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Two Republicans advance to runoff for Texas’ 6th Congressional District

Susan Wright (R) and Jake Ellzey (R) advanced to a runoff from a 23-candidate field in the special election to fill the vacancy in Texas’ 6th Congressional District on May 1, 2021. Since both candidates in the runoff are Republicans, the seat will not change party hands as a result of this election. As of May 2, 2021, state officials had not yet announced a runoff date.

Wright received 19.2 percent of the vote while Ellzey received 13.8 percent of the vote. The two other candidates to receive at least 10 percent were Jana Lynne Sanchez (D) with 13.4 percent and Brian Harrison (R) with 10.8 percent. Sanchez fell 354 votes short of the runoff based on unofficial results.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from COVID-19 related complications on February 7, 2021. Susan Wright is Ronald Wright’s widow. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed her on April 26.

The district became more competitive in both presidential and congressional elections from 2012 to 2020. In 2020, Donald Trump (R) won the district 51-48, running behind Wright, who won 53-44. In 2016, Trump won the district 54-42, while Wright won 58-39. In 2012, Mitt Romney (R) won the district 58-41 while then-Rep. Joe Barton (R) won re-election 58-39. Midterm elections in the district have followed the same trend. In 2018, Wright won re-election 53-45, while Barton won 61-36 in 2014.

In this special election, Democrats earned about 37 percent of the votes cast, returning to a 2014 level for the district.



Newsom recall meets signature requirement; signees can remove names until June 8

The California Secretary of State announced that 1,626,042 signatures were valid in the recall campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Voters have until June 8 to request the removal of their signature from the petition. The request must be sent in writing to a county election official. If enough valid signatures remain following the June 8 deadline, the recall campaign will enter a budgeting and scheduling phase.

Supporters needed to collect at least 1,495,709 valid signatures to trigger a recall election. They turned in more than 2.1 million signatures by the March 17 deadline. More than 80% of the signatures processed by the secretary of state were deemed valid. This validity rate is higher than the average for propositions in California from 2018-2022 (76.5%).

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required. In the 2003 recall of Davis, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.58 percent of the vote.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement.

Several individuals have announced campaigns as candidates if the recall goes to the ballot. Among those are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), and Caitlyn Jenner (R).



Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District special election to be held April 24

Troy Carter (D) and Karen Peterson (D) are running in a special runoff election to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House on April 24, 2021. Carter and Peterson received the most votes in March 20 special primary election. They advanced to the general runoff under Louisiana’s majority-vote system, which stipulates that if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election.

Carter and Peterson have both emphasized their experience and careers as lawmakers during the campaign. “Throughout my career I’ve remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people’s day to day lives – like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 vaccine, equality pay for women, criminal justice reform and fighting for a living wage,” said Carter. Peterson said “After Katrina hit, I told the truth, held people accountable, and fought to help our families and our businesses rebuild. And that’s what I’ll do in Congress to lead us out of this pandemic.”

Both candidates support legalizing recreational marijuana, ending cash bail, forgiving student debt loans for up to $50,000, and a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land and water. Both support increasing the federal minimum wage, but disagree on how high. Carter supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, while Peterson said she would support raising it to $20 per hour. The candidates also differ on health care policy, with Carter supporting a public option allowing people to choose between a government-funded plan and private insurance and Peterson supporting a Medicare for All universal health care plan.

Carter raised $610,000 in the period from March 1 to April 4 compared to Peterson’s $362,000. Both candidates garnered noteworthy endorsements in recent weeks, with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) endorsing Peterson and Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams (D) endorsing Carter.

The special election will fill the vacancy left by Cedric Richmond (D). On November 17, 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden (D) announced that Richmond would join his administration as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond was first elected in 2010, and in the November 3, 2020 elections, he won with 63.9% of the vote. Since 2000, the seat has been occupied by a Democrat in all years except 2008-2010, when it was occupied by Joseph Cao (R).

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Early voting begins in special Congressional election in Texas

On April 19, early voting began in a special election to fill the seat representing Texas’ 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The special election will fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19. The election will take place on May 1, with a runoff taking place later in the month if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

With 23 candidates running in the special election, the Texas Tribune said the race was likely to head to a mid-summer runoff between the top two vote-getters. The Tribune identified seven prominent candidates in the race—three Democrats and four Republicans. Those candidates are: Jana Lynne Sanchez (D), Lydia Bean (D), Shawn Lassiter (D), Susan Wright (R), Jake Ellzey (R), Brian Harrison (R), Sery Kim (R).

Each of the Republican candidates has campaigned on the issues of firearm policy, immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border, business growth through deregulation, and abortion. They can be distinguished by the endorsements they have received.

Susan Wright, the widow of Ronald Wright, was endorsed by five members of Congress, the state party executive committee, and the mayor of Forth Worth.

Kim, a former official with the Small Business Association, received the endorsement of two Korean-American Republican members of Congress, and is Korean-American herself. Those were rescinded in early April following comments she made about immigration from China, however.

Harrison, the chief of staff to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, has touted endorsements from more than 100 members of the Trump administration, including Azar, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon. Ellzey, a 20-year Navy veteran, received endorsements from former Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Farm Bureau, and the War Veterans Fund.

Each of the three Democrats has emphasized what they call working class economic issues, education, and expanding affordable medical care as key parts of their platform.

Bean, a former teacher, received endorsements from the county and state AFL-CIO and the local branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Lassiter, also a teacher, was endorsed by two local school board members, a former state board of education member, the 314 Action Fund, and the Voter Protection Project. Sanchez, a communications consultant, was endorsed by state Rep. Michelle Beckley, two Arlington City Council members, and the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In the 2020 general election, Wright defeated Stephen Daniel (D) 53-44, while Trump carried the district 51-48. Wright won re-election in 2018 with 53 percent of the vote and in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote.



State legislators passed restrictions on the initiative process in three states and are considering ballot measure law changes in several others

At least 123 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall were introduced in the 2021 legislative sessions of 34 states. At least eight had been approved so far.

Here are some of the most notable changes to ballot measure law passed and proposed in 2021:

  • The South Dakota Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a 60% supermajority vote for future ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.
  • The legislature referred the amendment to the June 2022 ballot, and voters must approve it before it is enacted.
  • Legislation to enact or increase supermajority requirements for ballot measures was introduced in 2021 sessions in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%). Some proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures but not referrals, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.
  • The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. 
  • In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. 
  • The 2021 law was passed by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto in each chamber.
  • When the Idaho Legislature approved SB 1110, Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones submitted a petition with about 16,000 signatures to Gov. Little asking him to veto the bill.
  • Bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives were introduced in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota.
  • Bills to require certain disclosures and details regarding their single-subject rules were also introduced in 2021 in Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Other topics addressed by 2021 legislation include drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, and voter guide language; signature removal; signature verification; filing fees; ballot and voter guide argument fees and requirements; deadlines and process changes; procedures and requirements for legal challenges; and election date requirements.


Two Cabinet-level positions remain unfilled in Biden admin

All 15 of President Joe Biden’s (D) main Cabinet secretary nominees were confirmed 61 days after he took office.

At this point in President Barack Obama’s (D) presidency—82 days after his inauguration—he still had one vacant secretary post for the Department of Health and Human Services. President Donald Trump (R) had two: the secretaries of agriculture and labor.

In addition to the main 15 Cabinet secretaries, Biden has selected eight more positions requiring Senate confirmation to be Cabinet-level in his administration. Two of those positions are still un: director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Biden initially nominated Neera Tanden, the president of Center for American Progress, to serve as OMB director. She faced two hearings before the Senate committees on budget and homeland security and governmental affairs but never received a committee vote.

Two weeks after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and several key Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah)—said they would not support her confirmation, Tanden withdrew from consideration on March 2, 2021. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee. OMB Deputy Director Shalanda Young is the acting director of the agency.

Biden formally nominated Eric Lander for OSTP director on Jan. 20. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has not yet scheduled his confirmation hearing. If Lander is confirmed, it will be the first time a presidential science advisor is in the president’s Cabinet.

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Federal judge strikes down 5% petition requirement for minor-party and unaffiliated U.S. House candidates in Georgia

On March 29, 2021, Judge Leigh Martin May, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, struck down a Georgia law requiring minor-party and unaffiliated candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives to submit petitions signed by at least 5 percent of the district’s registered voters in order to appear on the ballot. May ruled this requirement “overburdens [voters’ and candidates’] rights to vote and to associate with their preferred political party, and so it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

May contrasted the 5-percent signature requirement for U.S. House candidates with the 1-percent requirement for statewide candidates, “The [Georgia] General Assembly has deemed a 1% petition signature requirement adequate to guard against ballot crowding and frivolous candidacies on a statewide basis. It is not immediately clear why candidates for non-statewide office must clear a proportionally higher hurdle, the 5% petition signature requirement. [The state] has not offered any explanation for this disparity.” 

May has not yet ordered a remedy. She directed the plaintiffs (the Libertarian Party of Georgia) to submit a brief within three weeks on proposed remedies. The state will then have an opportunity to respond to this proposal before May issues further guidance. 

Under the 5-percent signature requirement, originally enacted in 1943, no minor-party candidate for the U.S. House has qualified for placement on the general election ballot. In 2020, minor-party or unaffiliated candidates would have needed between 19,777 and 26,539 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot (the number varies by congressional district). 

It is not clear whether the state will appeal the decision.

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Minnesota GOP to elect new chair in April

Last week, we brought you a story about conflicts within the Democratic Party of Nevada. Today, we turn to a similar event in Minnesota, where two party leaders are engaged in a race for party chair.

In April, the Republican Party of Minnesota will hold an election for party chair. Two-term incumbent Jennifer Carnahan is seeking a third term against state Senator Mark Koran (R). Approximately 340 party members from around the state will meet in a virtual convention to vote for the next chair. These party members were selected at 121 local conventions, also known as basic political operating units (BPOUs), 60 of which were directly managed by Carnahan and state party staffers. Koran has alleged that this constitutes a conflict of interest: “It’s a massive conflict of interest. Free, fair, open and transparent elections have to be the basic foundation of what we do. If you have distrust in the process, it’s difficult to get people to accept the results of those conventions.” Carnahan has denied the allegation: “There was no impropriety. … The real conflict of interest here is [Koran] trying to serve in the state Legislature and trying to run the party at the same time.”

Joe Witthuhn, a party member and Carnahan supporter who helped conduct some BPOUs, said, “If I thought she rigged even one individual vote, I would not support her anymore.” Nathan Raddatz, a party member and Koran supporter said, “The best thing would have been to pull the party out of this and let the individual districts hire somebody, to alleviate accusations of a party and the current chair rigging the election.”

The Star Tribune has described the race for chair as a crucial event in shaping the party’s prospects heading into 2022: “Whoever wins the party leadership race in April will have to immediately focus on 2022, when the governor’s office will be on the ballot, along with all 201 legislative seats. DFL Gov. Tim Walz is expected to run for a second term, but no front runner has emerged on the GOP side.”

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Newsom recall signature deadline next week

The organizers of an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have until March 17 to turn in signatures in an attempt to get the recall on the ballot. To trigger a recall election, organizers must turn in 1,495,709 signatures, which is equal to 12% of the total votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election. If supporters turn in enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election, the additional procedural steps dictate a recall election take place within 60 to 80 days of signature verification.

In the most recent reporting period that ended Feb. 5, the California Secretary of State had reviewed 798,310 signatures and deemed 668,202 of those valid. At the time of the report, there were still 296,147 signatures submitted that had not yet been reviewed. According to media reports, recall organizers had turned in more than 1.9 million signatures to the secretary of state’s office as of March 3.

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. Should voters approve a recall, whichever candidate receives the most votes on the second question would win outright.

Recall supporters say Newsom mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the state’s homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing. In December 2020, a spokesman for Newsom said President Donald Trump’s (R) supporters were behind the recall effort, which he also said would cost the state $100 million and distract from efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and reopen schools.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement.



Candy Christophe (D), Julia Letlow (R), and 10 other candidates running to represent Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District

Twelve candidates are running in a March 20 special primary election to represent Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. The election was called to fill the vacancy left after Congressman-elect Luke Letlow (R) died in December 2020. 

The 12 candidates who filed for the seat include nine Republicans, two independents, and one Democrat. Heading into the election, Candy Christophe (D) and Julia Letlow (R) have led the field in media coverage.

Christophe has worked as a business owner and social worker. Cristophe, the only Democrat running, has an endorsement from the state Democratic Party. Her campaign platform includes addressing unemployment in the district, supporting small businesses and farmers, and investing in infrastructure.

Letlow’s professional experience includes working as a teacher and educational administrator. Her endorsers include the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Letlow said she and her late husband Luke Letlow (R) shared a vision for the district that included investing in jobs and rural development, supporting agriculture, and supporting education.

Before 2021, Louisiana’s 5th was represented by Ralph Abraham (R), who won re-election outright in the 2018 primary with 67% of the vote to Jessee Carlton Fleenor’s (D) 30%. In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) 65% to 34% in the district.

Christophe was also a candidate in the 2020 primary election. That year, Luke Letlow and Lance Harris (R) advanced to the general election with 33.1% and 16.6% of the vote, respectively. Christophe placed third with 16.4% of the vote. Luke Letlow won the general election against Harris 62% to 38%.

Under the Louisiana majority-vote system, all candidates run in a single primary election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a general election. If necessary, the general election for this seat will take place on April 24.

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