Seven Louisiana special elections could result in up to three flipped State House seats

Seven seats on the Louisiana House of Representatives are up for special election on February 23, 2019. 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 on Saturday, the top-two candidates in each race advance to a general election scheduled for March 30. Four of the seven races have only two candidates on the ballot, meaning they will not advance to a general election. The other three have between four and six candidates appearing on the ballot.
Six of the seven previous incumbents vacated their seats after winning election to another office, with the last resigning to take a job with the state. Three seats were previously held by Democrats and four were held by Republicans. A total of 14 Democratic candidates, seven Republican candidates, and one independent candidate will compete for the seats. Districts 17 and 26 will remain in Democratic hands as no Republican candidates filed for those seats. Likewise, Districts 12 and 47 will stay Republican. The remaining three races could result in a flipped seat; District 18—previously held by a Democrat—and Districts 27 and 62—previously held by Republicans—all have candidates from multiple parties on the ballot.
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 has 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.

Foster, Reeves, and Waller Jr. running in GOP primary for Mississippi governor

Three candidates have announced they are running in the August 6 Republican primary for Mississippi’s governorship: state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. A fourth candidate, State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is considering entering the race.
Reeves was called a “[heavyweight] in the governor’s race” by WREG. He had raised nearly $1.8 million as of January 1, 2019, and he led Foster 62 percent to 9 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll conducted January 30 to February 1 (Waller was not included). Reeves was first elected lieutenant governor in 2011. Before that, he served as state treasurer since 2003.
Waller is the son of former Mississippi Gov. Bill Waller Sr. (D), who served from 1972 to 1976. Waller Jr. served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1997 until his retirement on January 31, 2019, and he was chief justice from 2009 to 2019. Former Mississippi State University political scientist Marty Wiseman said Waller is “creating an alternative for folks who want to vote Republican but are disinclined to vote for Tate Reeves. They now will have a legitimate option.”
Foster was first elected to the state house in 2015. He said he was running for governor after a short time in government because he “did not want to take the typical one step up the political ladder over a 16-, 20-year period.” He said he believes “that no matter how strong your convictions are, how passionate you are, if you get into the political system that long, it will grind you down.”
McDaniel said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the possibility of running. He was first elected to the state senate in 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat held by Thad Cochran (R) in 2014, losing to Cochran in a Republican runoff by 2 percentage points. He also ran in a 2018 special election for the seat after Cochran’s resignation. He received 16.4 percent of the vote in the November 6 special election, not enough to advance to the November 27 runoff.
The primary winner will run in the November 5 general election to succeed term-limited incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote. Bryant was re-elected in 2015 with 66 percent. Gubernatorial candidates must file for the race by March 1.

Iowa governor makes second appointment to state supreme court

On February 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) selected Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Christopher McDonald to replace retired Justice Daryl Hecht on the Iowa Supreme Court. McDonald is Reynolds’ second nominee to the seven-member court. He will serve on the supreme court for one year and must then must compete in a yes-no retention election in 2020 to remain on the bench.
Four of the court’s current members were appointed by Republican governors. The other two members were appointed by Democratic governors. Retired Justice Hecht was appointed to the supreme court by former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D).
McDonald’s appointment leaves the Iowa Court of Appeals with two vacant seats. Under Iowa law, the governor appoints supreme court and court of appeals justices with help from a nominating commission. The commission submits three nominees to the governor, who appoints one nominee to the court. The commission is composed of 17 members. It is chaired by a senior justice on the supreme court other than the chief justice, eight lawyers elected by licensed Iowa lawyers, and eight non-lawyers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa State Senate.
McDonald joined the state court of appeals in 2013 after being appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad (R). McDonald was a judge for Iowa District Five from 2012 to 2013. He previously worked in private practice. McDonald received his undergraduate degree from Grand View University in 1997 and his J.D. from the University of Iowa in 2001.

Democrat wins special election for Virginia House seat

Democrat Ibraheem Samirah won the February 19 special election for the District 86 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates with 59.5 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election night results. He defeated Republican Gregg Nelson and independent candidate Connie Haines Hutchinson. The candidates were selected through firehouse primaries administered by each political party.
The seat became vacant after Jennifer Boysko (D) won a special election for District 33 of the Virginia State Senate on January 8.
Entering the special election, the Virginia House of Delegates had 48 Democrats, 51 Republicans, and one vacancy. Virginia has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, but both chambers of the state legislature are held by Republican majorities.

Special primary held for South Carolina House district

A special primary for District 14 of the South Carolina House of Representatives was held on February 19. Garrett McDaniel defeated Bobby Gregory Sr. in the Democratic primary, earning 92 percent of the vote. Stewart Jones earned 51.6 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, defeating Michael Seymour, Scott Horne, and Grant Blair. McDaniel and Jones will face off in the special election on April 23.
The seat became vacant after Michael Pitts (R) resigned for health reasons on January 3, 2019.
Entering the special election, the South Carolina House of Representatives has 44 Democrats, 79 Republicans, and one vacancy. South Carolina has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Kansas lawmaker battling cancer will resign his seat

Kansas state Rep. Greg Lewis (R) announced on February 18, 2019, that he would resign his seat, effective Friday, February 22, 2019. He is resigning after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December 2018.
Lewis has served in the state House representing District 113 since 2015. He was appointed to the chamber in March 2015 to replace J. Basil Dannebohm (R).
Pratt County Republicans will hold a special convention in March to select Lewis’ replacement. The replacement will complete Lewis’s term, which ends in January 2021.
Kansas is one of 14 states with a divided government. Republicans control the state Senate by a 28 to 11 margin with one independent and the state House by an 84 to 41 margin. The governor’s office is held by a Democrat, Laura Kelly.

One year ago: Dallet and Screnock advance in first round of Wisconsin Supreme Court voting

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Wisconsin’s nonpartisan primary election for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet placed first and second in the primary, respectively, and advanced to the March 20 general election. Attorney Tim Burns placed last and was eliminated.
Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Incumbent Michael Gableman, a member of the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, did not seek re-election. Both Dallet and Burns ran with the support of Democratic-aligned groups and were expected to join the court’s liberal wing, while Screnock ran with the support of Republican-aligned groups and was expected to join the court’s conservative wing.
Dallet went on to beat Screnock in the April 3, 2018, election by a margin of 11 percentage points.
Another election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court will take place on April 2, 2019, between Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn and Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer. Conservative-aligned groups in the state back Hagedorn and liberal-aligned groups back Neubauer.
Incumbent Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who was appointed to the court in 1976 by a Democratic governor, is not seeking re-election. 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.

Virginia General Assembly selects next supreme court justice

On February 14, the Virginia General Assembly appointed Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Teresa M. Chafin to succeed Elizabeth McClanahan on the Virginia Supreme Court. The Senate voted 36-0 and the House voted 97-0. Chafin will join the state supreme court on September 1, 2019. Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have Republican majorities.

Selection of state supreme court justices in Virginia occurs through legislative selection. Judges are selected by a majority vote of the Virginia General Assembly (the combined House of Delegates and Senate). Supreme court justices serve for 12 years and are subject to reappointment to additional terms by the legislature. Virginia is one of only two states in the country, the other being South Carolina, where judges are selected this way.

Chafin began serving on the Virginia Court of Appeals in May 2012. She was a judge on the 29th Judicial Circuit from 2005 to 2012. She was also a judge on the Tazewell County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court from 2002 to 2005. Chafin received her J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law in 1987.

She is the sister of state Sen. Ben Chafin (R-District 38). Chafin, a member of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, abstained from voting.

How does redistricting work in your state?

All 50 states will draw new congressional and state legislative district lines after the 2020 census. The manner in which redistricting occurs varies from state to state.
In most states, the legislature draws new district maps. Some states have commissions charged with producing new maps instead.
In Arizona, California, Idaho, and Washington, congressional and state legislative redistricting is performed by an independent commission. Montana and Wyoming also charge an independent commission with drawing new state legislative boundaries, but do not need to draw congressional districts as they only have one seat in the House.
In Hawaii and New Jersey, redistricting is handled by a commission made up of political figures. Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania use a hybrid process where the state legislature draws congressional district maps and a political commission draws state legislative district maps.
For more information on the particulars of your state’s redistricting process, select it from the map:

Former Alaska lieutenant governor dies at 93

Former Alaska Lieutenant Governor Jack Coghill passed away on February 13, 2019. He died of natural causes at the age of 93. Coghill was living with his son, state Sen. John Coghill (R), at the time of his death.

His son said in a statement, “Dad was a firm believer in utilizing Alaska’s natural resources to build a strong economy and provide good paying jobs for Alaska. He had the same passion for Alaska, even at 93.”

The elder statesman was born in Fairbanks in 1925 and grew up working at his family’s store in Nenana. After graduating from Nenana High School, he served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during WWII in the Aleutians from 1943 to 1946.

Coghill was a political leader during Alaska’s push for statehood. He was elected to the territorial House of Representatives in 1952 and served until 1957. He was one of the 55 framers of the Alaska Constitution at the 1956 convention and was the third delegate to sign the document. Former state Sen. Vic Fischer is the last surviving delegate of the convention.

Coghill went on to serve in the state Senate from 1959 to 1964 and again from 1985 to 1990. He also served as the mayor of Nenana from 1962 to 1985. In 1990, Coghill became lieutenant governor and served until 1994 with Gov. Walker Hickel.