Field set for March 3 special primaries in Massachusetts

Candidates interested in running for four Massachusetts state legislative special elections had until January 28 to file. The primaries are scheduled for March 3, 2020, and the general elections are on March 31.

Massachusetts State Senate

  • Second Hampden & Hampshire District: State Rep. John Velis is unopposed in the Democratic primary. John Cain is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Donald Humason Jr. (R) became the mayor of Westfield. Humason was unopposed in his 2018 re-election bid. He faced Democratic opposition in 2016 and won re-election with 60% of the vote.
  • Plymouth and Barnstable District: Rebecca Coletta, John Mahoney Jr., Thomas Moakley, Susan Moran, and Stephen Michael Palmer are running in the Democratic primary. Jesse Brown and James McMahon are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on November 29, 2019, after Vinny deMacedo (R) resigned to take a job in higher education. DeMacedo was re-elected in 2018 with 59% of the vote.

Massachusetts House of Representatives

  • Thirty-seventh Middlesex District: Dina Samfield and Danillo Sena are running in the Democratic primary. Malena Chastain and Catherine Clark are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 8, 2020, when Jennifer Benson (D) resigned to take a job as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership. Benson was unopposed in her re-election bids in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. She faced Republican opposition in 2010 and won re-election with 55% of the vote.
  • Third Bristol District: Carol Doherty and Muzammil Nazir are running in the Democratic primary. Kelly Dooner is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Shaunna O’Connell (R) became mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts. O’Connell was re-elected in 2018 with 62% of the vote.

Democrats control the state Senate by a 34-4 margin with two vacancies and the state House by a 125-31 margin with one independent member and three vacancies. Massachusetts has a divided government, and 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. Charlie Baker (R) was re-elected to a second term as governor in 2018.

As of January, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts will also hold a special general election on March 3, 2020, to fill another vacant seat in the state House.

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State legislative special elections, 2020 
Massachusetts General Court

Indiana statewide filing deadline is February 7

Photo credit: Diego Delso

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Indiana is on February 7, 2020. In Indiana, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

• All nine U.S. House seats
• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor
• Attorney General
• State Senate (25 seats)
• House of Representatives (100 seats)
• Supreme Court (one seat up for retention election)
• Court of Appeals (six seats up for retention election)

The primary is scheduled for May 5, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. The judicial retention elections are also on November 3.

Indiana’s statewide filing deadline is the 12th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on February 18 in Pennsylvania.

Indiana 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.

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Bowman replaces Schindler on the Washington Court of Appeals

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appointed Bill Bowman to the Washington Court of Appeals on January 24, 2020. Bowman fills the vacancy left by former judge Ann Schindler, who retired effective December 31, 2019.

Bowman previously served as a judge for the King County Superior Court. He held several roles as a superior court judge, including those of assistant chief criminal judge, chief judge of the Maleng Regional Justice Center, and assistant presiding judge, the last of which he held at the time of his appellate appointment.

In addition to his judicial career, Bowman has worked as a trial attorney and was also deputy prosecuting attorney for King County. He earned his J.D. from the California Western School of Law.

Bowman is one of ten Division I judges on the Washington Court of Appeals. Unlike the Washington Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals is a non-discretionary appellate court, meaning it must review and rule on all appeals filed with it.

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Branch appointed to Maryland House of Delegates

Chanel Branch (D) has been appointed to represent District 45 in the Maryland House of Delegates, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Cheryl Glenn (D) in December 2019.

Members of the district’s Democratic Central Committee, which Branch chairs, nominated her for Glenn’s former seat on January 13, 2020. Her nomination was then sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who appointed Branch to the seat on January 27, 2020. Branch was sworn in the following day.

Glenn resigned from the House of Delegates on December 18, 2019, and was subsequently charged with bribery and wire fraud. She pleaded guilty to the charges on January 22, 2020.

Branch works at the Maryland Department of Human Services, serving as the Director of Operations for Strategy and Administration at the state agency. She joins Delegates Talmadge Branch (D) and Stephanie Smith (D) in representing District 45. Talmadge Branch, who is a candidate for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, is Chanel Branch’s father.

There is currently one other vacancy in the Maryland House of Delegates, and a nomination for the position has already been sent to the governor for consideration. The current partisan composition of the state House is 98 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and one vacancy.

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Texas runoffs close out 2019’s special state legislative elections

On January 28, three districts in the Texas House of Representatives held general runoff elections to fill seats that were vacated in 2019. Races in Districts 28, 100, and 148 advanced to general runoffs following the general election on November 5, 2019. None of the seats changed party control as a result of the special runoffs.

  • The District 28 seat became vacant after Rep. John Zerwas (R) resigned effective September 30, 2019, to take a position with the University of Texas System. Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) in the runoff with 58.0% of the vote.
  • The District 100 seat became vacant after Eric Johnson (D) was elected to serve as mayor of Dallas on June 8, 2019. Lorraine Birabil (D) defeated James Armstrong III (D) in the runoff with 66.3% of the vote. The special election for this seat was the only one of the night to be between two candidates of the same party.
  • The District 148 seat became vacant after Jessica Farrar (D) resigned on September 30, 2019. Anna Eastman (D) defeated Luis LaRotta (R) in the runoff with 65.5% of the vote.

All three newly elected members will serve the remainder of the previous occupants’ unexpired terms, which end in January 2021. They have all filed for election in the regular election on November 3, 2020. A primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020. The challengers they each faced in the special runoff elections have also all filed for the same seats in the regular election, meaning all three will or could face a rematch in either the primary or the general.

In 2019, 77 state legislative special elections were held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Eight state legislative seats changed hands in special elections in 2019—five from Democrats to Republicans, two from Republicans to Democrats, and one from a Republican to an independent.

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Pennsylvania Legislature passes constitutional amendment to end primaries for lieutenant governor

The Pennsylvania State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would change how candidates for lieutenant governor are selected.

In Pennsylvania, a political party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a joint ticket at the general election. As of 2020, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries for their party’s nomination and then form a joint ticket.

The constitutional amendment would allow a political party’s candidate for governor to choose their own candidate for lieutenant governor. The ballot measure would provide that political parties may approve or reject their gubernatorial candidate’s pick for lieutenant governor. The system would look similar to how a presidential candidate selects their running mate.

Because the Pennsylvania Constitution requires the legislature to approve an amendment during two successive legislative sessions, the legislature will need to adopt the amendment again during the 2021-2022 legislative session for it to appear on the ballot. If it appears on the ballot in 2021, it could be in effect for the 2022 gubernatorial election.

The constitutional amendment passed the state Senate on January 28, 2020, in a vote of 46-3. In the state House, legislative Democrats were more divided. While 105 of 110 House Republicans supported the amendment, 25 of 92 House Democrats did so. A simple majority vote was required in each chamber.

The current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania is John Fetterman (D), who defeated incumbent Mike Stack (D) in the 2018 primary election. The Pennsylvania Governor is Tom Wolf, who is term-limited from running at the next gubernatorial election in 2022.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states in which the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary but runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in general election.

The ballot measure would make Pennsylvania the 11th state in which the lieutenant governor is chosen by the gubernatorial nominee after the primary and runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general election.

Pennsylvanians haven’t rejected a constitutional amendment referred by the legislature since 1981. Since then, voters have approved 26 constitutional amendments.

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Wilson Resigns from Alaska House of Representatives

Former Rep. Tammie Wilson (R) announced her resignation from the Alaska House of Representatives on January 24, 2020, which took effect at the end of the day on Jan. 25. She left her District 3 seat to take a job as a policy adviser with the Office of Children’s Services at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Wilson first assumed office in the state House in December 2009. She previously served as an Assembly Member for Fairbanks North Star Borough from 2008 to 2009. She also worked as an owner of an antique collection store and automotive shop.

Wilson’s departure creates the first vacancy of the year in Alaska’s legislature and the 23rd vacancy overall in state legislatures in 2020. Members of the Alaska Republican Party will recommend a replacement to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), who has 30 days from Wilson’s departure to make an appointment to fill the seat. After Wilson’s resignation, the party composition of the Alaska House of Representatives was 22 Republicans, 15 Democrats, two independents, and one vacancy.

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Utah referendum effort to repeal tax bill qualifies for the ballot; Utah Legislature votes to repeal it themselves

On January 28, 2020, a veto referendum targeting Utah Senate Bill 2001 qualified for the ballot.

A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law passed by the state legislature. There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level.

SB 2001, titled Tax Restructuring Revisions, which the referendum effort sought to repeal, was designed to make changes to the state tax code including a decrease to the individual and corporate income tax rates and an increase to the sales tax on food. SB 2001 was sponsored by Republican Sen. Lyle Hillyard and was passed by the Utah Legislature in a special session on December 12, 2019.

Supporters of the referendum effort submitted 152,000 signatures on January 21. As of 7:40 a.m. on January 28, county clerks had verified 117,154 signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures were required.

On January 23, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R), Senate President Stuart Adams (R), and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson (R) announced that the legislature would repeal Senate Bill 2001 on January 27, the first day of the legislative session, therefore rendering the referendum effort moot. Herbert and legislative leaders said, “Once the repeal is signed into law, the legislature will begin work under the reinstated tax code to prepare the fiscal year 2021 state budget. Repealing SB 2001 will enable the legislature to draft the budget without the uncertainty of a referendum potentially changing the tax code midway through the budget year.”

Rep. Francis Gibson (R) and Sen. Lyle Hillyard (R) introduced House Bill 185 to repeal the tax bill. The House voted 70-1 in favor of HB 185 on January 28, 2020. Republican Rep. Keven Stratton voted against repealing the tax bill. The Senate voted unanimously to repeal the bill. Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) is expected to sign HB 185.

The legislature and Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee are working to clarify whether the referendum will appear on the ballot since the bill it was targeting has been repealed.

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Republican wins runoff for Texas House District 28

Gary Gates (R) defeated Elizabeth Markowitz (D) 58-42 in the runoff election for the District 28 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Before the runoff, The Hayride, a conservative political commentary site, described the race as “a test case to see if [Republicans] can hold turf in the ‘urban suburbs’ of Houston.” ABC 13 said that Democrats could use this race to “create a domino effect that alters more seats, which shifts control in Austin.”

The race gained national attention when several Democratic presidential candidates endorsed Markowitz. Gates was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and both candidates received funding by national groups affiliated with their political party: the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee for Markowitz and the Republican State Leadership Committee for Gates.

The two candidates advanced from a field of seven in a November 5, 2019, general election. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received 39.1 percent of the vote. Gates received 28.4 percent of the vote, while three other Republican candidates split another 30 percent of the vote. In the 2018 general election, then-incumbent Rep. John Zerwas (R) defeated Meghan Scoggins (D) 54-46.

The candidates could potentially face off again in the November general election. Markowitz is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Gates faces Schell Hammel in the Republican primary. That primary will take place on March 3.

The seat became vacant after Zerwas resigned on September 30, 2019, to take an executive position with the University of Texas System. Heading into the election, Republicans held an 82-64 majority in the House with three seats vacant. All 150 seats in the chamber are up for election in November 2020.

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Governor Newsom appoints Jackson to California Court of Appeal

On January 21, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D) appointee to the California First District Court of Appeal—Justice Terri L. Jackson—was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Justice Jackson is now the first female, African-American justice to sit on the California First District Court of Appeal.

Before her appointment, Jackson served as a judge on the Superior Court of San Francisco from 2002 to 2020. She was also the first African-American woman appointed to the Superior Court of San Francisco. Before serving as a judge, Jackson worked as an attorney and served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

California’s First District Court of Appeal is one of six courts of appeal in California. The First District Court serves the residents of 12 Northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma. The district reviews more than 2,000 criminal, civil, and juvenile appeals and more than 1,300 original proceedings annually.

Justice Jackson replaced Justice Martin Jenkins, who resigned from the bench to serve as Governor Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary. Jenkins served on the California First District Court of Appeal from 2008-2019.

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