New Louisiana Superintendent of Education assumes office

The new Louisiana state superintendent of education, Dr. Cade Brumley, started with the Department of Education on Monday, June 8. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education first appointed Brumley to the position on May 20, 2020, and the Louisiana State Senate confirmed his nomination on June 1.

Brumley replaces former superintendent John White, who resigned from the position in March 2020. Beth Scioneaux, the Deputy Superintendent for Management and Finance at the Department of Education, served as interim superintendent from March until June.

The education superintendent position, which is nonpartisan, is one of twelve state-level executive offices that Ballotpedia covers in Louisiana. Of the other nine individual state executive offices, two are nonpartisan, six are held by Republicans, and one–the governor’s office–is occupied by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Republican Party holds a majority on both the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and on the state Public Service Commission.

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Five states to hold Congressional, state-level primaries June 9

Five states are holding primaries for congressional and state-level office June 9—Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Ballotpedia has identified nine of those primaries as battlegrounds. The nine battleground primaries include one for U.S. Senate, two for governor of West Virginia, and six for U.S. House. Six are Republican primaries and three are Democratic.

While Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina had always scheduled to hold their primaries on this date, Georgia and West Virginia’s primaries were originally scheduled to take place in May but were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. West Virginia’s primary was initially scheduled to take place May 12 while Georgia’s was set for May 19.

Among the races we’ll be covering is the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Four Republicans are running for the nomination to challenge incumbent Joe Cunningham (D), whose victory in 2018 made him the first Democrat to win election from the district since 1978. Local media have identified Kathy Landing, who is backed by the House Freedom Fund and former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Nancy Mace, who has been endorsed by Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as leading candidates. Should no candidate win more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on June 23.

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Florida Supreme Court rules that the ballot summary for the Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative is misleading

In 4-1 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the ballot summary of the Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative was misleading. Ban Assault Weapons NOW is sponsoring the measure targeting the 2022 ballot.

The measure would ban possession of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, with certain exceptions involving registration requirements. The measure would define Semiautomatic as “any weapon which fires a single projectile or a number of ball shots through a rifled or smooth bore for each single function of the trigger without further manual action required.” Assault weapon would be defined by the measure as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition feeding device.” If a person lawfully owned an assault weapon before the measure’s effective date, their ownership of such weapon would still be legal (a) for one year after the measure’s effective date or (b) after the owner registers the weapon by make, model, and serial number with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Records of such registration would be available for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

On July 26, 2019, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) filed a motion with the state supreme court arguing the measure’s ballot language was misleading and unclear and that the initiative should be blocked from the ballot. Moody argued, “The ballot title and summary do not inform Florida’s electorate that virtually every lawful owner of a semi-automatic long-gun will be forced to register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or that this registry would be available to all local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Nor do the ballot title and summary state the time within which preexisting long-gun owners must register their firearms that meet the proposed amendment’s definition of ‘assault weapon’ and avail themselves of the amendment’s grandfathering provision.”

In its decision released on June 4, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with Moody. The court wrote, “While the ballot summary purports to exempt registered assault weapons lawfully possessed prior to the Initiative’s effective date, the Initiative does not categorically exempt the assault weapon, only the current owner’s possession of that assault weapon. The ballot summary is therefore affirmatively misleading.” Judge Jorge Labarga dissented arguing that the 75-word limit was not enough to provide every detail of the initiative but that the ballot summary was still clear.”

Gail Schwartz, the chair of Ban Assault Weapons NOW, released a statement in response to the court’s ruling that said, “The Supreme Court, now controlled by the NRA in the same way as our Governor and our Legislature, has fundamentally failed the people of Florida. Not only has the Legislature recently made it harder to pass ballot initiatives, now the people must also face a Court of rightwing ideologues who will only approve initiatives they agree with politically.”

According to the Florida Secretary of State’s website, Ban Assault Weapons NOW had submitted 174,564 valid signatures. In order to obtain a spot on the 2022 ballot, proponents of the initiative would need to begin the process again with an amended ballot summary.

The total number of signatures required for an initiated constitutional amendment to qualify for the ballot is equal to 8% of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

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Justice wins Republican primary for governor of West Virginia

Gov. Jim Justice defeated former Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher, former state Del. Mike Folk, and four others to win the Republican nomination for governor in West Virginia. As of 8:33 p.m. Eastern Time, Justice had received 66% of the vote to Thrasher’s 18% and Folk’s 9% with 8% of precincts reporting. None of the remaining candidates received over 5% of the vote.
Justice was first elected governor as a Democrat in 2016, defeating Bill Cole (R), 49% to 42%. He switched parties to become a Republican the following year. Justice is the sixth incumbent Republican governor to seek re-election in West Virginia’s history.
The race featured a high level of self-financing. According to campaign finance reports, Justice contributed $1.5 million to his campaign. Thrasher and Folk contributed roughly $3.4 million and $261,000 to their campaigns, respectively.
Justice was endorsed by President Donald Trump (R). In 2016, Trump won 68.6% of the vote in West Virginia, his largest vote share in any state in that presidential election.
Justice will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the November general election.

Salango wins West Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango defeated Douglas Hughes, Jody Murphy, Stephen Smith, and state Sen. Ron Stollings to win the Democratic primary for governor in West Virginia. As of 11:30 p.m. ET, Salango had received 39% of the vote. Smith was second with 33% and Stollings was third with 14%. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.
Salango served on the Kanawha County Commission since 2017. He said his record included creating union jobs, securing paid family leave, and helping seniors get hot meals. He said his priorities as governor would include education, job creation, healthcare, and addressing the opioid issue.
Democrats have won every gubernatorial election in West Virginia since 2000.
Salango will face incumbent Gov. Jim Justice (R) in the general election. Justice was elected in 2016 as a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party in 2017.

Three states release guidance for reopening schools

Officials in three states—California, Massachusetts, and North Carolina—released guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 year. Schools in all three states have been closed to in-person instruction since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, schools in four states (Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming) have reopened to in-person instruction after closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three other states have announced they will reopen schools, and officials in four states have released guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Little appoints von Ehlinger to Idaho House of Representatives

Gov. Brad Little (R) appointed Aaron von Ehlinger (R) to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives on June 3. The seat became vacant when late Rep. Thyra Stevenson (R) died on May 11, 2020. Ehlinger will serve the remainder of Stevenson’s unexpired term ending on November 30, 2020.

The appointment, which filled the only current vacancy in the Idaho state legislature, came one day after Ehlinger won the Republican primary in the district on June 2. Stevenson died after ballots were finalized and her name still appeared on the ballot. Ehlinger received 78.1% of the vote to Stevenson’s 21.9%. There were no candidates in the Democratic primary and Ehlinger is running unopposed on Nov. 3.

The current partisan composition of the Idaho House of Representatives is 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats. The Republican Party has held a majority in the state House since 1992. Republicans have held a state government trifecta, or a majority in both chambers of the state legislature plus the governor’s office, since 1995.

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Romanski appointed as Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Randy Romanski as the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on June 1. Romanski has held the position in an interim capacity since November 2019 and before that served as deputy secretary. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Wisconsin State Senate.

Romanski first assumed state executive duties after the state Senate denied confirmation of Evers’ previous appointee, Brad Pfaff, on November 5, 2019. Evers had appointed Pfaff in December 2018. Pfaff is now running for state senate in Wisconsin and is on the ballot in the Democratic primary on August 11.

Romanski previously served as secretary under Gov. Jim Doyle (D). His duties as interim secretary, and secretary if confirmed, include enforcing regulations; promoting agriculture, manufacturing, commercial fishing, and domestic arts; promoting and advertising Wisconsin’s material and agricultural products; monitoring livestock aid; and providing guidance to Wisconsin’s public university system. The office defines its mission as partnering “with all the citizens of Wisconsin to grow the economy by promoting quality food, healthy plants and animals, sound use of land and water resources, and a fair marketplace.”

Ballotpedia covers 12 executive offices in the state of Wisconsin. Of those, six offices are partisan and six are non-partisan. All six partisan offices are currently held by Democrats.

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Massachusetts enters second phase of reopening

Massachusetts is entering its second phase of reopening on June 8, allowing retail stores and outdoor dining to reopen with capacity and distancing restrictions. Phase Two also allows hotels, amateur and professional sports, personal services (like house cleaning and tutoring services), driving and flight schools, outdoor historical attractions; funeral homes, warehouses, outdoor recreation facilities (like playgrounds and pools), post-secondary schools, day camps, and public libraries to reopen. Businesses like barbershops and salons will remain closed.

The state started reopening on May 18 by allowing manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship to resume operations.

Filing deadline for state executive and legislative candidates to pass in CT, FL, and NH

The filing deadlines to run for elected state offices in Connecticut, Florida, and New Hampshire will pass in the next week. Connecticut’s filing deadline is on June 11, and Florida and New Hampshire’s filing deadlines are on June 12.

In Connecticut, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:
  • State Senate (36 seats)
  • State House (151 seats)
In Florida, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:
  • State Senate (20 seats)
  • State House (120 seats)
In New Hampshire, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:
  • Governor
  • Executive Council (5 seats)
  • State Senate (24 seats)
  • State House (400 seats)

Connecticut’s primary is scheduled for August 11, Florida’s primary is scheduled for August 18, and New Hampshire’s primary is scheduled for September 8. The general election for all three states is November 3, 2020.

Connecticut’s, Florida’s, and New Hampshire’s filing deadlines are the 45th, 46th, and 47th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on June 24 in Rhode Island.

Connecticut has a Democratic state government trifecta, and Florida has a Republican state government trifecta. New Hampshire has a divided government, meaning no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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