Democrat Pam Iovino wins PA State Senate District 37, flips seat

Pam Iovino (D) defeated D. Raja (R) in the special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 37. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Iovino led Raja 54 percent to 46 percent.
This is the first state legislative seat to flip from Republican to Democrat as a result of a special election this year. Previously, four flipped from Democrat to Republican in Minnesota, Connecticut, and Kentucky, and one flipped from Republican to Independent in Louisiana.
The seat has changed partisan control in recent years. Matthew Smith (D) was elected to the seat in 2012 to replace retiring incumbent John Pippy (R).
Smith resigned in 2015 to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Guy Reschenthaler (R) then won a November 2015 special election by 10 percentage points to replace Smith and was then elected to a full term in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points.
In the 2016 presidential election, this district voted for Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) by 5.8 percentage points.

California Proposition 63’s provision on large-capacity firearm magazines declared unconstitutional by federal judge

On March 29, 2019, Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court of Southern California ruled that a provision of Proposition 63 banning large-capacity firearm magazines (more than 10 rounds) was unconstitutional. He wrote, “[Proposition 63] burdens the core of the Second Amendment by criminalizing the acquisition and possession of these magazines that are commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of self, home, and state.”
Voters approved Proposition 63 in 2016. Before Proposition 63, residents who owned large-capacity magazines before 2000 were allowed to keep them. Proposition 63 was designed to criminalize possession and require owners, including those who possessed large-capacity magazines before 2000, to remove them from the state, sell them to a firearms dealer, or surrender them to law enforcement. The provision was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017, but Judge Benitez placed an injunction on the provision on June 29, 2017, pending his final order.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was lieutenant governor in 2016, was involved in developing Proposition 63. He responded to Judge Benitez’s ruling, saying, “This District Court Judge’s failure to uphold a ban on high-capacity magazines is indefensible, dangerous for our communities and contradicts well-established case law.”
If appealed, the case would go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said his office is “reviewing the decision to evaluate next steps.”

Update on the Alaska House power-sharing arrangement

Members of the Alaska House ended a month-long leadership deadlock by electing Rep. Bryce Edgmon as speaker on February 14, 2019. Edgmon was elected by a bipartisan coalition under the condition that he establish a power-sharing arrangement where both Democrats and Republicans held positions of power.
The coalition that elected Edgmon speaker included all 15 House Democrats, four Republicans, and independent Daniel Ortiz. Eighteen Republicans voted against him. Edgmon, who previously served as House speaker from 2017 to 2018, was a Democrat until February 11, when he changed his party affiliation to unenrolled.
Under the power-sharing arrangement, there is a 25-member bipartisan majority coalition led by Edgmon (15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two independents) and a 15-member minority led by Lance Pruitt (all Republicans). Here are the details:
  • Although Edgmon is speaker, Republicans Steve Thompson and Louise Stutes serve as majority leader and majority whip, respectively.
  • The Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation to the floor, is chaired by Republican Charles Kopp.
  • Of the nine standing committees, three have Democratic and Republican co-chairs (including the powerful Finance Committee) and six are Democratic-led. Of the four special committees, two are Democratic-led and two are Republican-led.
  • Of the eight Republicans serving in the majority, four voted for Edgmon, three voted against Edgmon, and one—Gary Knopp—did not participate.
Additional reading:

Louisiana holding three state House special elections on Saturday

Special general elections are being held for three seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives on March 30.
  • In District 17, Rodney McFarland Sr. (D) and Pat Moore (D) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Marcus Hunter (D) was elected to serve as a judge on the Fourth Judicial District. Hunter had represented District 17 beginning in 2012. He won re-election in 2015, winning outright in the primary with 62.0 percent of the vote.
  • In District 18, Jeremy LaCombe (D) and Tammi Fabre (R) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Major Thibaut (D) won election to serve as the president of Pointe Coupee Parish. Thibaut had represented District 18 beginning in 2008. He ran unopposed in his re-election campaigns in 2011 and 2015.
  • In District 62, Dennis Aucoin (R) and Roy Adams (I) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Kenny Havard (R) won election to serve as president of West Feliciana Parish. Havard had represented District 62 beginning in 2012. He won re-election in 2015, winning outright in the primary with 60.6 percent of the vote.
Special primary elections were also held on February 23 in District 12, District 26, District 27, and District 47. Each of those districts were won outright in the primary. In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election. If a candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, he or she wins outright. If no candidate reaches that threshold, a general election is held between the top two vote recipients.
Prior to these special general elections, the Louisiana House of Representatives has 37 Democrats, 62 Republicans, three independents, and three vacancies. Louisiana 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.
In 2019, there have been 51 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 19 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Voters in Kansas will decide a constitutional amendment to end the practice of adjusting census data for legislative apportionment

On November 5, 2019, voters in Kansas will decide a ballot measure to end a process that requires the state to adjust its census population for state legislative redistricting. Kansas is the only state that adjusts its census population for redistricting.
Before 1988, Kansas reapportioned state legislative districts based on the state government’s own census. In 1988, voters approved a constitutional amendment to use the decennial federal census for state legislative redistricting, with adjustments to (1) exclude nonresident military personnel stationed in Kansas and nonresident students and (2) include resident military personnel and resident students in the district of their permanent residence.
The 2019 ballot measure would eliminate the requirement to adjust the census population for state legislative apportionment. Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R), who supports the ballot measure, said the state would spend an estimated $834,000 to adjust the 2020 U.S. Census. He said the state would hire a private consultant for the adjustment, who would contact military personnel and students and ask where they want to be counted.
The ballot measure was referred by the Kansas State Legislature. On March 14, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve the constitutional amendment. On March 27, the state House voted 117 to seven. As a constitutional amendment, the governor’s signature is not required.
Following the 2010 federal census, Kansas used a mix of electronic and paper questionnaires to make the adjustments for military personnel and students. Riley County, Kansas, was the only county with a negative adjustment of over two percent. The adjustment resulted in a decrease of 11,017 residents, or 15.5 percent, for the purpose of redistricting. Riley County is home to Kansas State University and the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley.
Additional reading:

Bevin makes appointment to Kentucky Supreme Court

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) appointed former appeals judge David Buckingham to the Kentucky Supreme Court on March 27. Buckingham succeeds Bill Cunningham, who retired on January 31. A special election will be held on November 5 to elect a replacement to fill the remainder of Cunningham’s term.
Bevin chose Buckingham from a list of three potential nominees provided to him by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission. Buckingham is Bevin’s first appointment to the seven-member court.
Buckingham will be the third member of the court appointed by a Republican governor. One justice was first appointed by a Democratic governor, and the three remaining justices first joined the court as the result of a nonpartisan election.
Buckingham graduated from Murray State University in 1974 and earned his J.D. from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law in 1977. He began serving as a judge for the 42nd District Court in 1982, then joined the 42nd Circuit Court in 1987 and the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1997. He was a senior judge for the Court of Appeals from 2006 to 2010. In 2011, he retired from the bench and returned to private practice.
So far in 2019, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies across seven states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Republicans are responsible for filling nine of those vacancies, while Democrats are responsible for filling the other two. Eight of those vacancies have been filled.
Additional reading:

State legislative special elections contested across four states on Tuesday

Four states—Maine, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—each have one state legislative seat up for special election on April 2, 2019.
  • In Maine, Sean Paulhus (D) and Kenneth Sener (R) are running in the general election for the state House’s District 52 seat. The seat was vacated when Jennifer DeChant (D) resigned on February 1, 2019, to work for Charter Communications. This is the second state legislative special election in Maine for 2019; Joseph Perry (D) won the state House’s District 124 seat vacated by Aaron Frey (D) on March 12. Prior to the special election, the Maine House of Representatives has 88 Democrats, 56 Republicans, five independents, one Common Sense Independent, and one vacancy.
  • In Mississippi, Kent McCarty and Steven Utroska are running in the general runoff election for the state House’s District 101 seat. Mississippi special elections are nonpartisan, but both candidates identify themselves as Republicans on their campaign websites. The seat was vacated when Brad Touchstone (R) was elected as a Lamar County Court judge. The runoff was called after none of the five candidates in the March 12 general election received a majority of the vote; McCarty and Utroska advanced as the top two vote recipients. This is the third state legislative special election in Mississippi in 2019; Solomon Osborne won the state House’s District 32 seat, and Ronnie Crudup Jr. won the state House’s District 71 seat on March 12. Both Osborne and Crudup Jr. identify as Democrats. Prior to the special election, the Mississippi House of Representatives has 46 Democrats, 73 Republicans, one independent, and two vacancies.
  • In Pennsylvania, Pam Iovino (D) and D. Raja (R) are running in the general election for the state Senate’s District 37 seat. The seat was vacated when Guy Reschenthaler (R) was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House in 2018. This is the fourth third state legislative special election in Pennsylvania in 2019; Bridget Malloy Kosierowski (D) won the state House’s District 114 seat, and Movita Johnson-Harrell (D) won the state House’s District 190 seat on March 12. Prior to the special election, the Pennsylvania State Senate has 21 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and three vacancies.
  • In Wisconsin, Tip McGuire, Pedro Rodriguez, Gina Walkington, and Spencer Zimmerman are running in the Democratic primary for the state Assembly’s District 64 seat. Mark Stalker is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. The general election is on April 30, 2019. The seat was vacated when Peter Barca (D) stepped down in January 2019 after Gov. Tony Evers (D) nominated him to be secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. This is the first state legislative special election in Wisconsin in 2019. Prior to the special election, the Wisconsin State Assembly has 35 Democrats, 63 Republicans, and one vacancy.
In 2019, there have been 51 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 19 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Maine has a Democratic trifecta, and Mississippi has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both have divided governments. In both states, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, but a Democrat holds the governor’s office.
Additional reading:

Kentucky gubernatorial candidates take to airwaves as primary gets closer

Kentucky’s gubernatorial primaries are less than two months away, and candidates have begun releasing advertisements on television and YouTube.
Four candidates are running in each party’s primary. Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is seeking re-election, although he is running in 2019 with a different running mate than his current lieutenant governor.
Democrat Adam Edelen aired his first campaign ad on March 17 during the finals of the men’s Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. In it, Edelen said he was the only candidate not taking money from corporate PACs, and discussed increasing wages, expanding healthcare, and creating renewable energy jobs.
Republican Robert Goforth released a campaign ad titled “Roots” on March 20. The ad highlights Goforth’s upbringing in Kentucky, and features a clip of the candidate telling citizens that “it’s time we have a governor from Kentucky and Main Street.”
Kentucky is one of three states (Louisiana and Mississippi are the others) holding a gubernatorial election in 2019. It is currently one of 22 Republican state government trifectas.
Additional reading:

Virginia governor vetoes sanctuary jurisdiction-related bill

On March 19, 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) vetoed Senate Bill 1156, which would have prohibited sanctuary cities.
The term sanctuary jurisdiction refers to a city, county, or state that has enacted policies that limit local officials’ involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The official bill summary described SB 1156 as providing “that no locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
SB 1156 passed along party lines in the House and Senate, with all Republican members voting in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate on January 17, the House on February 19 with amendments, and the Senate again on February 20. 
Northam said the bill “imposes an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Dick Black (R-District 13) disagreed, saying Northam mischaracterized the bill. “It just says localities must not adopt policies that interfere with federal enforcement. I think he was struggling to put words down, while encouraging sanctuary cities to pop up in Virginia,” he said.
Northam vetoed a similar measure in 2018.
As of March 2019, no Virginia locality had declared itself a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Nevada voters to decide in 2020 whether to give legislature more control over state’s higher education boards

On March 21, the Nevada State Senate gave final approval to a measure to remove the constitutional status of the Board of Regents, which governs Nevada’s state universities. The amendment—Assembly Joint Resolution 5 (AJR 5)— was previously approved in both chambers during the 2017 legislative session and by the state Assembly on March 11, 2019. Therefore, the Senate’s vote certified the measure to appear on the November 2020 ballot.
By making the Board of Regents a statutory institution instead of a constitutional one, the measure would allow the state legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities. The measure would also put the State of Nevada—rather than the Board of Regents—in charge of investing federal land grants and require the state legislature to make laws providing for the “reasonable protection of individual academic freedom” for students, employees, and contractors of state universities to encourage the promotion “of intellectual, literary, scientific, mining, mechanical, agricultural, ethical and other educational improvements.”
AJR 5 was approved unanimously in the state Senate, and it was approved by a vote of 36-5 in the state Assembly. All five dissenters were Republicans, while seven Republicans voted in favor of it. The amendment received unanimous support from Democrats.
In Nevada, constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature must be approved by a simple majority vote in each chamber of the legislature during two consecutive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. The legislature approved six constitutional amendments during the 2017-2018 session that need approval during this legislative session to go on the ballot in 2020.
This amendment was the second statewide measure certified for the Nevada 2020 ballot. The first was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to enact renewable energy requirements that was approved in 2018 but needs approval from voters in 2020 to be enacted.
From 1996 through 2018, Nevada voters decided 79 statewide ballot measures, with an average of seven per even-year election. On average, two citizen-initiated measures appeared on the ballot during even-year elections. Voters approved 59 percent (47 of 79) and rejected 41 percent (32 of 79) of the ballot measures since 1996. The approval rate for legislatively-referred measures was about 52 percent, while the approval rate for citizen-initiated measures was about 72 percent.