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Previewing 2019’s state executive races

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are the only three states holding regularly-scheduled elections for state executive positions in 2019. All three states have governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, and treasurer offices on the ballot. Other state executive positions up for election include auditor in Kentucky and Mississippi, insurance commissioner in Louisiana and Mississippi, and public service commissioner in Mississippi. In total, 23 executive positions are on the ballot. There were 303 state executive seats up for election across 43 states in 2018.
 
Two of the sitting governors, Matt Bevin (R) in Kentucky and John Bel Edwards (D) in Louisiana, are completing their first terms. Bevin announced in August 2018 that he plans to run for re-election but has not filed to do so yet. Edwards is also running for re-election to a second term. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. He is ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits, which leaves an open seat.
 
Following the 2018 election, there are 27 Republican governors and 23 Democratic governors across the United States. There were 36 governorships on the ballot in 2018, and there are another 11 up for election in 2020. Of the 14 governor’s offices up for election across 2019 and 2020, nine are currently held by Republicans. Only one of those 14 elections have received a toss-up rating from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, however, and that is the Montana seat currently held by term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and up for election in 2020. The Cook Political Report did not identify any of the races as a toss-up; they rated the Montana race as Leans Democratic as of January 9, 2019.
 
The 2019 state executive filing deadlines are January 29 in Kentucky, March 1 in Mississippi, and August 8 in Louisiana. The primaries are on May 21 in Kentucky, August 6 in Mississippi, and October 12 in Louisiana. Mississippi will hold primary runoffs on August 27 if no primary candidate receives a simple majority of the vote. General elections will occur on November 5 in Kentucky and Mississippi and November 16 in Louisiana.


Georgia House special election advances to February runoff between two Republicans

On January 8, Jesse Vaughn (R) and Matt Barton (R) defeated four other candidates in a special general election for the District 5 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Vaughn and Barton advanced to a special runoff election scheduled for February 5, 2019. According to the unofficial results, Barton surpassed the third-place finisher, J. Scott Tidwell (R), by a margin of 76 votes out of 3,520 total votes cast.
 
The seat was previously held by John D. Meadows III (R), who passed away on November 12, 2018. Meadows was first elected to the office in 2004. He won his last re-election bid on November 6, 2018, with more than 81 percent of the vote against challenger Brian Rosser (D). Rosser was also the only Democratic candidate to file in the special election to replace Meadows, and he finished in fifth place with less than 5 percent of the vote. Meadows ran unopposed in the 2018 Republican primary and won re-election unopposed in 2014 and 2016. He had served as the chair of the chamber’s Rules Committee.
 
Entering the special election, the Georgia House of Representatives had 64 Democrats, 112 Republicans, and four vacancies. Another special election is scheduled on February 12 for the District 176 seat, which was previously held by Jason Shaw (R). A majority in the chamber requires 91 seats. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.


Long Beach City Council votes to change election dates to coincide with state election schedule

The Long Beach City Council in California unanimously voted on January 8 to change the city’s election schedule to coincide with the state’s. Rather than holding general elections in April and runoff elections in June, the city and the Long Beach Unified School District will hold general elections in March and runoff elections in November starting in 2020.
 
The need to change election dates came from Senate Bill 415, a 2015 law that required local elections to align with the state’s election schedule by 2020 if local election turnout was 25 percent less than the average turnout in previous statewide general elections. Long Beach’s voter turnout for the April 2018 general election was 13 percent, while the voter turnout for California’s statewide general election in November 2018 was 65 percent. Long Beach had an estimated population of 469,450 in 2017, according to the United States Census Bureau.
 
The cities of Lawndale and Walnut, which both have populations of just over 30,000, also switched from holding elections in April to holding them in November. Other cities such as Norwalk and South Gate, which have populations of 106,084 and 95,430, respectively, switched from holding their elections in the spring of odd-numbered years to holding them in the spring of even-numbered years. Pasadena, which has a population of 142,647, also switched from holding its primary and general elections in odd-numbered years to even-numbered years.
 
Senate Bill 415 also affected school district election schedules. Over 80 percent of the state’s largest school districts that were scheduled to hold elections in 2017 switched to 2018.
 
Fifteen seats—four citywide offices, five city council seats, three school board seats, and three community college board seats—were on the ballot in Long Beach in 2018, and eight of those seats had unopposed races. The change in the city’s election schedule extended the terms of current officeholders by five months.

 



Wisconsin school board elections see more primaries, higher number of candidates compared to 2018

In Wisconsin, more candidates filed to run in six Madison-area school board elections this year compared to their last elections in 2018. A total of 30 candidates have filed to run for the 18 seats on the ballot, which is an average of 1.67 candidates per seat. Primaries for three of the seats will be held on February 19 to winnow the field down to two candidates per seat. The general election will be held on April 2.
 
In 2018, 19 candidates ran for 15 seats up for election in the same school districts, an average of 1.27 candidates per seat. No primaries were held since no seat had more than three candidates file to run.
 
The Milwaukee Board of School Directors also has more candidates running than it did last time elections were held in 2017. Eleven candidates filed to run for five seats in 2019, an average of 2.2 candidates per seat. In 2017, eight candidates ran for four seats, an average of two candidates per seat. A primary for one of the seats will be held on February 19. No primaries were held in 2017.


Pennsylvania’s governor cited the state’s 1971 Environmental Rights Amendment in an executive order. What is the amendment?

On January 8, 2019, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) cited the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), passed in 1971, in an executive order establishing the GreenGov Council, which was designed to work with state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The governor’s order wasn’t the first time that he cited the ERA when explaining a decision. In June 2017, he vetoed a bill to preempt the local regulation of plastic bags, saying the bill was inconsistent with the ERA.
 
Voters approved the ERA as a ballot measure on May 18, 1971. The ERA provided for state constitutional rights to clean air; clean water; and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. The constitutional amendment also declared the state’s natural resources as “common property of all the people, including generations yet to come” and declared the state government as the trustee of the state’s natural resources.
 
Courts interpreted the ERA through a three-part balancing test until 2017. The test asked whether the benefits of an action outweighed any harm to the environment. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected this test, with the court’s opinion saying the test stripped the ERA of its meaning. Justice Christine Donohue (D), who wrote the opinion, said the ERA established a public trust, with natural resources as the trust corpus, the state as the trustee, and the people as the beneficiaries. Justices Max Baer (D) and Thomas Saylor (R) dissented, saying the court interpreted the ERA’s description of the state as a public trust through the lens of private trust law.


Democrats hold on to Wexton’s seat in VA State Senate, setting up battle for control of state government in November

State Del. Jennifer Boysko (D) defeated former state Del. Joe T. May (R) in the special election for Virginia State Senate District 33 on Tuesday. Boysko received 69.8 percent of the vote to May’s 30.1 percent.
 
This was the highest margin of victory in the district since 2003, when William Mims (R) ran in an uncontested race.
 
Incumbent Jennifer Wexton (D) won election to Virginia’s 10th Congressional District in the 2018 midterm, leaving the seat vacant.
 
Republicans will continue to hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and all 40 seats are up for election on November 5, 2019. If Democrats flip the state Senate and the State House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a 51-49 majority, Virginia will become a Democratic state trifecta.
 
Democrats emerged from the 2018 elections with trifecta control of 14 states—a net gain of six states.


Seven states swear in legislators today

With a new year, comes a new batch of state legislators. Thousands of legislators will be sworn into office this month. In the November 2018 general elections, 322 incumbent legislators were defeated. Including the incumbents who retired or were defeated in primaries, the 2019 legislative sessions will see 1,599 new state legislators taking their oath of office. The new legislators reflect 21.7% of all state legislators nationwide.

Today, seven states are swearing in legislators:
Connecticut
Illinois
Maryland
Missouri
Nebraska
New York
Vermont
 
Three fun facts about state legislators being sworn in this term:
 
1) Fifteen states have term limits, accounting for 1,930 of all state legislative seats (26.1%).
 
2) Two legislators have been in office since the 1960s.
 
The longest-serving state representative, Republican Tom Craddick, began his tenure in 1969. This is his 50th year in the Texas State Legislature. He is one of two state legislators elected in the 1960s.
 
The other is Fred Risser, Democratic state senator from Wisconsin.
 
3) More than 15 percent of state legislators were elected before the year 2000:
1960s: 2 (<0.1%)
1970s: 41 (<0.1%)
1980s: 101 (1.3%)
1990s: 984 (13.3%)
 
The remaining 7,383 legislators (84.7%) were all elected in the 21st century.


Democrats regain control of New York State Senate, make state a Democratic trifecta

Today, legislators in New York will be sworn in. In the state Senate, this marks a change of power from a Republican-led coalition to a Democratic majority. Although Democrats have held a numerical majority in the chamber since 2012, a faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus aligned with the chamber’s Republicans, helping create a coalition majority. Democrats now have 40 members in the chamber while Republicans have 23. Prior to the election, Democrats held a 32-31 numerical majority. New York was previously a Democratic trifecta from 2009 to 2010; in every other year since 1992 it has been under divided government.
 
New York is one of six states to change from a divided government to a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2018 elections. It joins Democratic pickups in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada. Democrats also gained ground in four other states: Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. These states moved from Republican trifectas to divided government.
 
Prior to the 2018 elections, 20 percent of Americans lived under a Democratic trifecta, 48 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 31 percent under divided government. Once all lawmakers elected in 2018 are sworn in, 35 percent of Americans will live under a Democratic trifecta, 42 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 24 percent under divided government.


Chicago Ald. Ed Burke charged with extortion, challengers and mayoral candidates weigh in

Last week, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was charged with extortion. Burke has represented Chicago’s 14th Ward since 1969 and is the longest-serving alderman in the city’s history.
 
The FBI filed a complaint in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois court alleging that Burke attempted to use his position as alderman to solicit business for his law firm, Klaner & Burke, from a restaurant owner who was seeking permits for remodeling in 2017.
 
The complaint also claims that Burke illegally sought a donation for another politician from an executive of the company.
 
The charges came after the FBI conducted two raids of Burke’s offices, first on November 29 and again on December 13.
 
Burke said of the charge, “I believe that I’m not guilty of anything, and I’m trusting that when I have my day in court, that will be clear beyond a reasonable doubt.”
 
On Monday, Burke resigned from his position as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee. He announced that he intends to continue his re-election bid, in which he faces four challengers—Irene Corral, Jaime Guzman, Tanya Patino, and Jose Torrez.
 
Patino called on Burke to withdraw from the race, saying, “It’s an embarrassment to know that your alderman is doing things for his own personal gain instead of the community’s interest.”
 
A representative of Jose Torrez said, “We are running on a platform of transparency so we’re not going to allow this to ever have to be an issue in the 14th Ward again.”
 
Following are reactions from some of the 15 mayoral candidates:
 
Toni Preckwinkle, who is chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, removed Burke from his role as chair of the Cook County judicial slating committee, announced that she would return all money raised at a fundraiser at Burke’s house in January 2018 during her re-election bid for the Cook County Board of Supervisors, and said Burke should resign from the council.
 
Preckwinkle also confirmed that she received a donation from the company executive named in the charge against Burke during her Cook County re-election bid. Her lawyer said the donation in question was not accepted but that the campaign made a possible technical error in not reporting the donation and its return last year.
 
Gery Chico, who was endorsed by Burke, said that he would not accept support from Burke in the mayoral race. He also called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair.
 
Susana Mendoza called on Burke to step down from the finance committee and said it’s time for someone else to represent the 14th Ward. Bob Fioretti had called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair as well, and Bill Daley also said the ward needs a new alderman.
 
Paul Vallas called on Preckwinkle, Mendoza, Chico, and Daley to withdraw from the mayoral race because of connections with Burke. Vallas also proposed rotating committee chairmanships on the city council.
 
Willie Wilson said Preckwinkle should resign as Cook County Board president and that, as mayor, he would use a citizen advisory committee to select city council committee chairs as opposed to allowing the city council to select them.
 
Lori Lightfoot called for Burke to resign as finance chair following the first raid of his offices and, since the charge, said Burke should resign from the city council.
 
Amara Enyia stated, “A lot of the other candidates have significant ties to Alderman Burke and therefore ties to corruption, so the question Chicagoans will be asking is can we trust individuals that came out of that same establishment.” She also called for Burke to resign from city council.
 
See more on this and other Chicago election stories by subscribing to The Deep Dish, our newsletter delivered each Thursday.


Larry Householder (R) elected speaker of the Ohio House, defeating sitting Speaker Ryan Smith (R)

Rep. Larry Householder (R) was elected as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives on January 7 by a coalition of 26 Republicans and 26 Democrats. Thirty-four Republicans, who hold a 61-38 majority in the chamber, voted for sitting House Speaker Ryan Smith (R). No Democrat ran for the position.
 
In the May 2018 Republican primaries, Smith and Householder supported opposing candidates in 20 races. Householder-backed candidates won 15, Smith-backed candidates won 3, and candidates affiliated with neither won two.
 
In June 2018, Smith was elected as the interim speaker after Republican Cliff Rosenberger resigned early due to an FBI investigation into his activities with lobbyists. Householder-aligned Republicans opposed Smith’s speakership bid, which he won with 44 votes in a four-way race with Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn and two other Republicans.
 
This will be Householder’s second stint as speaker, following a term from 2001 to 2004 after he beat Bill Harris, who was backed by outgoing Speaker Jo Ann Davidson (R). Similar to the 2018 primaries, Householder supported successful primary challengers against candidates aligned with Harris and Davidson.
 
Householder is one of at least six state speakers elected with support from only a minority of the majority party since 1995.
 
Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R) is one example. He was elected speaker in 2009 after the Republican majority fell to 76-74 in the 2008 elections. He unseated the sitting speaker, Tom Craddick (R), with support from 72 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
 
Similarly, California Assembly Democrats helped elect two Republican speakers in 1995 after Republicans won a 41-39 majority in the 1994 elections. The speakers were both opposed by a majority of the Republican caucus.


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