Latest stories

Mayor Sickles recalled after second attempt in Wickenburg, Arizona

A recall effort was successful on Tuesday against Mayor Everett Sickles in Wickenburg, Arizona. Former city councilman Rui Pereira defeated Sickles with 52.9% of the vote.
The recall petition read, “Whereas Everett Sickles, the mayor of Wickenburg, was elected to represent the town, its residents, and its economic interests, he has failed to do so. Instead, Mr. Sickles has used his position of authority to question the future of our local police department, criticize the business community, disparage town employees, and create an overall environment so toxic, it is threatening future development and quality of life. Tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted on his frivolous legal claims and baseless complaints against town vendors. His primary role is to promote our wonderful community. He has done the opposite.”
In response to the recall petition, Sickles said, “Basically, it’s a pack of lies […] None of this makes any sense to me. You can twist it any way you want. You know that’s probably what will happen. This whole thing, the people want me to do something, I do it.” Sickles had previously criticized the local chamber of commerce’s role in economic development and stated, “the problem must be solved, before the town can move forward.”
Petitioners submitted 575 valid signatures—440 were required. An earlier attempt to recall Sickles failed in July 2018 after petitioners only had gathered 400 valid signatures.
Additional reading:

Three of nineteen incumbents defeated in Philadelphia primary

Philadelphia is holding elections for 23 positions on November 5, 2019. Offices up for election include mayor, city council, city commission, sheriff, and register of wills. A partisan primary was held on May 21.
Mayor James Kenney (D) defeated two challengers to advance to the general election. He faces Republican candidate William Ciancaglini, who was unopposed in the primary.
All 17 seats on the city council are up for election. Ten seats are elected by district and seven are elected at large; in the at-large primary, only five candidates from a party could advance to the general election. A total of 14 incumbents filed for re-election. Of these, 11 are Democrats and three are Republican. Four incumbents were unopposed in the primary. One incumbent, District 3 member Jannie Blackwell (D), was defeated.
All three at-large city commission seats are also on the general election ballot. Only two candidates from a political party could advance to the general election. The commission currently has two Democratic members and one Republican member. Incumbents Lisa Deeley (D) and Al Schmidt (R) filed for re-election, but Anthony Clark (D) did not, leaving one open seat. A total of 13 Democratic candidates filed to run, and Deeley and challenger Omar Sabir advanced to the general election from the Democratic primary. Schmidt also advanced after he ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci and two challengers—Tracey Gordon and Jacque Whaumbush—competed in the Democratic primary. Gordon received 44.1% of the vote and advanced to the general election, where she is unopposed. No Republican candidates filed for the primary.
Sheriff Jewell Williams lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary. Rochelle Bilal defeated Williams, Malika Rahman, and Larry King Sr. with 41.1% of the vote. Bilal is unopposed in the general election after no Republican candidates filed for the primary.
Minor party and independent candidates have until August 1, 2019, to file for the general election. Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth-largest city in the U.S. by population.
Additional reading:

Iowa Supreme Court upholds changes to public-sector collective bargaining rights

In two separate rulings issued on May 17, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2017 law that amended collective bargaining rights for the state’s public-sector workforce. The court ruled 4-3 in the state’s favor in both cases.

  • What was at issue? In 2017, then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law a series of amendments to Iowa’s public-sector labor relations law. As a result, collective bargaining units with less than 30 percent public-safety personnel (defined generally as firefighters and police officers) cannot negotiate insurance, hours, vacations, holidays, overtime, and health and safety issues unless their employers elect to do so. Collective bargaining units exceeding the 30-percent threshold are exempted from these restrictions.
  • Who were the parties to the suits? The plaintiffs, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 61 (AFSCME Council 61) and the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), argued the amendments violated their equal protection and associational rights under the state constitution. The defendants were the state of Iowa and the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. Both cases were filed in state district courts, which ruled against the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs appealed these decisions to the state supreme court.
  • How did the court rule? In each case, the court ruled 4-3 in the state’s favor.
    • In the majority opinion covering both cases, Justice Thomas Waterman wrote: “The 2017 amendments do not infringe on a fundamental right of association. The plaintiffs ‘come to us with a problem suitable only for political solution.’ The plaintiffs are free to attempt to persuade public employers, such as the State and local governments and school boards, to voluntarily bargain over formerly mandatory terms. The plaintiffs otherwise must look to the ballot box and the elected branches to change this lawfully enacted statute.” Justices Susan Christensen, Edward Mansfield, and Christopher McDonald joined Waterman’s opinion.
      • All four of these justices were appointed by Republican governors (Branstad appointed Waterman and Mansfield; Kim Reynolds appointed Christensen and McDonald).
    • Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Brent Appel and David Wiggins dissented. In his dissent, Cady wrote: “[The] Iowa statute ends up treating many similarly situated public employees in Iowa differently based solely on the bargaining unit they belong to and not for the reason the constitution would justify different treatment of public employees. Our constitution requires laws to treat similarly situated people equally unless there is an adequate reason otherwise. In this case, the overinclusiveness and underinclusiveness written into the statute drowned this reason out.”
      • Brent and Wiggins were appointed by Tom Vilsack, a Democrat. Cady was appointed by Branstad, a Republican.
  • What are the responses?
    • Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) supported the ruling: “Since its implementation, I have heard story after story of school districts and local governments implementing creative solutions to improve the education of Iowa’s students and the provision of services Iowans need. This reform is about returning power to locally elected officials and giving them the ability to pay more to great teachers and employees, fire the occasional bad actor and protect Iowa taxpayers.”
    • Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen (D) opposed the ruling: ” By taking away the rights of teachers, firefighters, nurses, correctional officers, and other public servants, Republican politicians have done harm to all Iowa workers. Working Iowa men and women are the real victims of the assault by the Branstad/Reynolds administration and Republican-controlled Legislature.”
  • The case names and numbers are: AFSCME Council 61 v. Iowa (No. 17–1841) and Iowa State Education Association v. Iowa (No. 17-1834).




The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We are currently tracking 100 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s):

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken in the last week. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB314: This bill would require employers to grant employees paid time for certain union activities.
    • Read a second time in the Assembly and ordered to a third reading May 20.
  • Maine LD1232: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join a union or pay fees to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Died May 23 (placed in legislative files).
  • Oregon HB2016: This bill would require public employers to grant paid time to employees participating in certain union activities. It would also require employers to furnish unions with access to employees.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session May 21.
  • Oregon HB3009: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with access to new employees. It would also permit individuals who are not union members to make payments in lieu of dues to unions.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session May 23.

Federal government follows through on threat to cancel $1 billion California high-speed rail grant; state files lawsuit in response

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 16 canceled nearly $1 billion in high-speed rail grants issued to the California High Speed Rail Authority. The federal government canceled the grants in response to the state’s failure to comply with the terms of the original 2010 agreement and failure to make reasonable progress on the project, according to the notice.
DOT had notified California rail officials in February that it intended to cancel $929 million in grants for construction of the high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. DOT officials also announced that they were “actively exploring every legal option” to recoup $2.5 billion that was previously granted to the project for allegedly violating terms of funding.
The California High Speed Rail Authority filed a federal lawsuit challenging the DOT decision on May 21.
Read more about this story in the March edition of The Checks and Balances Letter, the monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project.

Republican state representative in Alaska targeted for recall due to legislative session delays

Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp (R) has been targeted for recall due to his role in forming a majority coalition with Democrats, which recall supporters argue led to delays and disruptions to the 2019 legislative session. Prior to the session beginning, Knopp announced that he was leaving the Republican caucus in order to form a majority coalition with Democrats. He said, “A 21 member caucus cannot succeed. It’s doomed for failure and I’m not going to be on that train. I’m not joining the Democrats either. I’m doing this to try and force a true coalition.” Over 30 days in January and February, Knopp helped to form a coalition of 15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two members unaffiliated with either party.
After the delays at the beginning of its session, the legislature was unable to finish all of its work. This led to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) calling the legislature into a 30-day special session on May 15, 2019. The special session has been tasked with passing legislation related to criminal reform, the operating budget, the mental health budget, the capital budget, and education funding. The special session could cost the state between $500,000 and $1 million.
Recall supporters need about 1,000 signatures to request a recall petition from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R). If Meyer accepts the application, supporters will need about an additional 3,000 signatures to force a recall election. Misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties are the only grounds for recall in the state of Alaska.
After the recall was announced against Rep. Knopp, he said: “In the recall petition, they are welcome to do what they want to do. I don’t think they have cause, but if they want to move forward with it that’s their prerogative. I just wish it would be done by people in the district not the haters across the state who aren’t getting what they want.” Knopp was censured by the Alaska Republican Party in May 2019 for his role in the disruptions to the start of the 2019 legislative session. Because of the censure, Knopp will no longer receive support from the state party.
Knopp was elected to District 30 in the state House in 2016. He defeated Shauna Thornton (D) and two other candidates in the general election with 66.51% of the vote. He ran unopposed in the 2018 election.
Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and seven are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
Alaska has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 13-7 margin. Although Republicans won a majority in the state House in the 2018 elections, a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (undeclared) as House speaker on February 14, 2019. This resulted in the parties having split control of key leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won the governor’s office in 2018.

The Daily Presidential News Briefing: Delaney releases $4T climate action plan

Daily Presidential Briefing

May 24, 2019: John Delaney released a $4 trillion climate action proposal. Bill Weld said he will focus his campaign on states with crossover voting.

We’ll be back on Tuesday, May 28!

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Staff Spotlight

Zach Graumann

Zach Graumann is a former financial planner and executive. He has no prior campaign management experience.

Other experience:

2014-present: Suit Up Incorporated, co-founder and chief executive officer

2014-2018: UBS Wealth Management, director of client philanthropy solutions

2012-2014: UBS Wealth Management, associate director

2011-2013: St. Mary’s Catholic Academy, treasurer

What he says about Yang:

“An outsider candidate raising nearly $2 million in two months in entirely small contributions is unheard of. Andrew Yang has proven he can build an online fundraising army from scratch — the Yang Gang effect is real.”

Notable Quote of the Day

“Still six years short of the Constitution’s minimum age requirement to be president herself, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez’s massive social media following and ability to generate news headlines has made her a key player in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

With progressives looking to stand out in the crowded field of more than 20 candidates, some Democrats believe that no endorsement—other than the Obamas—would be more potent in [sic] than one from Ocasio-Cortez.”

– Eric Bradner, CNN national political reporter



  • Michael Bennet introduced the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act to fund programs to address the opioid crisis through a general fine on opioid manufacturers and distributors covered by federal health programs beginning in 1993.





  • Cory Booker announced more than a dozen new national campaign staff, including Amanda Perez as national policy director, Emily Norman as chief innovation officer, and Jen Kim as states chief of staff.



  • Steve Bullock has also hired 10 new staffers in Iowa with Nick Marroletti as state organizing director and Jack Segal and Alexandra Cleverly as Iowa political coordinators.



  • Pete Buttigieg said he supported athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality. “I felt that I was watching Americans exercise a right that I had put my life on the line to defend,” he said.





  • John Delaney released a $4 trillion climate action proposal that would introduce a carbon tax and set out to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050.



  • During an interview on Fox News, Tulsi Gabbard said a U.S. conflict with Iran would likely lead to a destabilized region and millions of refugees fleeing into Europe.



  • In an interview on PBS NewsHour, Kirsten Gillibrand discussed abortion and trade policy with China. “We can use the WTO, we can use multilateralism to effect a different outcome on how they deal with competitors and how they deal with the world economy. And I would hold them accountable. I would prosecute these cases of dumping of steel,” she said.



  • Mike Gravel called for a federal investigation into the police shooting of a Lakota man named Clarence Leading Fighter.









  • Amy Klobuchar opened her presidential headquarters in northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota, Thursday.



  • Tim Ryan introduced a bill to establish a chief manufacturing officer who would coordinate manufacturing policies and strategy across government.





  • Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin questioning him about his possible involvement in the decline of Sears.



  • By polling at 1 percent in a Monmouth University poll released Thursday, Marianne Williamson has met the polling criteria for the first primary debate, likely guaranteeing her a spot on the debate stage. Earlier this month, she met the fundraising criteria.




  • Vanity Fair reported on how the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign are conducting and planning to use opposition research against Biden.



  • Bill Weld discussed his primary strategy in an interview with Politico. “I’ll be focusing on the 20 states that permit crossover voting. It’s not just Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, it’s 17 other states,“ Weld said.


What We’re Reading

Flashback: May 24, 2015

The Washington Post reported on the rise of student loan debt as a key campaign issue. “A part of the reason student debt is so important for Democrats is that it’s a crucial motivator to get younger people to vote,” Democratic pollster Geoff Garin said. “Student debt is often the defining economic fact of their lives.”

The Daily Brew: Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon

Daily Brew

Welcome to the Friday, May 24, Brew. I hope you have a great Memorial Day weekend. I will not be popping into your inbox on Monday, and will instead see you again, bright and early, Tuesday morning. Next week, Ballotpedia will also begin our annual Ballotpedia Society membership drive. In case you didn’t know, Ballotpedia is a nonprofit organization, and we rely on the donations of our readers to keep informative products like the Brew going! We don’t like to bug you often, but we are excited to tell you more about what we are working on, and how you can help.

But until then, it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start today:

  1. Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon
  2. Alaska state representative targeted for recall
  3. Quiz: Which states do not have a state income tax?

Supreme Court declines to hear Chevron challenge in case involving UPS, Amazon

Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which the plaintiff challenged the Chevron doctrine—a 35-year old court precedent. The case also involves two of the largest corporations in the United States: Amazon and UPS.

The Chevron doctrine is an administrative law principle that compels federal courts to defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute that Congress delegated to the agency to administer. The principle derives its name from the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. That decision guided courts to consider whether Congress’ intent in writing a statute was ambiguous and whether the agency’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable.

In the suit, the United Parcel Service (UPS) challenged how the D.C. Circuit applied Chevron deference in upholding the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) cost allocation and pricing formulas. USPS package delivery rates are set by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). UPS argued that the D.C. Circuit made a mistake in its May 2018 opinion which applied the Chevron doctrine to uphold the formula used by the PRC to set rates. Amazon was among several organizations which filed briefs supporting the PRC.

In its petition, UPS asked the Court to reconsider the Chevron doctrine in light of the following criticisms:

  • “It threatens the proper separation of powers by shifting legislative and judicial responsibilities to executive agencies”
  • “There is no legal basis for the assumption that Congress implicitly delegates interpretive authority to agencies”
  • Chevron (with its attendant limitations) is enormously difficult to apply in practice.”
  • “Several Justices have recognized that this powerful criticism warrants a reconsideration of Chevron by the Court.”

A 2017 study by Michael Kagan at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that the Chevron doctrine has been cited in legal arguments 81,000 times since it was introduced. That same study also found that all nine current Supreme Court justices “have at least once signed an opinion explicitly holding that Chevron should not apply in a situation where the administrative law textbooks would previously have said that it must apply.”

In deciding not to take the case, the Supreme Court upheld the D.C. Circuit’s decision letting the PRC’s interpretation stand and upholding the cost and pricing formulas used by the postal service. Click the link below to read more about the Chevron doctrine, or click here to take one of our Learning Journeys to explore the topic in depth.

Learn more

Alaska state representative targeted for recall

The Alaska House of Representatives elected a Speaker of the House for its 2019 session on February 14thirty days after its members were sworn into office. During that time, majority or minority leaders and committee chairpersons were not selected and little legislative business was conducted. Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) called the legislature into a 30-day special session to address bills related to criminal reform, education funding, and the state’s operating, capital and mental health budgets.

Earlier this month, a committee was formed to gather signatures to recall Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp (R) for what recall supporters state was his role in the delays and disruptions to the 2019 legislative session.

In the November 2018 elections for the Alaska House of Representatives, Republicans won 23 seats, Democrats won 16 seats, and a Democratic-aligned independent won another race. On December 8, Knopp announced that he was leaving the Republican caucus in order to form a majority coalition with Democrats. Rep. Bryce Edgmon—who switched his party affiliation from Democratic to unenrolledwas eventually elected House Speaker by 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents. Both parties also split control of committee leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Alaska currently has divided government, as Republicans control the governor’s office and state Senate.

Recall supporters need about 1,000 signatures to request a recall petition from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R). If Meyer accepts the application, supporters will need about an additional 3,000 signatures to force a recall election. Alaska is one of 18 states to allow the recall of state legislators. Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and seven are still ongoing. The most recent recall of a state legislator was in 2018 when California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled.

The only grounds for recalling an elected official in the state are misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties. Recall supporters stated in their petition that they are seeking to recall Knopp because he “did not show up for several key votes this session,” “demonstrated his incompetence in representing a conservative district,” and “admitted that he had deceived his fellow lawmakers and constituents.”

Knopp responded to the recall by stating, “In the recall petition, they are welcome to do what they want to do. I don’t think they have cause, but if they want to move forward with it that’s their prerogative. I just wish it would be done by people in the district not the haters across the state who aren’t getting what they want.”

Knopp was elected to the state House in 2016 with 66.5% of the vote. He won re-election unopposed in 2018.

Want to learn more about recalls? Check out this short Ballotpedia video from our Beyond the Headlines series.

Learn more

Quiz: Which states do not have a state income tax?

I brought you a story yesterday about voters in Texas who will decide later this year whether to add an amendment to their state constitution prohibiting the adoption of a state income tax. Texas does not have currently have a state income tax and is one of just seven states without one. Four of the seven states without an income tax are Florida, Washington, Alaska, and Nevada.

Today’s quiz question is, what are the other two states without a state income tax?

  1. North Dakota and South Dakota
  2. Montana and Wyoming
  3. Idaho and Montana
  4. South Dakota and Wyoming

Correction: A story in Thursday’s Brew incorrectly stated that Amanda Green-Hawkins and Beth Tarasi advanced from Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The two candidates that advanced from the Democratic primary were Amanda Green-Hawkins and Daniel D. McCaffery. We apologize for the error.

The Daily Brew: Texas voters to decide constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax

Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, May 23, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Texas voters to decide constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax
  2. We’re collecting maps to improve your sample ballot
  3. More of Tuesday’s election results from Kentucky and Pennsylvania


Texas voters to decide constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax

Voters in Texas will decide a constitutional amendment in November 2019 to prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals. Texas is one of seven states without a personal income tax.

The measure would ban the adoption of a personal income tax and would require a subsequent constitutional amendment to enact one in the future. This requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of each legislative chamber in addition to being approved by voters. Under current law, voters in Texas must approve an income tax as a statewide referendum but only a majority vote in each chamber is necessary to place it on the ballot. These provisions were established when voters approved Proposition 4 in 1993. Proposition 4 also specifies that if an income tax is enacted, any revenues raised would be dedicated to education and would also be used to limit local school tax rates.

Twenty Democrats joined 80 Republicans in voting to approve the 2019 amendment in the state House. One hundred votes were needed in that chamber to pass. All 42 votes opposing the amendment were cast by Democrats, and three Republicans and five Democrats were absent or didn’t vote. In the state Senate, 21 votes were needed for passage. All 19 Republicans joined three Democrats in approving the amendment and all 9 votes opposing the measure were cast by Democrats.

Seven statewide ballot measures have been certified for the November 2019 ballot in Texas. The state legislature is expected to adjourn on May 27 and could refer additional constitutional amendments before they adjourn. An average of 13 measures appeared on odd-year statewide ballots in Texas between 1995 and 2017. Voters approved 91 percent145 out of 159of the constitutional amendments during this 22-year period.

Across the country, 12 statewide ballot measures in four states have been certified to appear before voters in 2019.

Learn more


We’re collecting maps to improve your sample ballot

One of our primary aims here at Ballotpedia is filling the ballot information gap. The further down the ballot you go, the more the ballot information gap widens. At the most local level, voters typically have little information about who or what they’re voting for. We will consider ourselves many steps closer to achieving our mission when we can offer a comprehensive sample ballot.

Ballotpedia currently offers two lookup tools for voters: a preview of your ballot, and a tool to find out your current representatives. These tools are partly powered by digital maps, and so are limited by the maps that are available. We’ve faced a variety of challenges in getting maps for city council seats and county commission seats. Without these maps, voters cannot view a sample ballot specific to these local districts.

Our goal: to be able to place each address in the country correctly inside their respective districts. This would be the first step toward being able to show every voter in the country a list of candidates through their most local elections, including school boards and special districts. That’s what we mean when we talk about offering a comprehensive sample ballot.

Earlier this year, we conducted a study evaluating how we can get all the maps we need to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and specific sample ballot. We hope that we will be able to build off this work and start bringing you more ballot information, state by state.

If we are successful in comprehensively gathering and building these maps, we will be meeting voters needs in a way they haven’t been met before. Any voter in the United States could search their address and find a list of candidates for their local school board, or the names of the individuals representing a special district in their area. That is what the future looks like when we succeed in our mission of providing a comprehensive, universal sample ballot.

Launch our tools

Sample Ballot Lookup Tool

Who Represents Me?


More of Tuesday’s election results from Kentucky and Pennsylvania

Yesterday’s Brew highlighted the results of Kentucky’s Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the other races we were following on Tuesday:


State Rep. Fred Keller (R) defeated college professor Marc Friedenberg (D) in a special election to fill the vacant U.S. House seat representing Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Unofficial returns showed Keller receiving 68% of the vote to Friedenberg’s 32%.

The vacancy occurred when former Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned in January. Marino beat Friedenberg by 32 points in November 2018 and Donald Trump (R) carried the district by 36 points in the 2016 presidential election.

This was the first special election to fill a vacancy in the 116th Congress. Two special elections—in North Carolina’s 3rd and 9th Congressional Districts—will occur on September 10.


Incumbent James Kenney defeated former City Controller Alan Butkovitz and state Sen. Anthony Williams in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia. Kenney received 67% of the vote to Williams’ 24% and Butkovitz’ 9%. Kenney, who served 23 years on the city council before his election as mayor in 2015, was endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), and all three of Philadelphia’s representatives in the U.S. House.

Kenney will face attorney Billy Ciancaglini (R) and any independent or third-party candidates in the November 5 general election. Since 1951, no incumbent Philadelphia mayor has lost a re-election bid, and no Republican has won a Philadelphia mayoral election since 1947.

Philadelphia voters also approved four charter amendments on Tuesday, according to election night results. Voters approved changing gender-specific references in the city charter to gender-neutral ones, making the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs permanent, and creating a new class of law enforcement officers to assist with regulating traffic but that are not allowed to carry firearms. Voters also approved a charter amendment asking the Pennsylvania legislature to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. This measure does not actually affect Philadelphia’s minimum wage since Pennsylvania has preempted local governments, such as cities, from setting their own minimum wage standards. All charter amendments on Tuesday’s ballot were approved by at least 68% of voters.


Amanda Green-Hawkins and Beth Tarasi were the top two finishers in the Democratic primary for two open seats on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Megan McCarthy King and Christylee Peck were the top two finishers for the Republican nomination for those seats.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court is one of Pennsylvania’s two statewide intermediate appellate courts. It reviews most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the courts of common pleas in the state’s 67 counties. Judges of the superior court are chosen in partisan elections to 10-year terms. Existing judges are subject to retention elections to win successive 10-year terms.


Voters selected nominees for five down-ballot state executive offices in Kentucky—attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, state auditor, and state treasurer. Republican incumbents Ryan Quarles, Mike Harmon, and Allison Ball won their primaries for agriculture commissioner, state auditor, and state treasurer, respectively. All three were first elected in 2015.

Daniel Cameron defeated Wil Schroder in the Republican primary for the open-seat race for attorney general. Former state Attorney General Greg Stumbo won the Democratic nomination unopposed. Incumbent Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) won his party’s nomination for governor. Heather French Henry (D) and Michael Adams (R) won their party’s primaries for Kentucky Secretary of State to succeed incumbent Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who is term-limited.

Learn more

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) rules ballot measure distribution requirement unconstitutional

On Wednesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) released an opinion stating that a distribution requirement and some other provisions restricting the state’s initiative process passed in 2018 were unconstitutional.
Nessel’s opinion is binding for state officials unless a court ruling overturns it. The opinion was requested by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who would have been involved in the enforcement of the new initiative petition rules.
In 2018’s lame-duck legislative session the Michigan State Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed Michigan House Bill 6595 (now Public Act 608). HB 6595 (PA 608) created a distribution requirement for initiative signature petitions in Michigan limiting the number of signatures collected in any one congressional district to 15% of the total required. This effectively requires valid signatures from a minimum of seven different congressional districts for a successful initiative petition. The bill also required the disclosure on petitions of whether a petitioner is paid or volunteer; mandated a petitioner affidavit; and made other changes regarding petitioners, valid signatures, and the timeline for certification. In the Senate, 26 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all 11 Democrats along with one Republican voted against the bill. In the House, Republicans approved the bill 56-5, and Democrats rejected the bill 42-1.
Nessel’s opinion also declared unconstitutional the requirement that petitioners disclose on petition sheets their paid or volunteer status.
In her opinion, Nessel argued that the distribution requirement provisions of HB 6595 imposed an additional obligation for qualifying an initiative for the ballot beyond what was required or authorized by the Michigan Constitution. Nessel said, “The Legislature cannot impose an additional obligation that does not appear in article 2, § 9 and that curtails or unduly burdens the people’s right of initiative and referendum. Here, the 15% distribution requirement goes beyond a process requirement to impose a substantive limitation on the number of voters within a congressional district whose signatures may be counted under article 2, § 9.”
Nessel also cited Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution v Sec’y of State—a 2018 Michigan Supreme Court ruling—that the initiative and referendum rights “can be interfered with neither by the legislature, the courts, nor the officers charged with any duty in the premises.”
In response to Nessel’s opinion, Rep. Jim Lower (R), who sponsored HB 6595, said, “I don’t think anybody’s surprised. I disagree with the conclusions she has come to, and I think it will be litigated.” Lower argued spreading signature gathering efforts out across more of the state shows broader support for any proposed initiatives and is a common-sense requirement.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said, “Both the Michigan Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect Michigan citizens’ right to amend our laws or state constitution through direct citizen petitions. I am grateful to Attorney General Nessel for clarifying the constitutional infirmities of Public Act 608.”
Sixteen other states have a distribution requirement for citizen-initiated measures.
Michigan has divided government with Republicans controlling the state legislature and a Democrat controlling the governor’s office. Michigan has a Democratic Triplex. In the 2018 elections, Democrats took control of the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state—offices held by Republicans going into 2018. The 2018 elections broke an existing Republican trifecta and triplex in Michigan.
In the 2018 election cycle, Michigan voters approved three citizen initiatives:
  • a marijuana legalization initiative;
  • a redistricting commission initiative; and
  • an initiative adding eight voting policies to the Michigan Constitution, including straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting.
Three other initiatives qualified for the 2018 ballot: a minimum wage initiative, a paid sick leave initiative, and an initiative repealing the state’s prevailing wage law. But, using Michigan’s indirect initiative process, the legislature passed the initiatives themselves, thereby precluding an election on them. Then, in December 2018, the legislature amended the minimum wage and paid sick leave initiatives.
Additional reading:

The Daily Presidential News Briefing: Hickenlooper unveils gun safety platform

The Daily Presidential News Briefing

May 23, 2019: John Hickenlooper unveiled his gun safety platform. Kirsten Gillibrand released her “Family Bill of Rights” on healthcare and adoption.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Poll Spotlight

Polling update

Polling update

Notable Quote of the Day

“[Barack Obama’s] untitled memoir, which will reportedly begin with his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and cover his two terms in the White House, won’t be released in 2019, as his publisher, Penguin Random House, had predicted just a few months ago. Dropping the book this year would have helped Obama largely avoid the current political calendar, and a 2020 release threatens to affect the primaries and the party’s campaign against Donald Trump by re-litigating decisions made a decade ago. Another option is to hold it until 2021, when Obama could be either the voice of a party in despair after another defeat, or poised to grab the spotlight from a freshly elected Democratic president.”

– Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic staff writer





  • Bill de Blasio will attend a rally of McDonald’s workers in Iowa striking for a $15 minimum wage and to form a union. Julián Castro will also join a McDonald’s rally in North Carolina Thursday.



  • Cory Booker said that he would create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom focused on “coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care” at the federal level.



  • Pete Buttigieg discussed the state of the Republican Party and democracy in The New York Times podcast The Argument.



  • Kirsten Gillibrand released her “Family Bill of Rights” proposal that would address several medical, educational, and tax policies, including requiring insurance companies to cover fertility treatments like IVF and providing refundable tax credits for adoption. She also said she would establish “Equal Adoption Rights” prohibiting taxpayer-funded adoption services from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.



  • Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act which would tax the trade of stocks by 0.5 percent, bonds by 0.1 percent, and derivatives by 0.005 percent.





  • During an interview on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Kamala Harris discussed investigations into Trump and her equal pay policy proposal.



  • John Hickenlooper released his gun safety platform Wednesday, calling for universal background checks, extending waiting periods from three to 10 days, establishing a national gun license, raising the age to own a gun from 18 to 21, and supporting extreme risk protection orders.



  • Jay Inslee signed a measure into law in Washington prohibiting local authorities from asking about someone’s immigration status.



  • Amy Klobuchar will hold a roundtable with health officials, first responders, and healthcare and treatment professionals on the opioid crisis in Minnesota Thursday.



  • Seth Moulton advocated a public option rather than single-payer healthcare during a hearing on various Medicare for All proposals.





  • Tim Ryan discussed Chinese tariffs, the economy, Nancy Pelosi, and why he changed his mind on abortion access in an interview on WBUR’s Here & Now.





  • Marianne Williamson made a three-day swing through New Hampshire from Tuesday through Thursday. She also appeared on Fox News, where she criticized the debate qualification criteria set by the Democratic National Committee. Williamson has met the minimum qualification for the debate via fundraising.




  • Mike Pence attended a kickoff event in North Carolina for the Republican National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte next year.


General Election Updates

  • The Nevada State Senate passed a bill supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada would be the 15th state to join the agreement, bringing the total electoral votes covered by the agreement up to 195. The compact will only take effect once 270 electors are pledged.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: May 23, 2015

Ben Carson won the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll with 25 percent of the vote. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz followed with 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively.