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Voters approve Colorado sheriff recall

A recall election seeking to remove Lance FitzGerald from his position as Ouray County Sheriff in Colorado was approved by voters with 92.8% of the vote on June 30, 2020, according to unofficial election night results. Justin Perry (unaffiliated) defeated Ted Wolfe (R) in the election to replace FitzGerald. The election was conducted by mail-in ballot.

The recall effort began in January 2020. FitzGerald was targeted for recall after he was arrested on DUI allegations on November 27, 2019. The Ouray County Republican and Democratic parties created a recall committee together to lead the effort. The recall petition stated that county citizens did not have confidence that the sheriff could “uphold the duties and responsibilities of his elected position.” FitzGerald did not respond to the recall effort.

Recall supporters had 60 days to collect 768 signatures from eligible Ouray County voters. They submitted 1,082 petition signatures in March 2020. The county verified 914 of the signatures in April 2020, allowing the recall to move forward. FitzGerald had 15 days to file a protest against the recall petition. If he had, a hearing over the recall petition would have been held. Because he did not, the recall election was scheduled.

FitzGerald was sworn into office in January 2019. He ran as an unaffiliated candidate and defeated Republican Joel “BB” Burk by 11 votes.

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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Colorado sheriff recall on June 30 ballot

A recall election seeking to remove Lance FitzGerald from his position as the Ouray County Sheriff in Colorado is being held on June 30, 2020. Justin Perry (unaffiliated) and Ted Wolfe (R) are running to replace FitzGerald. The election is being conducted by mail-in ballot. Voters received their ballots by June 11 and must return them by 7 p.m. on June 30.

The recall effort began in January 2020. FitzGerald was targeted for recall after he was arrested on DUI allegations on November 27, 2019. The Ouray County Republican and Democratic parties created a recall committee together to lead the effort. The recall petition stated that citizens did not have confidence that the sheriff could “uphold the duties and responsibilities of his elected position.” FitzGerald did not respond to the recall effort.

FitzGerald was sworn into office in January 2019. He ran as an unaffiliated candidate and defeated a Republican, Joel “BB” Burk, by 11 votes.

Recall supporters had 60 days to collect 768 signatures from eligible Ouray County voters. They submitted 1,082 petition signatures in March 2020. The county verified 914 of the signatures in April 2020, allowing the recall to move forward. FitzGerald had 15 days to file a protest against the recall petition. If he had, a hearing over the recall petition would have been held. Because he did not, the recall election was scheduled.

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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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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Policing issues in the most recent Minneapolis and Chicago mayoral races

Two recently elected mayors of major midwestern metropolises are facing similar challenges in reaction to the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by city police last month. Like many big American cities, large demonstrations have occurred in both Minneapolis and Chicago to protest both the death of Floyd specifically and the behavior of police in general. 

Ballotpedia’s coverage of the recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis (2017) and Chicago (2019) reveal policing policy was an important issue for candidates in both races, and in particular, the two new mayors elected: Jacob Frey in Minneapolis and Lori Lightfoot in Chicago.

Here’s a look at the campaign issues in the most recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Minneapolis 2017

In the 2017 Minneapolis race, Frey (then a city councilman) defeated incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges and 13 other candidates after securing a majority on the fifth round of tabulations in the city’s ranked-choice voting system. “Policing and public safety were top issues,” of the race because of several high-profile officer-involved shootings in the city proper and surrounding suburbs. This included the July 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile by police in nearby St. Anthony, the November 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police after they mistakenly believed he had assaulted a girlfriend, and the July 2017 shooting of Justine Damond by a Minneapolis officer after Damond called police to report a potential sexual assault.

The shooting of Damond occurred one month before candidates filed to run for mayor and helped elevate Minneapolis’ policing culture and Hodges’ policing policies to major issues during the campaign. 

Police body-worn cameras were one subject of debate in the campaign. Following her 2013 election, Mayor Hodges had implemented a camera system. But, while the officers responding to Justine Damond’s call had been wearing body cameras, neither of them had their cameras switched on when the shooting occurred.

After the Damond shooting, Hodges requested and received the resignation of Police Chief Janeé Harteau. Hodges nominated then-Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to become the city’s first African American police chief. Whether or not to ratify Hodges’ judgment by keeping Arradondo in the position was also a campaign issue. 

Another issue was Hodges’ handling of the Jamar Clark shooting, which prompted criticism from different directions. 

The police union chief said Hodges and then-Police Chief Harteau did not support the officers involved in the Clark shooting: “Someone has to stand up for the officer.” 

But some believed Hodges had been too lenient. The local NAACP president, Nekima Levy-Pounds, led protests over the city’s handling of the Clark shooting, stating that, “Everybody who stood with Mayor Hodges is not part of the solution. They’re part of the problem!” Levy-Pounds was one of 14 candidates who ran against Hodges for mayor in 2017. 

The five most successful candidates in the opening round of Minneapolis’s ranked-choice voting system, and the policing policies they campaigned on, were as follows:

  • Jacob Frey (D), the eventual winner, advocated improving the training and mental screening of officers and strengthening body camera requirements. Frey did not commit to retaining Arradondo as police chief but did so after winning the election. (Arradondo is the current police chief navigating the controversy and criticism of his department over the death of George Floyd).
  • State Rep. Raymond Dehn (D) proposed partial defunding of the city’s police, the “full-scale demilitarization of the Minneapolis Police Department,” and the “rethinking whether every officer needs to always carry a gun.” Dehn also did not commit to whether he would retain Arradondo as the police chief.
  • Incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) ran on her record of policing issues which she said included implementing police body cameras, enhancing bias training of officers, improving the tracking of complaints against police, and increasing diversity on the force.
  • Candidate Tom Hoch (D), a non-profit executive, proposed a “top to bottom review” of the police department that included giving subpoena power to civilian review panels, and changing officer licensing standards to include “a more detailed and transparent tracking system for all infractions, including information on plea agreements.” His police agenda also included several general statements such as the “adoption of best practices in law enforcement.” Hoch also did not commit to retaining the police chief.
  • Nekima Levy-Pounds (D) advocated improvement in community-police relations, reducing racial profiling, and reducing recidivism by improving prisoner reentry programs. She supported retaining the new police chief, Arradondo, saying he had “earned the trust of a great number of people who typically do not trust police.”

Chicago 2019

Crime and policing in Chicago influenced the 2019 mayoral race in two ways. 

First, the city endured a spike in violent crime during the final years of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration with 762 murders occurring in 2016, the largest number of homicides in nearly 20 years. As part of his response, Emanuel launched a plan to add 1,000 officers to the police department. (Emanuel announced in September 2018 that he would not seek re-election).

Second, beginning in December 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that resulted in a 2017 report stating officers had engaged “in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable.” This report recommended the city agree to a consent decree—a plan supervised by a federal judge. The decree began in March 2019, during Emanuel’s final months in office.  

The nonpartisan general election for mayor on February 26, 2019, included 14 candidates. The top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff election: Lori Lightfoot (D), a recent president of the Chicago Police Board and co-chair of the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, received 17.5 percent of the initial vote; and Toni Preckwinkle (D), president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, received 16 percent. In the April 2, 2019, runoff election between the two women, Lightfoot won with 73.7 percent.

The two top candidates had similar platforms on policing issues. 

Both touted the necessity of the consent decree, their eagerness to implement it, and each claimed to have superior professional experience for getting that job done:

  • Lightfoot’s campaign said her work as president of the Chicago Police Board was “the underpinning of the Obama-era Department of Justice report and the consent decree, which will be the basis for police reform and accountability.”
  • Preckwinkle pledged to make sure the CPD “fully complies with the mandates of the consent decree” and predicted it would bring about “better supervision and more appropriate, consistent training, both of which are necessary to create effective, constitutional policing.”

Each of their platforms implied a recognition of the need for police:

  • Preckwinkle said she wanted the police department to become the “most effective police department in the country, by improving training, supervision, promotion, collaboration and crime-solving capacity within the department and demanding real improvement in homicide clearance and overall crime reduction.” 
  • Lightfoot also pledged to improve the homicide clearance rate, and to address illegal gun possession and violence through “a proactive, coordinated response led by federal law enforcement officials, strengthening state and federal gun laws, creating a centralized department within CPD responsible for tracking illegal guns throughout the city, and strategically deploying police cameras in neighborhoods.”

The Ballotpedia account provides no evidence that either candidate opposed Emanuel’s effort to hire 1,000 additional officers, or that they proposed reducing the number of officers or police department funding.

Ballotpedia is providing coverage of every major mayoral election occurring during the 2020 election, as well as all other major federal and state races. Click the “learn more” button for more information on 2020 mayoral elections.



St. Paul school board representative Xiong dies of COVID-19

Marny Xiong, who was an at-large representative on the St. Paul Board of Education, died of COVID-19 on June 7. Her family released a statement on June 8 notifying the public of her death.

Xiong tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, roughly one month before her death. Xiong’s sister posted publicly on Facebook on May 8 that Xiong had contracted the coronavirus and been hospitalized.

Xiong is the second local-level politician that Ballotpedia has identified to have died as a result of COVID-19. The first was Jersey City Council representative Michael Yun, who died on April 6. Ballotpedia is covering the deaths, diagnoses, and quarantines of political incumbents, candidates, and government officials resulting from COVID-19, as well as individuals confirmed to have been tested and found not to carry COVID-19.

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Two Massachusetts selectmen facing recall on June 27

In Kingston, Massachusetts, Selectmen Chairman Josh Warren and Selectman Elaine Fiore are facing a recall election on June 27. Both officials became the subject of a recall campaign stemming from their official response to an incident that occurred in January 2020 between another selectman and a town employee. Recall supporters, led by Kingston resident Peter Boncek, accused Warren and Fiore of nonfeasance and an inability to act in the best interests of their constituents. Warren responded that the board had launched a fact-finding inquiry into the January incident and hired an independent investigator who ultimately found both of the involved parties were at fault.

The recall effort was launched in January 2020 and petitioners successfully collected enough signatures to meet the required threshold of 20% of the town’s registered voters. On February 26, the Kingston Board of Registrars certified 2,053 signatures on Warren’s petition and 2,073 signatures on Fiore’s petition. After neither official resigned from their position, the Kingston Board of Selectman scheduled the recall election for June 27 to coincide with Kingston’s annual town elections.

In this case, the officials subject to a recall election are permitted to run in the replacement election for their seats in the event they are recalled. Both Warren and Fiore chose to run, so challenger Richard Arruda is facing Elaine Fiore in the replacement race for her seat, and challenger Kimberley Emberg is facing Joshua Warren in the replacement race for his seat.

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New Harris County Clerk takes office

Christopher Hollins (D) assumed office as Harris County Clerk in Texas on June 1, replacing former clerk Diane Trautman (D) following her resignation. The county commissioners court appointed Hollins to the position on May 19 after Trautman announced her resignation earlier in the month.

Trautman resigned due to concern regarding her ability to perform the duties of county clerk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In a statement announcing her resignation, Trautman said, “After much deliberation and discussion with my family and physician, I am resigning from my position as Harris County Clerk due to personal health concerns. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my age, and underlying health issues, I do not feel I can safely continue to carry out my duties as Harris County Clerk.” She left office on May 31.

Hollins is an attorney and vice chairman of the Democratic Party of Texas. He pledged to serve only through the remainder of the year and to not run for election to the county clerk position. The winner of the November general election will fulfill the remainder of Trautman’s unexpired term, which ends in 2022.

Harris County, Texas, is holding general elections for sheriff, county court at law, county attorney, tax assessor-collector, commissioners, justice of the peace, and constable—as well as county clerk—on November 3, 2020. Ballotpedia covers local elections in the 100 largest cities in the United States by population. Houston is the Harris County seat.

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Voters approve California school board recall election

A recall election seeking to remove Leanne Ibarra and Jose Lara from their positions on the El Rancho Unified School District Board of Education in California was approved by voters on June 2, 2020. Joseph Rivera was elected to replace Lara, and Esther Mejia was elected to replace Ibarra. The election was conducted entirely by mail-in ballot in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lara resigned from his seat effective February 5, 2020. At a school board meeting on January 21, 2020, Lara said he was leaving in order to focus on his family while his son recuperated from an illness. His name was still on the recall election ballot. If a majority of voters had cast ballots to retain him, the school board would have appointed his replacement.

The recall effort began in May 2019. Recall supporters listed a number of concerns with the board, including a vote to notify 23 administrators they could be fired or reassigned, a vote to demote, transfer, and release six administrators, and the alleged mismanagement of a $200 million bond. To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect at least 6,509 signatures by October 23, 2019. In an interview with the Whittier Daily News, Lara said, “The community of Pico Rivera has been driven along a misinformation campaign. They’ve only heard one side of the story.”

Lara was first elected to the five-member board on November 5, 2013, and Ibarra was first elected on November 6, 2018. Before Lara resigned, Lara and Ibarra were members of a three-person majority on the board, according to the Whittier Daily News. The third member of the majority, Gabriel Orosco, was not included in the recall effort as his term is up for election in 2020. The other two members of the board supported the recall.

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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Idaho library district trustees retained in recall election

A recall election seeking to remove four of the five trustees of the Priest Lake Library District board in Idaho was defeated by voters. The effort sought to recall Debbie Sudnikovich, Laurel Smith, Nancy Bushman, and Lori McReynolds after they voted to fire library director Beverly Richmond in September 2019. All four trustees retained their seats.

The election was held by mail-in ballot. Voters had to request their ballots by May 19, 2020, and they had until June 2, 2020, to return their ballots.

Rosemary Yocum, leader of the recall effort and a former trustee of the library district board, said the trustees violated state law because they fired Richmond without cause. Yocum said Richmond was not an at-will employee and that the board broke statutes governing open meetings and executive sessions. The recall petition also said that the four trustees had treated district citizens in a condescending manner and had failed to fulfill their duties of office.

In her response to the recall, McReynolds said Richmond was an at-will employee. She said their decision was made with the best interest of the community in mind. Sudnikovich said the former library director had been under review since November 2018 prior to her being let go. She said improvements to employee morale and the library’s management and atmosphere reinforced that, “the decision to terminate the former director was both reasonable and appropriate.”

The recall effort was initially approved for the March primary ballot, but it was taken off after an order from the district board did not get filed in time for that election. It was instead scheduled for May 19. The May 19 election was then changed to a mail-in ballot election and extended to June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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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