Tagmassachusetts

Stories about Massachusetts

Kim Janey sworn in as acting mayor of Boston

Kim Janey was sworn in as the nonpartisan acting mayor of Boston on March 22. Janey became acting mayor after former Mayor Martin Walsh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the secretary of labor in President Joe Biden’s (D) administration. Janey is the first Black person and the first woman to serve as Boston mayor.

Janey will serve as acting mayor through the next election on Nov. 2. Janey has not yet announced whether she will run for re-election.

Janey will remain a non-participating member of the Boston City Council, representing District 7. Janey was elected to the council in 2017. 

Boston is one of the 100 largest cities by population in the United States. Of the mayors of the country’s 100 largest cities, there are currently 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

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Massachusetts voters to decide state House special election on March 30

A special election is being held on March 30 for the 19th Suffolk District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Jeffrey Turco (D), Paul Caruccio (R), and Richard Fucillo (ind.) are running in the general election. Turco advanced to the general election after defeating Juan Jaramillo, Alicia DelVento, and Valentino Capobianco in the March 2 Democratic primary with 36.2% of the vote

The special election became necessary after Robert DeLeo (D) resigned his seat on December 29, 2020, to take a job at Northeastern University. DeLeo had represented the district since 1991. He faced no opposition in his bid for re-election in 2020.

Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Senate by a 37-3 margin and the state House by a 128-30 margin with one independent and one vacancy. Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2014.

As of March, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Voters to decide special primary election in Massachusetts House district

A special election primary is being held on March 2 for the 19th Suffolk District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Valentino Capobianco, Alicia DelVento, Juan Jaramillo, and Jeffrey Turco are running in the Democratic primary. Paul Caruccio is unopposed in the Republican primary. The general election will take place on March 30.

The seat became vacant on Dec. 29, when Robert DeLeo (D) resigned to take a job at Northeastern University. DeLeo had represented the district since 1991.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 128-30 majority in the Massachusetts House with one independent member and one vacancy. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of February, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Who funded the campaigns for and against ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020?

Voters in Alaska and Massachusetts decided statewide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020. Alaskans approved an initiated statute to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election. Voters in Massachusetts rejected an initiative to adopt ranked-choice voting statewide.  

The top-two donors to the campaigns behind the ballot initiatives were the non-profit organizations Action Now Initiative and Unite America. Action Now Initiative was a top donor to ranked-choice voting measures in previous years, such as Maine Question 5 (2016) and New York City Question 1 (2019). Unite America also contributed to campaigns in prior years but did not break into the lists of top-five largest donors. In 2020, Unite America was the largest donor to Alaskans for Better Elections and the third-largest donor to Voter Choice Massachusetts.

The Action Now Initiative provided $6.59 million to the statewide ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, including $2.93 million in Alaska and $3.66 million in Massachusetts. John and Laura Arnold founded the Action Now Initiative as a 501(c)(4) organization in Huston, Texas, in 2011. Besides ranked-choice voting ballot measures, the Action Now Initiative has supported ballot initiatives related to redistricting commissions and criminal justice changes.

Unite America contributed $3.84 million to the ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, $3.40 million of which was donated to Alaskans for Better Actions. While Unite America provided $445,000 to Voters Choice Massachusetts, the organization’s board co-chair, Kathryn Murdoch, donated $2.50 million and board member Katherine Gehl contributed $250,000. Unite America, founded in 2014 as the Centrist Project, is based in Denver, Colorado, and has the stated purpose of electing officials and enacting electoral laws that reduce partisanship and achieve better governing outcomes. Unite America has a federal hybrid political action committee (PAC) and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Opponents of the two ballot measures did not have overlapping donors. In Massachusetts, an opposition PAC raised $8,475. In Alaska, opponents received $579,426, including $150,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization that seeks to elect down-ballot, state-level Republicans, and $50,000 from the Alaska Republican Party. 

In 2020, voters in five cities—two in California, two in Minnesota, and one in Colorado—also decided ranked-choice voting ballot measures. All five measures were approved.

The next scheduled vote on a ranked-choice voting ballot measure is March 2 in Burlington, Vermont. Former Gov. Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party) are co-chairing the support campaign Better Ballot Burlington.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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Right to repair supporters and opponents raise $51.5 million in contributions, making it the most expensive ballot measure in recent Massachusetts history

The Right to Repair Coalition and the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data received a combined $51.5 million in contributions this election cycle, making Massachusetts Question 1 the most expensive measure in the state for at least the last 15 years. Final campaign finance reports for Massachusetts 2020 ballot measure committees were filed on Jan. 20.

Question 1 amended a 2013 “right to repair law.” The amended question required manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized system beginning with model year 2022. Vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access the standardized system to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application. It was approved with a margin of 74.97% to 25.03%.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsor of Question 1, reported $24.9 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • Auto Care Association ($4.6 million)
  • Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($4.2 million)
  • AutoZone ($3 million)
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Advance Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Genuine Parts Company ($3 million)

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data registered in opposition to Question 1 and reported $26.6 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America Inc. ($2.4 million)

The Right to Repair Coalition sponsored a 2012 initiative. The measure led to a legislative compromise in 2013. A legislative alternative to the initiative was approved on July 31, 2012, after the July 3 initiative signature deadline, so the initiative still appeared on the ballot and received 87.7% of the vote. The 2013 legislative compromise was approved on Nov. 26, 2013. The committees registered in support of the 2012 initiative reported $2.3 million in contributions, and those registered in opposition reported over $307,000.

The top five most expensive measures by total contributions (support and opposition) in Massachusetts since 2006 are as follows:

  • $44.3 million for Question 2, Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion (2006)
  • $37.2 million for Question 1, Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits Initiative (2018)
  • $15.8 million for Question 3, Casino Repeal Initiative (2014)
  • $10.7 million for Question 2, Expansion of Bottle Deposits Initiative (2014)
  • $10.2 million for Question 2, Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative (2020)

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose all of the 129 statewide measures reported a combined total of $1.2 billion in contributions and $1.02 billion in expenditures. Massachusetts ballot measure campaigns raised the third largest amount in contributions compared to other states with a total of $61.6 million. California campaigns raised the most with $739 million, and Illinois campaigns raised the second most with $121.2 million.

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Filing deadline approaches in Massachusetts state House special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Massachusetts House of Representatives Nineteenth Suffolk District have until January 26, 2021, to file. The primary is scheduled for March 2, and the general election is set for March 30. 

The special election was called after Robert DeLeo (D) resigned on December 29 to seek a position at Northeastern University. DeLeo served from 1991 to 2020.

As of January 2021, 23 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts held 45 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Massachusetts has a divided government, meaning that no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Senate by a 37-3 margin and the state House by a 128-30 margin with one independent member and one vacancy. Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, is a Republican.

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Wendlandt sworn in as Massachusetts supreme court justice

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

On December 4, 2020, Dalila Wendlandt was sworn in as a new justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s court of last resort. Wendlandt was nominated by Governor Charlie Baker (R) on November 3, 2020, and was the governor’s sixth nominee to the seven-member court. 

Wendlandt succeeded Barbara Lenk, who retired on December 1, upon reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. Lenk was appointed to the court in 2011 by Gov. Deval Patrick (D).

Prior to joining the state supreme court, Wendlandt joined the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2017. She was nominated to the court by Baker and confirmed by the Governor’s Council. From 1997 to 2017, Wendlandt was an attorney with Ropes & Gray LLP. Wendlandt previously served as a law clerk to the Hon. John M. Walker Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements. As of December 8, 2020, 15 of the 22 vacancies have been filled. 

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Lenk retires

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara Lenk retired on Dec. 1, one day before she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. 

Governor Deval Patrick (D) appointed Lenk in April 2011, and she was the first openly gay justice on the court. Before her appointment, Lenk was a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Massachusetts Superior Courts. Lenk received a B.A. from Fordham University in 1972, a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Yale University in 1978, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979. 

Under Massachusetts law, state supreme court justices are appointed by the governor and approved by the Massachusetts Governor’s Council. Justices hold tenured appointments until they reach 70 years old, the mandatory retirement age.

Governor Charlie Baker (R) appointed Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge Dalila Wendlandt to the state supreme court on Nov. 3. The Governor’s Council confirmed her appointment on Nov. 25, with a swear in date of Dec. 4. 

Baker has appointed all current members of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, while retirements caused 21.

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Chief justice confirmed to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

On November 18, 2020, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly Budd was confirmed as the chief justice of the court. Budd was nominated to the position by Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on October 28, 2020. She succeeded former Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who passed away on September 14, 2020. Budd may serve as the chief justice of the court until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Budd was first nominated to the supreme court by Gov. Baker on June 14, 2016, and confirmed by the Governor’s Council on August 10, 2016. She succeeded Justice Fernande Duffly after Duffly’s July 2016 retirement.

Budd was previously a superior court associate justice in Massachusetts. She was nominated to the superior court by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in July 2009 and assumed office in September 2009.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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