CategoryState

This time four years ago: Oregon prepares for transition of power following John Kitzhaber’s resignation

At this time four years ago, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) was preparing to succeed four-term Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who had announced his resignation on February 13 over allegations that he had been involved in influence peddling.

Kitzhaber, who was first elected in 1994 and won re-election in 1998, 2010, and 2014, had been the subject of three ethics complaints filed the previous year over conflicts of interest stemming from his fiancée Cylvia Hayes’ role as both an informal advisor and as a paid consultant. Hayes had acted as a consultant on energy and economic issues while advising Kitzhaber on the same topics.

Kitzhaber’s resignation took effect on February 18. Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) was first in the line of succession, as Oregon is one of five states without an office of lieutenant governor. Brown was elected to complete the remainder of Kitzhaber’s term in 2016 and elected to a full term in 2018.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission investigation found that Kitzhaber had committed 10 ethics violations in a report released on February 14, 2018. Kitzhaber negotiated a settlement with the commission in which he agreed to pay $2,000 for each violation. The commission also found that Hayes had committed 22 ethics violations, with a potential fine of $5,000 for each. As of February 2019, Hayes and the commission have not reached a settlement.



Alaska House elects Bryce Edgmon speaker, ending 30 days of deadlock

Rep. Bryce Edgmon was elected as Alaska House speaker Thursday, three days after he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to unenrolled. Edgmon was House speaker from 2017 and 2018. The latest election ended a 30-day period without a majority in place in the House, the longest in state history.
 
The final vote was 21 to 18.
 
Voting for Edgmon (besides himself) were:
 
  1. All 15 House Democrats,
  2. independent Daniel Ortiz,
  3. and Republicans Louise Stutes, Gabrielle LeDoux, Jennifer B. Johnston, and Charles M. Kopp.
 Eighteen other House Republicans voted against Edgmon.
 
Johnston and Kopp had not previously supported Edgmon. They had formerly backed Republican leader David Talerico. Rep. Gary Knopp, another Republican who did not support Talerico for speaker, was not present for the vote.
 
Stutes and LeDoux were part of the bipartisan coalition Edgmon led from 2017 to 2018. They consistently opposed Talerico for speaker.
 
With a speaker in place, Democrats and Republicans are expected to share control of the House. Edgmon told the press that Kopp would serve as majority leader, Rep. Steve Thompson (R) would chair the Rules Committee, and Reps. Tammie Wilson (R) and Neal Foster (D) would co-chair the Finance Committee.


Federal judge strikes down Mississippi state senate district as violation of Voting Rights Act

On February 13, 2019, Judge Carlton W. Reeves, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, issued an order striking down the state legislative map for Mississippi State Senate District 22.
 
Judge Reeves ruled that the district constituted a violation of the Voting Rights Act by denying racial minorities “an equal opportunity to participate in the political processes and to elect candidates of their choice.” In the two-page order, Reeves advised the state legislature of its right to the first opportunity to draft new maps for District 22 and any adjoining districts that might be affected as part of the redistricting process. Reeves also suggested that the legislature might extend the March 1 qualification deadline for candidates in District 22 and any other affected districts. Reeves, appointed in 2010 by Pres. Barack Obama (2013), noted that a full opinion in the case, Thomas v. Bryant, would be forthcoming.
 
In 2015, Eugene Clarke (R) won re-election to District 22 with 53.8 percent of the vote.
 
The Mississippi State Senate is one of seven legislative chambers nationwide that will conduct elections in 2019. All 52 Senate seats will be up for election. The primary is scheduled to take place on August 6, 2019. The general election will take place on November 5, 2019.
 


Parties select candidates for Pennsylvania special election

Two candidates were selected by their political parties to run in the special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 37. The special election was called to fill the vacancy in District 37 after incumbent Guy Reschenthaler (R) was elected on November 6, 2018, to the United States House of Representatives to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District. The special election is set for April 2, 2019.

In Pennsylvania, the political parties select candidates for special elections directly rather than using a primary process. The Democratic Party selected Pam Iovino, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, to run in the special election. Iovino previously sought election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018 in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, but was not selected as the Democratic nominee.

The Republican Party selected D. Raja, a small business owner. Raja previously sought election to the Pennsylvania State Senate to represent District 37 in the 2012 general election. He won the Republican primary but was defeated in the general election by former incumbent Matthew Smith (D).

Entering the special election, the Pennsylvania State Senate consists of 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats. Prior to the general election in 2018, Republicans held 33 seats, Democrats held 16, and there was one vacancy.



Georgia House special election moves to a runoff between two Republicans

A special election for District 176 of the Georgia House of Representatives was held on February 12. James Burchett (R) and Franklin Patten (R) defeated Barbara Griffin (D) and Barbara Seidman (D). Burchett and Patten earned 43.1 percent and 42.5 percent of the vote, respectively. The two candidates are competing in a runoff election on March 12.

The seat became vacant after Jason Shaw (R) was appointed to serve the remainder of H. Doug Everett’s term on the Georgia Public Service Commission, beginning January 1, 2019.

Entering the special election, the Georgia House of Representatives has 75 Democrats, 103 Republicans, and two vacancies. A special election runoff was previously held in the state on February 5 for the District 5 seat. A majority in the chamber requires 91 seats. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.



Texas House special election advances to runoff after top vote-getter receives 38 percent

A special election for District 125 of the Texas House of Representatives was held on February 12. Fred Rangel (R) and Ray Lopez (D) defeated Steve Huerta (D), Coda Rayo-Garza (D), and Arthur Reyna (D). Rangel and Lopez earned 38 percent and 19 percent of the vote, respectively. The date of the runoff election has not been announced yet by Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

The seat became vacant after Justin Rodriguez (D) was appointed in January to serve as the Precinct 2 representative on the Bexar County Commissioners Court.

Entering the special election, the Texas House of Representatives had 65 Democrats, 83 Republicans, and two vacancies. Special elections were previously held in the state on January 29 in District 79 and District 145. The District 145 race is also headed to a runoff. Texas has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.



Two more votes for Alaska House speaker fall one vote short; deadlock continues

Record-setting deadlock in the Alaska House of Representatives continues as speaker bids by Republican leader David Talerico and Rep. Gary Knopp (R) failed on Tuesday. Twenty-one votes are needed to select a speaker of the house, and both votes were 20-20.

Republicans won 23 of 40 seats in the 2018 elections, but Knopp, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R), and Rep. Louise Stutes (R) have not joined other GOP members in a coalition led by Talerico.

The vote for Talerico as speaker ended in a similar way as three previous votes for him did: 20 Republicans voted yes, and Knopp, LeDoux, and Stutes joined all 16 Democrats and independent Daniel Ortiz voting no.

Knopp had said Monday that he was ready to “be the 21st vote to support a Republican-led coalition or caucus” after his attempts to form a bipartisan coalition with power-sharing between the parties stalled.

Knopp said he had originally intended to vote for Talerico before Stutes suggested that he be nominated as speaker instead. Knopp also said he was bothered by a Facebook comment from Rep. David Eastman (R) on an article about Knopp. In the comment, Eastman discussed the procedures for recalling a state representative from office.

The vote for Knopp as speaker also ended in a 20-20 tie with the 16 Democrats, Stutes, LeDoux, and Ortiz supporting him.

Tuesday was the 28th day of the 90-day legislative session. It is the longest period the chamber has ever gone without a speaker, who is needed to conduct legislative business and appoint standing committees. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) was expected to release a budget Wednesday. On Tuesday night, he called for a Republican-led majority to take control of the House.



New Mexico Legislature forms a Women’s Caucus

A bipartisan Women’s Caucus has been established in the New Mexico State Legislature after historic gains in the 2018 election. Currently, one-third of the state legislature is made up of women. Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R) and Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D) were nominated to lead the 39-member caucus. The group will focus on helping women, children, and families.

In the 2018 elections, 31 women were elected to the 70-seat state House of Representatives. Women currently hold eight out of 42 seats in the state Senate. The 39 women in the 2019 legislative session is a 31 percent increase from 2016 and 7 percent higher than the national average. This is the highest number of female legislators in New Mexico since 1967, which is the earliest year that records are available.

New Mexico is currently one of 14 Democratic trifectas. Democrats control the state Senate by a 26 to 16 margin and the state House by a 46 to 24 margin. The governor’s office is controlled by Michelle Lujan Grisham (D).

 



Four Democrats and one Republican competing in Texas House special election

The special election for District 125 of the Texas House of Representatives is on February 12. Steve Huerta (D), Ray Lopez (D), Coda Rayo-Garza (D), Arthur Reyna (D), and Fred Rangel (R) are running in the election. A runoff between the top two candidates will take place if no candidate receives a majority of the vote.

The seat became vacant after Justin Rodriguez (D) was appointed in January to serve as the Precinct 2 representative on the Bexar County Commissioners Court.

Entering the special election, the Texas House of Representatives has 64 Democrats, 83 Republicans, and three vacancies. Special elections were previously held on January 29 in District 79 and District 145, and the latter race is headed to a runoff. Texas has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.



Two Democrats and two Republicans competing in Georgia House special election

The special election for District 176 of the Georgia House of Representatives is on February 12. Barbara Griffin (D), Barbara Seidman (D), James Burchett (R), and Franklin Patten (R) are running in the election. A runoff between the top two candidates will take place on March 12 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote.

The seat became vacant after Jason Shaw (R) was appointed to serve the remainder of H. Doug Everett’s term on the Georgia Public Service Commission, beginning January 1, 2019.

Entering the special election, the Georgia House of Representatives has 75 Democrats, 103 Republicans, and two vacancies. A special election runoff was previously held on February 5 for the District 5 seat. A majority in the chamber requires 91 seats. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.