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Tyler King

Tyler King is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Montana mayor sues to stop recall election

In Montana, Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey has filed a lawsuit in Ravalli County District Court seeking to stop the recall election against him. The lawsuit argues that the recall petitions did not include important context about the allegations against him and that the recall therefore shouldn’t have been approved for circulation. The recall election is scheduled to take place via mail-in ballots on August 4, 2020.
The recall effort is being organized by resident Leanna Rodabaugh in response to Dewey signing a $79,800 contract with First Call Computer Solutions on behalf of the town. Petitions accused Dewey of violating his oath of office because contracts of that size would normally require approval from the town council. Rodabaugh said that the way the contract was signed bypassed the competitive bid and contract award process.
Dewey responded to the recall effort and said, “If you strictly took state law and municipal ordinance, I think, yes, a case could be made that there was some impropriety. But that’s only true if you completely ignore the purchasing policy which the council adopted a number of years ago and has reviewed on a regular basis since delegating this authority to department heads and the mayor.”
Petitions were approved for circulation on April 7, giving petitioners until July 6 to submit 251 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot. Petitions were accepted by Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg on May 22, and 254 signatures were found valid.
Dewey sent a letter to Plettenberg after the signatures were verified. He wrote that the recall petition is “invalid and should be rejected on the basis of unsworn falsification and tampering with public records or information. These facts presented in the meeting by City Attorney Scott Owens conclude that there was no merit to the allegations brought forth, now presented in the recall petition, and that no illegal action had been taken by the mayor or administration. Ms. Rodabaugh was aware of these facts when submitting the petition and further omitted the authority given to the Mayor in the purchasing policy from the language in the petition she submitted. Therefore, she has knowingly submitted false allegations and information in the recall petition.”
In a town council meeting after the contract was signed, Stevensville Town Attorney Scott Owens stated that Dewey did not commit an illegal act because, while an agreement had been signed by the mayor for an amount of money that usually would require council approval, the money had been included in the budget that the council approved and was only being paid out incrementally. Owens said that Dewey’s actions were close to illegality but did not cross the line.
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.


Special primary election being held in Oklahoma Senate district

A special primary election is being held on June 30 for District 28 of the Oklahoma State Senate. Christian Ford, Mike Haines, and Zack Taylor are competing in the Republican primary. No Democratic candidates filed to run for election.

The seat became vacant when Jason Smalley (R) resigned on January 31 to take a private-sector job with Motorola Solutions Corporation. Smalley had represented the district since 2014.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 38-9 majority in the Oklahoma State Senate with one vacancy. Oklahoma has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Regularly scheduled elections are being held in odd-numbered Oklahoma State Senate districts in 2020. A primary is being held on June 30, and a primary runoff is scheduled for August 25, 2020. The general election will be held on November 3.

As of June, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Kentucky and New York to hold state legislative and judicial primaries

Kentucky and New York are holding regularly scheduled primaries for state-level offices on June 23.

In Kentucky, there are primaries being held for 19 state Senate seats, all 100 state House seats, one state supreme court seat, and one state intermediate appellate court seat. A special general election is being held in District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate.

In New York, primaries are taking place in all 63 state Senate seats and all 150 state Assembly seats. State legislative special elections in New York were also originally scheduled to take place in one state Senate district and three state Assembly districts, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) canceled the special elections on April 24. Those seats will remain vacant until the general election on November 3.

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Special election to be held June 23 for Kentucky Senate seat

A special election is being held on June 23 for District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate. Karen Berg (D) and Bill Ferko (R) are running in the special election. Party county executive committees choose nominees for state legislative special elections in Kentucky.

The seat became vacant when Ernie Harris (R) retired from the legislature on April 15. Harris had represented the district since 1995. He last won re-election in 2018, defeating Berg in the general election with 51.8 percent of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 28-9 majority in the Kentucky Senate with one vacancy. Kentucky has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Regularly scheduled elections are being held in odd-numbered Kentucky State Senate districts in 2020. A primary is being held on June 23. The general election will be held on November 3.

As of June, 47 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Mayoral recall effort scheduled in Montana

An effort in Stevensville, Montana, to recall Mayor Brandon Dewey was initiated in March 2020. Petitions were approved for circulation on April 7, giving petitioners until July 6 to submit 251 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot. Petitions were accepted by Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg on May 22, and 254 signatures were found valid. The recall election is taking place by mail-in ballots on August 4, 2020.

The recall effort is organized by resident Leanna Rodabaugh in response to Dewey signing a $79,800 contract with First Call Computer Solutions on behalf of the town. Petitions accuse Dewey of violating his oath of office because contracts of that size would normally require approval from the town council. Rodabaugh said that the way the contract was signed bypassed the competitive bid and contract award process.

Dewey responded to the recall effort and said, “If you strictly took state law and municipal ordinance, I think, yes, a case could be made that there was some impropriety. But that’s only true if you completely ignore the purchasing policy which the council adopted a number of years ago and has reviewed on a regular basis since delegating this authority to department heads and the mayor.”

Dewey sent a letter to Plettenberg after the signatures were verified. He wrote that the recall petition is “invalid and should be rejected on the basis of unsworn falsification and tampering with public records or information. These facts presented in the meeting by City Attorney Scott Owens conclude that there was no merit to the allegations brought forth, now presented in the recall petition, and that no illegal action had been taken by the mayor or administration. Ms. Rodabaugh was aware of these facts when submitting the petition and further omitted the authority given to the Mayor in the purchasing policy from the language in the petition she submitted. Therefore, she has knowingly submitted false allegations and information in the recall petition.”

Dewey provided a written statement that will be included on the recall election ballot:

“The Mayor did not violate Montana Law, Stevensville Code, or his oath in authorizing the purchase of IT services needed for the Town. The Town’s Attorney investigated and determined that all purchasing activities were done legally and compliant with laws.

“Montana law has a process for bidding when dealing with other than professional, technical, engineering, or legal services.[“] This process does not apply to IT services. According to MCA 7 5-4301 contracts for professional, technical, engineering, or legal services are excluded from certain provisions.

“The Council adopted a Purchasing Policy in 2014 to delegate authority to departments and the Mayor for purchases in varying dollar amounts. Though this policy, the Council puts trust in the Mayor to spend within the budget without direct oversight.

“The purchasing policy states that for other professional services, including non-construction services totaling between $1,501 – $25,000 per agreement, purchases contained in the current fiscal year budget …, Departiment Supervisor’s need only get confirmation by the Mayor prior to purchasing.[“]

“With Council’s approval in the 2019-2020 Budget, the services totaling less than $25,000 in FY2019-2020 was consented to by the Town Council. The Council had authorized several payments to the vendor after the Mayor authorized the purchase.”

In a town council meeting after the contract was signed, Stevensville Town Attorney Scott Owens stated that Dewey did nothing illegal because, while an agreement had been signed by the mayor for an amount of money that usually would require council approval, the money had been included in the budget that the council approved and was only being paid out incrementally. Owens said that Dewey’s actions were close to illegality but did not cross the line.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Montana mayoral recall effort advances to the ballot

An effort in Stevensville, Montana, to recall Mayor Brandon Dewey was initiated in March 2020. Petitions were approved for circulation on April 7, giving petitioners until July 6 to submit 251 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot. Petitions were accepted by Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg on May 22, and 254 signatures were found valid. Dewey has until June 4 to provide a written statement that will be placed on the ballot. Plettenberg has said that the recall election will likely take place on August 4.

The recall effort is organized by resident Leanna Rodabaugh in response to Dewey signing a $79,800 contract with First Call Computer Solutions on behalf of the town. Petitions accuse Dewey of violating his oath of office because contracts of that size would normally require approval from the town council. Rodabaugh said that the way the contract was signed bypassed the competitive bid and contract award process.

Dewey responded to the recall effort and said, “If you strictly took state law and municipal ordinance, I think, yes, a case could be made that there was some impropriety. But that’s only true if you completely ignore the purchasing policy which the council adopted a number of years ago and has reviewed on a regular basis since delegating this authority to department heads and the mayor.”

Dewey sent a letter to Plettenberg after the signatures were verified. He wrote that the recall petition is “invalid and should be rejected on the basis of unsworn falsification and tampering with public records or information. These facts presented in the meeting by City Attorney Scott Owens conclude that there was no merit to the allegations brought forth, now presented in the recall petition, and that no illegal action had been taken by the mayor or administration. Ms. Rodabaugh was aware of these facts when submitting the petition and further omitted the authority given to the Mayor in the purchasing policy from the language in the petition she submitted. Therefore, she has knowingly submitted false allegations and information in the recall petition.”

In a town council meeting after the contract was signed, Stevensville Town Attorney Scott Owens stated that Dewey did nothing illegal because, while an agreement had been signed by the mayor for an amount of money that usually would require council approval, the money had been included in the budget that the council approved and was only being paid out incrementally. Owens said that Dewey’s actions were close to illegality but did not cross the line.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading:


Special elections being held in two Massachusetts House districts

Special elections are being held on June 2 for the Thirty-seventh Middlesex District and Third Bristol District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The special elections were originally scheduled on March 31 but were moved to June 2 amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Primaries were held on March 3. The filing deadline for candidates was January 21.

• Danillo Sena (D) and Catherine Clark (R) are running for the Thirty-seventh Middlesex District. The seat became vacant on January 8, when Jennifer Benson (D) resigned to take a job as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership. Benson had represented the district since 2009.
• Carol Doherty (D) and Kelly Dooner (R) are running for the Third Bristol District. The seat became vacant after Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R) resigned on January 6, after being elected mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts. O’Connell had represented the district since 2011.

Heading into the special elections, Democrats have a 125-31 majority in the Massachusetts House with one independent member and three vacancies. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Special elections were held on May 19 for the Second Hampden & Hampshire District and Plymouth & Barnstable District of the Massachusetts State Senate. Both seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control as a result of the special elections. Four seats have flipped as a result of state legislative special elections this year.

As of May, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Mayoral recall effort underway in Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is facing a recall effort after she appeared on CNN to make the case that Las Vegas should be allowed to begin reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Goodman said the city could be used as a control group for opening up a city after a shutdown.
The notice of intent to recall Goodman was filed by Doug Polk, who accused Goodman of failing to represent her constituency in a statement given after the petitions were filed. He said the recall effort was started over “her clear disregard for public health, but also in her support for the casino owners over the people of Las Vegas. Additionally, she is barely able to speak coherent sentences while discussing the subject matter. She is unfit to serve as the mayor of Las Vegas.”
Goodman responded to the recall effort. She said, “You know, this is America. That’s his choice. Everybody’s entitled to their own political opinions.”
Petitioners seeking to recall a public official in Nevada are required to collect valid signatures of at least 25 percent of the voter turnout in the election when the official most recently won their seat. Circulation of the recall petition must be completed within 90 days after registration. Following this, the Secretary of State determines whether or not the petition is sufficient based upon the county clerk or registrars’ certified results of the signature verification. The filing officer then issues a call for a special election in the jurisdiction represented by the officeholder being recalled between 10 and 20 days after the Secretary of State has given notification that the petition is sufficient, unless a court complaint has been filed. The special election must then be held within 30 days after the filing officer issues this call.
The notice of intent was filed on May 6. Petitioners have until August 4 to submit 6,745 valid signatures for the recall to move forward.
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.


Special election to be held in California Senate district

A special election is being held for District 28 of the California State Senate on May 12. Elizabeth Romero (D) and Melissa Melendez (R) are competing in the special election. The filing deadline for candidates was January 9. A primary was held on March 3.

The special election was called after Jeff Stone (R) resigned the seat on November 1, 2019, to take a position in the Donald Trump presidential administration as Western Regional director in the Department of Labor. Stone had represented the district since 2015.

Heading into the election, Democrats have a 29-10 majority in the California Senate with one vacancy. California has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of May, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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A breakdown of state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2019

A total of 723 state legislative special elections took place from 2010 to 2019 in 31 states. The following states held the most special elections during that time period:

  • Georgia: 63
  • Pennsylvania: 43
  • New York: 42
  • Louisiana: 40
  • Massachusetts: 40
  • Connecticut: 37
  • Mississippi: 36
  • Virginia: 34
  • Texas: 32
  • California: 31
  • South Carolina: 31

The largest number of special elections in a given year were held in 2018 with 99 special elections. There were just 30 special elections held in 2010. Georgia held the most special elections in a single year with 12 special elections in 2015. New York and Georgia held 11 special elections in 2018 and 2011, respectively.

Ninety-seven state legislative seats changed partisan control in special elections from 2010 to 2019. Democrats flipped 52 seats, Republicans flipped 39 seats, and independent and third-party candidates flipped six seats. Seventeen seats flipped in 2017, the highest number in any year since 2010. The state with the most flipped seats is New Hampshire with 10 seats changing partisan control. An additional seat flipped in New Hampshire as a result of a special election in March 2020. Four states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Oklahoma) are tied for second with seven flipped seats each.

So far this year, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 20 states. Special elections have been held for 22 seats so far; heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 10 of the seats, while Republicans previously controlled 12. One seat has flipped from Democratic control to Republican control. One seat has flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

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