Virginia legislative races could make state a Democratic trifecta in 2019

The Virginia State Senate and the Virginia House of Delegates are holding elections on November 5, 2019. If Democrats gain two seats in each chamber, Virginia will become a Democratic trifecta. Republicans control the Senate 21-19 and the House 51-48 (one seat previously held by a Democrat is vacant). The term of Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam (D), runs through 2021.
The state House last held elections in 2017, while the state Senate was last up in 2015. In the 2017 House races, Democrats picked up 15 seats and cut the Republican majority from 66-34 to 51-49. Fourteen of the Democratic pick-ups came in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016.
Four races in Republican-held seats went to recounts. Democrats won one of the recounts and Republicans won three, including in District 94 where Del. David Yancey (R) won a coin toss after the election ended in an exact tie. That outcome gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the state House.
In the 2015 state Senate elections, Republicans held their 21-19 chamber majority. In the 2016 presidential election, 23 districts, including four Republican-held seats, voted for Clinton (D). There were no Democratic-held districts that voted for Donald Trump (R). State Sen. Dick Black (R-13), whose district voted for Clinton by 8.2 percentage points, announced he would not seek re-election in January 2019.
Three other states are holding gubernatorial elections in 2019: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Louisiana could potentially become a Republican trifecta if the GOP defeats incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards. Edwards is Louisiana’s only Democratic statewide elected official. Kentucky, a Republican trifecta, could also feature a competitive gubernatorial race. Fifty-one percent of Kentucky voters disapproved of incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in a January 2019 Morning Consult poll.

Special election candidates file for Kentucky State Senate seat

The candidate filing deadline for the special election in District 31 of the Kentucky State Senate passed on January 15. Darrell Pugh (D) and Phillip Wheeler (R) are competing in the general election on March 5.
The District 31 seat became vacant after Ray Jones (D) was elected to serve as judge executive in Pike County. Jones served as minority leader in the state Senate from 2015 to 2019. He had represented District 31 since 2001.
The Kentucky State Senate currently has 28 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one vacancy. Kentucky has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
In 2019, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Colorado State Rep. Jeff Bridges selected to fill state Senate vacancy

State Rep. Jeff Bridges (D) was selected by a vacancy committee to represent Senate District 26 following Sen. Daniel Kagan’s (D) resignation on January 11, 2019. Kagan had previously served in the state House of Representatives, representing District 3 from 2009 to 2016. He did not seek re-election in 2016 because of term limits, and Bridges won the race for District 3 that year to succeed him.
Kagan faced misconduct allegations in 2018. State Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R) filed a complaint that Kagan had been using the women’s restroom. Sen. Owen Hill (R) corroborated the report. Kagan said that his use of the restroom was a mistake due to the doors being unmarked, and that his resignation had nothing to do with the allegations.
Bridges’ appointment maintains the 19-16 Democratic majority in the state Senate. His former state House seat representing District 3 has been filled by Meg Froelich (D), who was appointed to the position on January 7. Froelich ran unsuccessfully for the open seat in 2016, losing to Bridges in the primary.
Following the 2018 elections, Colorado is a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Special Democratic primary on Tuesday for Minnesota Senate

On Tuesday, Michelle Lee and Stu Lourey are competing in the Democratic primary for a special election to the Minnesota State Senate. Jason Rarick is running unopposed in the Republican primary. The general election is on February 5.
The District 11 seat became vacant following Tony Lourey’s (D) resignation to join Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) administration as the human services commissioner. Lourey had represented the district since 2007. He was last re-elected in 2016, earning 54.5 percent of the vote in the general election.
Minnesota is currently one of 13 states under divided government. Democrats control the governor’s mansion and have a 75-59 majority in the state House, while Republicans hold a 34-32 majority in the state Senate.
As of January, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

How many citizens does your state legislator represent?

Each decade, the federal government conducts a census to update its population counts. Changes in population counts then require state governments to redraw their legislative jurisdiction boundaries.
  • The average state senate district had a population of 156,339 following the 2010 census. That was an increase of 13,532 from the 2000 figure of 142,807.
  • The average state house district had a population of 59,626 following the 2010 census. That was an increase of 7,627 from the 2000 figure of 51,999.
  • Here are the five states with the largest population per state senate district:
    • California: 931,349
    • Texas: 811,147
    • Florida: 470,033
    • Ohio: 349,591
    • New York: 307,589
  • Here are the five states with the smallest population per state house district:
    • North Dakota: 14,310
    • Wyoming: 18,788
    • Montana: 19,788
    • Vermont: 20,858
    • South Dakota: 23,262
Click below to learn more about your state.

Kentucky Gov. Bevin seeking to become first Republican to serve consecutive gubernatorial terms in the state since 1804

Three states will hold elections for governor in 2019: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Republican Matt Bevin is the current Governor of Kentucky. He was elected to that office on November 3, 2015, defeating then-state attorney general Jack Conway (D). Bevin succeeded Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who served two terms from 2007 to 2015.
The Kentucky constitution, as it was adopted in 1799, prohibited governors from serving consecutive terms until it was amended in 1992. Since then only Beshear and former Gov. Paul Patton (D), who served from 1995 to 2003, have been re-elected to the state’s top office. Bevin, who is running for re-election in 2019, is therefore seeking to become the first Republican to serve two consecutive terms as Kentucky’s governor since 1804.

Three states to hold special primaries next week

Minnesota, South Carolina, and Tennessee are all holding special primaries for state senate seats in the coming week. Minnesota and South Carolina are holding their primaries on January 22, and Tennessee is holding its primary on January 24.
The South Carolina State Senate District 6 seat was previously held by William Timmons (R). Timmons announced his resignation on November 9, 2018, after winning election to South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. He was first elected to the seat in 2014; the previous officeholder was also a Republican. Four people filed for his vacated seat, three Republicans and one Democrat. If necessary, a Republican primary runoff will be held on February 5, with the general election scheduled for March 26.
Entering 2019, the South Carolina State Senate had 19 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and one vacancy. 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.
Tennessee will hold a primary for State Senate District 32 on January 24. The seat was vacated by Mark Norris (R) after he was confirmed on October 11, 2018, to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Norris was first elected to the seat in 2000 and was unopposed in his most recent election in 2016. Five people filed for the vacant seat, four Republicans and one Democrat. The general election is on March 12.
Following the 2018 election, the Tennessee State Senate had five Democrats and 28 Republicans. Tennessee has a Republican state government trifecta.
As of January, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 12 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Florida Gov. DeSantis breaks with predecessor Scott on smokable forms of medical marijuana under Amendment 2 (2016)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who was sworn in on January 8, 2019, called on the Florida State Legislature to repeal a law that was designed to ban smokable forms of marijuana.
In June 2017, Rick Scott (R), who preceded DeSantis in the governor’s office, signed the bill banning smokable marijuana, which a court then struck down as violating Amendment 2. Approved in 2016, Amendment 2 was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. People United for Medical Marijuana filed a legal complaint against the bill banning smokable marijuana, saying the legislation was inconsistent with the text and purpose of Amendment 2. Gov. Scott’s administration appealed the court’s ruling, which resulted in the order being stayed.
On January 17, 2019, Gov. DeSantis said he was giving the state legislature, which convenes on March 5, until mid-March to repeal the ban itself or else he would drop the state’s appeal. He stated, “What the Florida Legislature has done to implement the people’s will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment envisioned. … I don’t want this thing done judiciously if we can help it.” House Speaker José Oliva (R-110) responded to the governor’s statement, saying, “The governor’s willingness to engage with us is appreciated and the House will work with the governor on his priorities, including ensuring patients have options and our kids remain protected.”

In 2018, legislatures considered 202 bills related to public-sector union policy

In 2018, state legislatures nationwide considered 202 bills related to public-sector union policy, acting in anticipation of or in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Janus v. AFSCME.
In Janus, the high court ruled that public-sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. In 2018, legislatures in 34 states considered 202 pieces of legislation relevant to public-sector union policy. Of these 202 bills, 88 were sponsored by Democrats and 91 by Republicans; the remainder were sponsored by bipartisan groups or committees. Thirty bills were enacted into law, representing 14.85 percent of the total.
More about Janus: Generally, members of an employee union pay fees to that union. These fees support the union’s activities, which can include collective bargaining and contract administration, as well as political activities, such as lobbying. Some public-sector employees do not wish to join a union, and some are opposed to unions’ political activities. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that employees cannot be required to give financial support to a union’s political activities. However, the court found that it was not a violation of employees’ rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require them to pay fees to support union activities from which they benefit, such as collective bargaining. It is this ruling that was overturned by Janus, which held that such fees are not constitutional.
Proponents of Janus argue that being required to give any financial support to a union violated employees’ First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Opponents of Janus contend that these fees were not used for political purposes and were necessary to support the costs associated with representing non-members

New York legislature, on first day of Democratic control since 2010, passes package to change election policies

On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, the New York State Legislature approved a seven-bill legislative package to change election policies.
The legislative package included two constitutional amendments. In New York, constitutional amendments require a simple majority vote of two successive state legislatures. The current 203rd New York State Legislature (2019-2020) passed the constitutional amendments, and the next 204th State Legislature (2021-2022) needs to approve them again to refer them to the ballot for voter consideration in 2021 or 2022. 

Together, the constitutional amendments would authorize the legislature to pass statutes for no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. The governor’s signature is not required for amendments.
The five statutory bills would enact the following changes:
  1. create a voter pre-registration process for 16- and 17-year olds,
  2. require the state Board of Elections to transfer a voter’s registration to wherever the voter moves within New York State,
  3. restrict campaign contributions from LLCs to $5,000 and require ownership of the LLC to be disclosed in campaign finance reports,
  4. combine the federal non-presidential primary and state primary elections to a single date in June, and
  5. establish a nine-day early-voting period, including two weekends, before general, primary, and special elections.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), following the votes, tweeted that he would “sign these reforms into law…” 

The legislative package comes after Democrats gained trifecta control of the state government at the 2018 general election. Except for a period of Democratic control in 2009 and 2010, New York had a divided government since 1975. Before the election on November 6, 2018, Democrats controlled the state Assembly, but not the state Senate due to a coalition between Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference. In 2018, Democrats won 40 seats in the 63-seat Senate.