Eleven contested state executive primaries on Mississippi voters’ ballots Tuesday

Mississippi is holding state executive and legislative primary elections Tuesday. Of the eleven state executive offices on the ballot this year, seven feature a contested Republican primary and four feature a contested Democratic primary.
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited, leaving his seat open for the first time since 2011. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster are seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Bryant. On the Democratic side, eight candidates including Attorney General Jim Hood and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith are running. Mississippi has elected a Republican governor in every election since 2003.
Voters in both primaries will also nominate a candidate for secretary of state, responsible for management and oversight of Mississippi’s elections. In the Democratic primary, Maryra Hunt faces former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, while the Republican contest features Sen. Michael Watson and Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton.
Republican voters will nominate candidates in the contested primaries for lieutenant governor and attorney general. In the lieutenant gubernatorial primary, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Shane Quick are running. Meanwhile, state Rep. Mark Baker, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch, and attorney Andy Taggart, a former chief of staff to Gov. Kirk Fordice (R), are running for the Republican nomination for attorney general. No Republican has served as attorney general of Mississippi since 1878.
The only downballot statewide race with a contested primary is the Republican primary to succeed Lynn Fitch as treasurer. Former state Sen. Eugene Clark and attorney and businessman David McRae are running in that election.
Candidates for the Central and Southern Public Service Commission districts will also be selected. Those offices are responsible for management and oversight of utilities in Mississippi. In the Central district, four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination and two are seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Cecil Brown (D). In the Southern district, two Democrats and two Republicans are running for the seat currently held by secretary of state candidate Sam Britton (R).
In order to win their party’s nomination, candidates must receive a majority of all votes cast. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, the top two finishers will advance to an August 27 runoff. The winners will advance to the November 5 general election.

Five Democrats competing in Arkansas House special primary

A special primary for District 36 of the Arkansas House of Representatives is scheduled on August 6. Denise Ennett, Philip Hood, Darrell Stephens, Roderick Talley, and Russell Williams III are running in the Democratic primary. No Republican candidates filed for the election. A primary runoff will take place on September 3 if no candidate receives more than 50% of the primary vote. The general election is on November 5.
The seat became vacant when Charles Blake (D) resigned his seat on May 16 to take a job as chief of staff to the mayor of Little Rock. Blake had served in the state House since 2015.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 76-23 majority in the state House with one vacancy. Arkansas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of August, 70 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

California enacts law requiring presidential, gubernatorial candidates to disclose tax returns

On July 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed into law SB 27, requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file copies of their last five federal income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for placement on the primary election ballot. The law was set to take immediate effect.
In a statement, Newsom said, “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest. The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.”
Later that day, Republican presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente filed suit against Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) in federal district court, alleging that SB 27 violated Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Donald Trump (R), also suggested the possibility of further legal action, saying, “The State of California’s attempt to circumvent the Constitution will be answered in court.”
Legal professionals differed in their initial assessment of the legality of SB 27. Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “This new law raises some very interesting and novel constitutional issues. Because it is novel, it is hard to know how the courts would go, but there is plenty of reason to think courts will be hostile to California’s requirements.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said, “Although most cases dealing with ballot access have involved state and local elections, the constitutional principles are the same: State governments may set conditions for being listed on the ballot so long as they serve important interests and do not discriminate based on wealth or ideology.”
Gene Schaerr, a constitutional lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States, said, “I see it as a serious problem on both constitutional grounds and especially on policy. You can imagine a host of other disclosures that states might want to adopt. If California could do this, some people would undoubtedly want to know whether candidates have ever been treated for a mental illness or denied insurance.”

Signatures submitted for veto referendum to keep Colorado from joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)

Veto referendum sponsors Coloradans Vote reported submitting over 227,000 signatures to the secretary of state on the August 1 deadline. To qualify the measure for the 2020 ballot, 124,632 signatures must be verified as valid.
The referendum petition effort seeks to put Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) to a statewide vote of the people in the hopes that voters will reject the bill. SB 42 would add Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), awarding all of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.
A yes vote on the referendum would be a vote to approve Senate Bill 42, allowing Colorado to become a part of the NPVIC. A no vote on the referendum would be a vote to reject Senate Bill 42, stopping Colorado from becoming a part of the NPVIC.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an interstate compact to award member states’ presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt the legislation. As of August 1, 2019, 15 states and Washington, D.C., (representing a total of 196 electoral votes) had joined the NPVIC.
Most states use a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes—a candidate who receives 51 percent of the popular vote in a state would receive 100 percent of that state’s electoral votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 227 electoral votes. Clinton won the national popular vote with 65.84 million votes compared to Trump’s 62.98 million votes. The 2016 election was not the only instance in which the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes; it happened in five of the 58 presidential elections in U.S. history.
State Sen. Mike Foote (D-17) and Reps. Emily Sirota (D-9) and Jennifer Arndt (D-53) sponsored SB 42 in the Colorado State Legislature. SB 42 passed the Senate on January 29, 2019, in a vote of 19 to 16. On February 21, 2019, the House approved the bill in a vote of 34 to 29. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019.
Coloradans Vote is leading the campaign in support of a no vote. Coloradans Vote sponsored the referendum petition and hopes voters will reject Senate Bill 42. The group argued that “demanding Colorado’s electors cast their votes this way is theft of our votes for president and gives them to more populated areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. [The current Electoral College system] ensures that the minority always has a voice by allowing smaller, less populated states to have a more proportionate voice in electing our president.”
Colorado National Popular Vote (Colorado NPV) is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. The campaign supports Colorado being a part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and hopes voters will approve Senate Bill 42. In a statement to Ballotpedia, Co-Chair of Colorado NPV Sylvia Bernstein said, “The Electoral College system has resulted in 5 out of 45 American presidents not winning the popular vote. This does not fairly reflect the will of the voters and is harmful to a modern democracy … We believe every vote by every American for the President should count equally, no matter where you live.”
In addition to Colorado, three other states joined the NPVIC in 2019: Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon. The first state to join was Maryland in 2007. Colorado is a Democratic trifecta. Thirteen of the 15 states to join the NPVIC and Washington, D.C., were controlled by Democratic trifectas at the time. Two were controlled by divided governments.
The most recent veto referendum on the ballot in Colorado appeared on the ballot in 1932. From 1912 to 1932, 13 veto referendums were on the ballot. Of the 13 referendum efforts, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation. The targeted legislation was upheld by voters on three occasions.
Nation-wide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums on the ballot were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California(48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming(1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).
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Kansas governor to appoint two state supreme court justices

Governor Laura Kelly (D) of Kansas will be able to appoint two justices to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court due to two justices retiring in 2019. Justice Lee Johnson will retire on September 8, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will retire on December 17.
Under Kansas law, in the event of a state supreme court vacancy, the governor selects a replacement from a list of three individuals submitted by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Newly appointed justices serve for at least one year, after which they must run for retention in the next general election. Subsequent terms last for six years. Johnson’s and Nuss’ replacements will be Gov. Kelly’s first and second nominees to the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member independent body created by the state’s constitution to recommend individuals to the governor for appointment to the state supreme court. When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission reviews applications and interviews candidates in public hearings. The commission then recommends three candidates to the governor.
The commission has nine members: four must be non-attorneys and are appointed by the governor, while another four are attorneys selected by members of the bar in each of the state’s four congressional districts. The chair of the commission, the ninth member, is a lawyer chosen in a statewide vote of lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association.
The court’s chief justice is chosen by seniority. Justice Marla Luckert will succeed Nuss as chief justice of the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court currently consists of:
  • Justice Carol Beier – Appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
  • Justice Daniel Biles – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Lee Johnson – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Eric Rosen – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Caleb Stegall – Appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R)
  • Justice Marla Luckert – Appointed by Gov. Bill Graves (R)
  • Justice Lawton Nuss – Appointed by Gov. Graves
The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center.

One week until Mississippi gubernatorial primaries

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited, leaving his seat open in this year’s gubernatorial election. Republican and Democratic party primaries will take place Tuesday, August 6, to select gubernatorial nominees.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster will appear on the Republican primary ballot. Each have identified different policy priorities. Reeves, who local media outlets have identified as a frontrunner based on his fundraising advantage and endorsement from Bryant, says he has a record of experience in state government and will oppose tax increases. Waller, whose endorsers include four former state party chairmen, says he would focus on repairing the state’s roads and bridges. Foster emphasizes his status as a political outsider and says he would focus on agricultural policy.
In the Democratic primary, state Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, and six other candidates will be on the ballot. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since 1999. Hood says that he can win statewide elections as a Democrat, citing his four victories in statewide attorney general races since 2003. Smith says that one of the reasons for his run is that Hood wrongfully tried him on criminal charges based on his race three times between 2016 and 2018. If no candidate wins a majority in either primary, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on August 27. The winners will appear on the November 5 general election ballot. In order to win outright, a candidate must win a majority of the statewide vote and carry a majority of state House districts.
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Democratic and Republican Governors Association affiliates launch ads in Kentucky gubernatorial election

On July 25, the group Bluegrass Values debuted two television ads in support of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). These are the first ads released by the group, which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, in the Kentucky gubernatorial election. Beshear faces Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and John Hicks (L) in the general election on November 5.
The following day, Putting Kentucky First launched an ad in opposition to Beshear. The Republican Governors Association-affiliated group has already released five ads opposing Beshear and one supporting Bevin during the campaign. A report from Medium Buying on July 8 said that Putting Kentucky First had spent $2 million on television ads so far.
Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. This race will decide the state’s trifecta status until at least the 2020 state legislative elections. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.
A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Right now, there are 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

Highlights from Tuesday’s Republican primary debate in Mississippi gubernatorial election

State Rep. Robert Foster, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state supreme court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. are running in the August 6 Republican primary for a chance to succeed Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. The candidates participated in the first and only scheduled televised debate of the primary July 23. Some highlights from the debate are below.
  • Taxes to fund infrastructure improvements: Foster proposed eliminating the personal income tax and making small increases to the gas and sales tax. Waller said he supports increasing the gas tax while eliminating the 4% income tax bracket. Reeves said he opposes raising the gas tax.
  • Medicaid expansion: Waller said he supports expanding Medicaid in Mississippi similar to how Mike Pence did as governor of Indiana. Reeves said he opposes Medicaid expansion. Foster said all options are on the table for him.
  • Effect of state flag’s Confederate imagery on business: All three candidates said they did not believe the flag was keeping businesses out of Mississippi. Foster stated that taxes are having that effect. Waller said changes to the state flag should be left up to voters and not the state legislature. Reeves said he opposes action by the governor or legislature to change the flag and that the issue has not come up in economic development meetings he has been involved in.
Candidates also discussed teacher pay, marijuana, the minimum wage, and the inclusion of women in the next administration.
Bryant won the past two general elections with more than 60 percent of the vote. The state’s last Democratic governor was Ronnie Musgrove, who served from 1999 to 2003. Eight candidates are running in the August 6 Democratic primary. Two of three election forecasters tracked by Ballotpedia rate the November 5 general election as “Leans Republican” and the other rated it as “Likely Republican.”

Triplex status at play in three states this year

A triplex occurs when a state’s governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all belong to the same political party, a situation which can reduce conflict between state executives. Currently, there are 18 Republican and 17 Democratic state triplexes.
Three states are holding elections in 2019 which could affect their triplex status: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Currently, neither Republicans nor Democrats hold triplexes in any of these three states. The offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state will be on the ballot in each state.
In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is currently serving with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Either party could gain triplex control during the November 5 general election.
In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards serves with Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. The November 16 general election will determine whether either party will gain control of all three offices.
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant serves with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Republicans and Democrats will vie for triplex control during Mississippi’s November 5 general election.