Longtime Maryland state Senator Miller resigns

Maryland State Senator Thomas Miller Jr. (D) resigned on Dec. 23 due to health reasons. He had announced in Jan. 2019 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Miller had represented District 27 since 1975. He served as Senate president for 33 years—from 1987 to 2020—the longest anyone has served as Maryland Senate president, according to The Washington Post. Prior to joining the state Senate, Miller served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1971 to 1975.  

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after the vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30-day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.   

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Second school board member in Idaho resigns following recall effort

Philip Neuhoff resigned from his position as the Zone 4 representative on the West Ada School District board of trustees in Idaho on December 8, 2020, saying that other areas of his life needed his attention. Neuhoff is the second member of the board to resign since a recall petition was approved for circulation against all five members of the board. Former Zone 3 representative Steve Smylie resigned on October 27, saying, “When adults fight, children lose. I am proud of this district and I always will be, but no one was prepared for a pandemic, and it has turned into division.”

The recall paperwork was approved for circulation by the Ada County Clerk’s Office on October 14. Recall supporters said they were frustrated that the district had not developed a plan for students in sixth through twelfth grades to return to in-person learning full-time. The school district began the 2020-2021 school year with a week of online-only instruction in September in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After that first week, the district allowed students in all grades to attend school in-person part-time. Elementary school students moved to full-time in-person instruction on a gradual basis.

Recall supporters have 75 days to collect signatures to recall Zone 1 representative Ed Klopfenstein, Zone 2 representative Amy Johnson, and Zone 5 representative Rene Ozuna. Approximately 1,487 signatures are needed to put a recall effort against Klopfenstein on the ballot. A total of 2,578 signatures are needed for a recall election against Johnson, and 1,403 are needed for a recall election against Ozuna. If enough signatures are submitted and verified, a recall election will be scheduled.

To remove the board members from office, the recall election must meet two thresholds:

  1. a majority of voters must cast ballots in favor of the recall
  2. the number of votes cast in favor of the recall must exceed the number of votes the board member received in his or her last election.

A 2016 recall effort in the school district removed two school board members from office, while another two resigned. Klopfenstein, Smylie, Ozuna, and Neuhoff were appointed to those vacant positions. All four were later re-elected to the board after running unopposed. Johnson was elected to the board in November 2019. She received 64.1% of the vote and defeated incumbent Mike Vuittonet.

Recall efforts against school board members started in three other school districts in Idaho in 2020. All of the efforts named their school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for recall. Efforts in the Idaho Falls and Pocatello-Chubbuck school districts are still ongoing, while a recall effort against Aaron Proctor in the Whitepine School District went to the ballot on November 3. The recall election was approved with 57% of the vote, and Proctor was removed from office.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Ward resigns from Alabama state Senate

Alabama State Sen. Cam Ward (R) resigned Dec. 7 to become the director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. Ward was appointed to his new position by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Nov. 17. 

“It’s got to be the hardest job in state government,” Ward said in a phone interview. “They have a lot of issues going on. My number one issue is criminal justice reform.”

Ward’s successor in state Senate District 14 will be determined by a special election, which Ivey has set for July 13, 2021.

Ward served in the state Senate since 2010 and previously served in the state House from 2002 to 2010. He was most recently re-elected to another four-year term in 2018, defeating Democrat Jerry McDonald. This year, Ward unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court. Incumbent Greg Shaw defeated him in the Republican primary on March 3.

The Alabama State Senate is the upper chamber of the Alabama state legislature. With Ward’s resignation, the state Senate’s current partisan breakdown is 26 Republicans, seven Democrats, and two vacancies.

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John Nygren resigns from Wisconsin State Assembly

Rep. John Nygren (R) resigned from the Wisconsin State Assembly on Dec. 2 to pursue work in the private sector. He represented District 89 from 2007 to 2020. 

During the 2019-2020 legislative session, Nygren served on Employment Relations Committee, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Joint Finance Committee, Joint Legislative Council Committee, Audit Committee, Employment Relations Committee, Finance Committee, and Substance Abuse and Prevention Committees. He was the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee and chair of the Finance Committee. 

Nygren ran for re-election on Nov. 3 against Democratic candidate Karl Jaeger. Nygren was re-elected by a margin of 68.7% to 31.2%. Gov. Tony Evers (D) will call a special election to fill Nygren’s now-vacant seat. 

As of Dec. 8, there have been 121 state legislative vacancies in 40 states this year. Ninety-five of those vacancies have been filled, with 26 vacancies remaining. Nygren’s vacancy is one of 67 Republican vacancies to have occurred in 2020. So far, 48 vacancies have been filled by Republicans, while 47 have been filled by Democrats.  

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Rep. Tom Graves leaves Congress October 4

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R) resigned from Congress effective Sunday, Oct. 4. He announced his resignation on Sept. 11. Graves had previously announced on Dec. 5, 2019, that he would not seek re-election in 2020.

Graves issued the following statement via Twitter on Oct. 2: “Today I sent letters to Gov. Kemp & House officials to say I would be stepping down from Congress on Sunday, 10/4. It is time to begin the next season in life. I will be forever grateful for the incredible privilege of serving my country & community as a member of Congress.” Graves was first elected in 2010 in a special election.

Graves is one of 12 members of Congress to leave office early or announce resignation. Of these 12, nine are Republicans and three are Democrats. There are currently 232 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Libertarian, and five vacancies in the U.S. House.

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Frostman resigns as Wisconsin Secretary of Workforce Development

Caleb Frostman resigned as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) on September 18 at the request of Gov. Tony Evers (D). Evers said he requested Frostman’s resignation due to the long wait times Wisconsin residents experienced for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, Evers said, “people across our state are struggling to make ends meet, and it is unacceptable that Wisconsinites continue to wait for the support they need during these challenging times.”

Amy Pechacek will replace Frostman on an interim basis. Pechacek has served as deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections since 2019.

Frostman is a former Democratic member of the Wisconsin state Senate. He was first elected to the legislature in a June 2018 special election to succeed Frank Lasee (R). Gov. Evers first appointed Frostman to lead the Department of Workforce Development in January 2019.

According to its website, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s responsibilities include providing job services and training, working with employers to fill job openings, and providing assistance to those looking for employment. The secretary of the DWD is a state executive position nominated by the governor and is subject to confirmation by the Wisconsin State Senate.

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Grant leaves Florida legislature for state executive role, ends re-election bid

Florida state Rep. James Grant (R) ended his re-election campaign for his District 64 seat on August 12, resigning from the state legislature in order to take a position as the state’s chief information officer. Grant was first elected to represent the district in 2012, having previously represented District 47 in the 2011-2012 legislative session.

Grant’s departure leaves a vacancy on the November 3 general election ballot. The Republican and Democratic primaries for the seat were canceled when no challengers filed to run against Grant in the Republican primary and only one candidate, middle school teacher Jessica Harrington, filed to run in the Democratic race. Republican Party committee officials in the district will nominate a replacement candidate to run against Harrington in the general election.

Grant said that he would assume the chief information officer role two weeks from his announcement. The position was first filled in 2014 when the state legislature created the Agency for State Technology. The state executive role moved to the Department of Management Services under current Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

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Serafini resigns from Maryland State Senate

Maryland Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) resigned from the state legislature on August 1, citing the demands of his more than decade-long tenure in state government as a motivating factor. Serafini represented District 2A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2009 to 2015, assuming office in the Maryland State Senate in February 2015.

Serafini wrote in a letter to his senate colleagues that “leaving my family on a Monday and not returning home until Friday late afternoon” took a toll on him. He also wrote, “Frankly, being a Republican from a rural area has also worn on me.” Before he resigned, Serafini was one of 15 Republican senators in the 47-seat chamber. Democrats have held a majority in the chamber since at least 1990.

Governor Larry Hogan (R) will appoint Serafini’s replacement from a list of candidates recommended by Republican committee officials in the district. The appointee will serve the remainder of Serafini’s unexpired term, which is set to end on January 10, 2023.

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Conrad resigns from North Carolina House

At 5pm local time on July 31, North Carolina Rep. Debra Conrad (R) resigned from her position in the state legislature. She was first elected to represent District 74 in the North Carolina House in 2012.

Conrad didn’t specify the reason for her departure in her resignation letter, but told various media outlets that she is exploring lobbying roles. Upon the announcement of her resignation, Conrad said, “Lobbying is one of the exciting opportunities I am considering, as I have too much energy and passion for politics to retire. I look forward to being back in Raleigh in a new role next year.”

State legislators in North Carolina are required to have a six-month period between serving in the legislature as an elected official and registering as a lobbyist.

Conrad’s departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina House of Representatives this year and the eighth in the state legislature. July saw two other state legislators resign, former Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) on July 16 and former Sen. Andy Wells (R) on July 27. Farmer-Butterfield left the legislature to take another state government position, whereas Wells did not give his reason for resigning beyond exploring unspecified opportunities outside the legislature.

Vacancies in the North Carolina General Assembly are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The governor must make an appointment from a recommended list of candidates selected by party committee members of the party who last held the seat. Of the eight vacancies that have occurred this year in the General Assembly, four of the seats were last held by Republican legislators and four were held by Democratic legislators. Of the four that have thus far been filled, three seats are currently held by a Democrat and one is held by a Republican. Heading into this year’s elections, the Republican Party holds a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

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Bosma resigns from Indiana House of Representatives

More than seven months after he disclosed his plans to resign, Rep. Brian Bosma (R) stepped down from the Indiana House of Representatives on July 31. Bosma first made the announcement in November 2019 that he planned to resign from the state legislature at the end of the 2020 legislative session, which ended in March.

Bosma, who had represented District 88 in the chamber since 1986, was the longest-standing state Speaker of the House in Indiana’s history. He first served as speaker from 2005 to 2006 and again from 2011 until spring of this year. Bosma stepped down from his leadership position on March 9 in anticipation of his resignation from the legislature. House Republicans selected Rep. Todd Huston (R) of District 37 to replace Bosma as speaker.

Bosma’s resignation creates the only vacancy in the Republican-controlled chamber. A caucus of Republican Party committee officials from HD 88 will appoint Bosma’s replacement, who will serve the remainder of his unexpired term set to end on the same day as the general election: November 3, 2020.

In the November 2018 elections, the chamber’s Republican majority decreased from 70-30 to 67-33. All 100 seats are up for election this year.

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