Thursday night is debate night

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Thursday, September 12, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Democratic presidential candidates participate in third debate tonight
  2. Local Roundup
  3. California Supreme Court will consider challenge to state law requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns

Democratic presidential candidates participate in third debate tonight

The third Democratic presidential debate takes place tonight at Texas Southern University in Houston. The following 10 candidates will participate:

•    Joe Biden
•    Cory Booker
•    Pete Buttigieg
•    Julián Castro
•    Kamala Harris
•    Amy Klobuchar
•    Beto O’Rourke
•    Bernie Sanders
•    Elizabeth Warren
•    Andrew Yang

Here’s a quick primer to get you prepared. 

  • ABC News and Univision are hosting the debate. 

  • Candidates will have one minute and 15 seconds to answer questions and 45 seconds for rebuttals. 

  • Candidates must have received donations from at least 130,000 unique donors with a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states. The candidate must also have received 2% support or more in four national or early state polls—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada. 

Both the fundraising and polling thresholds were higher for this debate—and the next debate in Ohio in October—then they were for the first two Democratic presidential debates held in June and July.

As part of our coverage of the presidential race, we track and report the number of views received by the candidates’ 2020 presidential campaign pages to show which ones are getting our readers’ attention. For the week ended September 7, Yang’s campaign page on Ballotpedia had 3,321 pageviews, more than any other Democratic candidate. This marked the fourth consecutive week Yang’s page received the most pageviews among the Democratic field. 

Axios reported on September 3 that Yang—along with Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard—had a “discrepancy between demonstrated voter support and the level of media coverage.” Yang, for example, had the sixth-highest polling average on Real Clear Politics among Democratic presidential candidates and received the 14th-most mentions in news articles and 13th-most mentions on cable news.

Local Roundup 

At Ballotpedia, we provide election coverage of all officeholders in the nation’s 100 largest cities—including mayors, city council members, and other municipal officers like city clerk and treasurer. We also cover every election on the ballot in these cities, such as county officials, local ballot measures, and special districts.

Here’s our weekly summary of the local news we’re covering. Email me to suggest some interesting local election coverage in your area—I’d love to hear about it!

Charlotte, North Carolina→

Incumbent Vi Lyles defeated four challengers to win the Democratic mayoral primary with 86.6% of the vote. She will face the sole Republican mayoral candidate—David Michael Rice—in the November 5 general election. Lyles is seeking her second two-year term as mayor. 


Incumbent Sylvester Turner and 11 challengers will compete in the November 5 general election for mayor of Houston. 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. Although the mayor’s office is officially nonpartisan, Turner is a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Policy debates so far have focused on Turner’s record during his first term, especially his handling of the city’s budget. Local media outlets have identified four major challengers—Dwight Boykins, Tony Buzbee, Bill King, and Sue Lovell. 

Boise, Idaho→

Eighteen candidates filed to run for four nonpartisan city offices—mayor and three of the six city council seats—that voters will decide in the city’s general election November 5. Incumbent David Bieter—who was first elected mayor in 2003—faces six challengers including councilwoman Lauren McLean. Although the mayor’s office is officially nonpartisan, Bieter is a former Democratic member of the Idaho House of Representatives.

California Supreme Court will consider challenge to state law requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns

The California Supreme Court voted unanimously August 21 to consider whether a new law that requires presidential candidates to file their tax returns with the state conflicts with a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1972. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed Senate Bill 27 (SB 27) into law July 30 requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file copies of their last five federal income tax returns in order to appear on the primary election ballot. The bill passed the state Senate by a 29-10 vote and the state House, 57-17, with all votes in favor by Democrats and all votes against by Republicans.

Several individuals and organizations—including President Donald Trump (R)—filed lawsuits in federal district court to declare SB 27 in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The California Republican Party also filed a lawsuit in state court against the law August 6 and asked the state’s highest court to decide whether SB 27 violates the California Constitution, including Proposition 4 (1972). 

Proposition 4 stated that presidential primary candidates on the ballot are “those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of the President of the United States, and those whose names placed on the ballot by petition.” Voters approved the measure, 61.4% to 38.6%, on June 6, 1972.

Written arguments in the case were due to be filed yesterday. The court has asked all parties to address the legislative history of Proposition 4 and related laws and the guidelines that the secretary of state has employed to assess who is a recognized candidate.

A legal filing challenging SB 27 said that the law prohibited the Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) —who is named as a defendant in the suit—”from exercising his constitutionally delegated duty to place the name of all nationally recognized presidential candidates” on the primary ballot. 

State lawyers representing Padilla said in a filing that Proposition 4 “imposes no mandatory duty on the secretary of state, but rather provides that the secretary will ‘find’ candidates that are ‘recognized … throughout the nation’ and include them on California primary ballots.”


Ten Dems will debate in Houston Thursday night

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 12, 2019: The third Democratic primary debate takes place Thursday night. Donald Trump is launching a media campaign in Texas with two full-page newspaper ads and a flyover ad.

 Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll One (September 6-9, 2019)
Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll Two (August 28 - September 4, 2019)

Notable Quote of the Day

“Even though the Democratic donor community has been expanded with the rise of easy-click online giving, it remains a small, disproportionately white, disproportionately wealthy faction of the total Democratic electorate.

The progressive think tank Demos, in an analysis of 2012 presidential giving, found that only 15 percent of Democratic small donors were people of color. In 2016, the Democratic primary electorate was 38 percent people of color. Demos also found that 15 percent of Democratic small donors, and 25 percent of all Democratic donors, were millionaires (who are 3 percent of the U.S. population).

Past presidential candidates with lots of small donors have failed to win the most votes. Howard Dean was leading the 2004 Democratic presidential field in fundraising when John Kerry successfully kept his campaign afloat before the Iowa caucuses by mortgaging his house. In 2016, Sanders had approximately 2.4 million individual donors—twice as many as Hillary Clinton—yet Clinton won 15.6 million votes, nearly 4 million more than Sanders.”

– Bill Scher, Politico Magazine contributing editor



  • In an interview on PBS NewsHourMark Sanford discussed trade, climate change, North Korea, and why he was challenging Trump in the Republican primary.

  • Donald Trump is launching a media campaign in Texas that includes two full-page newspaper ads targeting BidenCastro, and Warren, and a flyover ad criticizing socialism.

  • Joe Walsh answered questions about Medicare and Medicaid, his Republican opponents, racism, trade, climate change, and foreign policy in an interview with IJR.

  • Bill Weld campaigned in New Hampshire Wednesday.

Flashback: September 12, 2015

Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker campaigned at the Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Iowa State Cyclones football game.

North Carolina’s map struck down

North Carolina court strikes down state legislative maps as partisan gerrymanders

On Sept. 3, a North Carolina court struck down the state’s legislative district plan as an impermissible partisan gerrymander under the state constitution. The plaintiffs, which included Common Cause and the Democratic Party of North Carolina, alleged that the district maps the North Carolina General Assembly adopted in 2017 infringed on the equal protection, free speech, association, and free elections rights guaranteed in the state constitution. These maps are displayed below.

Senate map

The Senate district map adopted by the legislature on August 30, 2017

House map

The House district map adopted by the legislature on August 30, 2017

How did the court rule? The three-judge panel of state superior court judges – Paul C. Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite, and Alma L. Hinton – ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs. In their ruling, the judges wrote, “[The] 2017 Enacted Maps, as drawn, do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting. It is not the free will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that predominates.” Ridgeway, Crosswhite, and Hinton were all elected to their positions on the bench.

What are the responses? Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, praised the court’s decision: “The court has made clear that partisan gerrymandering violates our state’s constitution and is unacceptable. Thanks to the court’s landmark decision, politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections through partisan gerrymandering.”

Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R), although critical of the court’s ruling, announced state Republicans would not appeal the decision: “We disagree with the court’s ruling as it contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court’s decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us.”

What comes next? The court ordered state lawmakers to draft remedial maps by Sept. 18, 2019, for use in the 2020 elections. If lawmakers fail to adopt remedial maps, the court will appoint a referee to develop and recommend remedial maps to the court.

What’s the political context? All 50 seats in the state Senate and all 120 seats in the state House are up for election in 2020. The primary is slated for March 3, 2020, with the candidate filing period scheduled to end on December 20, 2019. Currently, North Carolina operates under a divided government. Governor Roy Cooper (D) has announced he will seek re-election. Republicans have a 29-21 majority in the Senate and a 65-55 majority in the House.

What’s the legal context? Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a joint ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause (another partisan gerrymandering claim originating in North Carolina) and Lamone v. Benisek (which originated in Maryland). In a 5-4 decision, the court held that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions that fall beyond the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary. The high court did not address the viability of partisan gerrymandering claims under state law, the grounds for this month’s ruling in North Carolina.

What are some potential effects of the decision? The impact of the decision could reach beyond legislative elections. I spoke to my co-worker, Ryan Byrne, who covers the initiative and referendum process in North Carolina for us. He noted that the ruling could affect the state’s constitutional amendment process. “If redistricting makes control of the legislature more competitive, passing a constitutional amendment along strictly party lines would be much more difficult. Passing a constitutional amendment in North Carolina requires a 60-percent vote in both the House and Senate. Before the election on Nov. 6, 2018, Republicans controlled at least 60 percent of the seats since 2013. Between 2000 and 2018, there were 13 constitutional amendments referred to voters by the legislature. In the 2018 legislative session, the legislature referred six constitutional amendments to voters, and four of those wouldn’t have been possible without Republican supermajorities. Unless Democrats and Republicans have 60 percent supermajorities in each legislative chamber, passing amendments to the North Carolina Constitution will require some cross-party support.”

Maine expected to use ranked-choice voting in 2020 presidential election

On Sept. 6, Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) announced she would take no immediate action on legislation providing for ranked-choice voting in presidential elections. Instead, Mills signaled she would allow LD1083 to become law without her signature at the start of the new year. As a result, its effective date will occur after the March 3 presidential primaries, allowing for the implementation of RCV in the 2020 general election only. In a statement to legislators, Mills said, “By not signing this bill now, I am giving the Legislature an opportunity to appropriate funds and to take any other appropriate action in the Second Regular Session to fully implement ranked-choice voting in all aspects of presidential elections as the Legislature sees fit.”

LD1083 cleared the Maine House of Representatives on June 19 by a vote of 86-59 (with five members absent and one excused). The Maine Senate did not adopt the legislation by the close of the regular legislative session in June. When the legislature reconvened for a special one-day session on Aug. 26, the Senate took the bill up again and approved it by a vote of 20-12 (with three members excused).

Maine is poised to become the first state to use ranked-choice voting in presidential elections. In 2016, Maine became the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting for federal and state-level elections. Although constitutional conflicts prevent its use in state-level general elections, ranked-choice voting has survived a series of other legal challenges and was first implemented in the 2018 congressional elections and state-level primaries.

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills

The maps below show which states are considering redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems legislation. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.

Redistricting legislation as of Sept. 10, 2019

Redistricting legislation map as of Sept. 10, 2019

Electoral systems legislation as of Sept. 10, 2019

Electoral systems legislation map as of Sept. 10, 2019

Primary systems legislation as of Sept. 10, 2019

Primary systems legislation map as of Sept. 10, 2019

Steyer launches $1 million ad campaign in IA, NV, SC


Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 11, 2019: Tom Steyer is airing two new ads in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina as part of a $1 million campaign. Joe Walsh and Bill Weld will attend a debate on Sept. 24.

 Daily Presidential News Briefing - Facebook Ad Spending (September 2-8, 2019)

Notable Quote of the Day

“Put another way, if you’re wondering why candidates such as Castro and Booker aren’t gaining more traction despite seemingly having run competent campaigns, the answer may have less to do with them and more to do with the fact that the field has a lot of heavyweights. Biden is a former two-term vice president; Sanders was the runner-up last time and basically built an entire political movement, and Warren and Harris have been regarded as potential frontrunners since virtually the moment that Donald Trump won the White House. The years that produce volatile, topsy-turvy nomination races, such as the 1992 Democratic primary, tend to be those where a lot of top candidates sit out, perhaps because they’re fearful of running against an incumbent with high approval ratings.”

– Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight



  • Donald Trump endorsed Ben Sasse—a Trump critic who opposed his 2016 presidential run—in his Senate reelection campaign.

  • Joe Walsh and Bill Weld will attend a debate on Sept. 24, 2019. A spokesperson said Mark Sanford would attend if a scheduling conflict was resolved. Trump was invited but did not respond. Business Insider will stream the event live.

Flashback: September 11, 2015

Rick Perry became the first noteworthy Republican candidate to suspend his presidential campaign.



Bishop (R) wins NC-9 special election

The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, Sept. 11, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Bishop (R), Murphy (R) win congressional special elections in North Carolina
  2. 1,617 candidates have filed with the FEC to run for Congress in 2020
  3. Judge may call for special election after state Senate primary was decided by one vote

Bishop (R), Murphy (R) win congressional special elections in North Carolina

North Carolina’s 9th

State Sen. Dan Bishop (R) defeated Dan McCready (D) and two other candidates in Tuesday’s special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. With 99% of precincts counted, Bishop had 50.8% of the vote to McCready’s 48.6%.

On Feb. 21, the state board of elections voted unanimously to call a new election in the district following investigations of absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 race.

The special election featured more than $10.7 million in satellite spending as of Sept. 6, which is the second-highest amount ever spent in a U.S. House special election. Satellite spending was $27 million in the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in 2017. 

During the campaign, Bishop talked about his record in the state legislature including his work in 2018 to help pass a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, lower income taxes, and oppose sanctuary cities. McCready—who was also the nominee in the 2018 race—campaigned on his plan to lower prescription drug prices and said he’d seek bipartisan legislation on health care, education, and taxes in the House. 

Donald Trump (R) won the district over Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election, 54.4% to 42.8%.

North Carolina’s 3rd

State Rep. Greg Murphy (R) defeated Allen Thomas (D) and two other candidates in the special election in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. With 82% of precincts counted, Murphy received 61% of the vote to Thomas’ 39%. The special election was called after the previous incumbent—Rep. Walter Jones (R)—died on Feb. 10.

Murphy linked himself to President Trump and highlighted his work as a physician and state legislator. Thomas emphasized economic development, small-town revitalization, and improving access to health care.

According to campaign finance reports from January 1 through August 21, Murphy raised $902,000 and spent $803,000. Thomas raised $565,000 and spent $476,000. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won the district, 60.5% to 36.9%.


1,617 candidates have filed with the FEC to run for Congress in 2020

232 candidates have filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for one of 35 U.S. Senate seats in 2020. Two hundred six of those candidates—108 Democrats and 98 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. 

In 2018, 527 candidates filed to run for 35 Senate seats, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans. 

On the House side, 1,385 candidates have filed so far to run in 2020.  This includes 686 Democrats and 615 Republicans. 

In 2018, 3,244 House candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans. All 435 House seats are up for election every two years.

A person who files with the FEC to run for Congress must complete a two-page “Statement of Candidacy” form either on paper or online. Candidates must provide their address, the office they are seeking, and their signature. They must also name any committees working to elect them.  The figures are as of the most recent FEC files on September 9. 

FEC rules state that an individual is considered a candidate and must file a statement of candidacy after raising $5,000 or more for their campaign. However, if the person is only exploring a candidacy—either through polling or touring the district—no formal declaration is required. Once someone conducts certain activities, such as making statements that refer to themselves as a candidate or taking action to qualify for the ballot, he or she must register as a candidate.

Judge may call for special election after state Senate primary was decided by one vote

A special primary election may take place in some precincts in a Mississippi state Senate district after the trailing candidate contested the results of August’s Republican primary—which was decided by a single vote.  

A special judge of the state Supreme Court will decide whether some or all of the district’s voters will cast new ballots after a hearing which is expected later this week.

When all ballots were counted after the Aug. 6 primary, Dixie Newman led Scott DeLano by one vote, 3,184 to 3,183. Those results were certified after a recount was completed Aug. 24.

DeLano contested the certified results Sept. 3 with the Republican Executive Committee of Harrison County claiming that some voters in five precincts were not given the correct ballots. The committee said it did not have the power to call a new election, but it did vote to allow DeLano to petition a judge for a special election in those precincts. If the judge orders a new election, any district voter in those five precincts would be eligible to vote.

Incumbent Tommy Gollott (R) resigned from the legislature before the end of his term on July 1. Since no Democratic candidate filed to run for the seat, the winner of the Republican primary will become the district’s new state Senator. 

All 52 seats in the Mississippi Senate are up for election in 2019. Republicans control the chamber 31-18, with three vacancies. Mississippi is also holding elections for all state executive officers—including the governor—and all 122 seats in the state House on Nov. 5. 

Mississippi has been a Republican trifecta since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session. 


Exclusive: Volume 9 of Ballotpedia’s state legislative competitiveness report

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, September 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. More than half of all state legislative seats this year have only one major party candidate
  2. Mississippi group submits signatures for initiative legalizing medical marijuana
  3. 49% of Ballotpedia survey respondents prefer to vote early or absentee 

More than half of all state legislative seats this year have only one major party candidate

We released our 9th Annual State Legislative Competitiveness Report September 4 analyzing the 538 regular state legislative elections taking place this fall in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. We’ve prepared this report annually since 2010.

Our Annual State Legislative Competitiveness Report focuses on three factors affecting competitiveness:

  • Incumbents not seeking re-election

  • Number of races with at least two candidates on the ballot in primary elections

  • Races without major party competition

We do this analysis every year and in odd-numbered years, it only covers elections in the four states holding state legislative contests in those years. During even-numbered years, it covers elections in up to 46 states.

Here are three highlights from this study:

  • 56% of all regular state legislative races have a candidate from either the Democratic or Republican Parties, but not both. In 2015—the last time these seats were up for regular election—61% of races had a candidate from one major party, but not both. In 2011, this figure was 43%. 

  • More incumbents—129 out of 435, or 30%—faced primary challengers in 2019 than in 2015 or 2017. In 2017, 16% of incumbents faced primary challengers, and in 2015, 22% of incumbents faced primary challengers.

  • 103 state legislative incumbents—19%—are not seeking re-election. Of those, 62  are Republicans, 39 are Democrats, and two are Independents. This is the highest percentage of incumbents not running for re-election in odd-year state legislative elections this decade. In 2011, 18% of state legislative incumbents did not seek another term. 

This analysis also contains lots of historical data, including breakdowns of our findings by state and legislative chamber, the effect of term limits, and incumbents defeated in party primaries. And we compare these statistics with previous odd-numbered election years this decade so you can see relevant averages and trends. There’s so much great information here – click the link to read more.

Mississippi group submits signatures for initiative legalizing medical marijuana 

Mississippi voters may soon have the opportunity to legalize medical marijuana. 

A Mississippi group—Mississippians for Compassionate Care—reported submitting more than 214,000 signatures last week in support of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state. A total of 86,185 valid signatures are required to qualify the measure for the November 2020 ballot.  

If enough signatures are found valid, the initiative goes to the state legislature, which cannot prevent it from going before voters but can put an alternative measure on the ballot along with the initiative.

This initiative would provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Health. Individuals with certain debilitating medical conditions—as specified in the initiative—could seek a certification from a Mississippi-licensed physician to obtain medical marijuana. Nothing in the measure would require a physician to issue a certification for a patient to obtain medical marijuana. 

These signatures must be certified by the county clerks in each county and verified by the secretary of state to ensure they are from voters distributed across the state’s congressional districts. No more than one-fifth of all signatures can be from one of the Mississippi’s five congressional districts. Any signatures over that amount from one district will be disregarded.

The measure also specifies that no qualified patient could possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time and that no more than 2.5 ounces could be provided to a patient in a 14-day period. Under the measure, no medical marijuana treatment center could be located within 500 feet of a school, church, or child-care establishment.

Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 13 states—including Mississippi—have legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana by state

The last time Mississippi voters had a statewide measure on the ballot was in 2015 when they defeated both a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment and its alternative put on the ballot by the legislature regarding education.

49% of Ballotpedia survey respondents prefer to vote early or absentee 

Voters in North Carolina will decide two congressional special elections today—in the 3rd and 9th districts. Ballotpedia will have live results from both races on Tuesday night and provide a summary of the results in the Brew Wednesday morning.

Our preview of these two elections last week discussed the number of mail-in absentee and in-person early ballots that had been accepted in both races. This prompted last week’s What’s the Tea? question:  


Click here to learn more about early voting



Trump rallies in NC for two special elections

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 10, 2019: Donald Trump held a rally Monday at the Crown Expo Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

How many sitting presidents have lost their bids for renomination?

Notable Quote of the Day

“The broader bets, made very early in the election cycle, signify some defining characteristics of Trump’s 2020 effort. To win, Trump probably needs to come up with a different set of states than those that garnered 304 electoral college votes and carried him to the White House: public polls show his disapproval ratings swamp his approval numbers by at least 9 percentage points in his 2016 blue-to-red trifecta of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But Trump is flush with funds. With more than $100 million in cash on hand, Trump’s campaign has the freedom to look for unorthodox opportunities to seek out electoral votes in other parts of the country. That massive money haul will be used to mobilize support in states Trump lost narrowly, and in some cases broadly, and where his campaign feels there are enough untapped Trump supporters to tip the balance in his favor, his campaign says.”

– Brian Bennett, TIME


  • McClatchy DC reported on Joe Biden’s campaign organization in Iowa, including a comparison to Elizabeth Warren’s more hyperlocal style.

  • Bill de Blasio visited Puerto Rico Monday to discuss disaster relief efforts.

  • Steve Bullock campaign manager Jennifer Ridder sent donors a memo Tuesday outlining Bullock’s path to victory, which includes a focus on Iowa.

  • Pete Buttigieg hired Jarvis Houston to be his South Carolina state director, where the campaign has placed 33 staffers.

  • John Delaney discussed the vulnerabilities of higher-polling candidates in an interview on CNN. 

  • Tulsi Gabbard spoke about the primary debates, suing Google, and the state of the Democratic Party in an interview on The Rubin Report.

  • Kamala Harris discussed her criminal justice plan in an interview on MSNBC.

  • In an interview on WBUR’s Here & Now, Amy Klobuchar spoke about her political identity, the 2016 presidential election, humor in politics, the opioid crisis, and the first overseas trip she’d make as president.

  • Wayne Messam spoke at a Broward College class Monday night.

  • Politico profiled the changed tone of Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign.

  • Tim Ryan released a policy album on music streaming service Spotify that includes 10 tracks with his positions on gun violence, immigration, and other issues.

  • The New York Times reported on the 1987 trip to Canada that drove Bernie Sanders’ position on healthcare.

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer profiled Joe Sestak and his grassroots campaign in Iowa.

  • Tom Steyer will hold a town hall Tuesday in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

  • Warren endorsed Jessica Cisneros and Marie Newman, two congressional candidates launching primary challenges to Democratic incumbents.

  • Andrew Yang attended a fundraiser in Richmond, Texas, at the home of Asian American Democratic Club founder Ling Luo.


Flashback: September 10, 2015

Bobby Jindal spoke at the National Press Club about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.


Bold Justice: Trump appointed second-most federal judges through Sept. 1 of a president’s third year

We #SCOTUS, so you don’t have to

The Supreme Court is currently in recess. The 2019-2020 term begins Oct. 7. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ upcoming term.

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts over a one-month period. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from August 1 – 28, 2019.


  • Vacancies: There was one new judicial vacancy since the July 2019 report. As of August 28, 103 of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report were vacant—a vacancy percentage of 11.8 percent.

    Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the president appoints Article III judges for what amount to lifetime terms on the federal bench. All such appointments must receive Senate confirmation. Article III judges include judges on the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Courts of Appeal, U.S. District Courts, and the Court of International Trade.

    Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 112 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

  • Nominations: There were six new nominations since the July 2019 report.

  • Confirmations: There were two new confirmations since the July 2019 report.

Vacancy count for Aug. 28, 2019

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level

New vacancies

One judge left active status, creating an Article III vacancy. As an Article III judicial position, this vacancy must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

For more information on judicial vacancies during President Trump’s first term, click here.

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on the federal courts, click here.

Vacancy map

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

There are currently four vacancies for U.S. Courts of Appeal judgeships. According to a Ballotpedia analysis of federal court vacancies between April 2011 and August 2019, this is the fewest number of vacant Courts of Appeal judgeships during this time. 

  • The second-lowest was in June 2019, with five vacancies. 
  • The highest number of vacancies—21—was in July, September, and October of 2017.
  • The median number of vacancies was 14.

US Court of Appeals vacancies

Court of Appeals vacancies map 2

New nominations

President Trump announced six new nominations since the July 2019 report. 

  • Steven Menashi, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
  • Jodi Dishman, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
  • Karen Marston, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
  • Richard Myers II, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
  • Sarah Pitlyk, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
  • Anuraag Singhal, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The president has announced 211 Article III judicial nominations since taking office Jan. 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017 and 92 in 2018. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

Since July 31, 2019, the Senate confirmed two of the president’s nominees to Article III courts. 

Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 146 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—99 district court judges, 43 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices. This is the second-most Article III judicial confirmations through this point in a presidency since Theodore Roosevelt. Only Bill Clinton, with 165 judicial appointments, had more.

  • The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through September 1 of their third year in office is 82.

  • The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. William Taft’s (R) five appointments were the most among this set. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt (D), Jimmy Carter (D), and George W. Bush (R) did not appoint any justices through Sept. 1 of their third year in office. Trump has appointed two justices so far.

  • The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 18. Trump has appointed the most with 43. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (R) and Woodrow Wilson (D) appointed the fewest with five each. Trump’s 43 appointments make up 24 percent of the total 179 appeals court judgeships.

  • The median number of United States District Court appointees is 56. Clinton appointed the most with 135, and T. Roosevelt appointed the fewest with 10. Trump has appointed 99 district court judges. Those appointments make up 15 percent of the 677 judgeships across the district courts.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.


Gov. Polis recall effort does not make ballot

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, September 9 Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Colorado governor recall effort does not make ballot
  2. Join us for a look at the 2020 Almanac of American Politics
  3. Two more state Supreme Court appointments, 11 total this year

Effort to recall Colorado governor does not make ballot

A recall effort targeting Colorado Gov. Jared Polis did not make the ballot after recall supporters announced September 6 that they had not collected the required number of signatures. The group leading the effort—Dismiss Polis—needed to submit 631,266 signatures for the recall election to occur. They collected about 300,000, according to spokesperson Karen Kataline.

According to the petition, Dismiss Polis targeted Polis for recall because he signed legislation related to firearms, oil and gas, the national popular vote, and sex education during the 2019 legislative session.

After the recall effort ended, Polis stated: “After all that fuss, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t turn in a single signature on the recall. I hope the remaining misguided efforts against others see the same results as Tom Sullivan’s did before. Recalls should not be used for partisan gamesmanship.”

From 2003 to 2018, Ballotpedia tracked 17 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921. Four gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2019.

Three Colorado state senators—Leroy Garcia (D), Brittany Pettersen (D), and Pete Lee (D)—are also facing official recall campaigns in 2019. Two state representatives—Rochelle Galindo (D) and Tom Sullivan (D)—were previously targeted for recall earlier this year. The recall targeting Galindo ended after she resigned in May 2019; while the recall targeting Sullivan ended in June 2019 after recall supporters abandoned the effort.

Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 elections. Democrats control the state House 41-24 and the state Senate 19-16. Polis succeeded John Hickenlooper (D) as governor in 2019 after winning the 2018 election with 53.4% of the vote. 

Join us for a look at the 2020 Almanac of American Politics

The 2020 Almanac of American Politics is here with detailed profiles of each governor, state, member of Congress, and congressional district. Join me and Ballotpedia staff writer David Luchs—who was on our Almanac research team—for a briefing on the Almanac at 11 a.m. Central Time September 10.

The Almanac has been described by columnist George Will as “the bible of American politics” and by anchor Judy Woodruff as “the oxygen of the political world.” It contains profiles of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five insular territories, as well as the president and vice president, all 50 state governors, all 100 members of the Senate, all 441 members of the House (including the six non-voting territorial delegates), and each U.S. House district. This version includes up-to-date information reflecting the results of the 2018 midterms.

In our briefing, we’ll be discussing the Almanac’s history, the scope of its profiles, essays, and data tables, and what’s new in the 2020 edition. We’ll also explore the research process and Ballotpedia’s role in assembling the Almanac—which is a great experience for our researchers. This is the third version that Ballotpedia has worked on with Almanac authors.

If you’re interested in ordering your own Almanac, we’ll be offering a discount code for 10% off at the end of the broadcast. A recording of the webinar will be available on our website for any readers unable to view the live broadcast.

Two more state Supreme Court appointments bring this year’s total to 11

Two state Supreme Court vacancies in Arizona and Virginia respectively were filled this week, bringing the total number of state Supreme Court seats filled this year to 11. There are 344 state Supreme Court justices nationwide. Of those judgeships, 165 are elected by voters, 12 are selected by state legislatures, and 167 are appointed.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Bill Montgomery (R) to the Supreme Court on September 4. Montgomery replaces former Chief Justice Scott Bales, who retired on July 31. Montgomery was Ducey’s fifth appointment to the seven-member court.

In Virginia, Teresa Chafin joined the state Supreme Court this week to fill the vacancy created by Justice Elizabeth McClanahan’s retirement on September 1. In February 2019, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved Chafin to succeed McClanahan. Virginia is one of two states—along with South Carolina—that selects state Supreme Court justices through legislative election. 

In 2019, there have been 18 supreme court vacancies across 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 18 vacancies, 12 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Five vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement, and one (Virginia) occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature selects the replacement.


Mark Sanford launched Republican primary challenge to Trump



Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 9, 2019: Mark Sanford announced Sunday that he was running for president. Tom Steyer reached the polling threshold to qualify for the October primary debates.

There are 10 new candidates running since last week, including five Republicans. In total, 850 individuals are currently filed with the FEC to run for president.

Notable Quote of the Day

“But there’s a danger in running as a continuation of a previous administration, because in the past half-century of presidential elections, the change candidate has beaten the ‘familiar’ candidate almost every time.

Incumbent presidents are largely immune from this phenomenon. They get to enjoy the constant visibility and bully pulpit of the most powerful person in the world, and only sagging economies (Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush) or disastrous wars (Lyndon Johnson) seem to fell them in their bids for re-election. …

But whether it’s a former vice president or the runner-up in the previous election cycle’s primary, the candidate who is perceived as running for president because it’s ‘their turn’ tends to flame out against a fresher face.”

– Anthony L. Fisher, Business Insider


  • WMUR released videos of the 19 Democratic candidates—all but Wayne Messam—who spoke at the New Hampshire Democratic Convention over the weekend. 
  • Eight candidates participated in a political ad on gun violence produced by an advocacy organization founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Giffords’ Courage to Fight Gun Violence. The ad, which is part of a six-figure digital ad buy, features Joe BidenCory BookerPete ButtigiegKamala HarrisAmy KlobucharBeto O’RourkeBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
  • The Michael Bennet campaign is holding a national headquarters opening celebration Tuesday in Lakewood, Colorado.
  • Bennet and John Delaney spoke at the Merrimack County Democrats annual picnic Sunday in New Hampshire
  • Booker discussed nuclear energy, gun licensing, and other campaign issues during his first visit to Maine Saturday.
  • Steve Bullock spoke about the obscurity gap in an interview on Fox News Saturday.
  • Julián Castro is holding a rally Monday in Houston, Texas.
  • Tulsi Gabbard discussed her opposition to impeachment in an interview on Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren. She said, “I think it’s important for us to think about what is in the best interest of the country and the American people, and continuing to pursue impeachment is something that I think will only further to tear our country apart.”
  • GabbardTom Steyer, and Andrew Yang attended the AAPI Democratic Presidential Forum Sunday in Costa Mesa, California.
  • Harris released her criminal justice platform, which would end federal mandatory minimum sentences, the death penalty, and solitary confinement. It would also phase out for-profit prisons and cash bail.
  • BuzzFeed interviewed Wayne Messam’s former campaign staff members about payment and organizational issues in the campaign. The Messam campaign responded that these issues were the result of unauthorized actions by a consulting firm.
  • Sanders is hosting a campaign rally Monday at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado.
  • Joe Sestak spoke about climate change while campaigning in New Hampshire Sunday.
  • With the release of a Nevada poll from CBS News/YouGov, Steyer reached the polling threshold to qualify for the October primary debates. He is the 11th candidate to do so.
  • Marianne Williamson will host a meditation on peace in New Hampshire Monday.


  • Republican state parties in South CarolinaNevada, and Kansas canceled their respective primaries and caucuses.
  • At the California Republican Party fall conventionDonald Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the Trump family was a dynasty and they would move the GOP “into a new party – one that will adapt to changing cultures.”
  • Mark Sanford announced Sunday that he was running for president. “I think we have to have a conversation about what it means to be a Republican,” he said, referencing the federal deficit and government spending.
  • In an interview on Real Time with Bill MaherJoe Walsh discussed his previous anti-Obama comments and contrasted himself with Trump.

General Election Updates

  • Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that she would hold a ranked-choice voting bill passed by the Maine State Legislature until January. As a result, ranked-choice voting will be used in the presidential general election in Maine but not the primary elections.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: September 9, 2015

Antivirus software creator John McAfee launched an independent presidential campaign.