CategoryState

Illinois House deputy majority leader resigns

Arthur Turner II (D), formerly the Deputy Majority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives, resigned on July 3. He had represented the 9th District in the chamber since 2011. Turner’s father, Arthur Turner, previously held the seat from 1981 until his son took office.
Turner did not file for re-election this year. Lakesia Collins won the Democratic primary in the district on March 17 with 46% of the vote. The Republican primary was canceled. Collins is running unopposed in the general election on November 3. Officials from the Democratic Party committee in Turner’s district will appoint a replacement to serve until the end of his term, which expires in January 2021.
There are nine open seats in the Illinois House of Representatives elections this year in which the incumbent did not file for re-election, including Turner’s. That’s the fewest number of any election in the chamber in the last decade. Of the incumbents who did not file for re-election, six are Republicans and three are Democrats. Two incumbents were defeated in the March primaries, both Democrats who had been appointed to their positions.
In the 2018 elections, which had the most open seats of any election since 2010, Democrats increased their seat holdings in the Illinois House from 67-51 to 74-44. The gain created a supermajority for the party in the chamber.
Additional reading:


Hawaii Supreme Court justice Pollack retires

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack retired from the court July 2 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. He served on the court for eight years after being nominated in August 2012.
Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald said about Pollack, “During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Pollack was extraordinarily productive, authoring more than 150 opinions, all of which were meticulously researched and clearly written. He shaped the court’s jurisprudence in areas including public trust resources and the environment, criminal procedure, evidence, and public access to governmental proceedings.”
Hawaii Supreme Court justices are selected using the assisted appointment method in which the governor chooses from a list of four to six qualified candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. The Hawaii Senate then confirms the nominee. Judges serve ten-year terms on the court unless, like Pollack, they reach the mandatory retirement age before the end of their term.
Pollack’s replacement will be the first justice appointed by Hawaii Governor David Ige (D). Of the remaining four judges, Democratic governors appointed three and a Republican governor appointed one.


Alaska Governor Dunleavy appoints first nominee to five-member state supreme court

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Dario Borghesan to the Alaska Supreme Court on July 1, 2020. Borghesan succeeded Justice Craig Stowers, who retired on June 1, 2020. Borghesan is Dunleavy’s first nominee to the five-member supreme court.
Under Alaska law, state supreme court justices are appointed by the governor from a list of two or more nominees compiled by the Alaska Judicial Council. Newly appointed judges serve an initial term of at least three years, after which the justice must stand for retention in an uncontested yes-no election to remain on the bench. Subsequent terms last ten years. To remain on the bench, Borghesan must run for retention in 2024.
Before his appointment to the Alaska Supreme Court, Borghesan was the supervising attorney of the Alaska Department of Law’s civil appeals section. He previously served as special assistant to the attorney general (2009-2010) and assistant attorney general handling civil appeals (2010-2018). He was a law clerk to Justice Daniel Winfree on the state supreme court from 2008 to 2009.
Borghesan obtained a B.A., magna cum laude, from Amherst College in 2002. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was Order of the Coif, in 2008. From 2002 to 2004, Borghesan served in the Peace Corps in Togo, Africa.
The Alaska Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Alaska. As of July 2020, three justices were appointed by a Republican governor and one justice was appointed by an independent governor.
In 2020, there have been 16 supreme court vacancies across 13 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 16 vacancies, 11 are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Four vacancies occurred in a state where a Republican governor fills vacancies. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.


Mississippi Rep. Dortch resigns, takes job with ACLU

Former state legislator Jarvis Dortch (D) resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives on July 2. That same day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi posted a press release announcing that Dortch would start as executive director of the chapter on July 13.
Dortch posted his resignation letter on Twitter, in which he told House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) that he regretted leaving “the women and men of House District 66 unrepresented for the next few months,” but that he was “excited for the next chapter in [his] career.”
Dortch was first elected to the Mississippi House in 2015. He ran for and won re-election unopposed in 2019. His resignation leaves the third vacancy in the chamber.  Vacancies in the Mississippi state legislature are filled by special election.


New York Assemblymember Gantt dies

New York State Assemblymember David Gantt (D) died on July 1 after serving in the legislature for close to thirty years. Gantt was first elected to represent District 133 in the New York State Assembly in 1983. He was elected to represent District 137 in 2013 and held that office until his death.
Vacancies in the New York state legislature are filled by special election. This year four special elections were called in the state legislature—three in the assembly and one in the state senate. All four were originally scheduled for April 28. On March 28, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) postponed the four state legislative special elections, along with New York’s presidential preference primary and one Congressional special election, to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state legislative special elections were subsequently canceled.
Gantt’s death creates the fourth current vacancy in the chamber. The partisan composition of the chamber is 103 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and one member of the Independence Party of America. All 150 seats are up for election this year.


Decade-high number of incumbents slated for Oklahoma’s state legislative general election

On June 30, 2020, voters across Oklahoma cast their ballots in the state’s legislative primaries.

This year, 125 state legislative seats are up for election. Following the primaries, at least 106 incumbents are advancing to the general election, the highest number within the past decade. The higher number of incumbents in the general election is due to a decade-low number of open seats in both chambers and similarly low numbers of incumbents defeated in the primaries.

In the Senate, two of the 24 incumbents, both Republicans, did not seek re-election, leaving their seats open. In the House, three Democrats and six Republicans retired. In addition to these 11, four incumbents—three Republicans and one Democrat—were defeated in the June 30 primaries. They were:
• Sen. Wayne Shaw (R), Senate District 3
• Rep. Lundy Kiger (R), House District 3
• Rep. Derrel Fincher (R), House District 11
• Rep. Jason Dunnington (D), House District 88

Additionally, Sens. Ron Sharp (R) and Larry Boggs (R) advanced to primary runoffs on August 25. Sen. Paul Scott (R) and Rep. Ajay Pittman (D) ran in primaries that remain too close to call.

In total, 15 incumbents either retired before or were defeated in the June 30 primaries. Pending runoffs and too close to call elections, that number could increase to 19. In either scenario, it is the lowest such number within the preceding decade.

In total, there were 54 party primaries, 15 in the Senate and 39 in the House. By partisan affiliation, there were eight Democratic primaries and 46 Republican primaries. Overall, this marks a 54 percent decrease from 2018, which saw 117 total primaries.

Heading into the general election, Republicans hold a 38-9 supermajority in the Senate and a 77-23 supermajority in the House. Oklahoma is one of 21 Republican state government trifectas with Republicans controlling the governorship and both chambers of the legislature. General election winners will be responsible for redrawing district lines after the 2020 decennial census. The legislature is responsible for drafting congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Oklahoma_State_Senate_elections,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/Oklahoma_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2020



Two incumbents defeated in Kentucky state legislative primaries so far

On June 23, 2020, voters across Kentucky cast their ballots in the state’s legislative primaries.

In total, there were six party primaries for state Senate seats and 32 primaries in the state House. By partisan affiliation, there were 13 Democratic primaries and 25 Republican primaries for a total of 38, a decrease from the 51 primaries held in 2018. Overall, the total number of major party candidates seeking state legislative offices in Kentucky has decreased from 289 in 2018 to 242 this year. Democrats experienced a greater decrease in candidates, down from 150 in 2018 to 106 in 2020. There were 136 Republican candidates this year, down from 139 in 2018.

Seventeen incumbents are not seeking re-election in 2020, three in the Senate and 14 in the House. In the Senate, one incumbent was defeated, so of the 19 seats up for election, 15 will feature an incumbent in the general election. One incumbent was also defeated in the House with one race remaining too close to call as of July 2. This means that of the 100 seats up this year, at least 84 will feature incumbents in the general election.

Incumbents defeated in the primary:

• Sen. Albert Robinson (R), Senate District 21
• Rep. Les Yates (R), House District 73

As of July 2, the primary between first-term incumbent Rep. R. Travis Brenda (R) and Josh Bray (R) remained too close to call. On July 1, Brenda officially requested a canvas of the vote after initial results showed Bray with 50.2 percent of the vote to Brenda’s 49.8 percent, a 30-vote margin.

Heading into the general election, Republicans hold a 29-9 majority in the Senate and a 61-37 majority in the House. In Kentucky, a simple majority of votes in each chamber is required to override a gubernatorial veto. In 2019, Andy Beshear (D) was elected governor, making Kentucky one of the 14 states with divided government. General election winners will be responsible for redrawing district lines after the 2020 census. In Kentucky, the legislature is responsible for drafting congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Kentucky_State_Senate_elections,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/Kentucky_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2020



New Jersey to hold primary election on July 7

The statewide primary election for New Jersey is on July 7, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on March 30, 2020. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:

• U.S. Senate (1 seat)
• U.S. House (12 seats)
• State Senate District 25 (special election)
• State House District 25 (special election)

Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following areas:
• Essex County
• Hudson County

New Jersey’s primary election was postponed from June 2 to July 7 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

New Jersey’s primary is the 30th to take place in the 2020 election. The next primary is on July 14 in Maine.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Senate_election_in_New_Jersey,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections_in_New_Jersey,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_state_legislative_special_elections,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_municipal_elections,_2020#New_Jersey



Louisiana to hold special elections July 11

Ballotpedia will be covering three special elections on July 11 in Louisiana. Offices on the ballot include a state House seat located in the Jefferson and Lafourche parishes and two judicial positions in Baton Rouge. A general election is scheduled on August 15, 2020, in case no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the special primary election. Early voting for the July 11 election ends at 6 p.m. on July 4.

In state House District 54, six candidates are running to replace Reggie Bagala (R). James Cantrelle (R), Dave Carskadon (R), Kevin Duet (R), Phil Gilligan (R), Donny Lerille (R), and Joseph Orgeron (R) are facing off in the election. 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 is holding 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.

Greg Cook (D), Donald Dobbins (D), Whitney Greene (R), Jonathan Holloway, Sr. (D), and Johnell Matthews (D) will face off in the special primary election for the vacant City Court seat. The special election became necessary when Judge Tarvald Smith vacated the seat after being elected to the 19th Judicial District Court in 2019.

Yvette Alexander (D), Tiffany Foxworth (D), Eboni Johnson-Rose (D), and Jennifer Moisant (D) are running in the special primary election for the Division M-Section 2 seat on the 19th Judicial District Court. 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.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Louisiana_state_legislative_special_elections,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/City_elections_in_Baton_Rouge,_Louisiana_(2020)
https://ballotpedia.org/Political_incumbents,_candidates,_and_government_officials_diagnosed_with_COVID-19_or_quarantined_due_to_the_coronavirus_pandemic,_2020



Mississippi to vote on changing gubernatorial and state office election procedures

The Mississippi Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2020 ballot that would change election requirements for candidates for governor and statewide elected office.

Currently, in Mississippi, a candidate for Governor or elected statewide offices (Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Commissioner of Insurance) must win the popular vote and the highest number of votes in a majority of the state’s 122 House districts (the electoral vote).

If no candidate secures majorities of both the popular and the electoral vote, under Article V, Section 141, the Mississippi House of Representatives considers the two highest vote-getters and chooses the winner. The election system was adopted in the state constitution of 1890.

The constitutional amendment would remove the electoral vote requirement and the House of Representatives’ role in choosing a winner. The amendment would provide that if a candidate for Governor of Mississippi or statewide elected office does not receive a majority vote of the people, the candidates will proceed to a runoff election.

The details of the runoff election would be provided through state law. A runoff election is a second election conducted to determine which of the top vote-getters in the first election will be elected to office. Runoffs occur in states that require candidates to receive a majority (as opposed to a plurality) of the vote to win an election.

A majority voting system is an electoral system in which the winner of an election is the candidate that received more than half (50%+1) of the votes cast. A plurality voting system is an electoral system in which the winner of an election is the candidate that received the highest number of votes. The candidate does not need to win a majority of votes to be elected.

The amendment was introduced as House Concurrent Resolution 47 by Rep. Jim Beckett (R) on February 17, 2020. The House adopted the measure in a vote of 109-6 on June 28, and the Senate adopted the measure in a vote of 49-2 on June 29, 2020.

The Mississippi House of Representatives has decided a gubernatorial election one time. In 1999, Ronnie Musgrove (D) received a plurality of the vote, 8,300 more votes than the next highest vote-getter, Mike Parker (R) in a contest with four candidates. Musgrove received 49.6% of the vote and Parker received 48.5% of the vote. Musgrove and Parker each won 61 of the state’s 122 House districts. Since neither candidate won a majority (over 50%) of the vote and a majority of the state’s House districts, the Democratic-controlled Mississippi House of Representatives decided the election. The House chose Musgrove on January 4, 2000, in a vote of 86-36 along party lines.

The National Redistricting Foundation, the 501(c)(3) arm of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, supports the constitutional amendment. The foundation said the amendment would “remove a racially discriminatory law designed to restrict the voting rights of African Americans. Due to pressure from a National Redistricting Foundation lawsuit filed last year, the state is finally casting out a post-Reconstruction era electoral scheme designed to maintain white control of the state government and prevent African-American voters in Mississippi from having a real voice in their representation.”

Four African-American citizens filed a federal lawsuit (McLemore v. Hosemann) backed by the National Redistricting Foundation on May 30, 2019, alleging that the electoral vote requirement was racially discriminatory and violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the electoral vote requirement for the 2019 gubernatorial election.

On November 1, 2019, the court acknowledged that the electoral vote requirement was likely unconstitutional, but noted that “courts have allowed elections to proceed under unconstitutional rules where it is simply too late to make a change” and denied to grant a preliminary injunction. On December 13, 2019, the court stayed litigation surrounding the election requirements to give the state legislature a chance to remove the constitutional provisions during the 2020 legislative session and said that “if the amendment process falls short, then there would be ample time to resume this litigation and resolve the matter before the 2023 election cycle.”