In the past decade, two lieutenant governors have challenged their state’s governor for re-election; two more could do so this year

Since 2010, two gubernatorial elections have featured an incumbent governor running against the state’s lieutenant governor. This year, gubernatorial elections in North Carolina and Vermont each have the potential to feature the incumbent and the state’s lieutenant governor.

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (Vermont Progressive Party/Democratic) announced Monday that he would run for governor this year. Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R) is eligible to run for re-election but has not announced whether he will do so. In North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) is challenging incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper (D). Both are running in contested primaries; Forest faces state Rep. Holly Grange (R) while Cooper faces businessman Ernest Reeves (D).

A Zuckerman-Scott or a Forest-Cooper matchup would be the first time a state’s governor faced the lieutenant governor in the general election since Ballotpedia began coverage of state executive elections in 2010. During that period, there have been two times when a state’s governor faced the lieutenant governor in a primary election.

In 2011, then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s (D) resignation prompted a special election for the remainder of Manchin’s term. Six candidates ran in the Democratic primary, including acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) and acting Lt. Gov. Jeffrey Kessler (D). Tomblin won the primary with 40.4% of the vote and went on to win the special election in November and a full term the following year.

The other governor-lieutenant governor primary contest also involved a vacancy; after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Henry McMaster (R) succeeded to the governorship. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, McMaster and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant (R) were among the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination. McMaster won the Republican nomination after advancing to a runoff against businessman John Warren (R) and went on to win a full term in the November election.

The responsibilities and selection process for the office of lieutenant governor vary widely from state to state. In 26 states, the lieutenant governor runs on a ticket with the governor, while in 17 states the office is elected separately. Of the 17 that elect governors and lieutenant governors separately, three—Louisiana, North Carolina, and Vermont—currently have a lieutenant governor of a separate party from the governor.

Five states do not have a lieutenant governor at all. Two of them—Arizona and Oregon—currently have a governor and secretary of state (the office next in line to the governorship in both states) of different parties. The remaining two states give the title of lieutenant governor to the state senate president.

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Additional reading:
Vermont gubernatorial election, 2020
North Carolina gubernatorial election, 2020
South Carolina gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2018 (June 12 Republican Primary)
West Virginia special gubernatorial election, 2011

What are the responsibilities of state attorneys general?

The office of attorney general exists in all 50 states. The attorney general is directly elected in 43 states, appointed by the governor in five states, appointed by the legislature in Maine, and by the state supreme court in Tennessee.

Forty-five state constitutions explicitly establish the office of attorney general, while Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming formally established the position by statute.

State attorneys general serve as chief legal advisers to state governments and citizens residing within their state. Nearly every state’s attorney general has the power to prosecute violations of state law and represent the state in legal disputes. They also influence a state’s approach to law enforcement, setting particular law enforcement priorities and focusing resources on those issues.

Of America’s 50 state attorneys general:
• 41 have unlimited power to represent their state in criminal appeals.
• 22 can independently initiate prosecution at the local level.
• 14 can take over a case handled by a local prosecutor without instruction from the governor or legislature.

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Additional reading
Attorney General (state executive office)
State executive offices

Polis Appoints Perkins to Colorado Public Utilities Commission

On January 13, 2020, Gov. Jared Polis (D) appointed attorney Susan Perkins to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, succeeding Frances Koncilja. Polis had announced on Jan. 3 that he would not reappoint Koncilja when her term ended.

The Pueblo Chieftain reported that according to Koncilja, Polis said that he was satisfied with her work but that he was not reappointing anyone appointed by former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

Perkins is a member of the group Pueblo’s Energy Future and has worked as an attorney in the energy sector. The two other members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, chairman Jeffrey Ackermann and John Gavan, are both Hickenlooper appointees. Their terms will expire in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is an independent, quasi-executive agency in the Colorado state government and a subdivision of the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies. The commission is responsible for regulating the state’s telecommunications, electric, gas, and water utilities. It is composed of three members who are appointed by the governor to four-year terms. The members cannot all be from the same political party.

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Additional reading:
Frances Koncilja
Colorado Public Utilities Commission
Jared Polis

January 14’s state legislative special elections are the first of 27 scheduled this year

Thirteen state legislative special elections are taking place this January, including races for six seats in five states on Tuesday, January 14. This is the most state legislative special elections in January since Ballotpedia began comprehensively covering them in 2011. In 2019, by comparison, seven special elections were held in January.

Twenty-seven special elections have been called for the calendar year. Twelve will be for seats previously held by a Democrat and 15 for seats previously held by a Republican. Nine were triggered by the incumbent being appointed, elected to, or seeking election to another position. Seven were triggered by the retirement of an incumbent, and another seven were triggered by the death of an incumbent. Four were triggered by the resignation of an incumbent related to criminal charges.

Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 state legislative special elections was held each year. The most special elections held in a single year was 99 in 2018, while the fewest was 40 in 2014. In four of those years, Democrats saw a neat gain in seats while Republicans saw a decrease. In the other five years, the opposite was true: Republicans gained seats and Democrats lost seats.

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Incoming New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance assumed office January 1st

Russell Toal, the newly appointed New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance, took office on January 1, 2020. Toal was appointed to fill the nonpartisan position following John Franchini’s retirement in December 2019.

The insurance nominating committee appointed Toal unanimously from among eight candidates for the position. The committee chairwoman and former lieutenant governor of New Mexico, Diane Denish (D), cited Toal’s extensive experience as a deciding factor.

Toal most recently served as the Deputy Secretary of New Mexico’s Human Services Department.

Click here to learn more.

See also:
Healthcare policy in New Mexico
New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance
John Franchini 

Virginia becomes Democratic trifecta as legislators are sworn in

Legislators elected in Virginia’s 2019 elections were sworn into office on Wednesday, January 8. As a result, Democrats now have control of both chambers of the legislature and, alongside Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a Democratic state government trifecta.

A state government trifecta is a term to describe when one political party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office.

Democrats gained a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, compared to a 21-19 Republican majority before the fall elections. The majority caucus is now led by Dick Saslaw (D) and the minority caucus by Thomas Norment Jr. (R).

Democrats gained a 55-45 majority in the state House, compared to a 51-49 Republican majority before the elections. The Speaker of the House is Eileen Filler-Corn (D). The majority caucus is led by Charniele Herring (D) and the minority caucus is led by C. Todd Gilbert (R).

Trifecta status was at stake in five states that held elections in November 2019. At the time of the elections, Republicans held trifectas in Kentucky and Mississippi. Democrats had a trifecta in New Jersey. Louisiana and Virginia both had divided governments, with Republicans controlling the legislature and Democrats the governorship. Republicans in Kentucky lost their trifecta when Andy Beshear (D) defeated Matt Bevin (R) in the gubernatorial election. Democrats in Virginia gained a trifecta with their victories in the state legislature.

There are currently 36 trifectas: 15 Democratic and 21 Republican. The remaining 13 states are under divided government—having no trifecta for either major party. In 2020, there will be 86 state legislative chambers holding elections and 11 states with gubernatorial elections.

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Additional Reading:
Virginia State Senate elections, 2019
Virginia House of Delegates elections, 2019

What are the responsibilities of secretaries of state?

Secretary of state is an elected statewide executive office in 35 states, a governor-appointed position in nine states, and a legislature-appointed position in three states. Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah do not have secretaries of state.

In 38 states, secretaries derive their power from original articles in their states’ constitutions. In 19 they derive their authority from various statutes and laws.

No two secretaries of state have identical responsibilities. Many are tasked with keeping state records, from registering businesses to recording the official acts of the governor. Most secretaries also serve as the chief election official in their state, administering state elections and maintaining official election results.

Of America’s 47 secretaries of state:
• 37 serve as their state’s chief elections officer with ultimate oversight over state elections and voter registration.
• 32 maintain state archives.
• 20 register lobbyists.
• 12 are responsible for enrolling bills.
• Three (in Arizona, Oregon, and Wyoming) are first in line to succeed their state’s governor.

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Additional reading
Secretary of State (state executive office)
State executive officials 

Signatures for Florida 2020 initiatives must be certified by February 1st

February 1 is the deadline for initiative petition signatures to be certified by the Florida Secretary of State to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot. Since state law gives local elections officials 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners needed to submit signatures on or before January 2, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative would qualify for the 2020 ballot.

766,200 valid signatures are required to qualify. This number is based on a percentage (8%) of ballots cast in the last presidential election, which in 2016 was 9,577,333.

Three citizen initiated measures have qualified for the ballot:

  • Amendment 1, sponsored by Florida Citizen Voters, would specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections.
  • Amendment 2, sponsored by Florida For A Fair Wage, would increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2026.
  • Amendment 3, sponsored by All Voters Vote, Inc., would establish a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections.

Sponsors of four other initiatives submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for a ballot language review by the state supreme court. Those initiatives and how many valid signatures had been verified as of January 2, 2020, are as follows:

  • Initiative #18-10, Changes to Energy Market Initiative: 623,079 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-01, Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative: 130,232 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-08, Double Election Requirement for Constitutional Amendments Initiative: 526,469 valid signatures;
  • Initiative #19-11, Marijuana Legalization Initiative: 228,308 valid signatures.

Proponents of Initiative #19-11, Make it Legal Florida, filed a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and other elections officials on December 31, 2019, requesting the court to order the Secretary of State to accept signature petitions submitted by February 1, 2020. The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of Florida House Bill 5, passed by the Florida Legislature in 2019. Florida HB 5 required paid petition circulators to register with the secretary of state and provide information such as his or her name, address, date of birth, and a circulator affidavit; banned paying petitioners based on the number of signatures collected (pay-per-signature); and enacted other rules concerning statewide initiative petitions and local measures. Nick Hansen, chairman of Make it Legal Florida, said, “Our request is that Florida’s Secretary of State, who has worked hard to ensure processes and rules are followed to the letter, count every signed petition submitted by January 31 toward the 2020 ballot, regardless of when it’s validated.”

Ninety-one measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Florida between 1996 and 2018, of which, 75.82% (69 of 91) were approved by voters and 24.18% (22 of 91) were defeated.

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Additional Reading:
Florida 2020 ballot measures
Florida Marijuana Legalization and Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Sales Initiative (2020)

December 2019 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.1% Republicans, 46.6% Democrats

December’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.1% of all state legislators are Republicans and 46.6% are Democrats, which is consistent with November.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. This refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

Altogether, there are 1,972 state senate and 5,411 state house offices. Republicans held 1,078 state senate seats—down three seats from November—and 2,768 state house seats—down seven seats from last month. Democrats held 3,444 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—876 state Senate seats (down two seats) and 2,568 state House seats (down 11 seats). Independent or third-party legislators held 36 seats. There were 57 vacant seats—an increase of 23 vacancies since November.

At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.

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Additional reading:
Partisan composition of state houses
State senators
State representatives

The signature deadline for Ohio indirect initiated state statutes was Friday

No initiative campaigns submitted signatures in Ohio on Friday’s deadline. In Ohio, initiated statutes begin as indirect initiatives, requiring 132,887 signatures in 2020 to go before the Ohio State Legislature. If enough signatures are submitted, the legislature has the option to approve an initiative without a vote of electors. If the state legislature does not adopt an indirect initiative, the initiated statute becomes direct, requiring an additional 132,887 signatures (for a grand total of 265,774) to go before voters in 2020.

The only initiated state statute campaign that was approved by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to gather signatures was Ohioans for Gun Safety, which is sponsoring the Ohio Background Checks for Firearm Purchases Initiative. The campaign announced in early December that it is going to target the 2021 ballot instead of the 2020 ballot. Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for Ohioans for Gun Safety, said, “We think that 2021 gives us the best opportunity to have a clear and simple and straight forward conversation with Ohio voters that background checks for gun safety will save lives and reduce gun violence.”

Additional reading:
Ohio 2020 ballot measures