CategoryState

Judge and state senator file to run in Kentucky Supreme Court special election

Two candidates filed to run in the November 5 nonpartisan special election for one of the seven seats on the Kentucky Supreme Court. Christopher Nickell, a judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and Whitney Westerfield, a Republican member of the Kentucky State Senate, are competing in the general election. The filing deadline was June 4.
 
The special election will fill the 1st District seat, which was previously held by Bill Cunningham. He resigned from the court on January 31. His term was set to expire in January 2023. A full term on the court is eight years. Cunningham was first elected to the court in 2006 and re-elected in 2014.
 


Democrats and Republicans split pair of California State Senate special elections

The partisan control of two seats in the California State Senate did not change following special elections on June 4.
 
District 1 and District 33 were on the ballot for a special general election.
 
  • Brian Dahle (R) defeated Kevin Kiley (R) for the District 1 seat in a race where no Democratic candidates advanced out of the primary. Dahle received 53.1% of the unofficial election night vote. The seat was vacated by Ted Gaines (R), who was elected to represent District 1 of the California State Board of Equalization in 2018.
  • Lena Gonzalez (D) defeated Jack Guerrero (R) for the District 33 seat with 69.0% of the election night vote count. Gonzalez and Guerrero were the only candidates who received a double-digit percentage of the primary vote. The seat was vacated by Ricardo Lara (D), who was elected to serve as the California Commissioner of Insurance in 2018.
 
The filing deadline to run for the seats was on January 31, and the primaries were held on March 26.
 
Entering the special election, the California State Senate had 28 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and the two vacancies. A majority in the chamber requires 21 seats. California has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
As of June, 58 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


Two California Senate special elections on the ballot June 4

Special elections for two California State Senate seats are on the June 4 ballot:
  • In District 1, Republicans Brian Dahle and Kevin Kiley are facing off in the general election. Dahle and Kiley earned 29.4% and 28.4% of the vote, respectively, in the March 26 primary ahead of four other candidates. The seat became vacant after Ted Gaines (R) was elected to represent District 1 of the California State Board of Equalization. Gaines had represented District 1 in the state Senate since 2011. He last won re-election in 2016 with 64.0% of the vote in the general election.
  • In District 33, Lena Gonzalez (D) and Jack Guerrero (R) are facing off in the general election. Gonzalez and Guerrero earned 31.6% and 14.2% of the vote in the March 26 primary, respectively, ahead of 10 other candidates. The seat became vacant after Ricardo Lara (D) was elected to serve as the insurance commissioner of California. Lara had represented District 33 since 2012. He last won re-election in 2016 with 78.7% of the vote in the general election.
Heading into the elections, Democrats have a 28-10 majority in the state Senate with two vacancies. California 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.
 
As of June, 58 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


What is the minimum age to use tobacco in your state?

On May 20, 2019, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced a bill which would increase the minimum age to purchase or use tobacco from 18 to 21 at the federal level. Less than four years have passed since Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a similar law in Hawaii, making it the first state in the 21st century to limit tobacco consumption to those 21 and older.
 
Since then, five other states have increased their smoking age to 21. A further eight states have enacted legislation raising the smoking age to 21 that has not yet taken effect.
 
In all, the minimum age to purchase or use of tobacco in the states it set at the following levels:
  • 21 in six states: California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon.
  • 19 in three states: Alabama, Alaska, Utah.
  • 18 in 41 states.
New Jersey was the first state to restrict the sale and use of tobacco by age, setting a minimum age of 16 in 1883. By 1920, 46 of the 48 states had an age requirement for tobacco sales, including 14 with a minimum age of 21. During the interwar period, though, state laws trended towards a minimum age of 18, which was eventually adopted as the federal standard. Every state with a minimum tobacco use age of 21 reduced the limit to 18 or 19.
 
To see what the minimum tobacco use age is in your state and whether it is set to change, click the link below.
 


May 2019 state legislative seat breakdown: 52.3% Republican, 46.9% Democratic

May’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.3% of all state legislators are Republicans and 46.9% are Democrats.
 
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state Senate and state House. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state house) shares power between the two parties. Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.
 
Of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, Republicans held 1,082 state Senate seats and 2,778 state House seats. Democrats held 3,465 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–878 state Senate seats and 2,587 state House seats. Independent or third-party legislators held 33 seats, and 25 seats were vacant.
 
At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.
 


Special primary for New Jersey state legislative seat on Tuesday

A special primary for the District 1 seat of the New Jersey State Senate is scheduled for June 4. The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was April 1, and the general election is on November 5, 2019.
 
The seat became vacant after Jeff Van Drew (D) won election to New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House on November 6, 2018. Bob Andrzejczak (D) was appointed to fill the seat until the special election could be held. In New Jersey, special elections coincide with the next general election unless the vacancy occurs within 51 days of the election.
 
Andrzejczak is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Mike Testa is unopposed in the Republican primary.
 
As of May 29, 55 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 22 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the New Jersey State Senate had 26 Democrats and 14 Republicans. The New Jersey General Assembly had 54 Democrats and 26 Republicans.
New Jersey 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.
 


Acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley (R) resigns

Acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley (R) resigned May 27 just before the end of the Texas legislative session. Whitley was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on December 17, 2018, but needed to receive confirmation from two-thirds of the state Senate—21 out of 31 senators—to continue serving in a permanent capacity through 2021.
 
Whitley was supported by all 19 Republicans in the Senate, but all 12 Democrats announced their opposition to his confirmation earlier this year.
 
The secretary of state in Texas is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, and Abbott will nominate Whitley’s replacement. The office of secretary of state exists in 47 states and is directly elected in 35 of them. Texas is one of nine states where the governor appoints the secretary of state; in three states, he or she is appointed by the state legislature. In 37 states, the secretary of state is the chief elections officer with ultimate oversight over state elections and voter registration.
 
Whitley thanked Abbott in his resignation letter, writing, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve Texas. Working alongside the employees in the secretary of state’s office, county election officials, and representatives of our #1 trading partner, Mexico, has been my distinct honor and privilege.


Republicans keep seats in Pennsylvania specials

On Tuesday, three state legislative special elections were held in Pennsylvania. The seats for Senate District 33, Senate District 41, and House District 11 were on the ballot. Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected directly by political parties, rather than through a primary election process.
 
Doug Mastriano (R) defeated Sarah Hammond (D) in the race for Senate District 33. Mastriano received 7,863 votes (69.5 percent) according to the unofficial election night count, and Hammond received 3,445 votes (30.5 percent). The seat became vacant after Richard Alloway (R) resigned on February 28, 2019. Penn Live reported that Alloway explained his resignation was due to political gridlock, a lack of advancement opportunities, and burn out.
 
In District 41, Joe Pittman (R) defeated Susan Boser (D). Pittman received 24,236 votes (65.6 percent), while Boser received 12,708 votes (34.4 percent). The seat became vacant after Don White (R) resigned on February 28, 2019, for health reasons.
 
In the race for House District 11, Marci Mustello (R) defeated Samuel Doctor (D). Mustello received 5,808 votes (57.4 percent), and Doctor received 4,312 votes (42.6 percent). The seat became vacant after Brian Ellis (R) resigned on March 18, 2019, following allegations of sexual assault.
 
As of May, 55 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 22 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the Pennsylvania State Senate had 22 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and two vacancies. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives had 93 Democrats, 109 Republicans, and one vacancy. Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 
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Republican state representative in Alaska targeted for recall due to legislative session delays

Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp (R) has been targeted for recall due to his role in forming a majority coalition with Democrats, which recall supporters argue led to delays and disruptions to the 2019 legislative session. Prior to the session beginning, Knopp announced that he was leaving the Republican caucus in order to form a majority coalition with Democrats. He said, “A 21 member caucus cannot succeed. It’s doomed for failure and I’m not going to be on that train. I’m not joining the Democrats either. I’m doing this to try and force a true coalition.” Over 30 days in January and February, Knopp helped to form a coalition of 15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two members unaffiliated with either party.
 
After the delays at the beginning of its session, the legislature was unable to finish all of its work. This led to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) calling the legislature into a 30-day special session on May 15, 2019. The special session has been tasked with passing legislation related to criminal reform, the operating budget, the mental health budget, the capital budget, and education funding. The special session could cost the state between $500,000 and $1 million.
 
Recall supporters need about 1,000 signatures to request a recall petition from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R). If Meyer accepts the application, supporters will need about an additional 3,000 signatures to force a recall election. Misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties are the only grounds for recall in the state of Alaska.
 
After the recall was announced against Rep. Knopp, he said: “In the recall petition, they are welcome to do what they want to do. I don’t think they have cause, but if they want to move forward with it that’s their prerogative. I just wish it would be done by people in the district not the haters across the state who aren’t getting what they want.” Knopp was censured by the Alaska Republican Party in May 2019 for his role in the disruptions to the start of the 2019 legislative session. Because of the censure, Knopp will no longer receive support from the state party.
 
Knopp was elected to District 30 in the state House in 2016. He defeated Shauna Thornton (D) and two other candidates in the general election with 66.51% of the vote. He ran unopposed in the 2018 election.
 
Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and seven are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
 
Alaska has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 13-7 margin. Although Republicans won a majority in the state House in the 2018 elections, a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (undeclared) as House speaker on February 14, 2019. This resulted in the parties having split control of key leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won the governor’s office in 2018.
 


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) rules ballot measure distribution requirement unconstitutional

On Wednesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) released an opinion stating that a distribution requirement and some other provisions restricting the state’s initiative process passed in 2018 were unconstitutional.
 
Nessel’s opinion is binding for state officials unless a court ruling overturns it. The opinion was requested by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who would have been involved in the enforcement of the new initiative petition rules.
 
In 2018’s lame-duck legislative session the Michigan State Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed Michigan House Bill 6595 (now Public Act 608). HB 6595 (PA 608) created a distribution requirement for initiative signature petitions in Michigan limiting the number of signatures collected in any one congressional district to 15% of the total required. This effectively requires valid signatures from a minimum of seven different congressional districts for a successful initiative petition. The bill also required the disclosure on petitions of whether a petitioner is paid or volunteer; mandated a petitioner affidavit; and made other changes regarding petitioners, valid signatures, and the timeline for certification. In the Senate, 26 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all 11 Democrats along with one Republican voted against the bill. In the House, Republicans approved the bill 56-5, and Democrats rejected the bill 42-1.
 
Nessel’s opinion also declared unconstitutional the requirement that petitioners disclose on petition sheets their paid or volunteer status.
 
In her opinion, Nessel argued that the distribution requirement provisions of HB 6595 imposed an additional obligation for qualifying an initiative for the ballot beyond what was required or authorized by the Michigan Constitution. Nessel said, “The Legislature cannot impose an additional obligation that does not appear in article 2, § 9 and that curtails or unduly burdens the people’s right of initiative and referendum. Here, the 15% distribution requirement goes beyond a process requirement to impose a substantive limitation on the number of voters within a congressional district whose signatures may be counted under article 2, § 9.”
 
Nessel also cited Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution v Sec’y of State—a 2018 Michigan Supreme Court ruling—that the initiative and referendum rights “can be interfered with neither by the legislature, the courts, nor the officers charged with any duty in the premises.”
 
In response to Nessel’s opinion, Rep. Jim Lower (R), who sponsored HB 6595, said, “I don’t think anybody’s surprised. I disagree with the conclusions she has come to, and I think it will be litigated.” Lower argued spreading signature gathering efforts out across more of the state shows broader support for any proposed initiatives and is a common-sense requirement.
 
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said, “Both the Michigan Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect Michigan citizens’ right to amend our laws or state constitution through direct citizen petitions. I am grateful to Attorney General Nessel for clarifying the constitutional infirmities of Public Act 608.”
 
Sixteen other states have a distribution requirement for citizen-initiated measures.
 
Michigan has divided government with Republicans controlling the state legislature and a Democrat controlling the governor’s office. Michigan has a Democratic Triplex. In the 2018 elections, Democrats took control of the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state—offices held by Republicans going into 2018. The 2018 elections broke an existing Republican trifecta and triplex in Michigan.
 
In the 2018 election cycle, Michigan voters approved three citizen initiatives:
  • a marijuana legalization initiative;
  • a redistricting commission initiative; and
  • an initiative adding eight voting policies to the Michigan Constitution, including straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting.
 
Three other initiatives qualified for the 2018 ballot: a minimum wage initiative, a paid sick leave initiative, and an initiative repealing the state’s prevailing wage law. But, using Michigan’s indirect initiative process, the legislature passed the initiatives themselves, thereby precluding an election on them. Then, in December 2018, the legislature amended the minimum wage and paid sick leave initiatives.
 
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