CategoryState

Previewing 2019’s state executive races

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are the only three states holding regularly-scheduled elections for state executive positions in 2019. All three states have governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, and treasurer offices on the ballot. Other state executive positions up for election include auditor in Kentucky and Mississippi, insurance commissioner in Louisiana and Mississippi, and public service commissioner in Mississippi. In total, 23 executive positions are on the ballot. There were 303 state executive seats up for election across 43 states in 2018.
 
Two of the sitting governors, Matt Bevin (R) in Kentucky and John Bel Edwards (D) in Louisiana, are completing their first terms. Bevin announced in August 2018 that he plans to run for re-election but has not filed to do so yet. Edwards is also running for re-election to a second term. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. He is ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits, which leaves an open seat.
 
Following the 2018 election, there are 27 Republican governors and 23 Democratic governors across the United States. There were 36 governorships on the ballot in 2018, and there are another 11 up for election in 2020. Of the 14 governor’s offices up for election across 2019 and 2020, nine are currently held by Republicans. Only one of those 14 elections have received a toss-up rating from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, however, and that is the Montana seat currently held by term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and up for election in 2020. The Cook Political Report did not identify any of the races as a toss-up; they rated the Montana race as Leans Democratic as of January 9, 2019.
 
The 2019 state executive filing deadlines are January 29 in Kentucky, March 1 in Mississippi, and August 8 in Louisiana. The primaries are on May 21 in Kentucky, August 6 in Mississippi, and October 12 in Louisiana. Mississippi will hold primary runoffs on August 27 if no primary candidate receives a simple majority of the vote. General elections will occur on November 5 in Kentucky and Mississippi and November 16 in Louisiana.


Georgia House special election advances to February runoff between two Republicans

On January 8, Jesse Vaughn (R) and Matt Barton (R) defeated four other candidates in a special general election for the District 5 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Vaughn and Barton advanced to a special runoff election scheduled for February 5, 2019. According to the unofficial results, Barton surpassed the third-place finisher, J. Scott Tidwell (R), by a margin of 76 votes out of 3,520 total votes cast.
 
The seat was previously held by John D. Meadows III (R), who passed away on November 12, 2018. Meadows was first elected to the office in 2004. He won his last re-election bid on November 6, 2018, with more than 81 percent of the vote against challenger Brian Rosser (D). Rosser was also the only Democratic candidate to file in the special election to replace Meadows, and he finished in fifth place with less than 5 percent of the vote. Meadows ran unopposed in the 2018 Republican primary and won re-election unopposed in 2014 and 2016. He had served as the chair of the chamber’s Rules Committee.
 
Entering the special election, the Georgia House of Representatives had 64 Democrats, 112 Republicans, and four vacancies. Another special election is scheduled on February 12 for the District 176 seat, which was previously held by Jason Shaw (R). 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.


Democrats hold on to Wexton’s seat in VA State Senate, setting up battle for control of state government in November

State Del. Jennifer Boysko (D) defeated former state Del. Joe T. May (R) in the special election for Virginia State Senate District 33 on Tuesday. Boysko received 69.8 percent of the vote to May’s 30.1 percent.
 
This was the highest margin of victory in the district since 2003, when William Mims (R) ran in an uncontested race.
 
Incumbent Jennifer Wexton (D) won election to Virginia’s 10th Congressional District in the 2018 midterm, leaving the seat vacant.
 
Republicans will continue to hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and all 40 seats are up for election on November 5, 2019. If Democrats flip the state Senate and the State House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority, Virginia will become a Democratic state trifecta.
 
Democrats emerged from the 2018 elections with trifecta control of 14 states—a net gain of six states.


Seven states swear in legislators today

With a new year, comes a new batch of state legislators. Thousands of legislators will be sworn into office this month. In the November 2018 general elections, 322 incumbent legislators were defeated. Including the incumbents who retired or were defeated in primaries, the 2019 legislative sessions will see 1,599 new state legislators taking their oath of office. The new legislators reflect 21.7% of all state legislators nationwide.

Today, seven states are swearing in legislators:
Connecticut
Illinois
Maryland
Missouri
Nebraska
New York
Vermont
 
Three fun facts about state legislators being sworn in this term:
 
1) Fifteen states have term limits, accounting for 1,930 of all state legislative seats (26.1%).
 
2) Two legislators have been in office since the 1960s.
 
The longest-serving state representative, Republican Tom Craddick, began his tenure in 1969. This is his 50th year in the Texas State Legislature. He is one of two state legislators elected in the 1960s.
 
The other is Fred Risser, Democratic state senator from Wisconsin.
 
3) More than 15 percent of state legislators were elected before the year 2000:
1960s: 2 (<0.1%)
1970s: 41 (<0.1%)
1980s: 101 (1.3%)
1990s: 984 (13.3%)
 
The remaining 7,383 legislators (84.7%) were all elected in the 21st century.


Democrats regain control of New York State Senate, make state a Democratic trifecta

Today, legislators in New York will be sworn in. In the state Senate, this marks a change of power from a Republican-led coalition to a Democratic majority. Although Democrats have held a numerical majority in the chamber since 2012, a faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus aligned with the chamber’s Republicans, helping create a coalition majority. Democrats now have 40 members in the chamber while Republicans have 23. Prior to the election, Democrats held a 32-31 numerical majority. New York was previously a Democratic trifecta from 2009 to 2010; in every other year since 1992 it has been under divided government.
 
New York is one of six states to change from a divided government to a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2018 elections. It joins Democratic pickups in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada. Democrats also gained ground in four other states: Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. These states moved from Republican trifectas to divided government.
 
Prior to the 2018 elections, 20 percent of Americans lived under a Democratic trifecta, 48 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 31 percent under divided government. Once all lawmakers elected in 2018 are sworn in, 35 percent of Americans will live under a Democratic trifecta, 42 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 24 percent under divided government.


Larry Householder (R) elected speaker of the Ohio House, defeating sitting Speaker Ryan Smith (R)

Rep. Larry Householder (R) was elected as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives on January 7 by a coalition of 26 Republicans and 26 Democrats. Thirty-four Republicans, who hold a 61-38 majority in the chamber, voted for sitting House Speaker Ryan Smith (R). No Democrat ran for the position.
 
In the May 2018 Republican primaries, Smith and Householder supported opposing candidates in 20 races. Householder-backed candidates won 15, Smith-backed candidates won 3, and candidates affiliated with neither won two.
 
In June 2018, Smith was elected as the interim speaker after Republican Cliff Rosenberger resigned early due to an FBI investigation into his activities with lobbyists. Householder-aligned Republicans opposed Smith’s speakership bid, which he won with 44 votes in a four-way race with Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn and two other Republicans.
 
This will be Householder’s second stint as speaker, following a term from 2001 to 2004 after he beat Bill Harris, who was backed by outgoing Speaker Jo Ann Davidson (R). Similar to the 2018 primaries, Householder supported successful primary challengers against candidates aligned with Harris and Davidson.
 
Householder is one of at least six state speakers elected with support from only a minority of the majority party since 1995.
 
Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R) is one example. He was elected speaker in 2009 after the Republican majority fell to 76-74 in the 2008 elections. He unseated the sitting speaker, Tom Craddick (R), with support from 72 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
 
Similarly, California Assembly Democrats helped elect two Republican speakers in 1995 after Republicans won a 41-39 majority in the 1994 elections. The speakers were both opposed by a majority of the Republican caucus.


Alaska Supreme Court rules in favor of LeBon (R) in District 1; control of chamber and state trifecta status still unknown

On January 4, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld Bart LeBon’s (R) one-vote victory over Kathryn Dodge (D) in the Alaska House District 1 election.
 
The court affirmed a finding by special master Eric Aarseth that the State Division of Elections acted properly when it held a recount in the race. Dodge had appealed the recount result, arguing that several ballots were improperly counted for LeBon.
 
The conclusion of the legal battle in District 1 means that all 40 seats in the Alaska House have been decided—Republicans won 23, Democrats won 16, and a Democratic-aligned independent won District 36.
 
However, control of the chamber is not yet decided because only 19 Republicans have committed to caucusing together. Here are the four Republicans who have not committed:
 
• Rep. David Eastman (R) said he would likely join with other Republicans, but he might want a more conservative speaker than David Talerico (R), the caucus’ original choice.
• Rep. Gary Knopp (R) originally said he would caucus with the other Republicans, but he left the caucus in mid-December, saying that a one-member majority would be unstable. He announced his intention to form a 24-member bipartisan majority caucus with power sharing between the parties.
• Reps. Louise Stutes (R) and Gabrielle LeDoux (R) caucused with Democrats from 2017 to 2018 and signed onto a letter in late December announcing their intention to join a bipartisan coalition again.
 
If no majority has organized the chamber by January 15, Lieutenant Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) will preside over the chamber (or appoint a speaker pro tempore) until the House decides its organization.
 
If Republicans organize a majority, they will have gained trifecta control of the state in the 2018 elections. If they do not, the state will operate under divided government.
 
The chamber was controlled by a Democratic-led bipartisan majority caucus from 2017 to 2018 even though Republicans won 21 of 40 seats in the 2016 elections.


Tennessee law requiring local compliance with federal immigration laws takes effect

House Bill (HB) 2315, a bill involving sanctuary cities, went into effect in Tennessee. In May 2018, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) allowed the bill to become law without his signature.
 
HB 2315 requires local law enforcement to comply with detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under the law, localities that fail to comply could lose state funding, such as economic and community grants.
 
Sanctuary cities—cities that have enacted policies that limit local officials’ involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law—are prohibited in Tennessee. In May, Haslam said he did not believe Tennessee had any sanctuary city-related issues and thought HB 2315 was “a solution looking for a problem.”
 
House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) said the law would “further allow our local, state, and federal officials to work together to keep our communities safe, building on the law we passed in 2009 to outlaw sanctuary city policies.”
 
Christian Patiño, director of operations for La Paz Chattanooga, said HB 2315 would distract law enforcement from carrying out their regular duties. “The priority for officers should be policing communities, and I think this can break the trust and relationships that people have with their police force.” La Paz Chattanooga described itself as providing an environment for “area Latinos to come together in order to build community, develop leaders, and be a positive contribution to the growth and development of the Chattanooga region.”


Two state appellate judges file for Wisconsin Supreme Court, spring election will influence control of the court

Lisa Neubauer and Brian Hagedorn, both sitting judges on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, filed to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat currently held by retiring Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Abrahamson, the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, was appointed to her seat by a Democratic governor more than four decades ago.

Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Conservatives, who back Hagedorn, currently hold a 4-3 majority on the court.

The next election after 2019 will be in 2020 for Dan Kelly’s seat. Kelly was appointed to the court in 2016 by Gov. Scott Walker (R). If liberals retain Abrahamson’s seat this year, the election in 2020 could will be a battle for control of the court.

With only two candidates running as of Wednesday’s filing deadline, Neubauer and Hagedorn will proceed directly to the general election on April 2.



New Mexico governor orders regulatory impact statements for all new proposed rules or regulatory changes

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) signed an executive order on Tuesday that requires all state boards, commissions, and agencies to complete a Regulatory Impact Form (RIF) for each proposed rule or regulatory change. 

The RIFs will feature information about each proposal’s impact on the general public and possible outcomes to expect if the proposal is not implemented. State regulators must also include information that identifies the problem that the proposal is intended to address and provides an explanation for why the proposal is the best option among other possible solutions. The RIFs will be posted online through the state’s Sunshine Portal for public review 48 hours prior to the public comment period.

“Improving our regulatory environment has been a top priority for this administration, and analyzing each proposed rule is another step forward in ensuring that regulations are created responsibly and transparently,” said Martinez in a press release. “This new tool will help regulators and the public better understand the impact these regulations have on the people of our state.”

Democratic Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has not indicated whether or not she supports the order. She could rescind the order after she takes office in early 2019.

The RIFs in New Mexico are similar to the Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIA) submitted by federal agencies as part of the federal regulatory review process. Pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 12866, federal agencies must submit RIAs to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for each proposed significant regulatory action— those that may conflict with presidential priorities or have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments.

Unlike federal RIAs, New Mexico’s RIFs will be required for all proposed rules or regulatory changes and will not be limited to those with significant regulatory impacts.



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