Sarah Doyel

Sarah Doyel is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Wisconsin Supreme Court justice to be sworn in during ultramarathon

Jill Karofsky, who won election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7 of this year, will be sworn in while running an ultramarathon race on Saturday. She plans to stop at mile 35 of a 100-mile race for a socially-distanced ceremony over which Justice Rebecca F. Dallet will preside.

Karofsky defeated incumbent Daniel Kelly with 55.2% of the vote to Kelly’s 44.7% in April’s nonpartisan election. Although the race was officially nonpartisan, Kelly has been a member of the court’s conservative majority and received support from conservative groups. Karofsky said she would join the court’s liberal minority and received support from liberal groups.

Of the seven justices on the state supreme court prior to Karofsky’s swearing-in, five justices were elected in nonpartisan elections and two, including Kelly, were appointed by Republican governor Scott Walker. Karofsky’s win reduced the size of the court’s conservative majority to 4-3, meaning that the 2023 election will determine control of the court, assuming no justices leave the bench early. A Kelly win would have prevented control of the court from changing until the 2026 election at the earliest.

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Former presidential candidate Herman Cain dies from coronavirus

2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died, according to a July 30 announcement on Cain’s website. The statement, written by the website’s editor Dan Calabrese, did not specify the exact time nor location of Cain’s death.

Calabrese attributed Cain’s death to the coronavirus, writing, “We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight…Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer.” Cain was first hospitalized with COVID-19 on July 1.

Ballotpedia is tracking political figures and government officials who have died, been diagnosed with, or quarantined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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O’Hearn appointed to Wyoming House of Representatives

Natrona County commissioners appointed Kevin O’Hearn (R) to the Wyoming House of Representatives on July 28 to fill the seat vacated when Carl “Bunky” Loucks (R) resigned in early July. O’Hearn was sworn into office on July 30. He will represent District 59 in the chamber for the remainder of Loucks’ unexpired term, which is set to end on January 3, 2021.

O’Hearn’s professional experience includes working as the building inspector and assistant town manager for Mills, Wyoming. Several commissioners cited his tenure in local government as their motivation for the appointment.

O’Hearn had already filed to run for Loucks’ seat this year and will face David Carpenter and Leah Juarez in the Republican primary on August 18. Loucks, who did not file to run for re-election, said he resigned to focus on running his business. No candidates filed to run in the district’s Democratic primary.

In 40 of the 60 races for the Wyoming House of Representatives occurring this year, no candidates filed in the Democratic primary. No candidates filed for the Republican primary in just five of the 60 districts.

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Texas Court of Appeals judge killed in accident

Appellate judge David Bridges (R), who sat in Place 1 on the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals, was killed on July 25 when an individual driving under the influence of alcohol hit Bridges as he was driving on the freeway. Bridges had served on the court since 1996.

Bridges was running for re-election to his seat on the court and advanced unopposed from the Republican primary on March 3. He was to face Democratic candidate Craig Smith, a judge of the Texas 192nd District Court, in the general election on November 3. Because of the timing of Bridges’ death, Republican Party committee officials from his district will nominate a replacement candidate to appear on the general election ballot. They have until August 24 to submit the nomination.

The Texas Fifth Court of Appeals is one of 14 intermediate appellate courts in Texas. Judges run in partisan elections to serve six-year terms on the court. Of the 12 judges currently sitting on the court, eight are affiliated with the Democratic Party and four are affiliated with the Republican Party.

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NC state Senator resigns

North Carolina legislator Andy Wells (R) resigned from his seat in the state senate on July 27. He had represented District 42 in the chamber since 2015 and previously represented District 96 in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015.

Wells did not file to run for re-election to his seat in the North Carolina State Senate this year, running instead for Lieutenant Governor. He lost to Mark Robinson in the Republican primary on March 3, coming in second place with 14.6% of the vote to Robinson’s 32.5%. Wells did not give a reason why he left his seat in the state legislature just under six months before the end of his term.

Wells’ departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina State Senate this year, two of which have not yet been filled. The other current vacancy in the chamber was created when Jerry W. Tillman (R), who represented District 26, unexpectedly resigned from his seat on June 30. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment.

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Jacobs sworn into U.S. House to represent New York’s 27th Congressional District

Just under a month after Christopher Jacobs (R) won the special election to fill the vacant seat in New York’s 27th Congressional District, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) swore him into office on July 21. Jacobs defeated Nate McMurray (D/Working Families Party), Duane Whitmer (Libertarian Party), and Michael Gammariello (Green Party) in the June 23 general special election for the seat. Jacobs received 55.2% of the vote to McMurray’s 43.1%. Whitmer and Gammariello each received 1% or less of the vote.
Jacobs also won the Republican primary in the regularly scheduled election for the seat, which also took place on June 23. He will face McMurray, Whitmer, and Gammariello in the Nov. 3 general election, as well as second-place finisher in the Republican primary Beth Parlato.
Jacobs was serving as a New York state senator when he won election to Congress. He resigned from the state senate on July 20 in order to be sworn into congressional office the following day. The state’s 27th Congressional District seat was vacated when Rep. Chris Collins (R) resigned on October 1, 2019.

Keller appointed to Connecticut Supreme Court

On July 20, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) appointed appellate judge Christine E. Keller to the state supreme court. If confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly, Keller will fill the vacancy created when former justice Richard Palmer reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in May 2020.
Keller has served on the Connecticut Court of Appeals since 2013 and previously served on the Connecticut Superior Court beginning in 1993. She is Lamont’s first appointee to the state supreme court. All six of the current justices on the seven-seat court were appointed by Governor Dan Malloy (D) during his tenure.
Nine of the 11 state supreme court vacancies that have occurred so far this year have been filled. 19 vacancies total set to occur this year have been announced.
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Three Toledo City Council members suspended pending federal investigation

On July 22, three of the four Toledo City Council members currently under investigation on federal charges of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy voluntarily suspended their positions. Yvonne Harper, Tyrone Riley, and Larry Sykes agreed to the suspension after Attorney General of Ohio Dave Yost (R) filed a request for suspension proceedings. They did not resign from their positions; temporary replacements that have yet to be appointed will fulfill the duties of their offices during the investigation. The fourth councilmember under investigation, Gary Johnson, continued to serve in his capacity as a councilmember as of July 23.
Harper, Johnson, Riley, and Sykes were arrested on June 30 on charges of bribery and extortion. The charges resulted from a two-year investigation begun by the FBI in 2016, and alleged that the four officials accepted $34,000 in bribes among them. On July 21, a grand jury indicted the councilmembers, along with attorney Keith Mitchell, on additional charges of extortion and conspiracy.
Probate judge Jack R. Puffenberger will appoint replacements for Harper, Riley, and Sykes to serve on the city council in a temporary capacity for the duration of the investigation.
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Doty resigns from Mississippi State Senate, special election set for replacement

Mississippi Sen. Sally Doty (R) resigned from the state legislature after Gov. Tate Reeves (R) appointed her to the executive director position of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff on July 15. The agency advises the three-member Mississippi Public Service Commission, which regulates telecommunications, electric, gas, water and sewer utilities in the state. Doty had represented District 39 since 2012.
Doty announced her resignation in a Facebook post following the appointment, writing, “Today Governor Reeves appointed me as Executive director of the Public Utilities Staff that oversees the interests of utility rate payers and public utilities. I will resign from my seat in the Senate, and the Governor will set a special election. I’ve been honored to represent the people of SW Mississippi for the past 9 years.”
Vacancies in the Mississippi state legislature are filled by special election. Gov. Reeves set the special election for Senate District 39 to take place on September 22. There is one other vacancy in the chamber, which occurred when former Sen. Gary Jackson resigned from the District 15 seat on June 30. The governor has not yet set a date for the special election to fill that seat.
Two state legislative special elections have been scheduled in Mississippi so far this year. One, for House District 88, took place on June 23. The other, which will fill the seat representing House District 87, is scheduled for November 3.
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Farmer-Butterfield appointed to Division of Employment Security, resigns from North Carolina House

After initial uncertainty about whether she would have to leave the state legislature, Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) officially resigned from the North Carolina House of Representatives on July 16. Farmer-Butterfield had represented District 24 in the chamber since 2003 and served as majority whip from 2006 to 2010.
On July 15, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) selected Farmer-Butterfield to serve on the Board of Review at the Division of Employment Security. The board handles appeals of unemployment benefit award decisions. The North Carolina State Senate confirmed Farmer-Butterfield’s nomination. When asked in her confirmation hearing if she planned to maintain her role as state senator, Farmer-Butterfield said, “I think they are checking to see if I can still do both.” She stepped down from the state legislature the following day.
Farmer-Butterfield filed for re-election this year and advanced from the Democratic primary on March 3. Democratic Party officials in her district will appoint someone to both finish the remainder of her unexpired term and run in the general election this fall. Farmer-Butterfield’s replacement will face Republican Mick Rankin in the Nov. 3 race. The Republican primary in the district was canceled.