On July 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ) filled two vacancies on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The court is one of five intermediate appellate courts in Florida. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. The Florida District Courts of Appeal were established in 1957 to relieve the case docket of the Florida Supreme Court.
John K. Stargel fills the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Samuel Salario, who resigned from the court on June 4, 2020, to take a job in the investment industry. Prior to joining the appellate court, he was a judge on Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.
Suzanne Labrit, who has worked in private law practice for over two decades, fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John Badalamenti to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Both judges must stand for retention election in 2022 in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.
Judicial positions in Florida are nonpartisan. Of the 16 judges currently sitting on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, two were appointed by a Democratic governor and 14 were appointed by a Republican governor. Of the 48 judgeships across the other four district appellate courts, only one sitting judge was appointed by a Democratic governor. The rest were appointed by a Republican governor.
Over 60 days after Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Davis was confirmed and sworn into office. She resigned from her position on the state’s Sixth Circuit Court on July 31 and assumed office on the appellate court on August 3.
Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Lee appointed Davis on May 28, 2020, but her confirmation hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee state legislature suspended its legislative session this spring effective March 19 until June 1. The legislature then adjourned on June 19.
Had the legislature voted to confirm Davis upon returning to session in June, she would have been required to stand for retention election this month. Tennessee appellate judges are mandated to stand for retention election in the next general election occurring at least 30 days after the vacancy occurs, and general judicial elections in the state take place during the non-judicial primary in August.
The Tennessee courts reported that mail-in ballots for the August election had already been distributed and that it would have cost an additional $700,000 to send out ballots including Davis’ name. Tennessee law states that nominees not confirmed by the state legislature within 60 days are automatically confirmed the following day. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R) said of the decision to allow Davis to be automatically confirmed, “After talking about it and realizing that especially in these times of crunched budgets $700,000 is not an insignificant amount of money…What we decided to do would be to allow the nominee to be confirmed basically by default by us not acting.”
Judicial elections for the appellate court in Tennessee are held every two years in even-numbered years. Davis will thus stand for retention election in 2022, and her current term ends on August 31 of that year.
Five states held statewide primaries on August 4, 2020: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. There were 690 state executive and legislative seats up for election. These included 22 state executive seats, 112 state senate seats, and 556 state house seats.
Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.
The following information was current as of August 6. At that time, some races were still too close to call, and results from Washington were not yet final because the election was held largely by mail.
Across the five states, 549 incumbents filed for re-election to the 690 seats. Preliminary results indicate at least 16 incumbents were defeated.
Eighteen state executive incumbents filed for re-election. Of those 18 incumbents, 15 advanced to the general election. The results for three of the seats were not yet known.
In the state senate elections, 90 incumbents filed for re-election to 112 seats. At least seven did not advance to the general election. In the state house elections, 441 incumbents competed for re-election to 556 seats. Nine were defeated, but that number may grow as results are finalized.
Washington state holds top-two primaries in which all candidates appear on the primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
These primaries were the 32nd through the 36th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary was held on August 6 in Tennessee.
Alaska House of Representatives District 30 member Gary Knopp (R) died in a plane crash near the city of Soldatna, Alaska, on August 1. The Juneau Empire reported that a plane piloted by Knopp collided with another plane just outside of the Soldatna airport.
Knopp was running for re-election in 2020, and his name will still appear on the ballot in the Republican primary on August 18. According to the Anchorage Daily News, if Knopp wins the primary election, Alaska Republican Party officials will name a replacement candidate in the general election scheduled on November 3, 2020. Knopp was first elected to represent District 30 in 2016.
Thirty-four states have statewide orders requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor or outdoor public spaces, as of August 6. All 24 states with a Democratic governor have statewide mask orders, while 10 out of 26 Republican states require face coverings.
The mask requirements have been issued across five months:
• Three orders have been issued in August.
• 13 orders were initially issued in July.
• Four orders were initially issued in June.
• Six orders were initially issued in May.
• Eight orders were initially issued in April.
No states have allowed their mask orders to expire. Georgia is the only state where a statewide executive order prohibits localities from implementing mask restrictions.
Incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Loren Culp (R) defeated 34 other candidates to advance in Washington’s top-two primary for governor on August 4, 2020. In a top-two primary, all candidates regardless of party affiliation run in the same primary. The top-two vote-getters advance to the general election.
Eleven Republicans, five Democrats, five unaffiliated candidates, three independents, and 12 candidates affiliated with third parties were on the ballot. As of 10:15 p.m. Western Time, Inslee had received 52% of the vote followed by Culp with 17% with an estimated 50% of precincts reporting. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.
Inslee, first elected in 2012, is seeking a third term. One Washington governor has ever served a third consecutive term: Daniel Evans (R), who left office in 1977. Inslee was a 2020 Democratic primary candidate for president and suspended his campaign in August 2019.
Culp is the Chief of Police in Republic. He served as a combat engineer and owned Stamped Concrete, a construction business. Culp was also a police officer and narcotics detective before being appointed police chief.
Inslee last won re-election in 2016 with 54% of the vote to Bill Bryant’s (R) 45%.
The statewide primary election for Hawaii is on August 8, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on June 2. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020. Candidates are running in elections for the following state offices:
• Office of Hawaiian Affairs (four seats)
• State Senate (13 seats)
• State House (51 seats)
Ballotpedia will also be covering elections in Honolulu. Honolulu is a consolidated city-county and is the 11th largest city by population in the United States.
Hawaii 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.
Hawaii’s primary is the 38th statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primaries will be held on August 11 in the following states:
Rep. Chris Taylor (D) resigned from the Wisconsin State Assembly on August 1 to be sworn in as the new Branch 12 judge on the Dane County Circuit Court that same day. Taylor fills the vacancy created by Jill Karofsky’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Karofsky left the circuit court to be sworn in as a state supreme court justice on August 1.
Taylor fills the third recent vacancy on the 17-branch Dane County Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over the state capital of Madison. Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed her to the court in June. He also appointed Mario White and Jacob Frost to the court that month. White filled the Branch 7 vacancy on the circuit court left by the resignation of William Hanrahan, who resigned to become an administrative law judge in March of this year. Frost filled the Branch 9 vacancy created by the retirement of judge Richard Niess. Judicial positions on the court are nonpartisan.
A fourth vacancy occurred on August 4, when Branch 12 judge Peter Anderson resigned. Gov. Evers is seeking applications for that and a fifth anticipated vacancy, which will occur when judge Shelley Gaylord resigns effective August 31.
Taylor, Frost, White, and the two pending appointees will each serve on the court for a term ending July 31, 2021. They must stand for retention elections in the spring of next year in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.
Maryland Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) resigned from the state legislature on August 1, citing the demands of his more than decade-long tenure in state government as a motivating factor. Serafini represented District 2A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2009 to 2015, assuming office in the Maryland State Senate in February 2015.
Serafini wrote in a letter to his senate colleagues that “leaving my family on a Monday and not returning home until Friday late afternoon” took a toll on him. He also wrote, “Frankly, being a Republican from a rural area has also worn on me.” Before he resigned, Serafini was one of 15 Republican senators in the 47-seat chamber. Democrats have held a majority in the chamber since at least 1990.
Governor Larry Hogan (R) will appoint Serafini’s replacement from a list of candidates recommended by Republican committee officials in the district. The appointee will serve the remainder of Serafini’s unexpired term, which is set to end on January 10, 2023.
On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold a previous ruling allowing for electronic signatures and delaying a signature deadline. The court ruled in favor of Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) and granted an emergency stay on a lower court’s order until the appeal process is finalized. The lower court’s ruling had allowed Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically and extended the signature deadline.
Reclaim Idaho’s initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000; increase the corporate income tax rate; and create and fund the Quality Education Fund.
In a statement posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said, “We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. … Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.”
Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh in granting the emergency stay that applies to all previous lower court orders in the case. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. The published opinion and dissent did not state how Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan voted. The dissenting judges argued that the Court had intervened too early in the appeal process.
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “[T]he State is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Right now, the preliminary injunction disables Idaho from vindicating its sovereign interest in the enforcement of initiative requirements that are likely consistent with the First Amendment.” He added, “Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other state to provide for ballot initiatives. And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access.”
In response to the ruling, Governor Little said, “I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes. It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho.”
Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit back in June arguing that the state’s social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A U.S. district judge granted Reclaim Idaho a preliminary injunction that gave the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The governor appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his emergency stay request but expedited the hearing process. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on August 13.
Thirteen of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum featured at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and signature requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.