State legislative special election runoffs to be held in Mississippi October 13

Special election runoffs are being held on October 13 for two seats in the Mississippi State Senate and two seats in the Mississippi House of Representatives. General elections took place in each district on September 22, with the top two candidates advancing to the runoff. Candidates in Mississippi state legislative special elections run without party labels on the ballot.

* In Senate District 15, Joyce Meek Yates and Bart Williams are running in the general election runoff. The seat became vacant after Gary Jackson (R) resigned on June 30. Johnson cited health concerns in his announcement that he would be retiring. He had represented District 15 since 2004.

* In Senate District 39, Jason Barrett and Bill Sones are running in the general election runoff. The seat became vacant on July 15 after Sally Doty (R) was appointed as the executive director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff. Doty had represented District 39 since 2012.

* In House District 37, David Chism and Lynn Wright are running in the general election runoff. The seat became vacant after the resignation of Gary Chism (R) on June 30. Chism suffered a stroke in 2017 and said that serving in the state House had become more difficult since then. He also cited his wife’s health concerns as a reason for his resignation. Chism had represented District 37 since 2000.

* In House District 66, Bob Lee Jr. and De’Keither Stamps are running in the general election runoff. The seat became vacant on July 2 after Jarvis Dortch (D) resigned to accept a position as executive director of the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He had represented District 66 since 2016.

Mississippi legislators are elected to four-year terms, and elections are held in odd-numbered years. All seats in the state Senate and state House are up for election again on November 7, 2023.

Mississippi has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 34-16 margin with two vacancies and the state House by a 73-45 margin with one independent member and three vacancies.

As of October, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Democrats, Republicans each defending eight vulnerable trifectas this year

Sixteen state trifectas are vulnerable in 2020, according to Ballotpedia’s trifecta vulnerability rating system. Both major parties will be defending eight trifectas.

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. There are currently 21 Republican trifectas and 15 Democratic trifectas. The remaining 14 states have divided governments.

Ballotpedia calculates the chances of trifectas breaking and forming by assessing the chances of each individual component changing control. We assess gubernatorial races with ratings from The Cook Political ReportInside Elections, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. We assess state legislatures according to the absolute number of seats up for election and the proportion of seats that would need to flip for partisan control to change. Both chambers in a state’s legislature are evaluated individually.

Ballotpedia classifies the Democratic trifectas in five states as moderately vulnerable—Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon. Three Democratic trifectas—Delaware, Illinois, and New Mexico—are considered somewhat vulnerable.
The Republican trifecta in Florida is the only trifecta Ballotpedia rated as highly vulnerable this year. Four Republican trifectas—in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, and West Virginia are classified as moderately vulnerable. The Republican trifectas in Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas are somewhat vulnerable.

Ballotpedia also assessed the chances of new trifectas forming in states that are currently under divided government. States that qualified as a possible Democratic trifecta pickup according to our methodology are Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Republicans have pickup chances in Alaska and New Hampshire. In Montana and North Carolina, both parties qualify for a pickup opportunity.

For more details and the full report, click here:

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Trujillo resigns from New Mexico House of Representatives

On Sept. 28, Rep. Jim Trujillo (D) resigned from the District 45 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives, citing health and family reasons. Trujillo was first appointed to the seat in 2003 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Patsy Trujillo, to whom he is not related.

Trujillo’s successor will be appointed by the Santa Fe County Commission and will serve until his term ends in January. Linda Serrato (D) and Helen Milenski (L) are running for the District 45 seat in the Nov. 3 general election. In 2018, Trujillo was unopposed for reelection to the seat.

All 70 seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives are up for election this year. Ballotpedia has identified the New Mexico House of Representatives as one of 22 state legislative battleground chambers for the 2020 cycle. With Trujillo’s resignation, the current partisan breakdown of the chamber is 45 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and one vacancy. Republicans need to win 12 more seats, or 17% of the total seats, to gain a majority in the House. Democrats will retain control of the New Mexico State House if they lose fewer than 12 net seats. New Mexico is currently one of 15 states with a Democratic trifecta.

Additional reading:
New Mexico House of Representatives elections, 2020
State legislative battleground chambers, 2020
State legislative vacancies, 2020
State government trifectas

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recall effort under review by state supreme court

A recall effort has been filed against Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) over his mask mandate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Minnesota Supreme Court will now review whether the grounds for recall stated in the petition are sufficient and meet statutory requirements. Two earlier efforts to recall Walz were dismissed by the supreme court because the petitions did not meet the legal standards to recall an elected official.

The ‘’Recall Governor Tim Walz’’ group said about the recall effort, “We are hopeful that court gives this petition the fair review it deserves, as we continue fighting on behalf of all freedom loving Minnesotans. As a reminder, the recall is about justice – forcing Walz to personally answer for the tyranny he has imposed for months on end, with no end in sight.” As of October 1, 2020, Walz had not made a statement regarding the recall.

Minnesota is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 35-32 margin and Democrats control the state House by a 75-59 margin. Walz was elected as Minnesota’s governor in 2018 with 53.8% of the vote.

Eighteen gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. Nine of those efforts are against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

Additional reading:
Tim Walz
Gubernatorial recalls

Finalists for open Hawaii Supreme Court seat announced September 29, Gov. Ige to make selection by October 29

Hawaii’s judicial nominating commission published its list of four nominees for a state supreme court vacancy on September 29, 2020. The nominees are Judge Todd Eddins, David Forman, Judge Darolyn Lendio Heim, and Benjamin Lowenthal. Gov. David Ige (D) will appoint one of the four to the state supreme court with consent from the state Senate. Ige has 30 days to select his nominee after receiving the list.

The vacancy occurred when Justice Richard W. Pollack reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 years and retired on June 30, 2020. Pollack joined the court in 2012. His replacement will be the first nomination Gov. Ige makes to the five-member state supreme court. The most recent appointment to the court was made in 2014 by Ige’s predecessor, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D).

In Hawaii, state supreme court justices are chosen through the assisted appointment method. Under this appointment method, Hawaii’s judicial nominating committee recommends four to six potential nominees to the governor, who chooses a nominee from the list. The governor’s nominee requires confirmation from the Hawaii State Senate. Justices serve 10-year terms. If they wish to serve additional terms, they must stand for retention before the state judicial nominating commission. 

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia use the assisted appointment method for their courts of last resort. Seven states use gubernatorial or legislative appointments, 15 use nonpartisan elections, and six use partisan elections.

As of October 1, 2020, 21 state supreme court seats had been vacated in 2020, 10 vacancies had been filled, and 11 remained vacant.

Additional reading:
Assisted appointment (judicial selection)
Hawaii Supreme Court
Hawaii Judicial Selection Commission

What statewide ballot measures will Washington voters decide on November 3?

Voters in Washington will decide six statewide ballot measures on November 3: two binding measures and four nonbinding tax advisory questions. This year is the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot will not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP), a citizen-initiated state statute for which groups collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Referendum 90:
The only citizen-initiated measure on the 2020 ballot in Washington is Referendum 90.

The Washington State Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 5395 (SB 5395) in March 2020. SB 5395 was designed to require comprehensive sexual health education in public schools. Opponents of the bill, organized as “Parents for Safe Schools,” collected signatures to place SB 5395 on the ballot and are advocating for a reject vote on the measure, which would repeal Senate Bill 5395. A vote to approve the referendum would allow SB 5395 to go into effect.

The bill is on hold pending the result of the election.
Parents for Safe Schools said, “Reject Referendum 90. Stop the early sexualization of our kids. Materials to meet the new state standards will include graphic sexual subject matter. These are decisions that should be left to parents and local communities. … [The bill is] a costly mandate at a time when school budgets are being cut. State and local budgets are facing massive deficits which threaten funding for basic programs.”

Washington State Senator Claire Wilson (D), a sponsor of the SB 5395, said, “Some people hear the words ‘sex education’ and mistake the focus of the curriculum, which is health and safety and is age-appropriate for each grade level. This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior.”

Senate Joint Resolution 8212:
The state legislature referred Senate Joint Resolution 8212, a constitutional amendment, to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would allow the Washington Legislature to invest the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account into stocks or other methods of investment.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  • public pension and retirements funds;
  • industrial insurance trust funds; and
  • funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

Advisory Votes 32, 33, 34, and 35:

Advisory Votes 32-35 were automatically referred to the ballot as required under Initiative 960, which was passed in 2007. I-960 requires an advisory vote to be referred to voters concerning any law passed by the legislature that creates or increases taxes or fees. The outcome of the question is nonbinding and does not result in a new, changed, or rejected law. Rather, the vote serves to advise the legislature whether or not to maintain or repeal a bill they passed.

Thirty-one advisory votes have been on the statewide ballot in Washington between 2012 and 2019. Voters voted in favor of advising the legislature to maintain 10 of the bills. In the other 21 cases, voters voted to advise the legislature to repeal the bill in question.

Twelve tax advisory votes were on the ballot in 2019. Voters voted to advise the legislature to maintain three bills and repeal the other nine.

Together, the four advisory vote questions on the 2020 ballot represent bills increasing state revenue by an estimated $2 billion over 10 years.

Summaries of the measures are below:

  • Advisory Vote 32 concerns Senate Bill 5323, which was designed to levy a tax on certain carryout bags provided by retailers.
  • Advisory Vote 33 concerns Senate Bill 5628, which was designed to levy a tax on heavy equipment rentals.
  • Advisory Vote 34 concerns Senate Bill 6492, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate and reduce certain surcharges.
  • Advisory Vote 35 concerns Senate Bill 6690, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate on commercial airplane manufacturers.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years from the 18-year period between 2000 and 2018. 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Additional Reading:

Campaign contributions to California’s 12 November ballot measures exceed $500 million

In California, more than $525 million has been raised to support or oppose this year’s 12 general election ballot measures through September 19. The next campaign finance deadline—and the final one before the election—in California is October 24. So far, there are four ballot measures that have seen more than $50 million raised.

Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors, is leading the pack with $194.99 million between supporters and opponents. Yes on Proposition 22 received $184.3 million from five app-based firms—Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, InstaCart, and Postmates.

In October 2019, Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign, stated, “We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.”

The campaign No on Prop 22 received $10.7 million. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, SEIU-UHW West, Service Employees International Union, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770, and United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Issues PAC—labor unions or union-affiliated committees—were the top-five donors to No on Prop 22.

Proposition 23, which would create new physician and data requirements for chronic dialysis clinics, is a continuation of the conflict between the SEIU-UHW West and dialysis businesses that also resulted in Proposition 8. In 2018, Proposition 8 was the country’s most expensive ballot measure. The SEIU-UHW West raised $6.21 million for Proposition 23 through September 19. No on 23 received $93.06 million from four dialysis firms—DaVita, Fresenius, U.S. Renal Care, and Dialysis Clinic, Inc.

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. Yes on 15 received $42.9 million, including $11.76 million from the California Teachers Association. Both Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy and SEIU California State Council provided the campaign with more than $7 million each. Opponents, organized as seven political action committees, raised $29.91 million. The California Business Roundtable provided $13.36 million for the opposition campaign.

Like Proposition 23, Proposition 21 follows a similar conflict from 2018. In 2018, voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have repealed the state’s law limiting local government use of rent control. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Proposition 10, is sponsoring the campaign in support of Proposition 21, an initiative to allow local governments to enact rent control on housing that was first occupied over 15 years ago. Yes on 21 received $24.01 million, including $23.94 million from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. No on Prop 21 and allied political action committees raised $41.49 million, including $6.6 million from the Essex Property Trust, $5.6 million from the California Business Roundtable, and $5.5 million from Equity Residential.

In 2018, there were 11 statewide measures on the general election ballot in California. Campaigns supporting and opposing the 11 measures received $362.6 million through the entire election cycle. In 2016, there was a total of $497 million in ballot measure campaign contributions for 18 measures.

There are still 45 days from the most recent campaign finance date (September 19) to the election on November 3, 2020, for campaigns to raise and spend funds. More than 1/3 of the total contributions raised in 2018 were received between late September and the end of the election cycle.

Campaigns supporting and opposing all 128 statewide measures on the ballot in 34 states in 2020 have raised a total of $803.7 million.

Additional reading:
Ballot measure campaign finance, 2020

This article was updated on Oct. 2 at 6:10pm to correct a typo that erroneously stated that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 23. It has been corrected to state that they are sponsoring a campaign in support of Proposition 21.

Barack Obama releases second list of 2020 endorsements


Former President Barack Obama (D) released his final slate of endorsements for the 2020 elections Friday. The list includes 111 Democratic candidates for federal and state offices. The new endorsements are for seven U.S. Senate seats, 29 U.S. House seats, two gubernatorial offices, and 73 state legislative seats.

Obama has endorsed 230 candidates in 2020. In August, he released an initial slate of 118 endorsed candidates. He also endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who served as vice president under Obama.

Obama has endorsed 12 U.S. Senate candidates in 2020. Some of his most recent endorsees include Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s special election, Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s regular election, and Mark Kelly in Arizona’s special election. All three are challenging Republican incumbents.

Obama has endorsed 80 House candidates, nine state executive candidates, and 128 state legislative candidates.

Ballotpedia has tracked 140 endorsements by President Donald Trump (R) in the 2020 elections, including 23 candidates who competed in battleground primaries. Five candidates Trump endorsed lost in primaries or conventions, leaving 135 endorsed candidates heading to general elections as of September 18.

Share of incumbents defeated in contested primaries grows for third even-year cycle in a row

Ballotpedia’s annual state legislative competitiveness study shows that for the third even-year election cycle in a row, the share of incumbents defeated in contested primaries has grown. In the 44 states that held state legislative elections this year, 153 incumbents—61 Democrats and 93 Republicans—were defeated by primary challengers.

Overall, 15.2% of the 1,016 major-party incumbents who faced primary challengers in 2020 lost, the third consecutive increase compared to 2018 (13.8%) and 2016 (12.3%). The loss rate in 2020 also exceeded that of 13.0% in 2014.


  1. 18% of Republicans who faced challenges in 2020 were defeated—the highest since at least 2014.
  2. 12% of Democrats who faced challenges were defeated, lower than the 14% rate in 2018.
  3. More Democrats were defeated in states with Democratic trifectas, as was the case for Republicans in Republican trifectas.
  4. The loss rate for incumbents in states with divided governments exceeds the national average altogether and by party.
  5. Democratic incumbents were defeated at the highest rate in states with Democratic trifectas and at the lowest in those with Republican trifectas. In states with divided governments, the rate exceeded the national average for Democrats.
  6. Republican incumbents facing contested primaries were more likely to be defeated in states with divided governments than in states with trifectas.

To read more about the state legislative incumbents defeated in primaries this year, click here:

Comparing state legislative fundraising from 2018 to 2020

The value of money in state-level politics extends beyond purchasing power. Campaign cash allows candidates to promote their message and turn out their voters, but perhaps more importantly, it may represent momentum. While having the biggest campaign account is no guarantee of success at the polls, studies conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Campaign Finance Institute found a strong correlation.

As part of Ballotpedia’s partnership with Transparency USA, we took a closer look at how the two major political party candidates for state legislatures in nine states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin—performed with fundraising in a cycle-vs-cycle comparison from 2018 to 2020.

Semiannual reports in each state during the 2020 election cycle show the following:

• Arizona: Republican candidates for the Arizona State Legislature had raised $5.4 million, while Democrats had raised $4.2 million. Similarly, Republican candidates had raised on average $51,490, while Democrats had raised on average $48,450.
• Florida: Republican candidates for the Florida State Legislature had raised $20.6 million, while Democrats had raised $9.8 million. Similarly, Republican candidates had raised on average $108,513.51, while Democrats had raised on average $37,424.07.
• Michigan: Democratic candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives had raised $5.3 million, while Republicans had raised $4.8 million.
• Minnesota: Democratic candidates for the Minnesota State Legislature had raised $2.8 million, while Republicans had raised $1.9 million. Similarly, Democrats had raised on average $11,874, while Republicans had raised on average $8,577.
• North Carolina: Republican candidates for the General Assembly of North Carolina had raised $13.6 million, while Democrats had raised $12.4 million. Similarly, Republicans had raised on average $68,376, while Democrats had raised on average $59,545.
• Ohio: Republican candidates for the Ohio General Assembly had raised $14.9 million, while Democrats had raised $4.4 million. Similarly, Republicans had raised on average $101,326, while Democrats had raised on average $34,807.
• Pennsylvania: Democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania General Assembly had raised $22.8 million, while Republicans had raised $14.4 million. Similarly, Democrats had raised on average $86,702, while Republicans had raised on average $64,587.
• Texas: Republican candidates for the Texas State Legislature had raised $28.3 million, while Democrats had raised $24.9 million. Similarly, Republicans had raised on average $152,953, while Democrats had raised on average $119,046.
• Wisconsin: Democrats had raised $3.3 million, and Republicans had raised $3.2 million. On average, Democrats had raised $20,547, while Republicans had raised on average $21,640.

The direct comparison between fundraising data from 2018 and 2020 is limited by at least two factors. First, the same seats and offices were not necessarily up for election in both years. For example, Michigan held elections for both chambers (the state Senate and House of Representatives) in 2018, but only for the state House in 2020. Second, additional offices on the ballot in a year might affect the amount of money raised in state legislative elections. For example, among the states studied, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin all held gubernatorial elections alongside their state legislative elections in 2018 but not 2020.

For overviews on all nine states, including comparisons to 2018 fundraising, click the link below: