Robinson wins Republican primary for North Carolina lieutenant governor

Mark Robinson won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor of North Carolina on March 3, 2020. Robinson received 32.6% of the vote with 99.7% of precincts reporting. Andy Wells was in second place with 14.6%. A primary runoff was set to occur if no candidate won more than 30% of the vote.
Term-limited incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) is running for governor, leaving the office open.
North Carolina is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected independently of the governor. Going into the 2020 election, North Carolina is one of three states where the governor and the lieutenant governor do not share the same party affiliation, along with Louisiana and Vermont. That status is at stake in the North Carolina general election, as Democrats and Republicans are competing for both offices.
In the 2016 general election, Forest (R) defeated Linda Coleman (D) 52% to 45%. In 2012, Forest defeated Coleman 50.1% to 49.9%. Walter Dalton (D) defeated Robert Pittenger (R) 51% to 46% in 2008.

Henderson appointed to New Mexico Court of Appeals

Shammara Henderson (D), the first Black judge appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, reportedly started hearing cases at the beginning of March. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed Henderson to the court on February 14, 2020, following the retirement of former judge M. Monica Zamora (D) in January.

Henderson’s appointment to the intermediate appellate court is her first judicial position. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in New Mexico for six years before moving into private law practice in 2017. She served as the Associate General Counsel to former Gov. Bill Richardson (D) from 2008-2009.

The president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, Aja Brooks, confirmed to The Associated Press that Henderson is the first African-American judge to be appointed to the state appeals court.

Henderson will finish the remainder of Zamora’s eight-year term which runs through the end of 2020. She must run in a partisan general election on Nov. 3, 2020, in order to remain on the court. A second position on the state Court of Appeals, currently held by Judge Zachary Ives, is also up for election this year. Both Ives and Henderson have filed to run.

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Indiana Supreme Court denies transfer of administrative law case

On February 24, 2020 the Indiana Supreme Court denied to take up the case of Indiana Department of Natural Resources v. Kevin Prosser. The case has spanned five years and three courts. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer of the case because “… (U)nder Indiana’s Administrative Orders and Procedures Act, if there is sufficient evidence in the record, a reviewing court must defer to an agency’s factfinding.” As a result, the ruling stands that the Indiana resident, Kevin Prosser, does not have the right to construct a sea wall on his Lake Manitou property.

In 2015, Prosser applied for a permit with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to construct a concrete sea wall on his Lake Manitou property in Rochester, Indiana. The Indiana DNR denied his application. The DNR claimed that the area was not a developed area under Indiana law and that construction would significantly affect wildlife, fish, and plant life at the site. Prosser claimed that a sea wall was necessary to protect his property because a dredging operation that had occurred in 1947 or 1948 had increased the overall length of Lake Manitou’s shoreline.

After the DNR denied his application, Prosser appealed for administrative review. A DNR administrative law judge affirmed the denial, and the Natural Resources Commission that position.

In response, Prosser sought judicial review in Fulton Circuit Court. The circuit court reversed the DNR’s denial of Prosser’s application. The DNR contended that the trial court erred in its reversal, and the case was then taken up by the Court of Appeals of Indiana. The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision on August 1, 2019, denying Prosser’s application.

The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer of the case, meaning that the denial of Prosser’s permit stands.

In a separate opinion, Justice Geoffrey Slaughter cast doubt on the process whereby Prosser’s permit was denied. Slaughter wrote that “Here, there was enough evidence to support the agency’s findings, so the trial court should have afforded the agency the deference the AOPA requires.” However, Slaughter also expressed “deep concerns with prevailing administrative law as codified in AOPA and interpreted by our courts.” Slaughter did not deny a future revisitation of delegation. He wrote, “In a future case, where the issues are raised and the arguments developed, I am open to entertaining legal challenges to this system for adjudicating the legal disputes that our legislature assigns agencies to resolve in the first instance, subject only to a highly circumscribed right of judicial review as set forth in the AOPA.”

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Notable local measures on the ballot in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego on Tuesday

California voters will be deciding 289 local ballot measures and one statewide measure on March 3. Here is a preview of four notable measures in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego:

Los Angeles County, Measure R, Civilian Police Oversight Commission and Jail Plan Initiative was put on the ballot through a successful initiative petition campaign that submitted 247,000 signatures to the county clerk. Measure R would authorize the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a plan designed to reduce the jail population and re-incarceration rates and grant the Commission subpoena power to investigate complaints made against the department. Currently, a majority of the nine-member commission must vote to request the Office of the Inspector General to subpoena documents or witnesses. Measure R would give the subpoena power directly to the Commission.

Reform LA Jails is leading the support campaign, Yes on R. As of January 2020, the committee raised $1.9 million in contributions. Over half that amount, $1.2 million, was donated by Cari Tuna, the president of Open Philanthropy Project and Good Ventures. Yes on R received endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva came out in opposition to the measure, stating, “Measure R will open the floodgates for many more ill-advised lawsuits designed to seek documents that are not legally available for public release. … The Board of Supervisors, the Inspector General and the Civilian Oversight Commission would better serve the community by working collaboratively with the Sheriff’s Department.” Ballotpedia did not identify any campaigns organized in opposition to the measure.

In San Francisco, voters will be deciding five ballot measures including Proposition E, the City Office Development Limit Initiative. Proposition E was put on the ballot through a successful citizen initiative petition drive sponsored by Housing Forward San Francisco. The measure would limit city office development if the city does not meet annual housing production goals by the percentage of units not produced and set the minimum housing goal at 2,042 units.

Office development was first limited to 950,00 square feet annually in 1986 with the approval of Proposition M. This annual limit established by Proposition M would be further cut if San Francisco does not produce enough housing for “Very Low,” “Low,” and “Moderate” income levels to meet the goal established by Proposition E.

In San Diego County, voters will decide on two related measures—Measure A, Voter Approval for Land Use Amendments to County General Plan and Measure B, General Plan Amendments for Newland Sierra Project. Measure A requires voter approval for amendments to the county’s General Plan that increase population density for semi-rural or rural land classifications. Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside is leading the Yes on A campaign in support of the measure. Planning Today for San Diego’s Future is leading the campaign in opposition to the measure. The current San Diego County General Plan was adopted in 2011.

Measure B amends the county’s General Plan to authorize the development of the Newland Sierra Project, which will include over 2,000 homes, a school, retail space, parks, and open space. The measure was put on the ballot through a successful referendum petition by the No on Newland Sierra campaign. The referendum was filed to repeal the San Diego County General Plan amendment that authorizes the Newland Sierra Project. It was approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors with a 4-0 vote in September 2018. Yes on B for a Better Choice is leading the campaign in support of a “yes” vote on Measure B, which would uphold the amendment passed by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

California polls are opened from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

Additional reading:
Los Angeles County, California, Measure R, Civilian Police Oversight Commission and Jail Plan Initiative (March 2020) 
San Francisco, California, Proposition E, City Office Development Limit Initiative (March 2020) 
San Diego County, California, Measure A, Voter Approval for Land Use Amendments to County General Plan (March 2020) 
San Diego County, California, Measure B, General Plan Amendments for Newland Sierra Project (March 2020)
March 3, 2020 ballot measures in California

One Democrat, one Republican win Kentucky House special elections

Two special general elections were held February 25 for Districts 67 and 99 of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Party county executive committees chose the nominees and had until January 7, 2020, to file candidate nominating papers.

In the District 67 race, Rachel Roberts (D) defeated Mary Jo Wedding (R), receiving 64.2% of the 4,604 votes cast in the election. Wedding received 35.8% of the votes.

The seat became vacant when Dennis Keene (D) resigned on December 16, 2019, to take a job as the commissioner of the Department for Local Government in Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) gubernatorial administration. Keene had represented District 67 since 2005. He was re-elected in 2018 with 60% of the vote.

Roberts will complete the remainder of Keene’s term, which ends January 1, 2021. She is running in the regular election for the seat in 2020 and is the only Democrat on the primary ballot on May 19. The general election is scheduled for November 3.

In the District 99 race, Richard White (R) defeated Bill Redwine (D), receiving 56% of the 8,481 votes cast in the election. White received 44% of the votes.

The seat became vacant when Rocky Adkins (D) resigned on December 10, 2019, to take a job as a senior adviser in Beshear’s gubernatorial administration. Adkins had represented District 99 since 1987. He was unopposed in 2018 and won re-election in 2016 with 66% of the vote.

White will serve out the remainder of Adkins’s term, which ends January 1, 2021. White is running in the regular election for the seat and will compete against Dennis Stafford in the Republican primary on May 19. The general election is scheduled for November 3.

Republicans have a 62-38 majority in the state House and a 29-9 majority in the state Senate. Kentucky 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. Andy Beshear (D) was elected to a first term as governor in 2019.

As of February, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 15 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Additional reading:
State legislative special elections, 2020
Kentucky House of Representatives District 67 
Kentucky House of Representatives District 99

New York plastic bag ban takes effect on Sunday

New York state residents must prepare to shop with reusable bags or pay a five-cent paper bag fee when the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect on March 1.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the ban into law in August 2019. The ban broadly aims to reduce litter and protect wildlife in the state. Similar bans are currently in effect in California, Hawaii, and Oregon. Additional bans in Maine and Vermont take effect in April and July, respectively.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) released the final regulations to administer the ban in late February. The rules prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags by any retailer that collects sales tax, with certain exceptions, and gives counties and cities the option to charge shoppers a five-cent fee on paper bags. Retailers in violation of the rules face a $250 fine and a $500 fine for each subsequent violation.

Click here to learn more about the rulemaking process

Additional reading:

Plastic bag preemption conflicts between state and local governments 

Granger and Putnam competing for Republican nomination in Texas’ 12th Congressional District

Incumbent Kay Granger and Chris Putnam are running in the Republican Party primary for Texas’ 12th Congressional District on March 3, 2020. Both candidates have campaigned on supporting President Donald Trump and launched campaign ads attacking each other.

Granger highlighted the president’s endorsement of her campaign and said she would support him in “rebuilding our military, securing the border, and restoring America’s rightful place in the world.” She also said she was “honored to be endorsed by leading right to life groups like the Texas Alliance for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.” Granger said she has returned to the district every weekend to listen to constituents, and called Putnam “a millionaire who just moved here four months ago.” The Congressional Leadership Fund launched a $640,000 television ad buy supporting Granger and criticizing Putnam.

Putnam called Granger a career politician and claimed in an ad she supported President Barack Obama’s immigration policy. He said, “Unlike our 24-year incumbent, I will support President Trump’s efforts to build the wall, eliminate the free government incentives that motivate people to migrate here illegally and end sanctuary cities.” Putnam also said of Granger, “It’s only at election time when she claims to be pro-life.” The Club for Growth endorsed Putnam and is supporting him with a seven-figure ad buy attacking Granger’s congressional spending record. The Protect Freedom PAC also released a $1.1 million television ad buy against Granger.

The winner of the primary will run in the general election on November 3, 2020.

In the 2018 general election, Granger defeated Vanessa Adia (D) 64% to 34%. Granger defeated Bill Bradshaw (D) 69% to 27% in 2016. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+18, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 18 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

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Alabama House passes constitutional amendment to allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail

The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 81 on Thursday. If passed by the Senate, the measure would appear on the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection.

The amendment, referred to as Aniah’s Law, would allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail “if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process.” Class A felonies in Chapter 6 of Title 13A include murder, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, and domestic violence.

The constitution currently states that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”

In Alabama, a 60% supermajority vote is required in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

The amendment was introduced as House Bill 81 on February 4, 2020, by Rep. Chip Brown (R-105). On February 27, the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 81 in a vote of 104-0.

Representative Brown said, “Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.”

The amendment is named after Aniah Blanchard, who was allegedly murdered by Ibraheem Yazeed. Yazeed, at the time, was out on bond after being arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder.

A total of 95 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2018. An average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years. 81% (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years were approved, and 19% (17 of 89) were defeated.

The legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. Four of the measures will appear on the general election ballot. Amendment 1, which concerns the state board of education, will appear on the March 3 primary election ballot.

Click here to learn about Alabama’s 2020 ballot measures

Additional reading:
Alabama Conditions for Detention Without Bail Amendment (2020) 

Two primaries will take place for California’s 25th Congressional District on March 3

Two top-two primaries will take place on Mar. 3, 2020, in elections to represent California’s 25th Congressional District. The seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Katie Hill (D) on Nov. 1, 2019.

The top two finishers in the primary for the regularly scheduled House election will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The top two finishers in the primary for the special election scheduled following Hill’s resignation will advance to a May 12, 2020, election to complete Hill’s term.

Ten candidates are running in both primaries, so it will be possible for voters to select a candidate twice on the same ballot, or choose two different candidates.

Media coverage and endorsements in both races have focused on four candidates: Mike Garcia (R), Stephen Knight (R), Christy Smith (D), and Cenk Uygur (D). All four are running in both primaries. Knight represented the district in Congress from 2015 to 2019.

Among Democrats, Smith was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the California Democratic Party. Smith said it is “clear that big money is corrupting our political system,” but that she would “fight within the system as it is set up to make sure that we hold this seat.” She also said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable.” Uygur says his campaign is not accepting endorsements or corporate PAC donations, and he has criticized Smith for accepting money from private industries. He also said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who is in favor of Medicare for All.”

On the Republican side, Garcia was endorsed by the Los Angeles Republican Party and the Ventura County Republican Party. Knight was endorsed by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Garcia is campaigning on supporting the armed forces. He said he will “make it a priority to ensure our men and women in uniform have the funding and tools necessary to keep America safe.” Garcia also said he supports congressional term limits. Knight highlights his previous experience in Congress. His campaign website says Knight “quickly became known as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety in our nation’s Capitol.”

The other candidates in both primaries are Robert Cooper (D), Getro Elize (D), Kenneth Jenks (R), David Lozano (R), Daniel Mercuri (R), David Rudnick (D), and Anibal Valdez-Ortega (D). Otis Lee Cooper (I) and George Papadopoulos (R) are only running in the regular primary, while Courtney Lackey (R) is only running in the special primary.

Hill defeated Knight 54% to 46% in the 2018 general election. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was even, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average. Race raters have given Democrats an edge in the general election.

Nine special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. Seven of those were called for seats in the U.S. House, and two were called for seats in the U.S. Senate.

Click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District election.

Additional reading:
Special elections to the 116th United States Congress (2019-2020)
California’s 25th Congressional District election, 2018 
Katie Hill 

149 congressional primaries on the ballot on March 3

Five states are scheduled to hold statewide primaries on March 3, 2020: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. Arkansas’ congressional primaries were canceled for each of five seats after one or fewer Democratic or Republican party candidates filed for the primary. The remaining four states have 149 primaries on the ballot for a combined 113 seats up for election in 2020 (118 across all states, including Arkansas). California’s 25th Congressional District is up for regular and special election, and is counted twice in both figures.

In 12 congressional districts across the five states, both the Democratic and Republican party primaries were canceled, meaning only 106 congressional seats will appear on the March 3 ballot. About 18% of the possible 182 primaries were canceled due to lack of opposition; 149 primaries made the ballot either because they are competitive or because the state does not cancel unopposed races. Of these, 47 are Republican primaries, 48 are Democratic primaries, and 54 are top-two primaries.

California is the only state with March 3 congressional primaries that does not have a U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2020. North Carolina and Texas both have Democratic and Republican primaries for their U.S. Senate seats, held by Thom Tillis (R) and John Cornyn (R), respectively. Alabama is holding a Republican primary for its U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Doug Jones (D). Ballotpedia has identified all three seats as battleground U.S. Senate races in 2020.

Ballotpedia has identified eight California congressional districts, two North Carolina districts, and eight Texas districts as battleground U.S. House races. Both Republican primaries in North Carolina’s battleground races were canceled after only one candidate filed for each. California and Texas do not cancel unopposed races.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 35 out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one independent, and five vacancies. All 435 U.S. House seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

Click here to learn more about the 2020 United States Congressional elections.

Additional reading:
United States House of Representatives elections, 2020
United States House Democratic Party primaries, 2020
United States House Republican Party primaries, 2020
United States Senate elections, 2020
United States Senate Democratic Party primaries, 2020
United States Senate Republican Party primaries, 2020