National Democratic and Republican party committees report March fundraising figures

Campaign committees associated the Democratic and Republican parties reported increased fundraising in March, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Saturday.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $13.0 million in March, an 86% increase over the $7.0 million it raised in February. It spent $11.5 million, including paying off all $5.75 million in debt it owed at the end of February.
The NRCC’s Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $13.5 million in March, a 16% increase over February. It spent $9.1 million, including paying off just under half of the $12 million debt it owed at the end of February.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised $5.9 million, up 53% from February. It spent $4.3 million, including $1.9 million on its debt. The group reported $19.1 million in debt at the end of March.
The DSCC’s Republican equivalent, the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee), raised $7.5 million, up 18% from February. It spent $5.0 million, $3.0 million of which went towards paying off debts, leaving it with $9.0 million in debt.
As in 2018, the Republican National Committee (RNC) outraised and outspent the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The RNC raised $15.5 million and spent $13.5 million in March. It does not have any debt. The DNC raised $8.2 million and spent $6.3 million in March. The group’s debt increased by $2.0 million to $6.6 million.
So far in 2019, the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC have raised a combined $67.1 million and spent a combined $50.6 million. The RNC, NRCC, and NRSC have raised a combined $90.5 million and spent a combined $73.9 million.

State minimum wage levels vary from $5 to $14 per hour

Voters approved two statewide ballot measures in 2018 pertaining to minimum wages. Arkansas Issue 5 was approved, incrementally raising the minimum wage in Arkansas from $8.50 to $11 per hour by 2021. Missouri Proposition B was also approved, increasing the state’s minimum wage each year from $7.85 up to $12 per hour in 2023.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Georgia and Wyoming are the only two states with minimum wages below the federal level, making the federal minimum wage operative in those states. Another 19 states have state minimums at $7.25, matching the federal level. The other 29 states and Washington, D.C., all have minimum wages above the federal level. Thirteen of those states have wages above $10.00 per hour. Statewide minimum wage laws range from $5.15 per hour in Georgia and Wyoming up to $14.00 per hour in Washington, D.C.
Overall, minimum wages increased in 20 states and Washington, D.C., in 2018. Some of these changes took place due to ballot measures, while others took place due to state legislation. Minimum wages will also increase in 21 states and Washington, D.C., in 2019. The average increase for these 21 states is $0.55.
Proponents of increased minimum wages in Florida and Nevada are aiming to get measures on the ballot in 2020. Supporters of Florida’s minimum wage measure need to collect 766,200 valid signatures by February 1, 2020, to get their measure on the ballot. In Nevada, a majority vote is required in two successive sessions of the Nevada State Legislature to place an amendment on the ballot. Legislators passed Senate Joint Resolution 6 in 2017 and need to pass it again in their 2019 legislative session in order to place it on the ballot in 2020.

How many of the largest cities’ mayors are affiliated with a political party?

In most of the nation’s largest cities, mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, though many officeholders and candidates are affiliated with political parties.
The mayors of 62 of the nation’s 100 largest cities are Democrats. There are 29 Republican mayors, four independents, four nonpartisan mayors, and one of unknown affiliation.
As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage of the 100 largest U.S. cities, we are tracking the 2019 mayoral elections in those cities and noting partisan changes that may occur. Thirty-one mayoral elections in those cities are being held in 2019. In 20 of those cities, the incumbent was Democratic at the start of 2019. Seven incumbents were Republican, three were independent, and the affiliation of one was unknown.
In the 10 largest U.S. cities, eight mayors are Democrats, one is Republican, and one is independent.
2019 is a mayoral election year in six of those cities: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas. Five of those cities began the year with a Democratic mayor and one (San Antonio), with an independent mayor.
One partisan change has taken place in 2019. Voters in Phoenix elected Kate Gallego (D) in a nonpartisan mayoral runoff election on March 12, 2019. Gallego succeeded Thelda Williams, a Republican. The general election was held on November 6, 2018.
Democratic mayors oversaw 67 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2016, 64 at the beginning of 2017, 63 at the start of 2018, and 61 at the start of 2019.
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Three state executives ineligible to run for re-election in 2019 due to term limits

Ten of the 23 state executive positions up for election in 2019 are subject to term limits. That includes all seven of Kentucky’s state executive offices on the ballot, as well as Louisiana’s governorship and Mississippi’s governorship and lieutenant governorship.
Of the 10 positions subject to term limits, three are held by incumbents who are prevented from running for re-election in 2019 due to being term-limited. These incumbents are Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R), and Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (R). All three officials were first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Reeves is running for governor in the Republican primary on August 6, 2019. Neither Grimes nor Bryant have announced future plans in politics.
Kentucky and Mississippi are both Republican trifectas. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
A total of 37 states have laws limiting the number of terms state executive officials can serve. In 2018, 131 of the 303 state executive positions on the ballot were subject to term limits, and 49 state executive officials were ineligible to run for re-election.
This included the following two Democratic and 11 Republican governors: Jerry Brown (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Rick Scott (R-FL), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Paul LePage (R-ME), Rick Snyder (R-MI), Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Susana Martinez (R-NM), John Kasich (R-OH), Mary Fallin (R-OK), Dennis Daugaard (R-SD), Bill Haslam (R-TN), and Matt Mead (R-WY). Four of those 13 offices changed party hands and were won by Democrats. Those open-seat winners were Janet Mills (D) in Maine, Gretchen Whitmer (D) in Michigan, Steve Sisolak (D) in Nevada, and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in New Mexico.

In first quarter of 2019, legislatures act on donor disclosure policy

A little over three months into 2019, state legislatures nationwide have introduced 73 bills regarding donor disclosure policy in the states.
As of April 12, 34 states had seen such legislation introduced. Of these 73 bills, 34 were sponsored by Democrats and 21 by Republicans; the remainder were sponsored by bipartisan groups or committees. Of these 73 bills, 11 had been enacted, three had passed upper chambers, five had passed lower chambers, two had passed both chambers without having yet been signed into law, and three had died. The remainder were either in committee or awaiting a committee assignment.
Under federal law, nonprofits are generally only required to disclose to the public information about donors who contribute to fund campaign expenditures. State laws, however, may require more disclosure. For example, California and New York require registered nonprofits to disclose the donor data they report to the Internal Revenue Service that is not publicly released by the federal government. Other states, such as Montana and Washington, require nonprofits to publicly disclose their general supporters for engaging in speech about policy issues. In general, advocates for expanded donor disclosure provisions argue that such policies minimize the potential for fraud and establish public accountability. Meanwhile, opponents of such measures contend that disclosing to the public information about donors violates privacy rights and can inhibit charitable activity.

From 30 hours to 2 – what you need to know about the nuclear option change this week

Earlier this week Republican leaders in the Senate used a procedural tactic known as the nuclear option to change the process for confirming judicial nominees. This is the third time the procedural tactic has been used since 2013.

Republicans cheered the change while Democrats have been critical of the tactic. But aside from the partisan mudslinging, what are the facts about this change? What will the new rules mean, and what is the data behind how we got here? What exactly happened with the nuclear option and how are Senate leaders reacting? How will this affect President Trump’s ability to fill vacancies in the federal judiciary?

Ballotpedia has answers to these questions and more below.

What happened?

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 51-48 to reduce post-cloture debate on federal district court nominees from 30 hours to two hours (circuit court judges and Supreme Court justices still have 30 hour limits). The Senate made the same change for executive branch nominees below the Cabinet level.

The two hour period begins after the Senate votes to invoke cloture—the process in which senators agree to end debate and bring a nomination or legislative act to a final vote. Cloture is often invoked to end procedural delay commonly known as a filibuster. It takes 51 votes to invoke cloture on a presidential nominee and 60 votes to invoke cloture on legislation.

What is the difference between a federal district court and a circuit court?

Federal district courts are the first level of the federal court system. Most federal criminal and civil cases originate in district courts. There are 94 district courts nationwide, with each state having between one and four associated district courts. There are 677 federal judge positions in the district court system.

Circuit courts are the intermediate appellate level of the federal court system, falling in between district courts and the Supreme Court. There are 13 circuit courts, including 11 numbered circuits which each handle appeals originating in a particular group of states. A 12th court handles appeals originating in the District of Columbia. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handles appeals which deal with specific subject areas. There are 179 federal judge positions in the circuit court system.

What does the nuclear option actually mean?

To enact this change, Senate Republicans used a parliamentary tactic known as the nuclear option: a procedure that allows the majority party to change a Senate precedent with a simple majority vote. Without the nuclear option, changing the Senate’s standing rules requires a two-thirds vote. On Tuesday, Republicans tried to pass the change in the form of a standing resolution, but they did not receive the required 60 votes. The term nuclear option was first coined in 2003 by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

To deploy the nuclear option, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised a point of order during the consideration of Roy Altman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. His point of order stated that debate should be limited to two hours after cloture is invoked on a judicial nominee. After the presiding officer of the Senate ruled against McConnell’s point of order, 51 Senate Republicans–all except Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Mike Lee (R-Ut.)–voted to overrule the chair’s decision.

This was the third time the Senate has used the nuclear option to change Senate precedent for presidential nominations since 2013. Here are the other two:

  • 2013: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed the threshold for invoking cloture for all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices from 60 votes to 51 votes.

  • 2017: McConnell reduced the cloture threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to 51 votes when the Senate was considering Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Who was the first judge to be confirmed under the new precedent?

Altman was the first judge to be confirmed under the new precedent. Altman is the first Trump judicial nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and brings its composition to seven Republican-appointed judges and seven Democratic-appointed judges. There are four other vacancies on the bench. Two Trump nominees who, like Altman, were nominated on May 7, 2018—Rodolfo Ruiz and Rodney Smith—are awaiting confirmation.

How many judges are awaiting confirmation?

Seventy-five of President Trump’s judicial nominees have yet to be confirmed. This figure includes 49 nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and are awaiting only a vote before the full Senate as well as 26 nominees who have yet to appear before the committee.

Of the 75 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation, 56 are nominees to district courts. Thirty-nine of those district court nominees are only awaiting a vote before the full Senate. Thirty-one of the 39 district court nominees were nominated more than six months ago. Seventeen were nominated in April 2018 or earlier.

Over the course of the Trump administration, the highest number of concurrent judicial vacancies occurred in August 2018, when there were 158 vacant judicial seats. The lowest number of concurrent vacancies was in February 2017, when 117 federal judgeships were vacant.

How many district court judges have been nominated to the federal judiciary?

Judge Altman is the 54th Trump nominee to have been confirmed to a District Court by the U.S. Senate. The District Courts with the most Trump appointees are the U.S. District Courts for the Western Districts of Pennsylvania and of Texas, which each have three Trump appointees.

Between 1933 and 2017, the average rate of successful District Court nominations was 27.4 per year. This has increased in recent years, with Bill Clinton (D) averaging 38.1 per year, George W. Bush (R) averaging 32.6 per year, and Barack Obama (D) averaging 33.5 per year. President Trump’s 54 appointments put him at an approximate rate of 24 per year.

What are the longest/oldest vacancies right now?

Judge Malcolm Howard’s seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant the longest. Howard retired from full-time service, assuming senior status, on December 31, 2005—a 13-year vacancy. There is no pending nominee for this seat.

The second-longest vacancy is on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Judge Janis Jack vacated the seat on June 1, 2011, when she assumed senior status. President Trump nominated David Morales to fill this seat on April 12, 2018. Morales is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.

Which of President Trump’s nominations have been waiting the longest?

Of the 49 Trump nominees who have passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting a vote before the full Senate, four were nominated in 2017, 27 were nominated in the first six months of 2018, 12 were nominated in the latter six months of 2018, and six were nominated in 2019.

The four nominees who began the process in 2017 are Matthew Kacsmaryk (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas), Ryan Holte (U.S. Court of Federal Claims), Howard Nielson (U.S. District Court for the District of Utah), and Daniel Domenico (U.S. District Court of the District of Colorado).

With the nuclear option in place, how fast will nominees be confirmed?

So how did the 30-hour post-cloture debate play out in practice? According to a CRS report last updated in 2017, “The time used in debate is counted against the 30 hours, but so too is the time consumed by quorum calls, roll call votes, parliamentary inquiries, and all other proceedings that occur while the matter under cloture is pending before the Senate.”

The report also noted that, under some circumstances, “the Senate may agree by unanimous consent that the 30 hours be considered to run continuously, even when the Senate is not actively considering the measure or even does not remain in session.”

Before the precedent changed, Adam Jentleson, a former Harry Reid staffer, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that Senate Democrats could drag out judicial confirmations to four days using the cloture process. George Washington University political scientist Sarah Binder found that the median time spent in post-cloture debate was 22 hours for judicial nominations from 2017 to 2018.

University of Georgia political scientist Tony Madonna expects the four-day confirmation period mentioned by Jentleson to decrease under the new precedent (although this could be affected by whether there is an even split in debate time between Democrats and Republicans). Madonna said it is unclear how much this change will affect the federal judiciary’s vacancy rate because some of the delay comes during the executive branch’s vetting process and before the nominations reach the Senate.

What are people saying about it?

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Senate Democrats were taking advantage of the 30-hour period to delay President Donald Trump’s nominees. In an April 1 op-ed, McConnell wrote, “The all-encompassing, systematic nature of this obstruction is not part of the Senate’s important tradition of minority rights. It is a new departure from that tradition. And this break with tradition is hurting the Senate, hamstringing our duly elected president, and denying citizens the government they elected.”

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the change. He said, “Two hours for a lifetime appointment is unacceptable. Two hours for a lifetime appointment with huge influence on people’s lives is unacceptable. It’s ridiculous.”

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V) said, “This rule today, this change, and the two that came before it in 2013 and 2017, were not meant to make this place more efficient. They were meant to take power from each and every senator.”

  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mt.) said, “What we’re debating here are rules that were never part of the Constitution. The Senate gets to define the rules, and the Senate can change its rules. It is a good healthy debate, and I don’t think you’re going to see a legislative filibuster change in this Congress.”

So, to summarize, here are five things you need to know:

  1. Senate Republicans used the nuclear option to shorten the amount of time that can be spent debating judicial nominees after cloture has been invoked from 30 hours to two hours. The change covers district court nominees and does not apply to circuit court or Supreme Court nominees. Federal district courts are the first level of the federal court system, while the circuit courts and the Supreme Court generally handle appeals from district courts.

  2. This was the third time the Senate has changed Senate precedent using the nuclear option since 2013. In the other two instances, the Senate worked to reduce the cloture threshold for all presidential nominees, including Supreme Court nominees, from 60 votes to 51 votes.

  3. Judge Roy Altman was the first judge confirmed under the new post-cloture debate rules. He will serve as a District Court judge in Florida.

  4. The Senate has confirmed 54 of Trump’s district court nominees so far. Fifty-six more await confirmation, including 39 who only need a vote in the full Senate. Thirty-one of the 39 were nominated more than six months ago.

  5. Political scientist Tony Madonna told Ballotpedia that the maximum period between invoking cloture on a judicial nominee and confirming that nominee will likely be reduced under the new precedent. He said the likely effects of the debate changes on the federal judiciary vacancy rate are unclear because much of the delay comes during the executive branch’s vetting process.


This analysis was authored by David Luchs, Rob Oldham, and Sara Reynolds.

In 2018, 143 third party candidates received more votes than the margin deciding the election

While third party and independent candidates win fewer elections than members of the two major parties, they can often affect an election, especially if their supporters would have voted for a different candidate had they not been in the race.
In 2018, 143 third party or independent candidates received more votes than the margin between the top two major-party candidates. We’ll refer to them as noteworthy third-party candidates.
This figure includes five candidates for U.S. Congress, 16 candidates for statewide office, 115 candidates for state offices elected by districts (such as the state legislature), and seven candidates in local elections within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope.
These 143 candidates included 54 Libertarians, 41 independent or unaffiliated candidates, and 19 members of the Green Party. Republicans won 27 of the 51 races with at least one noteworthy Libertarian candidate while Democrats won the remaining 24. Of the 15 races with a noteworthy Green Party candidate, Democrats won 11 while Republicans won four.
There were two noteworthy third-party U.S. Senate candidates, both in races Democrats won. In Arizona’s open-seat race, Angela Green (G) received more votes than the margin between Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R). In West Virginia, Rusty Hollen (L) exceeded the margin between incumbent Joe Manchin (D) and challenger Patrick Morrisey (R). The three noteworthy House candidates, including two Libertarians and one member of the Reform Party, all ran in seats Republicans won.
Three 2018 gubernatorial contests, all for open seats, involved noteworthy third-party candidates. Independent candidates Oz Griebel (Conn.) and Greg Orman (Kan.) contested races Democrats won, while the Republican candidate won the Florida gubernatorial election with noteworthy Reform Party candidate Darcy Richardson.
Five states with 10 or more noteworthy third-party candidates accounted for more than half (83) of all such candidates in 2018. These states were:
  • Vermont: 32 noteworthy candidates including 17 independents, eight members of the Vermont Progressive Party, and four Libertarians
  • New Hampshire: 17 noteworthy candidates including 15 Libertarians and two independents
  • Maryland: 13 noteworthy candidates including 10 Green Party members, two Libertarians, and one independent
  • West Virginia: 11 noteworthy candidates including six independents, four Libertarians, and one member of the state Green Party affiliate
  • Michigan: 10 noteworthy candidates including six Libertarians, two members of the Working Class Party, and two members of the state Constitution Party affiliate
Additional reading:

Comparing and contrasting methods for judicial selection in the states

Each state has its own specific method for selecting judges but there are four primary selection types: partisan election, nonpartisan election, legislative election, and gubernatorial appointment.
A majority (26) of state supreme courts use gubernatorial appointment, while 22 use either partisan or nonpartisan elections. Two states, South Carolina and Virginia, select state supreme court justices by a vote of the state legislature.
What do supporters and opponents say about each method?
  • Proponents of elections say elections allow people to hold judges accountable. Opponents say that such elections allow for the influence of special interests on judicial selection.
  • Proponents of gubernatorial appointments say that it protects the independence of the judiciary by eliminating political campaigns. Opponents say that voters should be given a voice in selecting judges to keep them accountable.
  • Proponents of legislative elections say that they prevent any one authority figure from having too much power, but opponents say that it promotes political inbreeding and create a judiciary primarily made up of past legislators.

1,957 candidates responded to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in 2018

Ballotpedia introduced a new initiative in 2018: Candidate Connection. We surveyed candidates at the federal, state, and local levels to help voters choose representatives who reflected their values and upheld their ideals.
A total of 1,957 candidates responded. They came from all but two of the 50 states and ran for all levels of government from school board to U.S. Senate. Texans made up the largest portion of respondents in 2018 with 186 answering Ballotpedia’s candidate survey. A majority of respondents—56.06 percent—ran for state legislative office, and 24.37 percent of all respondents won their election bids.
Learn more about these candidates in our new report, which also highlights a few notable candidates who completed the survey, features the respondents who won their elections, and lists all of the 1,957 candidates who sent in answers.

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.