John Formella confirmed as New Hampshire attorney general

John Formella was confirmed as New Hampshire’s next attorney general by the Executive Council of New Hampshire on March 24 by a vote of 4 to 1. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) nominated Formella to the position on March 3. Formella has served as legal counsel in Gov. Sununu’s office since 2017. 

WMUR reported that Sununu congratulated Formella, saying “John’s work ethic is unmatched, and I have no doubt he will make an exceptional Attorney General and advance the best interests of Granite Staters. I look forward to working with him and the Department of Justice in the years ahead.”

Formella succeeds Gordon MacDonald, who left office earlier this year due to his nomination as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Deputy Attorney General Jane Young assumed the duties of the attorney general’s office when MacDonald stepped down. According to the governor’s office, Formella will take office after “an appropriate transition period.”

Prior to becoming legal counsel to Gov. Sununu, Formella worked for the New England law firm Pierce Atwood LLP. He was first hired as a summer associate in 2011 and was promoted to a full-time attorney in 2012.

The New Hampshire attorney general serves as head of the Department of Justice. The office’s primary responsibilities include acting as attorney for the state in criminal and civil cases in the supreme court, prosecuting crimes, enforcing the state’s criminal laws, and collecting unpaid debts to the state.

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Dori Hauck sworn in to North Dakota House of Representatives

Dori Hauck (R) was sworn in to the North Dakota House of Representatives to replace former Representative Luke Simons (R) on March 16. Simons, who had represented District 36 since 2016 and was reelected in 2020, was expelled from the House on March 4 following multiple misconduct allegations. 

Simons was the first lawmaker in state history to be expelled. According to Article IV, Section 12 of the state constitution, the House “may punish its members or other persons for contempt or disorderly behavior in its presence” and can expel members if two-thirds of the chamber concurs. The vote to expel Simons was 69-25.

Hauck served as secretary-treasurer of the District 36 Republican Party for eight years prior to her appointment. She will serve in the House until 2022.

In the North Dakota Legislature, vacancies are filled by the district committee of the party that holds the seat, and a replacement is named within three weeks. North Dakota is one of four states that fills vacancies by political party appointments. The others are Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana. Of the other state legislatures, 25 fill vacancies through special elections, 10 fill them through gubernatorial appointments, seven fill them through board of county commissioners appointments, three fill them by a hybrid-system, and in one state, Ohio, the legislative chamber fills them.

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Former state Rep. Ronald Ryckman appointed to the Kansas state Senate

The Republican precinct committees of Kansas Senate District 38 appointed Ronald Ryckman (R) to the state Senate on March 4. Ryckman replaces Bud Estes (R), who passed away on Feb. 13.

Since the vacancy occurred before May 1 of the second year of Estes’ term, a special election will be held in November 2022. The winner of that election will serve until Estes’ term expires in January 2025.

Before his appointment, Ryckman served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, representing District 115. He did not run for re-election to the state House in 2016. Ryckman’s son, Ron Ryckman, currently serves in the Kansas House of Representatives, representing District 78 since 2013. Ron Ryckman also serves as the speaker of the House. 

As of March 11, there have been 31 state legislative vacancies in 21 states so far this year. Fifteen of those vacancies have been filled. Ryckman is one of five Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.

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Senate expected to confirm at least two Biden Cabinet nominees this week

Senate confirmation votes are expected this week for two of President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet nominees: Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23 and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations by Feb. 24.

Vilsack previously served as the secretary of agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Thomas-Greenfield is a veteran diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced her nomination by a vote of 18-4.

Seven members Biden’s 23 member Cabinet have been confirmed:

  • Tony Blinken, secretary of state
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
  • Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security
  • Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of President Donald Trump (R) and Biden. It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Nearly five weeks after their respective inaugurations, nine of Trump’s secretaries had been confirmed compared to six for Biden.

Judith French appointed Ohio Director of Insurance

Director of Insurance Judith French (R) was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Jan. 19, to succeed interim director Tynesia Dorsey. 

The director is a cabinet-level executive position in the Ohio state government and the chief officer of the Department of Insurance. The director is responsible for ensuring the laws and regulations related to insurance are enforced across the state.

Prior to her appointment, French served on the Ohio Supreme Court from 2013 to 2021. She was first appointed to the court by Gov. John Kasich (R). She ran for re-election to the seat and was defeated in the general election on Nov. 3 by Jennifer L. Brunner (D).

The office of insurance commissioner is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

Senate confirms Lloyd Austin for secretary of defense

On January 22, 2021, the Senate confirmed retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense by a vote of 93-2. He will be the first Black secretary to lead the Department of Defense and the second member of President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet to be confirmed.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were the only votes against Austin’s confirmation.

On January 21, the House and Senate approved the waiver to allow Austin to serve before a seven-year cooldown period for former active service members. The House approved the waiver by a vote of 326-78 and the Senate by a vote of 69-27.

This was the third time a general was granted this waiver following Gens. Jim Mattis and George Marshall.

Weber County Democrats recommend Rosemary Lesser for Utah House

On Jan. 16, the Weber County Democrats recommended Rosemary Lesser (D) to the Utah House of Representatives to represent District 10. LaWanna Shurtliff (D) formerly held the seat until her death on Dec. 30, 2020. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) approved the nomination, and Lesser was sworn in on Jan. 19. She will complete Shurtliff’s term, which was set to run from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2022.  

Prior to her appointment, Lesser has served as a laborist with Ogden Clinic since 2015. She has also worked as an OB hospitalist and an obstetrician/gynecologist, both as a civilian and in the U.S. Air Force. Lesser earned a B.S. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.D. from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

According to Utah law, the governor is responsible for selecting a replacement. A liaison for the political party that last held the seat must recommend a successor to the governor and the vacancy must be filled immediately. The person who is selected to the vacant seat serves for the remainder of the unfilled term.

Utah is one of six states where the governor appoints a successor by law, but the political party holds the real power of appointment, as opposed to states where the governor is the sole appointer. The other five states are Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

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Kansas governor announces appointment of new lieutenant governor after current LG becomes treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced on Dec. 14 that she would appoint David Toland to the position of lieutenant governor to fill the vacancy created by her appointment of Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) as state treasurer. Toland will take office after Rogers is sworn in as treasurer on Jan. 2, 2021.

Toland is currently the secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, and he will continue to serve in that position while taking on the duties of lieutenant governor. Rogers will serve as treasurer until 2022, when all elected state executive offices, including the governor, are up for election. Kelly’s appointments of Toland and Rogers do not require state legislative confirmation.

Toland will be the 52nd person to serve as Kansas’ lieutenant governor. Of the previous five officeholders dating back to 2007, two were gubernatorial appointees, and three were elected. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist. 

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Kansas governor appoints Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to become state treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced Dec. 10 that she will appoint Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) to the position of state treasurer to fill the vacancy created by Jacob LaTurner’s (R) election to the U.S. House. Rogers will be sworn in on Jan. 2, 2021, and will serve until the position is up for election in 2022.

Rogers was elected as lieutenant governor on Nov. 6, 2018. He also served in the Kansas State Senate from 2017 to 2019, representing District 25. 

Former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appointed LaTurner to the position of state treasurer in April 2017. LaTurner will represent Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House when he is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist.

President Trump names Christopher C. Miller acting secretary of defense

President Donald Trump (R) announced that Christopher C. Miller would be acting U.S. Secretary of Defense on Monday, following the termination of Mark Esper. 

Christopher C. Miller had been serving as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center since Aug. 10, 2020. Miller previously served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the National Security Council from 2018 to 2019. 

Mark Esper had served as the secretary of defense since July 23, 2019, until his termination on Nov. 9, 2020. Trump nominated Esper to the position on July 15, 2019, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him by a vote of 90-8.

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