New Mexico House Republican leadership seeks veto referendum to overturn firearm background checks legislation

Voters in New Mexico haven’t decided a citizen-initiated ballot measure since 1964, and voters haven’t repealed a law at the ballot since 1930. Some House Republicans, including Minority Leader James Townsend and Minority Whip Rod Montoya, are seeking to place a veto referendum before New Mexicans in 2020.
The veto referendum targets the repeal of Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), which was signed into law on March 8, 2019. SB 8 was designed to require background checks for firearm sales, including sales between unlicensed persons. Under SB 8, sales between unlicensed persons need to go through a person with a license to perform a background check, and the person could charge up to $35.00 to perform the background check.
Townsend and Montoya informed Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) of their intent to file a referendum petition to repeal SB 8 on March 7, 2019. On March 21, Oliver denied the petition, saying there were legal deficiencies. She said that courts have ruled that laws “providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety” were exempt from veto referendums, per Section 1 of Article IV of the New Mexico Constitution. Oliver stated, “The legislature enacted the background check law with the purpose of increasing public peace, health, and safety and thus the law is not subject to referendum.”
On April 1, Rep. Townsend sent a letter to Secretary of State Oliver, which said, “Neither the secretary of state nor the attorney general has the authority to unilaterally determine if a given piece of legislation meets the public peace, health and safety standard described by the New Mexico Constitution.” He added, “New Mexicans are constitutionally permitted to decide by referendum their choice on this consequential legislation.” Rep. Townsend also refiled the referendum petition.
In New Mexico, signatures for veto referendums are due 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session in which the targeted law was approved. The New Mexico State Legislature adjourned on March 16, meaning the signature deadline is June 14, 2019. Proponents of veto referendums need to collect 70,165 signatures to put targeted bills before voters. An additional 105,248 signatures are needed to suspend a law until the election.

Oregon Secretary of State sworn in to office

On April 3, Bev Clarno (R) took the official oath of office to become Oregon’s secretary of state. Gov. Kate Brown (D) appointed Clarno as the secretary of state on March 29, 2019. Clarno was appointed to replace Dennis Richardson (R), who died while in office on February 26, 2019.
In a statement on February 27, 2019, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said she would appoint a successor from the Republican Party–as the Oregon Constitution requires–who would commit not to run for election in 2020. Clarno will serve for the remainder of Richardson’s term, which expires in 2021. Clarno indicated that she would not run for election in 2020.
Clarno is a former Republican member of the Oregon House of Representatives (1989-1997) and the Oregon State Senate (2001-2003). She served as speaker of the House from 1995 to 1997 and as Senate Republican leader in the 2003 legislative session. Clarno was a hog farmer, cattle rancher, and real estate broker and appraiser before her election to the Oregon House of Representatives
The Secretary of State of Oregon is an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of the Oregon state government and is first in line of succession to the governor.
The secretary of state is a state-level position in 47 of the 50 states. The position does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah. There are currently 25 Republican secretaries of state, 21 Democratic secretaries of state, and one independent.

95 percent of New Jersey Assembly incumbents file for re-election

The major-party filing deadline passed on April 1 to run for seats in the New Jersey General Assembly. The filing deadline for independent candidates is on June 4. All 80 seats in the state Assembly are up for election this year; the primary is scheduled for June 4, and the general election is on November 5.
The New Jersey General Assembly has 40 multi-member districts, with two representatives in each district. In Democratic and Republican primaries, the top two candidates from each party move forward to the general election, and the top two vote recipients in the general election are declared the winners.
A total of 181 candidates filed in the election – 98 Democrats and 83 Republicans. There are 18 contested primaries with more than two candidates running.
A total of 76 of the chamber’s 80 incumbents (95 percent) filed for re-election, which leaves four open-seat races. All 76 incumbents running for re-election face at least one challenger. In the 2017 state Assembly elections, 88.8 percent of incumbents filed for re-election and nine seats were open.
Entering the 2019 election, the New Jersey General Assembly has 54 Democrats and 26 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 41 seats. New Jersey has a Democratic state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Alabama governor announces state House special election

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has called a special election to fill the vacant District 74 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. The special election is set for November 12. The seat became vacant when Dimitri Polizos (R) died of a heart attack on March 27, 2019. He had held the seat since 2013 and was re-elected in 2018 with 61 percent of the vote. The winner of the special election will hold the seat until November 7, 2022.
The primary is on June 11. If no candidate in either partisan primary receives more than 50 percent of the vote, special primary runoffs will be held on August 27. If no primary runoff is necessary, the special general election will be held on August 27 instead of November 12. The filing deadline for major party candidates is April 9, and the filing deadline for independent candidates is June 11.
In 2019, there have been 52 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

What happens next in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race?

With 100 percents of precincts reporting in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn leads Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer by 5,960 votes or 0.5 percent.
Hagedorn declared victory early Wednesday morning. Neubauer had not conceded as of Wednesday. She said in a video statement, “We need to make sure that every last vote is counted and that’s going to take a little time.”
Under Wisconsin state law, a losing candidate may request a recount if the margin is 1 percent of the total votes cast or less.
The partisan balance of the court for the next four years could be determined by the result of this election. Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are officially nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Conservatives, who currently have a 4-3 majority on the court, back Hagedorn. Liberals support Neubauer.
If Hagedorn wins, conservatives will expand their majority on the court to 5-2 and keep control until at least 2023. If a recount results in a Neubauer win, liberals have a chance to flip the court in 2020, when Justice Dan Kelly, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Scott Walker (R), will stand for election for the first time that year.

Democratic primary sets ballot for Wisconsin special election

The ballot for the Wisconsin State Assembly District 64 special election was finalized following the primary on April 2, 2019. Tip McGuire defeated Gina Walkington and Spencer Zimmerman to advance from the Democratic primary. McGuire faces Mark Stalker, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in the general election on April 30.
The seat became vacant when Peter Barca (D) resigned in January 2019 after Gov. Tony Evers (D) nominated him as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Two other candidates, Pedro Rodriguez (D) and Thomas Harland (Constitution Party), both filed to run for the seat but were disqualified before the primary.
Entering the 2019 special election, the Wisconsin State Assembly has 35 Democrats, 63 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 50 seats. Wisconsin has a divided government, meaning no political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
As of April 3, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Democrat Pam Iovino wins PA State Senate District 37, flips seat

Pam Iovino (D) defeated D. Raja (R) in the special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 37. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Iovino led Raja 54 percent to 46 percent.
This is the first state legislative seat to flip from Republican to Democrat as a result of a special election this year. Previously, four flipped from Democrat to Republican in Minnesota, Connecticut, and Kentucky, and one flipped from Republican to Independent in Louisiana.
The seat has changed partisan control in recent years. Matthew Smith (D) was elected to the seat in 2012 to replace retiring incumbent John Pippy (R).
Smith resigned in 2015 to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Guy Reschenthaler (R) then won a November 2015 special election by 10 percentage points to replace Smith and was then elected to a full term in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points.
In the 2016 presidential election, this district voted for Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) by 5.8 percentage points.

California Proposition 63’s provision on large-capacity firearm magazines declared unconstitutional by federal judge

On March 29, 2019, Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court of Southern California ruled that a provision of Proposition 63 banning large-capacity firearm magazines (more than 10 rounds) was unconstitutional. He wrote, “[Proposition 63] burdens the core of the Second Amendment by criminalizing the acquisition and possession of these magazines that are commonly held by law-abiding citizens for defense of self, home, and state.”
Voters approved Proposition 63 in 2016. Before Proposition 63, residents who owned large-capacity magazines before 2000 were allowed to keep them. Proposition 63 was designed to criminalize possession and require owners, including those who possessed large-capacity magazines before 2000, to remove them from the state, sell them to a firearms dealer, or surrender them to law enforcement. The provision was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017, but Judge Benitez placed an injunction on the provision on June 29, 2017, pending his final order.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was lieutenant governor in 2016, was involved in developing Proposition 63. He responded to Judge Benitez’s ruling, saying, “This District Court Judge’s failure to uphold a ban on high-capacity magazines is indefensible, dangerous for our communities and contradicts well-established case law.”
If appealed, the case would go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said his office is “reviewing the decision to evaluate next steps.”

Update on the Alaska House power-sharing arrangement

Members of the Alaska House ended a month-long leadership deadlock by electing Rep. Bryce Edgmon as speaker on February 14, 2019. Edgmon was elected by a bipartisan coalition under the condition that he establish a power-sharing arrangement where both Democrats and Republicans held positions of power.
The coalition that elected Edgmon speaker included all 15 House Democrats, four Republicans, and independent Daniel Ortiz. Eighteen Republicans voted against him. Edgmon, who previously served as House speaker from 2017 to 2018, was a Democrat until February 11, when he changed his party affiliation to unenrolled.
Under the power-sharing arrangement, there is a 25-member bipartisan majority coalition led by Edgmon (15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two independents) and a 15-member minority led by Lance Pruitt (all Republicans). Here are the details:
  • Although Edgmon is speaker, Republicans Steve Thompson and Louise Stutes serve as majority leader and majority whip, respectively.
  • The Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation to the floor, is chaired by Republican Charles Kopp.
  • Of the nine standing committees, three have Democratic and Republican co-chairs (including the powerful Finance Committee) and six are Democratic-led. Of the four special committees, two are Democratic-led and two are Republican-led.
  • Of the eight Republicans serving in the majority, four voted for Edgmon, three voted against Edgmon, and one—Gary Knopp—did not participate.
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Louisiana holding three state House special elections on Saturday

Special general elections are being held for three seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives on March 30.
  • In District 17, Rodney McFarland Sr. (D) and Pat Moore (D) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Marcus Hunter (D) was elected to serve as a judge on the Fourth Judicial District. Hunter had represented District 17 beginning in 2012. He won re-election in 2015, winning outright in the primary with 62.0 percent of the vote.
  • In District 18, Jeremy LaCombe (D) and Tammi Fabre (R) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Major Thibaut (D) won election to serve as the president of Pointe Coupee Parish. Thibaut had represented District 18 beginning in 2008. He ran unopposed in his re-election campaigns in 2011 and 2015.
  • In District 62, Dennis Aucoin (R) and Roy Adams (I) are facing off. The seat became vacant after Kenny Havard (R) won election to serve as president of West Feliciana Parish. Havard had represented District 62 beginning in 2012. He won re-election in 2015, winning outright in the primary with 60.6 percent of the vote.
Special primary elections were also held on February 23 in District 12, District 26, District 27, and District 47. Each of those districts were won outright in the primary. In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election. If a candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, he or she wins outright. If no candidate reaches that threshold, a general election is held between the top two vote recipients.
Prior to these special general elections, the Louisiana House of Representatives has 37 Democrats, 62 Republicans, three independents, and three vacancies. Louisiana 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.
In 2019, there have been 51 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 19 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.