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Three candidates qualify for Florida special election

Two Republicans and one Democrat qualified to run in an upcoming special election for the District 38 seat of the Florida House of Representatives.
 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered the special election on January 25, 2019, after he appointed state Rep. Danny Burgess (R) as executive director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Burgess was first elected to the District 38 seat in 2014.
 
Randy Maggard and David McCallister are competing in the Republican primary on April 9, 2019. The winner of that contest will face Kelly Smith (D) in the general election on June 18, 2019.
 
Two other Florida districts will also hold special elections in June: District 7, where incumbent Halsey Beshears (R) was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and District 97, where incumbent Jared Moskowitz (D) was appointed Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
 
Florida is currently a Republican trifecta, which occurs when a single party has control of the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. Following the November 2018 general election, Republicans held a 73-47 majority in the Florida House of Representatives.


Seven Louisiana special elections could result in up to three flipped State House seats

Seven seats on the Louisiana House of Representatives are up for special election on February 23, 2019. In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election. If a candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, he or she wins outright. If no candidate reaches that threshold on Saturday, the top-two candidates in each race advance to a general election scheduled for March 30. Four of the seven races have only two candidates on the ballot, meaning they will not advance to a general election. The other three have between four and six candidates appearing on the ballot.
 
Six of the seven previous incumbents vacated their seats after winning election to another office, with the last resigning to take a job with the state. Three seats were previously held by Democrats and four were held by Republicans. A total of 14 Democratic candidates, seven Republican candidates, and one independent candidate will compete for the seats. Districts 17 and 26 will remain in Democratic hands as no Republican candidates filed for those seats. Likewise, Districts 12 and 47 will stay Republican. The remaining three races could result in a flipped seat; District 18—previously held by a Democrat—and Districts 27 and 62—previously held by Republicans—all have candidates from multiple parties on the ballot.
 
As of February, 42 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Before the February special elections, the Louisiana House of Representatives has 36 Democrats, 59 Republicans, three independents, and seven vacancies. All 105 seats are up for election in 2019. A majority in the chamber requires 53 seats. Louisiana has a divided government with a Democratic governor but Republican majorities in both state legislative chambers.


North Carolina State Board of Elections orders new election in state’s 9th Congressional District

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously on February 21 to order a new election in the state’s 9th Congressional District following four days of hearings on alleged ballot tampering and election fraud.
 
The state Board will set the date for the primary and general election, unlike the nearby 3rd Congressional District, whose upcoming special election will be scheduled by the governor. Rep. Walter Jones (R), who represented North Carolina’s 3rd District since 1995, died on February 10.
 
Pastor Mark Harris (R) led businessman Dan McCready (D) by 905 votes according to unofficial returns last November. The board declined to certify the results after reports surfaced of voting irregularities in Bladen County.
 
In the months-long investigation that followed, evidence was presented allegedly showing that Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a Harris campaign contractor, and others had engaged in misconduct in the handling of absentee ballots.
 
Harris said during the hearing that he was unaware of any illegal behavior and also called for a new election. While prosecutors are examining the Dowless operation, no criminal charges have been brought against anyone in the matter.
 
Incumbent Robert Pittenger (R), who was first elected in 2012, was defeated by Harris in the Republican primary last May.


Constitutional amendment regarding sewage systems certified to appear on the ballot in Wyoming on November 3, 2020

The measure, introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 by Republican Representative Lloyd Charles Larsen, would remove the constitutional limit on debt a municipality could incur for municipal sewer projects. The current limit on debt is 4 percent of the assessed value of the taxable property within the municipality. This measure would remove that limit and instead allow the legislature to provide for additional indebtedness.
 
HJR 2 was approved in the House on January 24, 2019, by a vote of 45-12 with three Republican Representatives not voting. It passed in the Senate on February 21, 2019, by a vote of 27-3.
 
Vote totals by party:
  • House Democrats: 9 yes, 0 no
  • House Republicans: 35 yes, 12 no, 3 absent or not voting
  • Senate Democrats: 3 yes, 0 no
  • Senate Republicans: 24 yes, 3 no
As of February 21, 2019, seven statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2020 ballot in five states.


Sanders raises nearly $6 million in first 24 hours of presidential campaign

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) raised nearly $6 million in the first 24 hours of his 2020 presidential campaign, marking a record total for 2020 candidates with his initial fundraising haul and the number of donors—223,000—who contributed.
 
Sanders, who came in second in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary with 46 percent of pledged delegates, formally entered the race Tuesday.
 
Former American Civil Liberties Union national political director Faiz Shakir will serve as Sanders’ campaign manager. Shakir has previously worked with top Democrats Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Jeff Weaver, who managed Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, is expected to join the team as a senior adviser this time around.
 
Sanders is one of twelve elected officials or notable public figures running in the Democratic primary for president, as of February 21.


Foster, Reeves, and Waller Jr. running in GOP primary for Mississippi governor

Three candidates have announced they are running in the August 6 Republican primary for Mississippi’s governorship: state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. A fourth candidate, State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is considering entering the race.
 
Reeves was called a “[heavyweight] in the governor’s race” by WREG. He had raised nearly $1.8 million as of January 1, 2019, and he led Foster 62 percent to 9 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll conducted January 30 to February 1 (Waller was not included). Reeves was first elected lieutenant governor in 2011. Before that, he served as state treasurer since 2003.
 
Waller is the son of former Mississippi Gov. Bill Waller Sr. (D), who served from 1972 to 1976. Waller Jr. served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1997 until his retirement on January 31, 2019, and he was chief justice from 2009 to 2019. Former Mississippi State University political scientist Marty Wiseman said Waller is “creating an alternative for folks who want to vote Republican but are disinclined to vote for Tate Reeves. They now will have a legitimate option.”
 
Foster was first elected to the state house in 2015. He said he was running for governor after a short time in government because he “did not want to take the typical one step up the political ladder over a 16-, 20-year period.” He said he believes “that no matter how strong your convictions are, how passionate you are, if you get into the political system that long, it will grind you down.”
 
McDaniel said he spoke with President Donald Trump about the possibility of running. He was first elected to the state senate in 2007 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat held by Thad Cochran (R) in 2014, losing to Cochran in a Republican runoff by 2 percentage points. He also ran in a 2018 special election for the seat after Cochran’s resignation. He received 16.4 percent of the vote in the November 6 special election, not enough to advance to the November 27 runoff.
 
The primary winner will run in the November 5 general election to succeed term-limited incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who was first elected in 2011 with 61 percent of the vote. Bryant was re-elected in 2015 with 66 percent. Gubernatorial candidates must file for the race by March 1.


Iowa governor makes second appointment to state supreme court

On February 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) selected Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Christopher McDonald to replace retired Justice Daryl Hecht on the Iowa Supreme Court. McDonald is Reynolds’ second nominee to the seven-member court. He will serve on the supreme court for one year and must then must compete in a yes-no retention election in 2020 to remain on the bench.
 
Four of the court’s current members were appointed by Republican governors. The other two members were appointed by Democratic governors. Retired Justice Hecht was appointed to the supreme court by former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D).
 
McDonald’s appointment leaves the Iowa Court of Appeals with two vacant seats. Under Iowa law, the governor appoints supreme court and court of appeals justices with help from a nominating commission. The commission submits three nominees to the governor, who appoints one nominee to the court. The commission is composed of 17 members. It is chaired by a senior justice on the supreme court other than the chief justice, eight lawyers elected by licensed Iowa lawyers, and eight non-lawyers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa State Senate.
 
McDonald joined the state court of appeals in 2013 after being appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad (R). McDonald was a judge for Iowa District Five from 2012 to 2013. He previously worked in private practice. McDonald received his undergraduate degree from Grand View University in 1997 and his J.D. from the University of Iowa in 2001.


SCOTUS to hear four cases next week

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the following four cases next week:
 
*Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a case concerning the First Amendment’s limitation on governmental restriction of free speech and public access television channels.
 
*Mont v. United States, a case concerning supervised release for criminals.
 
*United States v. Haymond, a case concerning additional time for sex offenders who violate terms of supervised release.
 
*The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a case concerning a World War I memorial cross on public land.
 
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
 
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.


SCOTUS releases two unanimous opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court released two unanimous opinions this week.
 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the unanimous opinion in Timbs v. Indiana, a case concerning the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines. It was her second opinion of the term.
 
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the unanimous opinion in Dawson v. Steager, a case concerning federal retirement benefits and state income taxes. It was his second opinion of the term.
 
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
 
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.


Democrat wins special election for Virginia House seat

Democrat Ibraheem Samirah won the February 19 special election for the District 86 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates with 59.5 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election night results. He defeated Republican Gregg Nelson and independent candidate Connie Haines Hutchinson. The candidates were selected through firehouse primaries administered by each political party.
 
The seat became vacant after Jennifer Boysko (D) won a special election for District 33 of the Virginia State Senate on January 8.
 
Entering the special election, the Virginia House of Delegates had 48 Democrats, 51 Republicans, and one vacancy. Virginia has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, but both chambers of the state legislature are held by Republican majorities.