Nunes (R) and Arballo (D) advance to CA-22 general election

Incumbent Devin Nunes (R) and Phil Arballo (D) advanced to the Nov. 3 general election for California’s 22nd Congressional District, defeating three other candidates in the March 3 top-two primary. As of March 11, Nunes had received 56.9% of the vote to Arballo’s 24.8%. The only other candidate with more than 10% of the vote was Bobby Bliatout (D), with 12.7%.

One Democrat and one Republican have advanced from the district’s primary in each congressional election since California’s top-two primary system went into effect in 2011. Three Democrats and one candidate with no party preference ran in addition to Nunes, who was first elected in 2002.

All 435 House districts will be up for election on Nov. 3, 2020, and the results will determine the partisan balance of the U.S. House in the 117th Congress. As of March 2020, Democrats have a 232-197 advantage over Republicans. If Republicans win 18 Democratic-controlled districts, they will win control of the House. If Democrats hold as many districts, they will maintain their control of the chamber.

Lewis Holley (D) advances to general election in race for North Carolina lieutenant governor

Yvonne Lewis Holley advanced from a field of six candidates in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor of North Carolina. In North Carolina, primary runoffs occur if no candidate wins more than 30% of the vote and the second-place finisher calls for a runoff. Second place finisher Terry Van Duyn announced March 10 she would not request a runoff, making Lewis Holley the Democratic nominee. Lewis Holley received 26.6% of the vote to Van Duyn’s 20.4%. Lewis Holley will face Mark Robinson (R) in the November general election.

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 a party affiliation, along with Louisiana and Vermont. That status is at stake in the North Carolina general, as Democrats and Republicans are competing for both offices.

Garcia (R) and Smith (D) advance in two primaries for California’s 25th Congressional District

Mike Garcia (R) and Christy Smith (D) advanced from a special top-two primary election and from a regularly scheduled top-two primary election in California’s 25th Congressional District. Third place finisher Steve Knight (R) conceded the race on March 8 and said he would support Garcia. As of Knight’s concession, Smith led in the special primary with 35.2% of the vote, followed by Garcia with 25.9% and Knight with 17.6%. In the regular primary, Smith led with 31.0% of the vote to Garcia’s 24.9% and Knight’s 19.5%.

Garcia and Smith will run in a May 12, 2020, special general election to fill the vacancy left by Katie Hill (D), who resigned her seat on November 1, 2019, amid allegations of extramarital relationships with staffers. Then, on Nov. 3, 2020, Garcia and Smith will compete in the regular election for a full, two-year term starting Jan. 3, 2021.

Democrats have a 232-197 advantage over Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is one independent member, and there are five vacancies. The 25th District special election could change that balance ahead of November. Currently, if Republicans win 18 Democratic-controlled districts in the Nov. general, they will win control of the House. If Democrats hold as many districts, they will maintain their control of the chamber.

2020 state legislative races less competitive than 2018 so far

Based on filing data in nine states, 2020’s state legislative elections are so far less competitive than 2018’s elections in three categories: open seats, incumbents with primary challengers, and total primaries. Those nine states are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.

Across those states in 2020, there are 1,167 state legislative seats up for election. In 2018, there were 1,187 seats up for election. Most of the drop can be attributed to the Illinois Senate, where one-third of all of seats (20) are up for election in 2020 after two-thirds of all seats (39) were up for election in 2018.

Fewer incumbents are retiring in 2020 than in 2018. In these states in 2018, 185 incumbents—61 Democrats and 124 Republicans—did not run for re-election. This year, 41 incumbents—59 Democrats and 82 Republicans—are not running for re-election. The biggest decrease came in the Ohio House, where 18 incumbents did not file to run for re-election this year after 32 incumbents retired in 2018. Twelve of the 18 representatives not running this year are term-limited, while 20 of the 32 in 2018 were term-limited.

Fewer incumbents are facing primary challengers in 2020. In these states in 2018, 258 incumbents—97 Democrats and 152 Republicans—faced at least one challenger in a primary election. This year, 202 incumbents—97 Democrats and 105 Republicans—face at least one primary challenger. The biggest decrease came in the Texas House, where 30 incumbents had primary challengers in 2020 after 43 had primary challengers in 2018.

In fact, there are fewer total contested primaries in these states in 2020. In 2018, there were 527 total primaries—258 Democratic and 269 Republican. In 2020, there are 425 total primaries—206 Democratic and 219 Republican. Both the California Assembly and Ohio House saw the biggest decrease in total primaries, with 21 fewer this year than in 2020.

Eighty-six of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers are holding legislative elections in 2020. There is a Republican majority in 61 chambers, a Democratic majority in 37 chambers, and a power-sharing agreement between the parties as part of a coalition in the Alaska House of Representatives.

As a result of the 2018 elections, Democrats gained majorities in five chambers and a power-sharing agreement in the Alaska House. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in the Virginia Senate and Virginia House.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock appoints new commissioner of labor and industry

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock named Brenda Nordlund as the new acting commissioner of labor and industry on March 5. Nordlund replaced interim Commissioner Tom Lopach, who took over when Galen Hollenbaugh retired on December 31, 2019. Since Nordlund was an employee of the department and retained her status as a classified employee, she assumed the title of acting commissioner. Her term is set to expire on January 4, 2021.

The position of labor commissioner exists in all 50 states. Commissioners are tasked with various duties, which may include overseeing the fair treatment of workers, non-payment investigations, the state minimum wage, and other labor-related issues. Most labor commissioners are appointed by the governor. Salaries can range from $60,000 to $195,000. Nordlund will earn $116,480, according to state officials and the Great Falls Tribune.

Additional reading:
Brenda Nordlund
Galen Hollenbaugh
Montana state executive offices 

Missouri Democrats select new state Senate Minority Leader

Missouri State Senator Gina Walsh (D) stepped down as State Senate Minority Leader after serving in the role since 2017 on March 3. Freshman Sen. John Rizzo (D) takes her place as the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

Walsh, who represents District 13, cannot run for re-election to the state Senate this year due to term limits. Missouri state senators serve four-year terms and are limited to two terms in the chamber, or eight years total.

Rizzo is in his first term in the state Senate, representing District 11 since winning election to the seat in 2016. He previously held office in the Missouri House of Representatives and served as the House Minority Whip.

As the State Senate Minority Leader, Rizzo is the floor leader of the minority caucus. In this role, the minority leader is the principal speaker for the minority party during debates on the Senate floor and works to coordinate the party’s legislative agenda. Minority and majority leaders are often assisted by whips, whose job is to ensure that members of the chamber vote in line with their party’s priorities.

As of March 2020, the partisan composition of the Missouri State Senate is 23 Republicans, eight Democrats, and three vacancies. Republicans have held majority control of the state senate since 2002. Seventeen of the chamber’s 34 seats are up for election in 2020, including Rizzo’s.

Additional reading:
Gina Walsh
Missouri State Senate
State Senate Minority Leader
Missouri State Senate elections, 2020 

Approval rates of local bond and tax measures in California’s March 3 election lowest in at least a decade

On March 3, California voters decided 292 local ballot measures. According to results available Monday evening, at least 111 were approved, at least 146 were defeated, and the remaining measures were too close to call because of the number of ballots left to be processed.

Of the 292 total local measures, 236 (81%) were bond or tax measures:
• 121 local school bond measures (in total, $17.24 billion in local school bonds was proposed)
• 54 parcel tax measures
• 45 sales tax measures
• 7 hotel tax measures
• 5 city or county marijuana tax measures
• 4 city, county, or district bond measures

Other topics included the following:
• 10 measures on housing, zoning, land use, and development
• 10 measures on local elections and campaigns
• 5 measures on the regulation of marijuana

The 292 local measures on the ballot were the most at a primary election since at least 2010. From 2010 through 2018, primary elections were held in June rather than March. There were an average of 139 local measures on primary ballots from 2010 through 2018.

School bond measures

With Monday evening’s election results update, Ballotpedia called all but 19 of the 121 total school bond measures on the March 3 ballot:
• at least 32 (26%) were approved
• at least 70 (58%) were defeated
• 19 remain too close to call with certainty

From 2008 through 2019, the average approval rate for local school bond measures in California was 75%.

In terms of bond revenue, at least $5.511 billion (32%) was approved, at least $10.037 billion (58%) was defeated, and $1.788 billion (10%) could still go either way. In the November 2018 election, there were 151 total school bond measures proposing a total of $15.2 billion, and $14.3 billion (94%) was approved. In 2016, there were 231 local school bonds proposing a total of $31.8 billion, and $28.9 billion (91%) was approved.

Voters also appear to have rejected Proposition 13, a $15 billion statewide bond issue of general obligation bonds for school and college facilities—including $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges. As of Monday evening’s election results update, the measure was behind by 45.96% (3,250,570 votes) to 54.04% (3,822,718 votes), with about 2.9 million ballots left to be processed.

Local tax measures

Local parcel and sales tax measures were approved at a lower rate than the average over recent election cycles as well.

At least 16 (29.6%) of the local parcel tax measures were approved, at least 31 (57.4%) were defeated, and seven (13%) were too close to call. From 2003 through 2019, 57.5% of local parcel tax measures were approved.

At least 24 (53.3%) of the local sales taxes were approved, at least 19 (42.2%) were defeated, and two (4.4%) were too close to call. From 2014 through 2019, 76% of local sales tax measures were approved.

Additional reading:
California Proposition 13, School and College Facilities Bond (March 2020) 
School bond elections in California
Sales tax in California
Parcel tax elections in California
Hotel taxes in California 
Marijuana taxes in California

Commission sends supreme court recommendations to Georgia Gov. Kemp

The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) recommended the following four candidates to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for consideration to succeed retired Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Behnam:

    • Judge Carla W. McMillian of the Georgia Court of Appeals
    • Judge Verda Colvin of Bibb County Superior Court
    • Judge Sara Doyle of the Georgia Court of Appeals
    • Judge Shawn LaGrua of Fulton County Superior Court

Benham retired on March 1, 2020. Twenty-two candidates submitted applications to the JNC, which interviewed nine before selecting its four recommendations. The JNC consists of 18 members who are appointed by the governor.

Under Georgia law, if a vacancy appears on the Georgia Supreme Court, the position is filled by assisted appointment. The governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates compiled by the JNC. The interim judge must run in the next general election held at least six months after the appointment, and, if confirmed by voters, he or she may finish the rest of the predecessor’s term.

Benham’s replacement will be Kemp’s first nominee to the nine-member state supreme court.

Additional reading:
Robert Benham
Georgia Supreme Court
Judicial selection in Georgia
Georgia judicial elections
Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission 

Georgia cancels state supreme court election after sitting justice announces retirement; Gov. Kemp will appoint replacement

On March 5, 2020, two aspiring candidates for Georgia Supreme Court filed suit against the state’s highest election official because the race in which they hoped to compete was taken off the ballot the day before the qualifying period began.

On February 28, 2020, Justice Keith Blackwell announced that he will be retiring from the state supreme court, and therefore will not run for reelection. Blackwell’s announcement stated that he intends to remain on the court until November 18, 2020. The justice was scheduled to stand for reelection on May 19, but his term does not end until the end of December.

Because Blackwell’s announced retirement falls before his term is over in December, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will appoint Blackwell’s successor. Kemp conveyed that information to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who then canceled the election.

Two aspiring candidates, John Barrow of Athens, a former Democratic congressman, and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, of Atlanta, filed lawsuits against Raffensperger, claiming that he illegally canceled the election.

Beskin said, “His seat is not vacant… We should be having qualifying for his seat right now. To cancel an election the day before qualifying, I don’t think it’s legal.”

Barrow called the canceling of the election “the ultimate act of voter suppression” and said, “They’re taking this election off the books before the event that authorizes them to do it.”

Raffensperger’s office issued a statement that said, “The Governor’s office informed the Secretary of State’s office that the Governor intended to fill the created vacancy by appointment. After speaking with the Attorney General’s office about the situation, our office determined that the most prudent course of action was to cancel qualifying for that seat.” Gov. Kemp’s spokeswoman referred all questions to the secretary of state’s office.

In his resignation letter, Blackwell said that he seeks to return to private practice to spend more time with his family. Gov. Kemp already has the opportunity to fill Justice Benham’s seat because of his retirement from office. If Gov. Kemp fills Blackwell’s seat, this will give him two appointments to the state court that will not be on the ballot until 2020.

Additional Reading:
Keith Blackwell
Judicial selection in Georgia
Brian Kemp 

South Dakota governor selects new chief of staff

On March 3, 2020, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Tony Venhuizen to serve as her chief of staff. Venhuizen is Gov. Noem’s third chief of staff in the past year. He succeeds former chief of staff Joshua Shields, who stepped down on January 1, 2020, and Herb Jones, who resigned on October 1, 2019.

A chief of staff is the lead staff member of an executive administration and is responsible for implementing the governor’s agenda. The role is both a managerial and advisory position, although specific duties vary by each administration. Typically, the gubernatorial chief of staff manages the Governor’s schedule, assists in forming and implementing a policy agenda, and oversees the governor’s staff.

Since 2017, Ballotpedia has aimed to identify and curate profiles on the chief of staff to each governor. To view a list of all gubernatorial chiefs of staff, click here.