California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar resigned on Oct. 31 to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. Former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Cuéllar to the state supreme court in July 2014, and voters retained him in November 2014 with 68% of the vote.
Before joining the California Supreme Court, Cuéllar served in various capacities in the administration of President Barack Obama (D). From 2001 to 2014, he was a professor at Stanford Law School.
When there is a midterm vacancy on the California Supreme Court, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. To remain in office, the new appointee must stand for retention in an election occurring at the time of the next gubernatorial race, which is held every four years. After that, the judge is subject to a retention election every 12 years.
Democratic governors appointed four of the six active California Supreme Court justices; Republican governors appointed the other two justices. Cuéllar’s replacement will be Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) second appointee to the state supreme court.
Maine state Rep. Kyle Bailey (D-27) resigned on Oct. 15, citing a new job opportunity. “Due to an exciting professional opportunity that has arisen recently, I am unable to complete my full term as state representative,” Bailey said in a statement.
Bailey was first elected to represent Maine’s 27th House District in 2020, defeating Roger Densmore (R), 59% to 41%.
If there is a vacancy in the Maine State Legislature, the governor must call for a special election. The political committees representing the vacant seat are responsible for setting all deadlines. The winner of the election will serve the remainder of Bailey’s two-year term, which was set to expire in December 2022.
So far in 2021, there have been 113 state legislative vacancies in 41 states. Two of those vacancies occurred in Maine.
Ryan Stewart resigned as New Mexico’s secretary of education on Aug. 20, citing health issues in his family. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) first appointed Stewart to the position in August 2019. Stewart said he would continue serving at the Public Education Department in an advisory role.
Lujan Grisham announced on July 29 that former Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus would become the new secretary of education. Steinhaus retired as superintendent in May. He previously served as deputy cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department and as director of student and education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Steinhaus began his career as a music teacher at Alamogordo Public Schools.
“I’d like to thank Secretary Stewart for his steady leadership and guidance during these past two years. I’m among the many who will miss him. I’d also like to thank my colleagues at the Higher Education and Early Childhood Education and Care departments for their warm welcome and expressions of support,” Steinhaus said during a news conference. “I look forward to collaborating with them regularly as we work together to build the nation’s best cradle to career education system. We are united in that commitment.”
The New Mexico secretary of education is an appointed state executive position in the New Mexico state government. The secretary serves as head of the state Public Education Department and is responsible for overseeing New Mexico’s education policy and program development, operational management of the department, and the distribution of educational funding.
Senator Tony Navarrete (D) resigned from the Arizona state Senate on Aug. 10. He represented District 30 from 2019 to 2021. He also represented Arizona House District 30 from 2017 to 2019.
Phoenix police arrested Navarrete on Aug. 5, 2021, on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor. According to authorities, the alleged sexual conduct took place in 2019. Navarrete resigned on Aug. 10, stating, “I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence. In doing so, I will be focusing the vast majority of my time and energy on my defense.”
If there is a vacancy in the state Senate, the board of county supervisors must select a replacement. The appointee will serve the remainder of Navarrete’s term, which ends on Jan. 8, 2023.
As of Aug. 12, there have been 82 state legislative vacancies in 36 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled, with 32 vacancies remaining. Navarrete’s vacancy is one of 38 Democratic vacancies to have occurred in 2021. So far, Democrats have filled 23 vacancies, while Republicans have filled 27.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Aug. 10 that he would resign, effective Aug. 24. Lt. Gov. Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 and 2018. He was New York’s attorney general from 2007 to 2010. Cuomo also served in President Bill Clinton’s (D) cabinet as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1997 to 2001.
Kathy Hochul (D) will serve the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2023. New York’s next gubernatorial election will take place in November 2022.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report on Aug. 3 that said Cuomo “sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.” James began the investigation in February.
The New York State Assembly had initiated impeachment proceedings against Cuomo in March, examining the allegations of sexual misconduct among other accusations of impeachable conduct. At the time of Cuomo’s announcement, the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee had planned to finish its impeachment inquiry by Aug. 13, allowing for a vote on impeachment later this month or in September. Had Cuomo been impeached, the next step would have been a trial before the state Senate.
Cuomo denied these allegations, saying, in part, “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.” At a press conference announcing his resignation, Cuomo said, “Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”
Hochul was elected lieutenant governor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. Before that, she served in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2012 after winning a special election. Hochul will be the first woman governor in the state’s history.
Since 1776, 218 state governors have resigned before the expiration of their term. Cuomo is the ninth governor of New York to resign. Six resigned to take another office, and three resigned following allegations of misconduct. New York’s last elected governor, Eliot Spitzer (D), resigned in 2008 amid allegations of misconduct. Spitzer’s lieutenant governor, David Paterson (D), served through 2010. Twelve governors of New Jersey have resigned, more than any other state.
Of the 219 gubernatorial resignations nationwide since 1776, 76% took place because the governor was elected or appointed to another office, 7% took place following allegations of misconduct, and 17% were for various personal reasons, such as illness or policy disputes with the state legislature. Andrew Johnson (D) resigned as Governor of Tennessee on two separate occasions.
Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D) resigned on July 30 following allegations of racketeering and money laundering. In July 2021, a federal grand jury subpoena was served on the Albuquerque Public Schools district where Stapleton was working as the district’s director of career and technical education.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the investigation was triggered by a mislabeled invoice and persistent inquiries from the Albuquerque Public Schools business office questioning Stapleton’s relationship with contractor Robotics Management Learning System LLC. Documents say the contractor was paid more than $5 million since 2006 and that more than $950,000 of that was funneled to the two businesses and two nonprofits with ties to Stapleton.
In her resignation letter, Stapleton denied the allegations. She said, “In short, because I must devote a significant amount of time and energy to fully defend against these allegations, I believe it is in the best interest of this state and the House of Representatives that my position as both a member of the House of Representatives and Majority Floor Leader be replaced with a representative who can fully and competently resume the tasks and duties that are necessary to continue serving this great state.”
Stapleton was first elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives to represent District 19 in 1994.
As of August 2021, there have been 78 vacancies in 35 state legislatures. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Stapleton’s resignation is New Mexico’s second state legislative vacancy this year; the first was Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who left the state House when she won the special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.
Maryland Sen. Douglas Peters (D) resigned from his position in the Maryland Senate on July 30. Peters, who represented District 23, first assumed office in 2007, and was subsequently re-elected three times.
Peters had announced his resignation at the beginning of July, following his appointment to the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). In a statement, Peters called it “an honor of a lifetime to serve my neighbors at the city, county, and state level,” and that he looked forward “to serving on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.”
Peters’ departure from the state Senate leaves a vacancy in his district that will be filled by appointment. The appointee will serve until the district is up for election at next year’s midterms. The state Senate’s partisan composition is 31 Democrats, 15 Republicans, and one vacancy. While both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly are under Democratic control, the governor of Maryland is Republican, preventing a Democratic trifecta.
Connecticut state Senator Alex Kasser (D) resigned from the legislature on June 22. Kasser, who represented District 36, cited her ongoing divorce proceedings as the reason for her resignation.
In a statement, Kasser said, “It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as State Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate district has been a profound honor and a great joy. However, due to personal circumstances, I cannot continue.”
Kasser was first elected to the state Senate in 2018, defeating incumbent Scott Frantz (R), 50% to 49%. She won re-election in 2020, defeating challenger Ryan Fazio (R), 51% to 49%. Before entering politics, Kasser worked as the chair of Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center and as the director of Greening Our Children. She also founded The Parity Partnership, a non-profit organization that works to achieve equality for women in business.
When a vacancy occurs in the Connecticut state Senate, the governor must call for a special election within ten days. After the governor declares the special election, it must be held within 46 days.
Ballotpedia has identified 57 vacancies in state legislatures in 2021. Twenty-eight of these vacancies were in seats previously held by Democrats, and 29 were in seats held by Republicans. Thirty-nine of the vacancies have been filled.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman retired from her seat on the state’s highest court effective Friday, June 11. Her resignation letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not provide a reason for her departure. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Abbott’s fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court.
Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.
Guzman joined the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. She was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry (R).
Guzman was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the state’s highest court. Upon winning election to the seat in 2010, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals. She practiced law as a litigator in Houston before becoming a judge. Guzman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston, a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law, and an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.
Following Guzman’s retirement, the Texas Supreme Court includes the following members:
• Nathan Hecht, appointed by Perry in 2013
• Jimmy Blacklock, appointed by Abbott in 2018
• Debra Lehrmann, appointed by Perry in 2010
• John Devine, elected in 2012
• Rebeca Huddle, appointed by Abbott in 2020
• Jane Bland, appointed by Abbott in 2019
• Jeffrey S. Boyd, appointed by Perry in 2012
• Brett Busby, appointed by Abbott in 2019
All current members of the court identify as Republicans.
In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11, 2021. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party.
Guzman was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.
Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort for civil matters and has nine judgeships. Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointment is subject to confirmation from the Texas State Senate. Once confirmed, the judge will serve until the next general election, at which point they must run in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the rest of the unexpired term.
In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.