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2020 Democratic candidates campaign in Iowa State Senate district ahead of special election

On March 19, 2019, Cedar Falls School Board member Eric Giddens (D) and former state Rep. Walt Rogers (R) are running in a special election for the District 30 seat in the Iowa State Senate. The previous officeholder, Jeff Danielson (D), resigned on February 14, 2019. The two candidates were chosen by party conventions rather than primary elections.

Republicans currently hold a 32-17 majority in the chamber. If Rogers wins, Republicans will hold 33 seats. If Giddens wins, Democrats will hold 18 seats.

Still, the race is drawing attention as current and potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are coming to support and campaign for Giddens, trying to earn the favor of state and local party members in advance of the state caucus.

By election day, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will have made appearances at events for Giddens or held their own campaign events in the district. Other 2020 hopefuls, like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have sent campaign staff to canvass for Giddens.

Kevin Giken, the executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the candidates coming to the district “shows that they’re committed to actually seeing Iowa Democrats succeed, and giving back resources rather than taking resources.”

Rogers said that the campaign visits would create an opportunity to nationalize the race. He has called his opponent an “avowed socialist” for donating to the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and said that their race was “sort of a microcosm of what’s happening in the country because I think socialism is going to be an issue in the coming election as well.”



Ten file for 4 Pittsburgh school board seats

Ten candidates filed paperwork to run in the May 21 primary for four of the nine seats on the Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors in Pennsylvania. The general election is on November 5, and the filing deadline was March 12.

Out of the four seats up for election, District 8 incumbent Kevin Carter was the only board member to file for re-election. He is running unopposed in both the primary and general election. District 2 incumbent Regina Holley, District 4 incumbent Lynda Wrenn, and District 6 incumbent Moira Kaleida did not file for re-election.

Nine candidates filed to run for the three open seats. In District 2, four candidates are running in the Democratic primary. One of those candidates will also appear on the Republican primary ballot. In District 4, three candidates are running in the Democratic primary. Two of those candidates will also appear on the Republican primary ballot. In District 6, two candidates have filed to run in the Democratic primary. In Pennsylvania, school board candidates can file to run as both Democratic and Republican candidates simultaneously.

Pittsburgh Public Schools served 22,359 students during the 2016-2017 school year.



Kentucky governor receives shortlist for supreme court nomination

On March 13, 2019, the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission sent three names to Gov. Matt Bevin (R) as possible choices to fill a vacancy on the Kentucky Supreme Court. The justice Bevin selects will be his first appointment to the seven-member court.
 
The three possible nominees are:
  1. David Buckingham: Judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2005 and judge on a circuit court from 1987 to 1996.
  2. Tyler L. Gill: Judge on a circuit court since 1995 and on a district court from 1993 to 1995.
  3. Carla Williams: Judge on a circuit court since 2004.
 
The vacancy was created by the retirement of Justice Bill Cunningham. Under state law, if there is a midterm vacancy on the state supreme court, the governor appoints a successor from a list of three names provided by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission is made up of the chief justice of the court, two attorneys elected by the Kentucky Bar Association, and four citizens appointed by the governor equally split by political party.
 
A special election will take place in November 2019 for the remainder of Cunningham’s term, which expires in January 2023. Bevin’s replacement will serve until the winner of that election is sworn in, and may choose to run in the November special election.


Senate confirms second circuit court nominee without approval from home-state senators

On March 12, the U.S. Senate confirmed Paul Matey to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit on a vote of 54-45. President Trump nominated Matey to the court on April 12, 2018. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V. ) was the only Democratic senator to vote in favor of the confirmation.

Matey will join the court upon receiving his judicial commission and taking his judicial oath. Once he joins the court, Matey’s confirmation will result in a 7-6 Republican-appointed majority on the 3rd Circuit. Before Matey’s confirmation, the court had six judges appointed by Democratic presidents, six judges appointed by Republican presidents, and two vacant seats.

As of March 2019, no other circuit courts would change partisan balance based on an appointing president’s party, but Trump’s nominees could impact two courts by nearing the number of Republican-appointed judges to the number of Democratic-approved judges. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which has two current vacancies and two pending nominations, currently has a 7-4 Democratic-appointed majority. Should the Senate confirm the two nominees, the court’s balance would shift to a 7-6 Democratic-appointed majority. Similarly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has five vacancies and five pending nominations. The court has a 16-8 Democratic-appointed majority.

Matey was the second circuit court judge confirmed without blue slip approval from home-state senators. Eric Miller was the first circuit court judge confirmed without support from both home-state senators. A blue slip is a piece of paper a home-state senator returns to the Senate Judiciary Committee chair to express support for a federal judicial nominee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) decided not to require blue slip approval for federal judicial nominees to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals.

Home-state Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, both Democrats representing New Jersey, said the White House did not consult them before nominating Matey. Booker, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the confirmation without blue slip approval “goes right to the ability of any senator in this body to truly represent their state.” Menendez expressed concern for Matey’s record and his role in the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R).

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Democrats were responsible for changing the blue slip process, referring to changes Democratic senators introduced in 2013. “The day that you dealt yourself out as a minority to have a say about who gets on the court was the day that everything changed,” he said. He also stated that senators from one state should not be able to block circuit court nominees, since circuit courts serve multiple states.



Utah legislature refers four constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot

The Utah legislature, set to adjourn on March 14, 2019, has referred four constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot.
 
HJR 1, Municipal Water Resources Amendment:
This amendment would allow a municipality to commit water resources or supply water outside its boundary or exchange water resources and revise provisions surrounding municipal water rights.
 
HJR 4, Legislator Qualifications Amendment:
This amendment would specify that qualifications of a legislator—such as age and voter registration—must apply as of the time of election or appointment rather than the time a legislator assumes office.
 
HJR 8, Removal of Exception to Slavery Prohibition for Criminals Amendment:
This amendment would remove part of the Utah Constitution that says slavery and involuntary servitude are allowable for the punishment of a crime. A similar amendment was referred to the 2020 ballot by the Nebraska State Legislature.
 
SJR 7, Gender-Neutral Constitutional Language Amendment:
This amendment would remove gender-specific language in the state constitution and replace it with gender-neutral language. For example, the amendment would update constitutional language to say things like “all persons” rather than “all men.”
 
At the general election on November 3, 2020, the amendments must be approved by a majority of voters voting in the election (not just a majority of voters voting on the amendment). Citizen initiatives can also be put on the 2020 ballot through signature petitions in Utah.
 
From 1996 through 2018, the state legislature referred 42 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 38 and rejected four of the referred amendments. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was between three and four. The approval rate at the ballot box was 90.48 percent during the 22-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 9.52 percent.


Second lawsuit filed against transportation sales tax initiative in Hillsborough County, Florida

Residents of Hillsborough County, Florida, approved a citizen initiative in November that implemented a 1 percent sales tax to fund road and transportation projects. Referendum 2, the initiative backed by local group All for Transportation, received 57 percent approval. Following its passage, County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit in December calling for the sales tax to be overturned. On March 8, 2019, a county resident, filed a second lawsuit calling for Referendum 2 to be overturned.

John Cimino filed a class-action lawsuit in Hillsborough County circuit court, echoing the argument in Stacy White’s complaint that the referendum violated state law. Both Cimino and White stated that Referendum 2 is unlawful because it prevents the county commission from voting on how funds from the new sales tax are allocated. Cimino’s suit is intended to represent other county residents who have paid the 1 percent sales tax on purchases in 2019. In the complaint, Cimino calls upon the court to issue an injunction to stop the collection of the tax and to refund taxpayers.



Denver airport minimum wage initiative withdrawn from May ballot; Denver City Council approves minimum wage increase for city employees

On March 11, 2019, the Denver City Council voted unanimously in favor of Council Bill 19-0163, a minimum wage increase backed by Mayor Michael Hancock. The measure was designed to raise the minimum wage for city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties from $11.10 an hour to $13 in July 2019, $14 in July 2020, and $15 in July 2021.

Prior to the bill’s passage, the city was set to vote on an initiative to increase the minimum wage for employees at the Denver International Airport during the May 7 municipal election. Unite Here Local 23 began collecting signatures for the minimum wage citizen initiative in August 2018. The Denver Elections Division verified in November 2018 that the group had submitted a sufficient number of signatures to place the initiative on the May ballot. Approval of the citizen initiative would have enacted minimum wage increases following the same schedule as the mayor’s bill but with increases only for employees working at the airport.

Council Bill 19-0163 provides for the minimum wage increases for airport employees supported by Unite Here Local 23 while it also provides for the same increases for other city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties. Following the council’s vote to pass the bill, proponents withdrew the citizen initiative from the May ballot.



Sugar City residents vote to retain mayor and councilman despite recall effort

A recall effort in Sugar City, Idaho, was defeated on March 12, 2019. Mayor David Ogden and Councilman Brent Barrus were retained with 62.1 and 63.8 percent of the vote, respectively. The effort was initiated in September 2018 and required 167 signatures to get on the ballot.

The recall effort began in response to development plans in Division Three of Old Farm Estates, where some residents were worried that the developers were planning to add apartments. Supporters of the recall effort said this would go against the city’s comprehensive plan to add more single-family homes. Catherine Nielson, who initiated the recall, stated, “The Mayor and Barrus violated the comprehensive plan and pushed through their own agenda at the expense of residents of Sugar City.“

Ogden and Barrus both responded to the recall effort. Ogden said, “I understand why they want to do the recall, but I’m also hoping that the citizens will give me the chance to finish off the year of 2019.” Barrus said, “Our town needs healing and forgiving, instead of more division and contention. They seek to silence many of you by removing Mayor Ogden and me from office.”



Idaho mayor survives recall effort in Elk River

An effort in Elk River, Idaho, to recall Mayor Dave Brown was defeated on March 12, 2019, with 44 votes cast to retain the mayor and 21 votes cast to recall the mayor. According to The Lewiston Tribune, there are 81 registered voters in Elk River, meaning the recall election saw an 80.2 percent voter turnout.
 
The recall effort was initiated in February 2019 after recall supporters accused the mayor of public drunkenness, misuse of city equipment, failing to respond to public safety issues, and discouraging law enforcement presence in Elk River. Brown responded to the recall petition by saying he believed the complaints in the petition stemmed from the all-terrain vehicle fun runs the town hosts twice per year. He said he was innocent of the charges.


Massachusetts mayor loses recall but wins election on same night

On March 12, 2019, an effort in Fall River, Massachusetts, to recall Mayor Jasiel Correia II was approved. However, on the same night, Correia was also elected to serve as mayor of the city again.
 
According to The Herald News, Correia qualified to run as a candidate to be mayor in case the recall vote was successful. On the first portion of the ballot, Correia was recalled with 7,829 votes cast in favor of the recall and 4,911 votes cast in opposition to the recall. The second portion of the ballot allowed voters to choose who should serve as mayor if the recall vote succeeded. Correia received more votes than his four opponents and will retain his position. He won by a plurality with 4,808 (35.4%) of the total votes cast. Runner-up Paul Coogan received 4,567 votes (33.6%), Joe Camara won 1,971 votes (14.5%), Kyle Riley won 1,460 votes (10.8%), and Erica Scott-Pacheo won 740 votes (5.5%).
 
Petitioners began the recall process after Correia was arrested on October 11, 2018, on 13 charges of wire and tax fraud related to his company SnoOwl. In a press conference following the indictment, Correia said he was innocent of the charges and that he would not resign from office. He said the voters of Fall River should let him continue to serve or recall him.