Longest-serving member of Alabama House of Representatives dies

Ronald Johnson (R), who had represented District 33 in the Alabama House since 1978, died of liver cancer on July 14. His tenure in the chamber made him the longest-serving legislator in the state House at the time of his death.
Johnson’s death creates the second vacancy in the chamber this year. The first occurred when April Weaver (R) resigned from the District 49 seat on May 12 to take a position in President Trump’s administration.
Vacancies in the Alabama state legislature are filled by special election. The special election for the District 49 seat is scheduled for November 17, 2020. A special election for Johnson’s former seat has not yet been called.
There were three state legislative special elections in Alabama in 2018, two in the state House and one in the state Senate. In each of the special elections, the seat was won by a candidate belonging to the same party as the legislator who previously held the seat. Republican candidates Parker Moore and Rex Reynolds won the District 4 and District 21 seats in the Alabama House of Representatives, last held by Micky Hammon (R) and Jim Patterson (R), respectively. Democrat David Burkette won the special election to replace former Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross (D) in Senate District 26.

Lucas resigns from New Hampshire House of Representatives, creating 10th vacancy in chamber

The current vacancy count in the New Hampshire House of Representatives this week reached a total of 10 seats. Rep. Gates Lucas (R) resigned from the chamber on July 14, citing a move outside his district as the reason. Lucas announced his resignation on Twitter and said, “Today I resigned from the @NHHouseofReps given I am moving to Portsmouth. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in the house to uphold @GovChrisSununu’s vetoes and reject many of the radical policies of the left. It’s been an honor serving Sunapee & Croydon!”
Lucas had represented New Hampshire’s House District Sullivan 2 since 2018. He did not file to run for re-election this year. The other vacant seats in the chamber are in Grafton 12, Cheshire 4, Hillsborough 23, Grafton 9, Hillsborough 43, Hillsborough 37, Strafford 10, Hillsborough 27, and Hillsborough 7. Eight of the 10 vacancies occurred this year.
Vacancies in the New Hampshire state legislature are filled by special election. A town or city in the district represented by the vacant seat must make a formal request to the governor and executive council for a special election. The governor and council then approve or deny the request within 21 days. So far, there has only been one special election called in New Hampshire this year. It was for the Merrimack 24 district and took place on March 10.

Filing deadline to pass for Louisiana congressional candidates

The major-party filing deadline to run for elected office in Louisiana is on July 24, 2020. In Louisiana, prospective candidates may file for the following congressional offices:
• U.S. Senate: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) has announced that he is running for re-election. Cassidy was first elected in 2014.
• U.S. House of Representatives: All six of Louisiana’s U.S. House seats are up for election. Republicans hold five of the seats, and a Democrat holds the District 2 seat.
Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation. The primary is scheduled for November 3, and the general election is scheduled for December 5, 2020.
Louisiana’s statewide filing deadline is the 50th and final major-party deadline to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The previous statewide filing deadline was on July 14 in Delaware.

Voters decide Louisiana special elections on July 11

Ballotpedia covered three special elections on July 11 in Louisiana. Offices on the ballot included a state House seat located in the Jefferson and Lafourche parishes and two judicial positions in Baton Rouge.

In state House District 54, six candidates ran to replace Reggie Bagala (R). James Cantrelle (R), Dave Carskadon (R), Kevin Duet (R), Phil Gilligan (R), Donny Lerille (R), and Joseph Orgeron (R) faced off in the election. Orgeron won the election outright with 55% of the vote. Bagala died on April 9 from coronavirus-related health complications. He was first elected to the position in 2019 with 58.2% of the vote.

Baton Rouge held special elections for the Division C seat on the City Court and for the Division M-Section 2 seat on the state’s 19th Judicial District Court. The special primary election was originally scheduled to take place on April 4, with a general to be held May 9, if necessary. The dates were moved amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. A runoff election is scheduled for August 15, 2020.

Greg Cook (D), Donald Dobbins (D), Whitney Greene (R), Jonathan Holloway, Sr. (D), and Johnell Matthews (D) faced off in the special primary election for the vacant City Court seat. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, Matthews and Greene advanced to a runoff election. Greene received 32% of the vote, and Matthews received 29% of the vote. The special election became necessary when Judge Tarvald Smith vacated the seat after being elected to the 19th Judicial District Court in 2019. The term for the position expires in 2024.

Yvette Alexander (D), Tiffany Foxworth (D), Eboni Johnson-Rose (D), and Jennifer Moisant (D) ran in the special primary election for the Division M-Section 2 seat on the 19th Judicial District Court. Foxworth and Alexander advanced to the runoff election. Foxworth received 37% of the vote, and Alexander received 35% of the vote. The special election became necessary when Judge Beau Higginbotham vacated the seat after being elected to the Division C-Section 3 seat on the 19th Judicial District Court in 2019. The winner will fill a term that expires at the end of 2020. To retain the position, the special election winner will have to run again in the Fall for a full six-year term.

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State supreme court justices in retention elections have a 98% win rate since 2008

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

In retention elections, voters are asked whether an incumbent should remain in office for another term. The incumbent does not face an opponent and is removed from the position if a majority vote against retention.

State supreme court justices facing retention elections experienced better chances of being re-elected than their incumbent counterparts in other kinds of elections. Since 2008, 155 state supreme court justices have faced retention elections. Incumbent justices won 152 (98%) of these elections. In that same time period, incumbent justices in non-retention elections have faced 196 elections. The incumbent justices won 176 (90%) of these elections. Incumbent justices in all types of election experienced a 93% win rate.

In this time period, Iowa is the only state that has held retention elections in which justices were not retained. Iowa supreme court justices Marsha K. Ternus, Michael J. Streit and David Baker lost their retention elections in 2010. This followed their participation in a decision to remove the state ban on same-sex marriage. The three justices ruled in favor of removing the ban in the 2009 case Varnum v. Brien, resulting in campaigning against their retention by groups opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Ternus was appointed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad while Baker and Streit were appointed by Democratic governors. They were replaced by Bruce Zager, Thomas Waterman, and Edward Mansfield, all three of whom were appointed by Republican governor Terry Branstad in 2011. Zager’s seat was filled in 2018 by Susan Christensen, who was appointed by Republican Governor Susan Reynolds.

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Virginia Supreme Court rules that Walmart must purchase electricity from Virginia Electric & Power Co.

On July 9, 2020, the Virginia State Supreme Court issued a ruling that affirmed the State Corporation Commission’s denial of Walmart’s petition to seek an alternative energy supplier to the state utility. Justice Arthur Kelsey penned the unanimous opinion of the court.

In December 2017 Walmart sought permission to buy its electricity from a non-state utility. Walmart lied on two provisions of the state utility code. Walmart first relied on the provision which grants that any customer who uses more than five megawatts may choose to exit the utility’s customer pool. Second, Walmart relied on the provision which says that a customer with multiple sites in Virginia that collectively use more than five megawatts of electricity may combine those loads and buy energy from a non-utility. The two prior provisions are governed by a provision which reads “approval of such petition is consistent with the public interest.”

After Walmart’s 2017 petition to purchase electricity outside of the state’s utility, the State Corporation Commission held a notice and comment period followed by a public evidentiary hearing.

According to the hearing records, the examiner made factual findings, including that Walmart’s petitions “would likely increase the monthly bills of remaining, non-shopping customers. VEPCO customers using 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month would see a total increase of $0.13 in their monthly bills, and similar customers of APCO would see a total monthly increase of $0.05.” The hearing examiner concluded that “The question for the Commission is not whether the impact of granting Walmart’s Petitions is de minimis, but rather is whether granting Walmart’s Petitions will adversely affect the remaining retail customers . . . in a manner contrary to the public interest.” The commission claimed that granting Walmart’s petition would be a breach of the provision of state contracting code which asks them only to grant contracts “consistent with the public interest.”

The question that the state supreme court was asked to decide is whether or not a regulatory commission may define “the public interest” in granting petitions for exclusion from purchasing electricity from public utilities.

Walmart argued that “The public interest cannot be offended… if the adverse effect is simply recasting the marginal-cost savings enjoyed by the benefitted party into higher marginal costs to remaining customers or lost revenue to the incumbent utility.”

Justice Kelsey wrote that “Walmart’s argument is a tightly constructed syllogism, and it might be persuasive if subsection (A)(4)(a) were the only relevant statutory language informing us of the General Assembly’s intent. But it is not. Subsection (A)(4)(a) is immediately followed by subsection (A)(4)(b)’s general reference to the ‘public interest,’ and both subsections are preceded by the highly permissive ‘may’ language governing the ultimate scope of the Commission’s discretion.” Justice Kelsey went on to write “We are not tempted to repurpose ‘may’ as a polite form of ‘shall.’”

Walmart’s 140 stores across the state of Virginia will continue to purchase power from the Virginia Electric & Power Co. Walmart’s representatives have not spoken on the decision of the state supreme court.

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Trujillo resigns from New Mexico legislature, cites need to focus on full-time work

Linda Trujillo (D) resigned from the New Mexico House of Representatives, a little more than one month after winning the Democratic primary for the seat. Trujillo is an attorney by trade and said she needed to work full-time due to economic concerns resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. She announced her resignation from office effective immediately on July 9.
Trujillo had represented District 48 since first winning election to the seat in 2016. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary on June 2 and advanced to the general election with 100% of the vote before withdrawing. Democratic committee members from her district will appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of her unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2020.
Lawmakers in New Mexico’s state legislature are part-time, meaning legislators devote an average of 57% of their total working hours during the week to their legislative duties. Many legislators must reduce their working hours outside the legislature as a result. New Mexico is the only state that does not pay an annual base salary to state legislators, with the average salary for part-time legislators being $18,449 per year.

Hodges resigns from Arkansas House to take new job with community college

Grant Hodges (R) resigned from the Arkansas House of Representatives on July 10. Hodges’ resignation came just before he started a new job as the executive director of community and government relations at Northwest Arkansas Community College on July 13.
Hodges’ resignation was expected after he announced his acceptance of the new role in late June. First elected to represent District 96 in 2014 and re-elected in 2016 and 2018, Hodges did not file to run for re-election this year.
Hodges’ resignation creates the second vacancy in the chamber this year. The first was created when Chris Richey (D) resigned less than two weeks prior to Hodges, after moving out of his district for an employment opportunity. With the departure of Hodges and Richey, the current partisan composition of the Arkansas House of Representatives is 75 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Ten incumbents in the chamber, including Richey, did not file to run for re-election this year. Of those, Richey was the only Democrat.

Special election to be held for Texas State Senate District 14

A special election is being held on July 14 for District 14 of the Texas State Senate. Sarah Eckhardt (D), Eddie Rodriguez (D), Waller Thomas Burns II (R), Donald Zimmerman (R), Pat Dixon (L), and Jeff Ridgeway (I) are running in the special election.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of Kirk Watson (D) on April 30. Watson resigned from the state Senate to become the dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. Watson had represented the district since 2007. He last won re-election in 2018 with 72% of the vote in the general election.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 19-11 majority in the Texas State Senate with one vacancy. Texas 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.

Regularly scheduled elections are being held in 16 Texas State Senate districts in 2020. Primary runoffs are taking place on July 14. The general election will be held on November 3.

As of June, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Loucks resigns from Wyoming House of Representatives

Carl “Bunky” Loucks (R) resigned from the Wyoming House of Representatives on July 6, citing a need to focus on his small business due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is not running for re-election this year.

Loucks was first elected to represent District 59 in the chamber in 2010. Three Republican candidates–David Carpenter, Leah Juarez, and Kevin O’Hearn–are running for the seat in the August 18 primary. No candidates filed for the Democratic primary.

All 60 seats in the Wyoming House of Representatives are up for election this year. In 40 of the 60 races, no candidates filed in the Democratic primary. No candidates filed for the Republican primary in just five of the 60 districts. Wyoming has had a Republican state government trifecta in 18 of the last 29 years, with a Republican majority in both chambers of the state legislature every year since 1992.

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