One week until Mississippi gubernatorial primaries

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited, leaving his seat open in this year’s gubernatorial election. Republican and Democratic party primaries will take place Tuesday, August 6, to select gubernatorial nominees.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster will appear on the Republican primary ballot. Each have identified different policy priorities. Reeves, who local media outlets have identified as a frontrunner based on his fundraising advantage and endorsement from Bryant, says he has a record of experience in state government and will oppose tax increases. Waller, whose endorsers include four former state party chairmen, says he would focus on repairing the state’s roads and bridges. Foster emphasizes his status as a political outsider and says he would focus on agricultural policy.
In the Democratic primary, state Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, and six other candidates will be on the ballot. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since 1999. Hood says that he can win statewide elections as a Democrat, citing his four victories in statewide attorney general races since 2003. Smith says that one of the reasons for his run is that Hood wrongfully tried him on criminal charges based on his race three times between 2016 and 2018. If no candidate wins a majority in either primary, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on August 27. The winners will appear on the November 5 general election ballot. In order to win outright, a candidate must win a majority of the statewide vote and carry a majority of state House districts.
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Democratic and Republican Governors Association affiliates launch ads in Kentucky gubernatorial election

On July 25, the group Bluegrass Values debuted two television ads in support of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). These are the first ads released by the group, which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, in the Kentucky gubernatorial election. Beshear faces Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and John Hicks (L) in the general election on November 5.
The following day, Putting Kentucky First launched an ad in opposition to Beshear. The Republican Governors Association-affiliated group has already released five ads opposing Beshear and one supporting Bevin during the campaign. A report from Medium Buying on July 8 said that Putting Kentucky First had spent $2 million on television ads so far.
Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. This race will decide the state’s trifecta status until at least the 2020 state legislative elections. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.
A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Right now, there are 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

Highlights from Tuesday’s Republican primary debate in Mississippi gubernatorial election

State Rep. Robert Foster, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state supreme court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. are running in the August 6 Republican primary for a chance to succeed Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. The candidates participated in the first and only scheduled televised debate of the primary July 23. Some highlights from the debate are below.
  • Taxes to fund infrastructure improvements: Foster proposed eliminating the personal income tax and making small increases to the gas and sales tax. Waller said he supports increasing the gas tax while eliminating the 4% income tax bracket. Reeves said he opposes raising the gas tax.
  • Medicaid expansion: Waller said he supports expanding Medicaid in Mississippi similar to how Mike Pence did as governor of Indiana. Reeves said he opposes Medicaid expansion. Foster said all options are on the table for him.
  • Effect of state flag’s Confederate imagery on business: All three candidates said they did not believe the flag was keeping businesses out of Mississippi. Foster stated that taxes are having that effect. Waller said changes to the state flag should be left up to voters and not the state legislature. Reeves said he opposes action by the governor or legislature to change the flag and that the issue has not come up in economic development meetings he has been involved in.
Candidates also discussed teacher pay, marijuana, the minimum wage, and the inclusion of women in the next administration.
Bryant won the past two general elections with more than 60 percent of the vote. The state’s last Democratic governor was Ronnie Musgrove, who served from 1999 to 2003. Eight candidates are running in the August 6 Democratic primary. Two of three election forecasters tracked by Ballotpedia rate the November 5 general election as “Leans Republican” and the other rated it as “Likely Republican.”

Triplex status at play in three states this year

A triplex occurs when a state’s governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all belong to the same political party, a situation which can reduce conflict between state executives. Currently, there are 18 Republican and 17 Democratic state triplexes.
Three states are holding elections in 2019 which could affect their triplex status: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Currently, neither Republicans nor Democrats hold triplexes in any of these three states. The offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state will be on the ballot in each state.
In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is currently serving with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Either party could gain triplex control during the November 5 general election.
In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards serves with Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. The November 16 general election will determine whether either party will gain control of all three offices.
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant serves with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Republicans and Democrats will vie for triplex control during Mississippi’s November 5 general election.

Six candidates running in Republican primary for South Carolina House district

A primary is being held in District 84 of the South Carolina House of Representatives on July 30. Republicans Cody Anderson, Danny Feagin, Ralph Gunter, Melissa Oremus, Alvin Padgett, and Sean Pumphrey are running in the primary. No Democratic candidates filed to run. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a primary runoff will be held on August 13. The special general election was scheduled for October 1.
District 84 became vacant after Ronnie Young (R) passed away on May 19, 2019. Young had served in the state House since 2017. He won re-election in 2018 with 65% of the vote in the general election.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 78-44 majority in the state House with two vacancies. A special election in District 19 of the state House is scheduled for August 20. South Carolina 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.
As of July, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Signatures submitted for Arkansas optometry referendum

Petitioners for the Arkansas Practice of Optometry Referendum reported submitting more than 84,000 signatures by the July 23 deadline to qualify a veto referendum on House Bill 1251 for a statewide vote in 2020. A total of 53,491 signatures need to be valid to qualify the measure for the ballot. The requirement is based on 6% of votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election. Sponsors of the referendum petition effort hope voters will overturn HB 1251 and are advocating for a no vote on the referendum.
HB 1251 amended the definition of “practice of optometry” in state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures including the following:
  • injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
  • incision and curettage of a chalazion;
  • removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
  • laser capsulotomy; and
  • laser trabeculoplasty.
Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to overturn HB 1251. The group argues that the bill “jeopardizes patient safety and lowers the quality of surgical eye care in the state of Arkansas. This new law would allow optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles. HB 1251 removes … critical patient safeguard[s] by granting optometrists broad surgical privileges to operate on the eyes while bypassing these critical training requirements.”
Arkansans for Healthy Eyes is leading the campaign in opposition to the veto referendum effort and in support of HB 1251. The group is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. Arkansas for Healthy Eyes argued that the bill “gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform… For some patients, especially in rural parts of the state, being able to receive enhanced care from their optometrist, instead of having to go through the wait, travel, and added cost of a specialist visit, may mean the difference between getting a needed procedure, or going without.”
HB 1251 was approved in the House on March 6, 2019, in a vote of 70-19. Among Democratic representatives, eight voted against, 13 voted in favor, and three were absent or did not vote. Among Republican representatives, 11 voted against, 57 voted in favor, eight were absent or did not vote for or against the bill. The bill was approved in the Senate on March 20, 2019, in a vote of 25-8. Among Democratic senators, three voted against, five voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote. Among Republican Senators, five voted against, 20 voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote.
Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.
Nationwide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).

One state has been under the same party’s trifecta control since 1985

A state government trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers. While most states have seen at least one change in their trifecta status within the last 20 years, five states—Nebraska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah—have not had a trifecta change since at least 1999. In Utah, Republicans have controlled the governor’s office, House, and Senate since 1985.
There are currently 36 state government trifectas and 14 divided state governments. The 14 states that are governed by Democratic trifectas include 34.4% of the U.S. population, and 41.9% of the U.S. population lives in the 22 states governed by Republican trifectas.
In 2019, elections could determine the trifecta status of five states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia.
As of July 2019, we’ve ranked the trifecta vulnerability for each of these states as follows:
  • Kentucky: Somewhat vulnerable Republican trifecta
  • Louisiana: Slight possibility of a Republican trifecta forming, low possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming
  • Mississippi: Moderately vulnerable Republican trifecta
  • New Jersey: Non-vulnerable Democratic trifecta
  • Virginia: Moderate possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming, moderate possibility of remaining under divided government
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Mass. governor proposes amendments to omnibus public-sector labor bill

On July 12, Republican Governor Charlie Baker sent an omnibus public-sector labor bill back to the Democratic state legislature with recommendations for amendments.
What does the bill, as adopted, propose? The legislature’s version of H3854 would authorize employers to disclose personal employee information to unions. It would also permit unions to require non-members to pay for the costs associated with grievance and arbitration proceedings. It would require employers to provide unions with access to employees, and it would allow for dues deduction authorizations to be irrevocable for a period of up to one year.
What does Baker want to change? In a letter to state legislators, Baker recommended the following changes:
  • Prevent unions from accessing employees’ personal cell phone numbers and using text messages to communicate with members without their written consent.
  • Require unions to give new employees written information explaining their rights to join or refrain from joining a union.
  • Require employees’ written consent before releasing certain information to unions.
  • Require unions to provide notice to state agencies before using buildings for union purposes.
What comes next? Lawmakers could adopt an amended version of the bill incorporating some or all of Baker’s proposed changes. Lawmakers could also pass the bill again without making changes. In that case, Baker could sign it, let it become law without his signature, or veto the bill. A two-thirds vote in both the state House and Senate is required to override a veto. Democrats hold supermajorities (majorities exceeding the two-thirds necessary for a veto override) in both chambers.

Kentucky gubernatorial candidates square off at forum

Governor Matt Bevin (R) and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) attended a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau on July 17. The two discussed agricultural issues, the state budget, public pensions, and taxes during the hour-long forum.
Bevin told the audience that the 2019 election has national implications, saying he was actively working to support President Donald Trump’s (R) agenda and citing Beshear’s support of Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016. Beshear, meanwhile, questioned Bevin’s temperament and told the crowd Bevin would “attack, bully, and demean your employees.”
Beshear, Bevin, and John Hicks (L) are running in the gubernatorial election on November 5. Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.