 primary election. No candidates from other parties may be nominated to the November ballot, as no candidates from other parties filed to run in the district before the filing deadline passed.

New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the November 2018 elections, the New Mexico House of Representatives’ Democratic majority increased from 38-31 (with one vacancy) to 46-24. All 70 seats in the chamber are up for election this year.

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