CategoryLocal

Nov. 5 Seattle City Council elections have seen record-breaking satellite spending

Seattle, Washington, holds nonpartisan elections for seven district city council seats on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The races had seen a record-breaking $3.5 million in satellite spending through October 25—more than four times the amount in 2015, the last time the seven district seats were on the ballot. Seattle-based online retailer Amazon contributed $1.5 million to a political action committee (PAC), which had spent that amount toward the races as of Oct. 25.
 
New York Times technology correspondent Karen Weise said Amazon’s PAC contribution was “a staggering sum for a city election, let alone from a company that was M.I.A. in local politics for years. Four years ago, Amazon gave just $25,000 to the PAC.” GeekWire‘s Monica Nickelsburg wrote, “It’s a sign that local politics can have a big impact on this global corporation and an example of Amazon’s newfound appetite for civic engagement at all levels of government.”
 
Four council races are open. Incumbents Lisa Herbold (District 1), Kshama Sawant (District 3), and Debora Juarez (District 5) are seeking re-election.
 
The elections are occurring a year and a half after the repeal of the 2018 head tax proposal, which would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee in order to fund housing programs for the homeless. The city council voted to pass the head tax 9-0 in May 2018 but then repealed it by a 7-2 vote in June 2018 after running into opposition from the city’s business community, including Amazon and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Sawant and Position 8 At-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda voted against repealing the tax. Juarez and Herbold voted with five others to repeal it.
 
Amazon has contributed $1.5 million to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the local chamber of commerce’s PAC. CASE is among more than a dozen satellite groups spending toward the council races. The following are spending highlights as of Oct. 25:
  • CASE had spent $1.5 million supporting endorsed candidates and opposing Herbold, Sawant, and District 4 candidate Dan Strauss.
  • Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE), a PAC affiliated with the labor group Working Washington, had spent $280,000. CAPE endorsed candidates in five council races—different candidates than those backed by CASE.
  • Labor union UNITE HERE’s local and federal PACs had spent more than $550,000 in support of candidate Andrew Lewis (District 7). He faces Jim Pugel, who was endorsed by CASE.
 
The following are other noteworthy features of the 2019 Seattle City Council races:
  • Across all seven elections, 56 candidates filed to run in the August 6 primaries. In 2015, 37 candidates filed for the same seven seats. (Ten additional candidates filed for the two at-large seats in 2015.)
  • This is the second election in which a voter voucher program is being used to provide public funding to campaigns. Twelve of 14 general election candidates are participating in the program. Including the primaries, 42 candidates have participated, and $2.4 million from the program had gone to campaigns as of Oct. 23.
  • This is the second election in recent history in which councilmembers are being elected by district; from 1910 to 2013, all Seattle councilmembers were elected at large. Two at-large seats remain on the council. They are next up for election in 2021.
 


Thirteen candidates vie for Houston ISD school board seats on Nov. 5

Four out of nine school board seats in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) are up for election on November 5. Thirteen candidates are running:
 
District II (open seat): Katherine Blueford-Daniels, Jevon German, John Gibbs Sr., Cristin Moses, and Chloe Veal are running.
District III: Incumbent Sergio Lira and Daniela Hernandez are running.
District IV (open seat): Patricia Allen, Matthew Barnes, Reagan Flowers, and Larry McKinzie are running.
District VIII: Incumbent and board president Diana Davila and Judith Cruz are running.
 
Heading into the election, the HISD school board faces the possibility of being replaced by a state-appointed board. If that happened, elected school board members would not have any power until the board was reinstated, although they would be able to participate as non-voting representatives. The state’s commissioner of education could decide to replace the HISD school board for two reasons: either as a result of a Texas Education Agency investigation into the board’s governance or as a result of poor academic performance ratings at a high school in the district.
 
Candidates running in 2019 Texas school board elections were required to file two campaign finance reports ahead of the election: one covering activity through September 26 and a second covering activity through October 26. As of October 29, the latter had not yet been made available by the district.
 
Ten of the 13 candidates reported campaign contributions through September 26.
 
In District II, Blueford-Daniels received around $17,700 in campaign contributions, German received $250, and Moses received around $800. Gibbs and Veal did not report any campaign contributions.
In District III, Hernandez reported around $26,600 in campaign contributions, and Lira reported around $6,600.
In District IV, Allen reported around $3,800 in contributions, Barnes reported around $61,000, and Flowers reported around $31,100. McKinzie did not report any campaign contributions.
In District VIII, Cruz reported around $60,000 in campaign contributions, and Davila reported $2,500.
 
As of the 2018-2019 school year, HISD was the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest school district in the United States, serving 209,772 students in 280 schools with a budget of $2.04 billion.
 
Early voting began on October 21 and will run through November 1.


Twelve candidates face off in Houston mayoral race

Incumbent Sylvester Turner and 11 challengers will compete in the November 5, 2019, general election for mayor of Houston, Texas. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will participate in a runoff election on December 14, 2019.
 
Of the 11 candidates running against Turner, local media outlets have identified five major challengers: Kendall Baker, Dwight Boykins, Tony Buzbee, Bill King, and Sue Lovell.
 
Policy debate in the race has centered on Turner’s record during his first term, especially regarding his handling of the city’s budget and spending priorities. Turner has said his accomplishments in office include balancing the city’s budget, leading the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey, reforming the city’s pension system, improving infrastructure, and strengthening the economy. His opponents have criticized him, saying he has not done enough to combat flooding, crime, and infrastructure deterioration.
 
Throughout the race, Baker, Boykins, and Lovell also criticized Turner’s budgetary opposition to Proposition B, a ballot referendum passed in 2018 requiring equal pay between firefighters and police officers, while Buzbee and King have repeatedly accused Turner’s administration of corruption.
 
Houston’s mayor serves as the city’s chief executive and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations. He or she also presides over the city council with voting privileges.
 
Mayor Turner is affiliated with the Democratic party. Sixty-two mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 29 are affiliated with the Republican Party, four are independents, and five identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party.
 
 


Texas mayor facing recall election

Early voting has begun in the recall election targeting Mayor Daisy Lee Valdez in Rio Bravo, Texas. Early voting lasts until November 1. The recall election is being held on November 5.
 
Petitioners began gathering signatures for the recall in July 2019. They accused Valdez of taking $5,000 from the city to purchase gift cards. Valdez responded that the gift cards were used in order to pay for a road’s repair. She said the municipal government used Walmart gift cards for this payment because the city does not have an official debit card.
 
In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 


Seattle City Council election update: Amazon gives $1 million to Chamber of Commerce PAC

Amazon gave an additional $1 million to Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, on October 14. This brings Amazon’s total contribution to $1.5 million throughout the Seattle City Council election cycle.
 
Seattle is holding elections for seven city council districts on November 5; the council’s two at-large seats are up for election in 2021. Four races are open, while incumbents Lisa Herbold (District 1), Kshama Sawant (District 3), and Debora Juarez (District 5) are seeking re-election. CASE endorsed Juarez in her re-election bid and endorsed challengers to Herbold and Sawant.
 
One CASE-endorsed candidate advanced from each of the seven primary races in August. In five of the seven races, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE)—a PAC formed by the group Working Washington—endorsed a different candidate than CASE (the group has not endorsed in Districts 5 or 7). 
 
CASE had spent around $1 million supporting and opposing candidates through October 17. CAPE had spent around $240,000. The races had seen $2.6 million total in satellite spending. In 2015—the last time the seven district seats were on the ballot—satellite spending totaled $785,000.
 
The elections are occurring a year after the repeal of a head tax proposal, which would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee in order to fund affordable housing programs for the homeless. The city council voted to pass the head tax 9-0 in May 2018 but then repealed it by a 7-2 vote in June 2018 after running into opposition from the city’s business community, including Amazon. Sawant and Position 8 At-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda cast the two votes against repealing the tax. Juarez and Herbold voted with five others to repeal it.


Fulton County Commissioner seat won by Carn in special runoff

Fulton County, Georgia, held a special runoff election for District 6 of the county’s board of commissioners on Tuesday. Joe Carn defeated Gordon Joyner after the two advanced from the special general election on September 17. Nine candidates ran in that race, but no candidate won at least 50% of the vote, which caused the runoff election to be held. The filing deadline for this election passed on June 28, 2019.
 
Ballotpedia provides comprehensive coverage of the 100 largest cities in America by population. This encompasses all city, county, and special district elections appearing on the ballot within those cities. Fulton County is part of that coverage scope. The Fulton County population was 996,319 in 2014, according to the United States Census Bureau, and its county seat is Atlanta.
 
 


Baldon wins special runoff for Atlanta school board

A special runoff election was held on Tuesday for the District 2 seat on the Atlanta Public Schools school board. Aretta Baldon won the election with 551 votes over fellow candidate David Huntley’s 405. A nine-candidate general election had previously been held on September 17, and the top two vote recipients, Baldon and Huntley, advanced to the runoff since neither had won at least 50% of the vote.
 
The special election was called after Byron Amos resigned his seat in January 2019 to run for the Atlanta City Council. He was defeated in the runoff election for that position in April. Amos had served on the board from 2011 to 2019, most recently winning re-election in 2017. Baldon will fill the remainder of Amos’ unexpired term, which ends in 2021.
 
In a June 20 article, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the vacant seat “could be a critical swing vote on the board.” Due to the unoccupied seat, the board has had at least one vote end in a 4-4 tie, which led to the automatic defeat of a motion.
 
Atlanta Public Schools served 60,133 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


Houston mayoral candidates report total cash on hand exceeding $6 million ahead of November 5 election

Tony Buzbee topped Houston’s mayoral candidate field in total receipts during the July 1 through October 6 reporting period, contributing $2.5 million to his campaign.
 
In comparison:
  • Incumbent Sylvester Turner raised $733,324.
  • Bill King raised $281,829 and loaned his campaign $200,000.
  • Dwight Boykins raised $130,105.
  • Kendall Baker contributed $20,000 to his campaign.
 
The candidates finished the period with the following cash on hand totals:
  • Buzbee had $4,167,503.
  • Turner had $1,618,015.
  • King had $263,448.
  • Boykins had $58,103.
  • Baker had $3,919.
 
Houston does not require candidates to file electronic finance reports if their total receipts in a calendar year total less than $20,000 at the time of the filing deadline. Candidates Derrick Broze, Naoufal Houjami, Sue Lovell, Victoria Romero, Demetria Smith, Johnny Taylor, and Roy Vasquez did not file electronic reports with the city.
 
The final reporting deadline before the general election is on October 28, 2019.
 
Incumbent Sylvester Turner and 11 challengers will compete in the November 5, 2019, general election for mayor of Houston, Texas. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two general election candidates will participate in a runoff election on December 14, 2019.
 
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States by population. Of the 100 largest cities in America, 31 are holding mayoral elections in 2019.


Mayor resigns ahead of recall vote in Lexington, Oregon

In Lexington, Oregon, Mayor Marcia Kemp has resigned from her position ahead of a recall election scheduled for October 22. The resignation was effective on October 10.
 
The recall effort against Kemp was organized in response to a nine-day government shutdown in Lexington beginning on July 1. The shutdown occurred a result of three of the four city councilors missing a budget hearing two days before the end of the fiscal year. Kemp was accused by the three missing councilors of not sending them reminders about the meeting in order to make them look bad. Kemp disputed that claim, saying the three members didn’t show up so as to make her look bad.
 
In her letter of resignation, Kemp stated, “Many in our town have been working hard applying for grants and established partnerships to help us make Lexington great with a bright future. As much as I would like to pursue improving the Town of Lexington, the council has prevented me fulfilling my duties, so it is time to step aside and resign effective immediately. However, I will continue to be an active community member and on a positive note, I have been recruited to help other communities and organizations with their goals and missions and look forward to contributing my time and effort.”
 
In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 


California school board recall election does not go to vote

A recall effort seeking to remove three of the Antelope Valley Union High School District board of trustees’ five members did not go to a vote in 2019. In order for the recall to be included on the ballot, supporters were required to submit petitions with the signatures of 25,000 registered voters from the three trustee areas to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk by October 1, 2019. In total, 12,000 recall petition signatures were collected across the three trustee areas.
 
The recall effort targeting board President Robert Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin, and Clerk Amanda Parrell was initiated in April 2019. The filed notice of intent cited concerns regarding personnel, spending, and relationships with community members. In response to the effort, Davis said he believed the board was on track with its new vision and that change can be hard to accept. Ruffin said that she believed district residents were troubled by the board’s efforts to shed light on issues.
 
The notice of intent to circulate recall petitions was filed with the county on April 15, 2019, and the county approved the petitions for circulation on June 3, 2019. To trigger the recall election, Davis’ petition required 7,964 signatures by registered voters in his trustee area, Parrell’s required 6,833 signatures, and Ruffin’s required 7,388 signatures.
 
Ballotpedia has tracked 17 school board recall efforts targeting 41 board members in 2019. One recall effort against two board members was on the ballot on February 19, 2019. A second recall election against three board members was held on August 27, 2019. A third recall election against one member will be held on November 5, 2019, and a fourth recall election against one member will be held on December 10, 2019.
 
In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 
 


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