Sarah Doyel

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New York Assemblymember Gantt dies

New York State Assemblymember David Gantt (D) died on July 1 after serving in the legislature for close to thirty years. Gantt was first elected to represent District 133 in the New York State Assembly in 1983. He was elected to represent District 137 in 2013 and held that office until his death.
Vacancies in the New York state legislature are filled by special election. This year four special elections were called in the state legislature—three in the assembly and one in the state senate. All four were originally scheduled for April 28. On March 28, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) postponed the four state legislative special elections, along with New York’s presidential preference primary and one Congressional special election, to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state legislative special elections were subsequently canceled.
Gantt’s death creates the fourth current vacancy in the chamber. The partisan composition of the chamber is 103 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and one member of the Independence Party of America. All 150 seats are up for election this year.

June 2020 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.1% Republicans, 46.8% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s most recent monthly analysis of the partisan composition of state legislatures found that 52.1% of state legislators are Republicans and 46.8% are Democrats. That represents a decrease of one percentage point for the Republican Party from the month of May. The numbers for the Democratic Party stayed consistent from last month.
Every month, Ballotpedia analyzes the partisan composition of state legislatures. There are 7,383 state legislative offices in total: 1,972 state senate seats and 5,411 state house seats. As of July 1, the Democratic Party holds 873 state senate seats and 2,584 state house seats for a total of 3,457 seats. The Republican Party holds 1,081 state senate seats and 2,768 state house seats, or 3,849 total seats. Twenty-nine state house seats and four state senate seats are held by independent or third party officeholders.
The month that has seen the biggest difference between the two parties’ changes in state legislative membership in the last twelve months was November 2019. That month, the Democratic Party lost five seats and the Republican Party gained five.

Four state legislators resign at the end of June

Four state legislators in three states stepped down from their positions on June 30, bringing the number of state legislative vacancies that have occurred this year to 75.

The former legislators had a cumulative total of more than sixty years of legislative experience among them. Gary Jackson (R) had served in the Mississippi State Senate since 2004. Gary Chism (R), another Mississippi legislator, first began serving in the state’s House of Representatives in 2000. Jerry W. Tillman (R), who left the North Carolina State Senate, was first elected to the chamber in 2002. Chris Richey (D) first joined the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2013.

The process by which state legislative vacancies are filled varies by state. In both chambers of the Mississippi state legislature and in the Arkansas House of Representatives, the governor must call a special election to fill the vacant seat. In the North Carolina Senate, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement senator.

As of July 2020, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for this year in 25 states. The elections will decide 17 previously Democratic and 31 previously Republican seats. The partisan composition of state legislatures nationwide as of July 1 is 46.8% Democratic and 52.2% Republican, which has remained consistent since April of this year.

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Indianapolis city-county councilmember Johnson appointed to Indiana House of Representatives

Marion County Democratic committee members appointed Blake Johnson (D) to represent District 100 in the state House of Representatives on Saturday, June 27. Johnson replaces former Representative Dan Forestal (D), who resigned on June 15 following the second of two arrests he experienced in 2019 and 2020.

Johnson served as a city-county councillor in Indianapolis up until his appointment to the state legislature. He filed to run for the 100th District seat and advanced from the Democratic primary on June 2, defeating Clif Marsiglio with 74.7% of the vote. Johnson will face Republican Wayne Harmon in the general election on November 3.

Heading into this year’s elections, there were eight open seats in the Indiana House of Representatives where the incumbent did not file to run for re-election. Forestal’s seat in District 100 was one of them. Only one incumbent, Republican Dollyene Sherman, was defeated in the state’s June 2 primaries. The election years 2018, 2016, and 2014 also each saw one incumbent defeated. As of June 25, 51 incumbents (16 Democrats and 35 Republicans) have been defeated in state legislative primaries this year.

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Flanagan resigns from New York Senate, Republicans select new Minority Leader

John J. Flanagan (R) resigned from the New York State Senate on June 28, ending more than 20 years of service in the New York state legislature. Flanagan represented District 9 in New York’s General Assembly beginning in 1987 and won election to the state Senate in 2002.
Flanagan had already announced that he would not run for re-election this year prior to submitting his resignation. He started a job as a vice president of regional and government affairs at New York healthcare provider Northwell Health on June 29.
Flanagan was serving as State Senate Minority Leader at the time of his resignation announcement, and his departure prompted leadership elections among the Senate Republicans. They selected Robert Ortt as the new minority leader on June 23.
Flanagan’s resignation leaves the second vacancy in the chamber, the first of which occurred when former Sen. Bob Antonacci (R) resigned at the end of 2019 to join the New York Supreme Court’s 5th Judicial District.
The partisan composition of the state Senate is 40 Democrats and 21 Republicans. All 63 seats are up for election this year. Republicans last held control of the chamber from 2010 up until 2018.
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Hawaii state Senator Harimoto dies

Hawaii state Senator Breene Harimoto (D) died on June 18. He had represented District 16 in the Hawaii State Senate since 2014 and previously served on the Honolulu City Council from 2012 to 2014. Governor David Ige (D) has sixty days to appoint a replacement to represent Harimoto’s district in the chamber.

Harimoto’s death creates the only vacancy in the Hawaii state legislature. The partisan composition of the state Senate is currently 23 Democrats and one Republican in addition to Harimoto’s vacant seat. The Hawaii House of Representatives has 46 Democratic and five Republican members. Hawaii has had a Democratic state government trifecta since 2010, and the Democratic Party has held a majority in the state legislature since 1992.

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Crabtree replaces Youngberg in the South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Casey Crabtree (R) to the South Dakota State Senate on June 19, one day after Jordan Youngberg (R) resigned to take a full-time position with the South Dakota State Treasurer’s office. Crabtree’s appointment to represent District 8 was effective immediately.

Crabtree will serve the remainder of Youngberg’s unexpired term, which ends on January 11, 2021. At the time of his appointment, Crabtree had already declared his candidacy for the District 8 seat. He is running unopposed in the Nov. 3 general election.

86 of 99 state legislative chambers nationwide are holding elections in 2020, including both chambers of the South Dakota State Legislature. Heading into the 2020 elections, Republicans hold a majority 61 chambers compared to Democrats’ 37. In the Alaska House, there is a power-sharing agreement between the parties as part of a coalition.

Republicans hold a supermajority in the South Dakota State Senate and the South Dakota House of Representatives, as well as a Republican state government trifecta.

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Milwaukee County Executive Crowley resigns from Wisconsin State Assembly

State Rep. David Crowley (D) resigned from the Wisconsin legislature on June 18. Crowley won the nonpartisan election for Milwaukee County Executive April 7 and was sworn into that office on May 4. He succeeded former county executive Chris Abele, who announced in 2019 that he would not run for re-election in 2020.

Under Wisconsin law, individuals cannot hold office in multiple branches of state government for more than 60 days after the certification of an election. The county executive election was certified on April 20, meaning Crowley was required to resign his seat in the State Assembly by June 20.

Crowley’s term as county executive ends in 2024.

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Wisconsin Rep. Taylor appointed to succeed Karofsky on Dane County Circuit Court

Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Wisconsin State Assemblymember Chris Taylor (D) to the Dane County Circuit Court on June 11, replacing Jill Karofsky, who was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7. Taylor said she plans to continue to serve in the state legislature until just before her swearing-in on the court August 1, which is also the day Karofsky is sworn into the state Supreme court.

Taylor was first elected to represent District 76 in the General Assembly in a 2011 special election. She did not file to run for re-election to the legislature this year.

The Dane County Circuit Court is one of 72 circuit courts, or trial courts, in Wisconsin. Judicial elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, though candidates often receive support from partisan organizations. Wisconsin is one of 18 states that select judges through nonpartisan elections at all trial court levels.

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Pennsylvania House Speaker Turzai Resigns

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) resigned from the legislature on June 15 to take a job in the private sector. He was first elected as a state Representative in 2001 and had announced in January that he would not run for election in 2020. Turzai had served as Speaker of the House since January 2015. He previously served as the House majority leader from 2011 to 2014.

The current partisan composition of the Pennsylvania state House is 109 Republicans, 93 Democrats, and one vacancy. House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R) will serve as interim House Speaker.

The Morning Call reported that Turzai has expressed an interest in running for governor in 2022. He was a 2018 gubernatorial candidate but withdrew from the race before the filing deadline and ran for re-election to the state House of Representatives that year instead. Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will be prevented by term limits from seeking re-election in 2022.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is among 22 state legislative chambers Ballotpedia has identified as battleground chambers for 2020. Democrats would need to flip nine of 203 seats in order to gain control of the chamber. Republicans will maintain control of the chamber if they lose partisan control of eight seats or fewer. In the 2018 elections, 31 races were decided by a margin of 10% or smaller.

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