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Stories about California

California voters will decide on a referendum to repeal a law governing fast-food working conditions in 2024

On Jan. 24, the California secretary of state announced that a veto referendum filed to repeal Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257) had qualified for the November 2024 ballot. 

AB 257 would enact the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Recovery Act), which was passed along party lines and signed into law on Sept. 5, 2022. The act would authorize the creation of the fast-food council, within the Department of Industrial Relations, composed of 10 members including fast-food restaurant franchisors, franchisees, employees, advocates for employees, and a representative from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. AB 257 would also authorize the council to adopt a minimum wage for fast-food restaurant employees not to exceed $22 per hour in 2023 with adjustments annually.

The fast-food council would not be allowed to promulgate rules or standards concerning working conditions until the Director of Industrial Relations received a petition approving the creation of the council signed by at least 10,000 California fast-food restaurant employees. The law would authorize the labor commissioner and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to enforce the regulations adopted by the state council. The labor commissioner would be required to investigate alleged violations and order appropriate remediation.

In California, the number of signatures required for a veto referendum is equal to 623,212 (5% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election). Save Local Restaurants, the campaign behind the repeal of the law, filed over 1 million signatures on Dec. 5, 2022. 

On Dec. 29, Save Local Restaurants filed a lawsuit against Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations Katie Hagen, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D), and California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) asking the court to stop the state from enforcing the law, set to take effect Jan. 1, until the signature verification process was complete for the petition. On Jan. 13, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang granted a preliminary injunction keeping the bill from taking effect until the petition is verified by the state.

On Jan. 24, the secretary of state reported that the final random sample count contained at least 712,568 valid signatures.

Save Local Restaurants said in a statement, “During the highest inflation in more than four decades, consumers want to know that the restaurant meals they need in their busy lives will continue to be affordable, and that the jobs their communities rely on will still be there. Before they lose the brands that they love, voters will get the chance to have their say.”

The campaign has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association PAC, and International Franchise Association Franchising PAC. The top donors to the committee funding the campaign include Chipotle Mexican Grill, In-N-Out Burgers, Starbucks, Yum! Brands, and Wing Stop.

Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), the author of AB 257 and a former fast-food franchisee, said, “AB 257 creates minimum standards for wages and work conditions, protects workers from being fired for organizing and establishes sectoral organizing with a fast food worker council. I’m proud to have ushered an inclusive approach to the industry by giving employees the chance to be included in a process that has always impacted them.” 

SEIU California State Council, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Labor Federation, and Gig Workers Rising support upholding AB 257.

Four other ballot measures have qualified for the ballot in 2024 in California. In March, voters will decide on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to repeal a constitutional requirement that voters approve publicly-funded housing projects classified as low rent.

Three other citizen initiatives will be on the ballot in November:

  • A combined statute and a constitutional amendment to create a state Pandemic Early Detection and Prevention Institute
  • A statute to increase the state minimum wage to $18 by 2026
  • A statute to repeal the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and replaces it with a new process for remedying labor violations

In California, a total of 402 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred thirty-one ballot measures were approved, and 171 ballot measures were defeated.

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Tallying error in Oakland, Calif., led to inaccurate election results

On December 28, 2022, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters acknowledged in a press release that the initial certified results were incorrect for the school director race in District 4 of the Oakland Unified School District in California.

Although Nick Resnick was certified as the winner of the race in November, Mike Hutchinson, who originally finished third, says he was later told by election officials that he won: “Without being cynical, I now believe in holiday miracles. So it was very shocking to wake up this morning and receive a phone call at 10:30 a.m. from the Alameda County head of elections informing me that I had actually won the election.” Hutchinson filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court on December 29, 2022, asking a judge to overrule the prior certification and name him the official winner.

According to the press release from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters:

“The ROV learned that its RCV tally system was not configured properly for the November 2022 General Election. It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round. … After reviewing the election data and applying the correct configuration, the ROV learned that only one outcome was affected: Oakland School Director, District 4, for the Oakland Unified School District. No other result for any RCV election in any jurisdiction was changed.”

California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition and FairVote, two organizations that supported the use of ranked-choice voting in California, discovered the error while auditing the election results. They found that county officials used the wrong method to tally votes that did not include a first choice candidate. Sean Dugar, consulting executive director of the California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition, said, “In Alameda County, the correct setting should have advanced the second choice to become the first choice … The algorithm and the election officials almost always get it right. In this instance, it was simply a button that was left checked in the menu option for the algorithm.”

Resnick’s attorney responded to the developments in a letter to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, saying, “We are not aware of any legal authority… which allows the registrar’s office to retabulate election results or take any other actions vis-a-vis the results of an election after it completes the official canvass and the results are certified by the local governing body.” 

As of January 2023, litigation was ongoing. Resnick was officially sworn into the position of District 4 Oakland school director on January 9, 2023.



Two veto referendum campaigns and California executive departments disagree on when referendums suspend fast food workers and oil and gas laws

The campaign Save Local Restaurants filed 1 million signatures for a veto referendum to overturn California Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257), also known as the FAST Act, on Dec. 5, 2022. At least 623,212 signatures must be valid. Counties have until Jan. 25, 2023, to check a random sample of signatures. In California, a veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law. There are 23 states with a process for veto referendums.

The FAST Act was designed to establish a fast food council, which would be authorized to increase the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $22 per hour and establish working hours and conditions. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the legislation on Sept. 5.

The FAST Act was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The Save Local Restaurants PAC and California Industrial Relations Department disagree on whether the Fast ACT was suspended when the campaign filed signatures on Dec. 5. While both the campaign and state agree the bill would be suspended ahead of the election on Nov. 5, 2024, the campaign says the bill was suspended upon signature submission and the state says the bill wouldn’t be suspended until and unless enough signatures are verified.

Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Gov. Newsom, said the bill would be enforced on Jan. 1. Mellon said, “Although industry is backing a referendum measure, the secretary of state has not certified that it has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The state has an obligation to implement this important law unless and until that occurs. We will, of course, abide by any court order.” According to Mellon, the FAST Act would not be suspended until and unless signatures are verified, which could come on Jan. 25.

The Save Local Restaurants PAC stated that AB 257 became “ineffective and unenforceable in its entirety” when signatures were submitted on Dec. 5. Kurt Oneto, a lawyer representing Save Local Restaurants, said that of the 50 veto referendums that have made the ballot since 1912, “not in a single one of those prior instances did the state ever attempt to temporarily enforce the referred statute while the signature review process was underway.”

Katrina Hagen, director of the California Industrial Relations Department, said there is an “absence of clear authority providing that AB 257 is suspended merely upon submission of unverified signatures.”

The Save Local Restaurants PAC filed a lawsuit to prevent the implementation of the FAST Act. Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang placed an injunction on the bill ahead of a hearing on Jan. 13, 2023. Lawyers for the PAC cited the constitutional amendment from 1911, which created the referendum process, as saying “… no such act or section or part of such act shall go into effect until and unless approved by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon.” This constitutional language was repealed and replaced in 1966, when voters approved Proposition 1A.

The California Constitution now says, “If a referendum petition is filed against a part of a statute, the remainder of the statute shall not be delayed from going into effect.” The lawsuit stated that a logical extension of this requirement is that when referendum petitions are filed against an entire statute, the entire statute is delayed from going into effect, and “referendum petition is filed” refers to filing signatures. The lawsuit cites a 2020 stipulated agreement between Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and petitioners behind a flavored tobacco ban referendum. That agreement said the flavored tobacco ban legislation would not take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, while signatures were being verified.

Besides the veto referendum on the FAST Act, signatures are also being verified for a veto referendum on Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137), which would prohibit new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals and require companies to monitor leaks and emissions and install alarms. Like the FAST Act, SB 1137 was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) is leading the campaign, Stop the Energy Shutdown, for the veto referendum. Rock Zierman, the CEO of CIPA, said the law should be suspended pending signature verification, but that CIPA decided not to sue as the group expects the law to be suspended when signatures are verified on or before Feb. 7.

In California, voters have voted on 50 veto referendums, upholding laws 21 times (42%) and repealing laws 29 times (58%). The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Nov. 2022, when voters upheld a bill to ban flavored tobacco products.

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Ballotpedia’s analysis of 2022 local ballot measures in California

In 2022, there were 572 local ballot measures on six different election dates in California. Voters approved 396 (69%) of these measures and rejected 176 (31%). Out of these measures, 470 of them were on the November 8, 2022, ballot.

There were 147 fewer local ballot measures than in the previous even-year election in 2020. In 2020, there were 719 local measures on the ballot in California; in 2018, there were 726 local measures; and in 2016, there were 832 measures. This is a 25% decrease of the average number of measures during the last three even-year election cycles.

Out of California’s 58 counties, 54 of them had local measures on the ballot in 2022. Los Angeles County, with 97 local measures, had the greatest amount of local measures. For the other counties, the number of measures ranged from zero in four counties (Glenn County, Modoc County, Sierra County, and Tehama County) to 27 in Marin County.

The 2022 local ballot measures in California ranged by topic. Of the 572 measures, 249 measures were related to taxes; 142 were related to bonds and budgets; 103 were related to government and elections; 40 were related to housing and zoning; eight were related to marijuana; three were related to business; three were related to wages; and there were 24 other miscellaneous measures.

Taxes constituted the highest percentage of these measures, making up 44% of the measures on the local ballot in California. Of the 249 measures related to taxes: 70 measures concerned sales taxes; 67 measures concerned parcel taxes; 36 measures concerned hotel taxes; 28 measures concerned marijuana taxes; 11 measures concerned business taxes; 10 measures concerned property taxes; and 8 measures concerned utility taxes.

Of the 70 sales taxes, 44 were approved and 26 were defeated. Of the 67 parcel taxes, which are a form of special property tax, 38 were approved and 29 were defeated.

In addition, there were 123 local school bond measures on the ballot in California, making up 21% of all the local ballot measures on the 2022 ballot in California. Eighty-seven were approved and 36 were defeated. The 2022 elections had the lowest number of local school bond measures on the ballot since 2010. In 2020, the previous even-numbered election year, there were 182 local school bond measures on the ballot, 92 that were approved and 90 that were defeated.



These California State Senate candidates raised the most money and lost

Elections for 20 of 40 seats in the California State Senate took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Democrats held a 32-8 majority heading into the election.

This article details the five candidates who raised the most money and lost their election. In the 2022 election cycle, 20 of 20 general elections were contested. The losing candidates are shown along with the percentage of the vote they received compared to the winner. In cases where the race was pushed to a runoff, vote percentages for both advancing candidates are included.

State Senate candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election

This information comes from candidate reports to the California Secretary of State covering the period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 22, 2022.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Matt Gunderson – $2,413,302 – District 38 (Lost general 48% – 52%)
  • Dave Jones – $2,217,763 – District 8 (Lost general 48% – 52%)
  • Daniel Hertzberg – $1,105,746 – District 20 (Lost general 43% – 57%)
  • Lily Mei – $1,019,353 – District 10 (Lost general 46% – 54%)
  • David Shepard – $906,813 – District 16 (Lost general 50% – 50%)

State Senate candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election last cycle

This information comes from candidate reports to the California Secretary of State covering the period of Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • John M. W. Moorlach – $2,399,507 – District 37 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Ling Ling Chang – $2,054,280 – District 29 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Kipp Mueller – $1,834,574 – District 21 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Ann Ravel – $1,309,144 – District 15 (Lost general 45% – 55%)
  • Abigail Medina – $1,241,282 – District 23 (Lost general 47% – 53%)

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



These California State Assembly candidates raised the most money and lost

Elections for all 80 seats in the California State Assembly took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Democrats held a 62-18 majority heading into the election.

This article details the five candidates who raised the most money and lost their election. In the 2022 election cycle, 78 of 80 general elections were contested. The losing candidates are shown along with the percentage of the vote they received compared to the winner. In cases where the race was pushed to a runoff, vote percentages for both advancing candidates are included.

Assembly candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election

This information comes from candidate reports to the California Secretary of State covering the period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 22, 2022.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Ken Cooley – $3,799,737 – District 7 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Christy Holstege – $2,512,166 – District 47 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Suzette Martinez Valladares – $1,965,753 – District 40 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Eric Guerra – $1,737,676 – District 10 (Lost general 46% – 54%)
  • Mark Pazin – $1,233,108 – District 27 (Lost general 49% – 51%)

Assembly candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election last cycle

This information comes from candidate reports to the California Secretary of State covering the period of Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Melissa Fox – $2,841,770 – District 68 (Lost general 47% – 53%)
  • Diedre Nguyen – $2,204,405 – District 72 (Lost general 46% – 54%)
  • Dawn Addis – $1,766,827 – District 35 (Lost general 45% – 55%)
  • Diane Dixon – $988,366 – District 74 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Katherine Miller – $803,755 – District 13 (Lost general 48% – 52%)

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



These are the results in the top five most expensive California State Senate elections

Elections for 20 of 40 seats in the California State Senate took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Of the 20 districts up for election in 2022, 20 had a general election with more than one candidate.

Across all contested general elections, candidates raised $36.6 million. Incumbents raised an average of $1,315,453 per candidate and challengers raised an average of $780,765 per candidate.

Five general elections with the most fundraising

The table below details the five general elections with the most fundraising in the State Senate. Winning candidates’ names are in bold.

District Money Raised Officeholder Candidates
District 38 $6,474,829 Catherine Blakespear (D) Catherine Blakespear and Matt Gunderson
District 16 $4,755,107 Melissa Hurtado (D) Melissa Hurtado and David Shepard
District 8 $3,644,244 Angelique Ashby (D) Angelique Ashby and Dave Jones
District 36 $2,617,266 Janet Nguyen (R) Janet Nguyen and Kim Carr
District 10 $2,252,598 Aisha Wahab (D) Aisha Wahab and Lily Mei

The officeholders above are listed for the current districts they hold. However, this is a redistricting year, so candidates have been identified below as incumbents even if they are running in a different district than they currently hold.

#1 District 38 – $6,474,829

Catherine Blakespear raised $4,061,527 and Matt Gunderson raised $2,413,302.

Catherine Blakespear won with 52 percent of the vote and Matt Gunderson received 48 percent of the vote.

#2 District 16 – $4,755,107

Incumbent Melissa Hurtado raised $3,848,293 and David Shepard raised $906,813.

Melissa Hurtado won with 50 percent of the vote and David Shepard received 50 percent of the vote.

#3 District 8 – $3,644,244

Dave Jones raised $2,217,763 and Angelique Ashby raised $1,426,482.

Angelique Ashby won with 52 percent of the vote and Dave Jones received 48 percent of the vote.

#4 District 36 – $2,617,266

Janet Nguyen raised $2,017,040 and Kim Carr raised $600,226.

Janet Nguyen won with 58 percent of the vote and Kim Carr received 42 percent of the vote.

#5 District 10 – $2,252,598

Aisha Wahab raised $1,233,245 and Lily Mei raised $1,019,353.

Aisha Wahab won with 54 percent of the vote and Lily Mei received 46 percent of the vote.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



These are the results in the top five most expensive California State Assembly elections

Elections for all 80 seats in the California State Assembly took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Of the 80 districts up for election in 2022, 78 had a general election with more than one candidate.

Across all contested general elections, candidates raised $108.3 million. Incumbents raised an average of $1,131,955 per candidate and challengers raised an average of $427,501 per candidate.

Five general elections with the most fundraising

The table below details the five general elections with the most fundraising in the State Assembly. Winning candidates’ names are in bold.

District Money Raised Officeholder Candidates
District 7 $4,717,357 Josh Hoover (R) Josh Hoover and Ken Cooley
District 40 $4,171,403 Pilar Schiavo (D) Pilar Schiavo and Suzette Martinez Valladares
District 27 $4,099,083 Esmeralda Soria (D) Esmeralda Soria and Mark Pazin
District 47 $4,082,681 Greg Wallis (R) Greg Wallis and Christy Holstege
District 17 $3,176,437 Matt Haney (D) Matt Haney and David Campos

The officeholders above are listed for the current districts they hold. However, this is a redistricting year, so candidates have been identified below as incumbents even if they are running in a different district than they currently hold.

#1 District 7 – $4,717,357

Incumbent Ken Cooley raised $3,799,737 and Josh Hoover raised $917,620.

Josh Hoover won with 50 percent of the vote and Ken Cooley received 50 percent of the vote.

#2 District 40 – $4,171,403

Incumbent Suzette Martinez Valladares raised $1,965,753 and Pilar Schiavo raised $2,205,649.

Pilar Schiavo won with 50 percent of the vote and Suzette Martinez Valladares received 50 percent of the vote.

#3 District 27 – $4,099,083

Esmeralda Soria raised $2,865,976 and Mark Pazin raised $1,233,108.

Esmeralda Soria won with 51 percent of the vote and Mark Pazin received 49 percent of the vote.

#4 District 47 – $4,082,681

Christy Holstege raised $2,512,166 and Greg Wallis raised $1,570,515.

Greg Wallis won with 50 percent of the vote and Christy Holstege received 50 percent of the vote.

#5 District 17 – $3,176,437

Incumbent Matt Haney raised $2,160,267 and David Campos raised $1,016,170.

Matt Haney won with 69 percent of the vote and David Campos received 31 percent of the vote.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



Fourteen of 22 California State Senate committee chairs raised less money than the average member this cycle

Elections for 20 of 40 seats in the California State Senate took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Democrats held a 31-9 majority heading into the election.

Committee chair fundraising

State legislative committee chairs set a committee’s legislative agenda. Some committee chairs raise significantly more money than their non-chair counterparts in the state legislature. The average amount raised by delegates who did not serve as a committee chair was $880,085. The funds raised by each of the State Senate’s 22 committee chairs are shown below.

  • Arts Committee – Ben Allen – $546,297
  • Banking and Financial Institutions Committee – S. Monique Limón – $517,399
  • Budget and Fiscal Review Committee – Nancy Skinner – $114,679
  • Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee – Richard Roth – $736,945
  • Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee – Steve Glazer – $2,888,444
  • Emergency Management Committee – Henry Stern – $292,900
  • Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee – Ben Hueso – $188,566
  • Environmental Quality Committee – Ben Allen – $546,297
  • Fisheries and Aquaculture Committee – Mike McGuire – $932,583
  • Governance and Finance Committee – Mike McGuire – $932,583
  • Housing Committee – Scott Wiener – $875,895
  • Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee – Dave Cortese – $370,056
  • Legislative Budget Committee – Nancy Skinner – $114,679
  • Natural Resources and Water Committee – Henry Stern – $292,900
  • Senate Agriculture Committee – Andreas Borgeas – $1,149,280
  • Senate Appropriations Committee – Anthony Portantino, Jr. – -$150
  • Senate Education Committee – Connie Leyva – $410,539
  • Senate Governmental Organization Committee – Bill Dodd – $765,957
  • Senate Health Committee – Richard Pan – $155,350
  • Senate Human Services Committee – Melissa Hurtado – $3,848,293
  • Senate Insurance Committee – Susan Rubio – $1,230,902
  • Senate Judiciary Committee – Tom Umberg – $1,242,323
  • Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee – Bob Archuleta – $1,373,850
  • Senate Public Safety Committee – Steven Bradford – $512,567
  • Senate Rules Committee – Toni Atkins – $896,114
  • Senate Transportation Committee – Lena Gonzalez – $662,072

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



Three of five California Assembly committee chairs raised less money than the average member this cycle

Elections for all 80 seats in the California State Assembly took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Democrats held a 62-17 majority heading into the election.

Committee chair fundraising

State legislative committee chairs set a committee’s legislative agenda. Some committee chairs raise significantly more money than their non-chair counterparts in the state legislature. The average amount raised by delegates who did not serve as a committee chair was $1,058,009. The funds raised by each of the Assembly’s five committee chairs are shown below.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active California PACs submitted to the California Secretary of State. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.