Special election held Tuesday in Rhode Island after member-elect declines oath of office

A special general election for District 68 of the Rhode Island House of Representatives is scheduled for March 5, 2019. The primary was held on February 5, and the candidate filing deadline passed on December 28, 2018.
The special election was called after Representative-elect Laufton Ascencao (D) announced he would not take the oath of office following his election on November 6, 2018. He said he had lied to local Democratic town committee members about producing a six-page mailer prior to the election. He also produced a fake expense invoice for the mailer and sent it to the committee members. When he announced his decision not to take office, Ascencao said the brochure had been completed but not in time for it to be published and mailed prior to the election, so there were no actual expenses incurred for it.
Entering the special election, Kenneth Marshall holds the District 68 seat as a Democratic member. Marshall is running in the election as an independent candidate. He was first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2014 and 2016; he did not run for re-election in 2018 after acknowledging in July 2018 that he had not reported more than $10,000 in campaign contributions. However, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) decided in December 2018 that Marshall’s term would be extended until the special election passed, and Marshall then decided to pursue an election bid as an independent.
Marshall faces Democrat June Speakman, Libertarian William Hunt Jr., and independent candidate James McCanna III on Tuesday.
In November 2018, all 75 Rhode Island House of Representative seats were up for election. At the time of the election, Democrats held 64 seats to Republicans’ 11. Following the election, the party maintained its majority in the House. The next regular elections for the chamber are scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Did you know? Five facts about the office of state attorney general

A state attorney general serves as their state’s chief law enforcement officer. While all 50 states have one, their roles and responsibilities vary.
Here are five things you may not know about the office of attorney general:
  1. As of February 2019, there are 25 Democratic state attorneys general and 24 Republicans. Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors is officially nonpartisan and was appointed by a Democratic governor. It is one of two state executive offices with more Democratic officeholders than Republicans (the other is the office of controller).
  2. Attorneys general are directly elected in 43 states and are appointed in the others. In Alaska, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, the governor appoints the attorney general. In Tennessee, the attorney general is appointed by the state supreme court. In Maine, the attorney general is appointed by the legislature.
  3. Attorneys general serve four-year terms in 45 states. In Alaska and Wyoming, the attorney general does not have a defined term and serves at the governor’s pleasure. In Maine and Vermont, they have two-year terms. Tennessee’s attorney general is appointed to an eight-year term.
  4. The highest salary for a state attorney general is Tennessee’s $182,688, while the lowest is Colorado’s $80,000.
  5. Three states are holding elections for attorney general this year. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) are running for governor, leaving their seats open. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) is running for re-election to a second term.

Hinds County DA Robert Schuler Smith running in Mississippi Democratic gubernatorial primary

Robert Schuler Smith, the district attorney of Hinds County, Mississippi, told the Clarion Ledger that he would run in Mississippi’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. He was first elected as Hinds County district attorney in 2008. State Attorney General Jim Hood is also running in the Democratic primary. The filing deadline to run is Friday, March 1, and the primary will be held August 6.
Hood, who was first elected attorney general in 2003, is the only statewide Democratic officeholder in Mississippi. Hood first announced he would run for governor in October 2018, and he had more than $1 million in cash on hand as of January 1, 2019.
A late January poll from Mason-Dixon (the only public poll of the race thus far) showed Hood with 44 percent of the vote and Republican Tate Reeves with 42 percent in a hypothetical match-up. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.
Reeves is facing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster in the Republican primary.

Republicans gain two seats in Connecticut state legislative special elections

Special elections were held for Districts 3, 5, and 6 of the Connecticut State Senate and Districts 39 and 99 of the Connecticut House of Representatives on February 26. All five seats were vacated by Democrats who joined Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration.
In Senate District 6, Gennaro Bizzarro (R) defeated state Rep. Rick Lopes (D) with 53.0 percent of the vote. The former incumbent in District 6, Terry Gerrantana (D), had won re-election in 2018 and 2016 with 62.6 and 64.6 percent of the vote, respectively.
In House District 99, Joseph Zullo (R) defeated Josh Balter (D) with 54.1 percent of the vote. James Albis (D) represented the district prior to his resignation in January. He had won re-election in 2018 and 2016 with 58.2 and 50.05 percent of the vote, respectively.
Democrats Saud Anwar, Derek Slap, and Anthony Nolan won Senate Districts 3 and 5 and House District 39, respectively, which kept the three seats under Democratic control. Overall, the special elections resulted in a net gain of one Republican seat in each chamber of the legislature.
After Tuesday’s special elections, the partisan balance of the Connecticut State Senate now stands at 22 Democrats and 14 Republicans. The Connecticut House of Representatives now has 91 Democrats and 60 Republicans. Connecticut has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Wisconsin Supreme Court race features two new biographical videos on the opioid crisis and civil rights

Appellate judges Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer have both released their first campaign ads in the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Hagedorn discussed the adoption of his daughter, Lily, who was born addicted to opioids. He has focused on the opioid crisis on the campaign trail, saying, “The heroin and meth epidemics are ravaging our communities. We must be part of the conversation. Our next justice must recognize that crime victims as well as those accused of crimes are protected in our constitution. And we must remember that law enforcement is our ally, not our enemy.”
In her first video, Neubauer revealed that she was Jane Doe No. 1 in a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chicago that impacted unconstitutional strip search policies across the country. “It taught me about the importance of being able to look to the courts for those values: justice, fairness, equality,” Neubauer said.
Hagedorn and Neubauer are running in a proxy partisan battle. Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Conservatives, who back Hagedorn, hold a 4-3 majority on the court heading into the election. Like Shirley Abrahamson, who is retiring and leaving this seat open, Neubauer has been supported by liberals.
If conservatives win this seat, it will expand their majority on the court to 5-2. If liberals retain Abrahamson’s seat, it will set up a battle for control of the court in 2020, when Dan Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2016 by Gov. Scott Walker (R), will stand for election for the first time.
The election will be held on April 2, 2019.

NY Gov. Cuomo signs extreme risk protection order bill

On February 25, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed SB 2451, a firearms-related bill. The New York State Legislature approved the bill along party lines in January. According to the New York State Senate website, SB 2451 “establishes extreme risk protection orders as a court-issued order of protection prohibiting a person from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.”
The law authorizes law enforcement officers, family members, and certain school officials to ask a court to issue an order restricting a person deemed likely to harm themselves or others from accessing firearms.
New York joined 13 other states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington—in enacting laws authorizing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders. Of those states, Florida was controlled by a Republican trifecta when the law was adopted. Six other states—California, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island—were controlled by Democratic trifectas.
Prior to the 2018 elections, New York had a divided government. Democrats held the governor’s office and the state House. In the state Senate, Democrats held 32 seats to Republicans’ 31. However, Republicans controlled the chamber, as one Democratic state senator caucused with the Republican Party. Following the elections, New York has a Democratic state government trifecta.

Texas governor appoints former court of appeals judge to state supreme court

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) nominated Brett Busby on Friday to replace retired Justice Phil Johnson (R) on the Texas Supreme Court. Busby is Abbott’s second nominee to the nine-member court. His nomination is subject to confirmation by the Texas State Senate.
If confirmed, Busby will serve until 2020. He must run for election that year to remain on the bench. The nine justices of the Texas Supreme Court are selected in statewide partisan elections. They serve six-year terms. All of the court’s current justices are Republicans.
Busby was a Republican judge on the Texas Fourteenth District Court of Appeals from June 2012 to December 2018. He ran for re-election in 2018 but was defeated in the general election on November 6.
Busby previously was a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, an adjunct professor at The University of Texas School of Law, and a law clerk at the Supreme Court of the United States. He graduated with high honors from Duke University and received his J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Three races advance to general election, no seats flipped in Louisiana state legislative specials

Seven seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives were up for special election on February 23, 2019. In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the same primary election. If one candidate receives a simple majority of the vote (more than 50 percent) in the primary election, he or she wins outright. Three of the seven races had more than two candidates on the ballot, meaning they could—and did—advance to a general election. The remaining four races were decided in the primary. A total of 14 Democratic candidates, seven Republican candidates, and one independent candidate competed for the seats.
Six of the seven previous incumbents had vacated their seats after winning election to another office, and the seventh resigned to take a job with the state. Three seats were previously held by Democrats, and four were held by Republicans. The races in Districts 12, 17, 26, and 47 had no chance of resulting in flipped seats since only members of the previous officeholders’ party filed for election.
The remaining three races could have resulted in a flipped seat. District 18—previously held by a Democrat—and Districts 27 and 62—previously held by Republicans—all had candidates from multiple parties on the ballot. The races in Districts 18 and 62 advanced to a runoff and could still result in a party change, but the District 27 election was decided outright in the primary and will remain in Republican hands.
  • In District 12, Christopher Turner (R) won the primary outright.
  • In District 17, Rodney McFarland Sr. (D) and Pat Moore (D) advanced to the general election.
  • In District 18, Jeremy LaCombe (D) and Tammi Fabre (R) advanced to the general election.
  • In District 26, Ed Larvadain III (D) won the primary outright.
  • In District 27, Mike Johnson (R) won the primary outright.
  • In District 47, Ryan Bourriaque (R) won the primary outright.
  • In District 62, Dennis Aucoin (R) and Roy Adams (independent) advanced to the general election.
As of February, 42 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Before the February special elections, the Louisiana House of Representatives had 36 Democrats, 59 Republicans, three independents, and seven vacancies. All 105 seats are up for election in 2019. A majority in the chamber requires 53 seats. Louisiana has a divided government with a Democratic governor but Republican majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Twenty-one state executive officials left office early in 2018

Twenty-one state executive officials left office early in 2018, the third-highest number since Ballotpedia began tracking the figure in 2012.
They included one Democrat, 13 Republicans, and seven nonpartisan officials.
Nine resignations occurred for personal reasons, seven for political reasons, and two for professional reasons. Three officials did not specify their reasons for leaving office.
Nine resignations were from the top-level offices of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.
  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) resigned to accept his appointment as U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, while Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) left office to serve as his successor.
  • Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct and was replaced by Lt. Gov. Mike Parson (R).
  • Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray (R), Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R), and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) each resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos (R) resigned for unspecified reasons.
  • Nonpartisan Oklahoma Secretary of State Mike Lopez resigned for personal reasons and was succeeded by James Williamson (R), the only office change in 2018 which also resulted in a change in partisan control.
The months with the most officials leaving office were May and December with four resignations each. No state executive officials left office between August and November.
Previously, the two years with the most irregular office changes since 2012 have been those following a presidential election; Ballotpedia tracked 36 irregular office changes in 2013 and tracked 23 irregular office changes in 2017.
Click the link below for more information on early departures among state executive officials going back to 2012.

Mississippi Gov. Bryant endorses Lt. Gov. Reeves as his successor

On February 20, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) endorsed Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to replace him as the state’s top executive. “If a governor and a lieutenant governor cannot work closely together if I cannot be loyal to him as well as he has been loyal to me — then we’re on the wrong path,” Bryant said.
Reeves is running in the August 6 Republican gubernatorial primary against former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster. State Sen. Chris McDaniel might also enter the primary. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top-two finishers will face off in an August 27 runoff.
The only poll of the primary previewed a two-candidate matchup between Reeves and Foster, which Reeves led 62 percent to 9 percent. The margin of error was 5 percentage points. Reeves was the only candidate to report fundraising figures ahead of the January 1, 2019, filing deadline. He reported raising nearly $1.8 million and having more than $6.7 million in cash on hand. Waller did not enter the race until February 14.
Bryant, who is term-limited in 2019, was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote and was re-elected in 2015 with 66.4 percent of the vote. He won a five-candidate Republican primary in 2011 with 59.5 percent of the vote.