Today’s Brew highlights the latest debate news and previews today’s presidential update webinar + reviews the latest local political news from around the U.S.
Welcome to the Thursday, April 29, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
Ten candidates qualify for September’s Democratic presidential debate
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announces he’s retiring at the end of 2019
Ten candidates qualify for September’s Democratic presidential debate
The Democratic National Committee announced the 10 candidates who qualified for the party’s third presidential debate in Houston on September 12. They are as follows:
Candidates were required to provide verifiable evidence that they received donations from at least 130,000 unique donors with a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states. Candidates were also required to have received 2% support or more in four national or early state polls—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada—publicly released between June 28 and August 28.
Eleven candidates did not qualify for this debate. Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson all achieved the fundraising threshold but did not meet the polling threshold. The other eight candidates—Kirsten Gillibrand, Michal Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, Wayne Messam, Tim Ryan, and Joe Sestak—did not meet either threshold in time to qualify. Gillibrand announced late yesterday that she was ending her presidential campaign.
ABC News and Univision are hosting the debate, which will take place at Texas Southern University. Candidates will have one minute and 15 seconds to answer questions and 45 seconds for rebuttals.
We’re also excited to announce the launch of a brand new Learning Journey on Iowa and New Hampshire’s role in the presidential nominating calendar. Our Learning Journeys give you a series of daily emails with information, examples, and exercises to help you broaden your knowledge of U.S. government and politics. This Learning Journey guides you through the history of why Iowa and New Hampshire are so important in presidential elections and how the results of the early primaries can affect the rest of the presidential election cycle. I’m really looking forward to taking this one myself—click here to get started.
And to catch up on all the presidential news from the past few months, join Emily Aubert and me for today’s quarterly presidential briefing webinar at 11 a.m. Central time. Emily is one of the primary authors of our daily and weekly Presidential News Briefing newsletters and she and I will discuss who’s in and who’s out in both parties, upcoming debates, and how the early state contests are shaping up. You won’t want to miss this as we examine the current state of the 2020 presidential race and what’s likely to happen next. Click the link below to reserve your spot!
At Ballotpedia, we love local elections. We provide election coverage of all officeholders in the nation’s 100 largest cities—including mayors, city council members, and other municipal officers like city clerk and treasurer. We also cover every election on the ballot in these cities, such as special districts, county officials, and local ballot measures. With more than 585,000 elected officials nationwide, nearly all elections happen at the hyper-local level.
Here’s a quick summary of the local news we covered this week:
Phoenix residents rejected two citizen initiatives—Propositions 105 and 106—at an August 27 special election. Proposition 105 would have terminated funding for future light rail expansion in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and allocated revenue from the transportation tax towards other infrastructure projects. Proposition 106 would have required the city to limit budget growth and devote a greater portion of its budget to pay down its $4.5 billion pension debt.
St. Petersburg held primary elections August 27 for three seats on its eight-member city council. Two districts featured incumbents running for re-election and both received a majority of votes in their races. The top two vote recipients in each of the primaries advanced to the general election, which is scheduled for November 5. St. Petersburg is the fifth-largest city in Florida and the 77th-largest city in the U.S. by population.
City Councilwoman Regina Romero defeated two other candidates August 27 to win the Democratic mayoral primary. Romero received 50% of the vote and second-place finisher Steve Farley—who endorsed Romero after the primary—had 38%. Romero is vying to be Tucson’s first female mayor and will face independent candidate Edward Ackerley and Green Party write-in candidate Mike Cease in the general election November 5. No Republican candidate filed to run. Incumbent Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D) did not seek a third term.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announces he’s retiring at the end of 2019
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced yesterday that he was resigning as of the end of 2019 due to health concerns. In a statement, Isakson said, “With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.”
He is the first senator to announce his resignation during the 116th Congress and is the fifth senator—four Republicans and one Democrat—not seeking re-election in 2020.
Fourteen U.S. House members—11 Republicans and three Democrats—have announced they will not seek re-election in 2020. Two—one Republican and one Democrat—are running for seats in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) is running for governor.
Under Georgia law, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will appoint Isakson’s replacement until a special election is held on November 3, 2020, to fill the remainder of Isakson’s term—which would have expired in January 2023. In that special election, all candidates will appear on the ballot regardless of party. If no candidate receives a majority, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff in January 2021. Since the seat currently held by Sen. David Perdue (R) is also up for election, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot in November 2020.
Isakson’s announcement comes two days after Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) stated on August 26 that he was resigning in September due to family considerations. On his Facebook page, Duffy said, “With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now.” Upon Duffy’s resignation, a special election will be held to elect a new representative in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.
Isakson was first elected to the Senate in 2004 to replace retiring incumbent Zell Miller (D). He won re-election campaigns in both 2010 and 2016.
In 2018, 52 members of the House and three U.S. Senators did not seek re-election. Forty House members and five Senators did not seek re-election in 2016.
In 2018, 88 regular state legislative races were decided by margins under 0.5%, including 16 races decided by 10 or fewer votes and two which were decided by a single vote. Eighteen of these races took place in New Hampshire, three times as many as in any other state.
Regular state legislative elections for 6,073 seats in 87 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers took place in 2018.
Across all 6,073 seats, the average margin of victory—defined as the difference between the vote share of the winning candidate and the runner-up—was 25.8%. In comparison, the average margin of victory across the 467 seats in the U.S. Congress that were up for election that year was 29.2% (16.8% across 33 U.S. Senate seats and 30.2% across 434 U.S. House seats).
Across all chambers, the smallest average margin of victory was 7.7% in the South Dakota House of Representatives and the largest was 51.6% in the Tennessee State Senate. The average nationwide margin of victory was higher for Democrats (26.8%) than for Republicans (22.3%).
In 2020, state legislative seats in 4,798 districts which held elections in 2018 will be up for election again. Republicans won seats in 2,454 of those districts in 2018, while Democrats won seats in 2,375. The 2018 elections in these districts were decided by a smaller margin than the overall average (24.9% compared to 25.8% overall). The average margin in the districts where Republicans won was 24.5%, while the average margin in districts where Democrats won was 27.8%.
Of the chambers holding elections again in 2020, the South Dakota House of Representatives had the smallest average margin of victory for Democrats at 1.9%, while the Vermont State Senate had the smallest average margin of victory for Republicans at 4.5%. The largest average margin of victory for Democrats was 55.2% in the New York State Assembly while the largest for Republicans was 40.2% in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Since returning from recess on August 12, the state legislature’s lower house has passed two constitutional amendments designed to reduce the voting age. ACA 4 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries and special elections. As of August 2019, 16 states allow 17-year-olds who will be at at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries. Unlike ACA 4, the second constitutional amendment would make California the first state in the nation to not just lower the voting age for primaries but for general elections. ACA 8 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in elections. ACA 4 and ACA 8 could appear on the ballot in March 2020, and ACA 8 could be implemented in time for the general election on November 3, 2020, should voters approve the constitutional amendment.
Both ACA 4 and ACA 8 had the support of most Democrats—56 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 54 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. Most Republicans opposed the constitutional amendments—2 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 3 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. The constitutional amendments needed 53 votes in the Assembly.
According to a California Assembly Floor Analysis, published on August 16, 2019, “Because the US Constitution only addresses abridging the right to vote and this measure expands voting rights there appears to be no conflict with the federal constitution. In an opinion dated April 12, 2004, the Legislative Counsel opined that an amendment to the California Constitution to permit a person under the age of 18 to vote would not violate federal law.”
With approval in the state Assembly, the question of whether ACA 4, ACA 8, or both will go before voters is in the hands of the state Senate. The 40-member state Senate is composed of 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans. At least 27 votes are needed in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature is not required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
Between 1995 and 2018, the California State Legislature has asked voters to decide 32 constitutional amendments. Voters approved 84.4 percent of the constitutional amendments.
On August 26, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the Trump administration to enforce a new asylum rule while a challenge to the rule is working its way through the court system.
The solicitor general asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a stay of injunction. If the Supreme Court complies, the Trump administration could deny asylum to people who travel through another country and fail to file for asylum there before applying in the United States. On August 16, the Ninth Circuit had upheld a district court’s injunction, which blocked the rule from going into effect until after courts resolve the cases brought against it. You can read about the Ninth Circuit’s ruling here.
In the government’s request for a stay, Francisco argued that the rule involved foreign affairs and was not subject to the notice and comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). He argued that if the Supreme Court does not remove the injunction it should at least limit its application to specific people who were injured under the new rule. When the Ninth Circuit upheld the initial injunction, it limited the scope to those states within its jurisdiction.
What comes next?
According to Amy Howe, writing for SCOTUSblog, Justice Elena Kagan handles emergency requests related to cases before the Ninth Circuit. She will decide whether to rule on the government’s request herself or to refer the decision to the full Supreme Court.
On August 27, 2019, President Trump nominated lawyer Eugene Scalia to replace Alexander Acosta as secretary of labor.
Who is he?
Scalia is the son of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and handled Labor Department litigation and gave legal advice on rulemakings and administrative law during George W. Bush’s presidency.
According to his law firm biography, Eugene Scalia also served as special assistant to U.S. Attorney General William Barr from 1992 to 1993 and has written over 20 articles and papers on labor, employment, and constitutional law.
What happens next?
After the summer recess, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will vote on Scalia’s nomination. If the committee approves him, then the full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him as the new head of the Department of Labor.
Four seats on the St. Petersburg City Council in Florida are up for election in 2019, and three of those seats held primaries on August 27. The top two vote recipients in each of the primaries advanced to the general election, which is scheduled for November 5.
In two council districts, the incumbents—John “Ed” Montanari in District 3 and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman in District 7—both received the most votes in their primaries. According to the unofficial election night results, Montanari received 70.6% of the vote compared to his challengers, Orlando A. Acosta (20.0%) and Zachary James Collins (9.4%). In District 7, Wheeler-Bowman led a four-candidate field with 57.4% of the vote. The second-place finisher, Eritha Brandis Cainion, received 23.9%.
The District 5 primary was an open-seat race; incumbent Steve Kornell was prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. Trenia Cox led the field with 35.0% of the vote, which was followed by Deborah Figgs-Sanders at 29.6% and Beth Connor at 21.2%. The other candidates received single-digit percentage support. The primary for the District 1 seat on the council was canceled after only two candidates, Robert G. Blackmon and John Hornbeck, filed to run. Both automatically advanced to the general election. The District 1 race is an open-seat election since incumbent Charlie Gerdes was also term-limited.
The St. Petersburg City Council has eight members, each of whom serves a four-year term. St. Petersburg is the fifth-largest city in Florida and the 77th-largest city in the U.S. by population.
Phoenix residents rejected two citizen initiatives—Propositions 105 and 106—at the Aug. 27 special election. Proposition 105 would have terminated funding for future light rail expansion in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and to allocate revenue from the transportation tax towards other infrastructure projects. Proposition 106 would have required the city to limit budget growth and devote a greater portion of its budget to pay down its $4.5 billion pension debt.
The unofficial results indicate that both measures were defeated. Opposition to Proposition 105 led the race with 62.3 percent to 37.7 percent according to election night results. Proposition 106 was behind with 66.2 percent of voters against it. By the last election night report, about 90 percent of ballots had been counted.
Invest in PHX led the opposition campaign against both propositions. They held an election watch party in the heart of downtown Phoenix. When the unofficial results were reported, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego addressed the room stating: “I did not anticipate the national spotlight which would shine on our city about these ballot propositions. … We have said strongly we want to invest in the future of our city.” Invest in PHX raised $933,000 in campaign contributions according to pre-election reports that covered activity through Aug. 10.
Phoenix Councilmember Sal DiCiccio (District 6), who supported both initiatives, said, “Like many of you, I am disappointed to see tonight’s election results. I want to thank everyone who worked on these initiatives and who helped share our message throughout the city. You have my commitment that I will continue to fight for accountability and fiscal responsibility at the City of Phoenix.”
The support campaign for Proposition 105, Building a Better Phoenix, raised $488,000 in contributions according to pre-election reports. The Proposition 106 campaign, Responsible Budgets, raised $298,000.
The question of light rail expansion has been before Phoenix voters three times prior to Proposition 105. Voters have decided four other pension-related propositions since March 2013.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. to win yesterday’s Republican primary runoff for governor of Mississippi. As of 10 p.m. Central time, Reeves had received 54% of the vote to Waller’s 46% with 95% of precincts reporting.
No candidate received a majority of the vote to win the August 6 Republican primary outright. Reeves finished first with 49% of the vote and Waller was second with 33%. The third-place finisher—state Rep. Robert Foster—received 18% and endorsed Waller after the primary. Reeves was endorsed by incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and former Gov. Haley Barbour (R).
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, said that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. Waller said during the campaign that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election.
Reeves will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win election as governor of Mississippi, a candidate must win both the statewide vote and a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House decides the winner.
Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ballrate the general election as “Leans Republican” and Cook Political Reportrates the contest as “Likely Republican.” Ronnie Musgrove was the last Democrat elected governor of Mississippi. He defeated Rep. Mike Parker (R) 49.6-48.5% in 1999.
Sometimes when voters approve a ballot measure, the legal challenges are just beginning. Over the past two years, we’ve followed about 100 ballot measure-related lawsuits. Here are two instances from last week:
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier district court ruling August 20 and upheld a distribution requirement for initiated constitutional amendment petitions in Colorado. Plaintiffs argued that the distribution requirement provisions violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
In 2016, Colorado voters approved Amendment 71—sometimes referred to as the Raise the Bar initiative—requiring initiative petitioners to spread out signature-gathering efforts across all of the state’s 35 senate districts. The measure also enacted a 55% supermajority requirement for any constitutional amendment other than those designed to only delete language.
ColoradoCareYes and the Coalition for Colorado Universal Health Care filed a lawsuit against the distribution provisions in 2017. A federal district court overturned the distribution requirement although it was left in place for 2018 measures while the case was under appeal.
The appeals court panel ruled 2-1 to reverse the U.S. District Court’s ruling, leaving the distribution requirement in place. The majority wrote that “[n]o equal protection problem exists if votes are cast in state legislative districts that were drawn based on Census population data.” The majority based its decision on Evenwel v. Abbott (2016), in which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a state or local government could draw legislative districts based on total population.
The Michigan Republican Party filed a lawsuit in federal court August 22 seeking to block Proposal 2, which transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a 13-member independent redistricting commission. Voters approved Proposal 2 in 2018 with 61% voting in favor of the constitutional amendment.
Proposal 2 would create a redistricting commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected by the Secretary of State—four each who self-identify as affiliated with the two major political parties and five who self-identify as unaffiliated with major political parties. It also established new redistricting criteria including geographically compact and contiguous districts of equal population and specified that redistricting shall not provide disproportionate advantage to political parties or candidates.
Michigan voters do not specify their political affiliation when registering to vote. Proposal 2 requires applicants for the redistricting commission to attest under oath regarding their partisan affiliation but does not require the state department to confirm individuals’ partisan affiliation.
Laura Cox, chairperson of the state Republican Party, said Proposal 2 violated the party’s freedom of association, arguing that the amendment prevented parties from selecting their own members to serve on the redistricting commission. The complaint also stated that the measure could allow Democrats to self-affiliate as Republicans “in an effort to alter the party’s selection process and weaken its representation on the commission by individuals who genuinely affiliate with MRP [Michigan Republican Party].”
Six states have enacted laws for independent redistricting commissions for congressional districts. In Arizona, California, Colorado, and Idaho, registered voters can select to affiliate with a political party on their voter registration forms. Like Michigan, Washington does not have a party-affiliation option on voter registrations. The Washington process involves legislative leaders of the two major parties each selecting a member of the redistricting commission, and the four leader-appointed members appointing a fifth member.
Forty percent of our survey respondents don’t feel prepared when voting on ballot measures
And while on the subject of ballot initiatives, our What’s the Tea? question last week asked for your thoughts about voting on ballot measures:
Ballotpedia covers all statewide ballot measures and local ballot measures in California and in the 100 largest U.S. cities by population. If you’re seeking more information about a question on your ballot, our coverage is a great place to learn more about it.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R) to win the Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi in Tuesday’s runoff election. As of 9 p.m. Central time on August 27, Reeves had received 55.5% of the vote to Waller’s 44.5% with 66% of precincts reporting.
The runoff was triggered after neither candidate won a majority of the vote in the August 6 primary; Reeves received 48.9% of the vote to Waller’s 33.4%. The only other candidate was state Rep. Robert Foster (R), who endorsed Waller ahead of the runoff. Foster and Waller received a combined 51.1% of the vote. Reeves had been endorsed by term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R) and was endorsed by former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) the week before the runoff.
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, said that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. He said that he was the more conservative of the two and criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
Waller said that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election. He criticized the tone of Reeves’ campaign, saying that Reeves was more focused on attacking him than on proposing policies to address the problems Mississippi faces.
Reeves will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win election as governor of Mississippi, a candidate must win the statewide vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House decides the winner. A victory for Reeves would preserve Mississippi’s Republican trifecta while a victory for Hood would break it. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since Ronnie Musgrove (D) in 1999.
The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
During the week of August 19 to August 23, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,738 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 44,536 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 568 documents, including 447 notices, two presidential documents, 51 proposed rules, and 68 final rules.
Two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,484 pages for a year-to-date total of 43,500 pages. As of August 23, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 1,036 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,310 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 23. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.