Tagstate houses

Justin Fecteau resigns from Maine House of Representatives

Justin Fecteau (R) resigned from the Maine House of Representatives on July 4 to accept a teaching job outside his legislative district. He represented District 86 from 2018 to 2021. Fecteau was first elected to the state House in 2018. He defeated Adam Turner (D) to win re-election in 2020, 57% to 43%.

When there is a vacancy in the Maine state House, a special election must be held to fill the seat. The governor must call for an election and allow all political committees representing the vacant seat to set all deadlines. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Fecteau’s term was set to expire on Dec. 6, 2022. 

District 86 is one of 710 state legislative districts nationwide that intersects with one or more Pivot Counties. These 206 Pivot Counties voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012. The 206 Pivot Counties are located in 34 states. Iowa, with 31, has the most such counties. Maine has eight Pivot Counties.

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Two Georgia House special runoffs set for July 13

Image of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

The special general runoff elections for Georgia House of Representatives Districts 34 and 156 are scheduled for July 13, 2021. 

  • In District 34, Devan Seabaugh (R) is facing Priscilla Smith (D) in the runoff. In the June 15 general election, Seabaugh and Smith advanced from a field of five candidates and earned 47.1% and 24.6% of the vote, respectively. The special election in District 34 was called after Bert Reeves (R) left office to become Georgia Institute of Technology’s vice president of university relations. Reeves served from 2015 to 2021.
  • In District 156, Leesa Hagan (R) and Wally Sapp (R) are competing in the runoff. In the June 15 general election, Hagan earned 43.1% of the vote and Sapp earned 42.3%. The special election was called after Greg Morris (R) resigned on April 13 to join the State Transportation Board at the Georgia Department of Transportation. Morris served from 1999 to 2021.

Georgia has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state House by a margin of 101 to 77, with two vacancies.

As of July 2021, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Special elections to be held on July 13 in two Alabama state legislative districts

Special elections are scheduled for July 13 for District 14 of the Alabama State Senate and District 73 of the Alabama House of Representatives. The winners of the special elections will serve until Nov. 7, 2022.

  • In Senate District 14, Virginia Applebaum (D) and April Weaver (R) are running in the special election. The seat became vacant on Dec. 7 after Cam Ward (R) was appointed to serve as director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles by Gov. Kay Ivey (R). Ward had represented the seat since 2010.
  • In House District 73, Sheridan Black (R) is facing off against Kenneth Paschal (R). The special election became necessary after Matt Fridy (R) was elected to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in Nov. 2020. Fridy had represented District 73 since 2015.

Alabama has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 26-8 margin with one vacancy and the state House by a 76-27 margin with two vacancies.

As of July, 40 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Alabama held 23 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Lynn DeCoite appointed to Hawaii State Senate, creating vacancy in state House

Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) appointed Lynn DeCoite (D) to the District 7 seat in the Hawaii State Senate on June 17. The seat became vacant in May when former state Sen. Jamie Kalani English (D) retired due to the long-term health effects of a past COVID-19 infection. DeCoite to serve the remainder of Kalani English’s term, which was set to expire in November 2022.

At the time she was appointed, DeCoite was serving her fourth term in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Governor Ige appointed DeCoite to represent District 13 in February 2015, after former state Rep. Mele Carroll (D) resigned. DeCoite won re-election in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

DeCoite’s appointment to the state Senate creates a vacancy in the state House. When a vacancy occurs in the Hawaii legislature, the governor must appoint a replacement within 60 days after the vacancy happens. The governor selects from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat.

Hawaii is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

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Bernalillo County Commission appoints Pamelya Herndon to New Mexico House of Representatives 

The Bernalillo County Commission appointed Pamelya Herndon (D) to District 28 in the New Mexico House of Representatives on June 22. Herndon replaces Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who was elected to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on June 1 of this year. 

The Bernalillo County Commission voted 4-0 to appoint Herndon, who was one of eight candidates seeking the District 28 seat. Upon her appointment, Herndon said, “I will serve this district very well. I will represent every single person. I want to thank the commissioners for their faith in me and it starts immediately.” She will serve the remainder of Stansbury’s term, which ends on Jan. 17, 2023.

Before her appointment, Herndon served as the president and CEO of KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change and the CEO of The Women’s Center for Social Justice and Change. She also worked with the Southwest Women’s Law Center, Herndon Legal Services, and the State of New Mexico. She received a B.B.A. in accounting from Howard University in 1975 and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1978. 

As of June 24, there have been 57 state legislative vacancies in 32 states during 2021. Forty-one of those vacancies have been filled. Herndon is one of 21 Democrats to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021. 

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Special election to be held July 13 in Wisconsin Assembly district

A special election is being held on July 13 for District 37 of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Pete Adams (D), William Penterman (R), and Stephen Ratzlaff Jr. (I) are running in the general election. Penterman advanced past the June 15 Republican primary in a field of eight candidates. Adams was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The winner of the special election will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant on April 23 after John Jagler (R) was sworn into the Wisconsin State Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Jagler had represented District 37 since 2013. He won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 60-38 majority in the Wisconsin Assembly with one vacancy. Wisconsin 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 June, 39 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin held 19 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Kenyatté Hassell wins Democratic nomination in special primary runoff for Alabama House District 78

A special Democratic primary runoff for District 78 in the Alabama House of Representatives was held on June 22, 2021. Kenyatté Hassell defeated Donald Williams and advanced to the general election.

The general election is scheduled for September 7. The filing deadline passed on March 23. Hassell will be running against Loretta Grant (R).

The special election was called after Kirk Hatcher (D) was elected to the Alabama State Senate in a special election on March 2, 2021. Hatcher served from 2018 to 2021. 

The September 7 special election will mark the fifth Alabama state legislative special election this year and the third special election for the state house of representatives. Ben Robbins (R) defeated Fred Crum (D) in the January 19 special election for House District 33. Virginia Applebaum (D) and April Weaver (R) will compete for Senate District 14 and Sheridan Black (D) will face Kenneth Paschal (R) in House District 73 on July 13.

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Arizona Secretary of State rejects recall petitions against state House speaker

Recall supporters had until June 17 to submit the necessary signatures to recall Arizona state House speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R). The Patriot Party of Arizona submitted an estimated 24,500 signatures at the deadline. Since the recall campaign did not attach the statutorily required date-stamped recall application to each of their 2,040 petition sheets, the secretary of state’s office rejected their filing.

The Patriot Party of Arizona started the recall effort on February 17 and needed to submit at least 22,331 signatures to require a recall election. The recall petition criticized Bowers over his failure as House speaker to call a special session during the coronovirus pandemic and for his failure to protect the integrity of the 2020 election.

Bowers said he was surprised that the recall effort failed. “I was gearing up to go through a recall,” he said. Bowers has served in the state House since 2015 and became House speaker in 2019. He was re-elected in 2020 with 35.5% of the vote.

As of June 9, 2021, Ballotpedia had tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for that point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Russell Bowers

Arizona House of Representatives



Voters in California Assembly District 18 to decide special election primary on June 29

A special election primary is being held on June 29 for District 18 of the California State Assembly. Victor Aguilar (D), James Aguilar (D), Mia Bonta (D), Eugene Canson (D), Janani Ramachandran (D), Malia Vella (D), Stephen Slauson (R), and Joel Britton (I) are on the primary ballot. Nelsy Batista (D) filed as a write-in candidate for the primary. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, he or she will win the election outright. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top two candidates will advance to a special general election on August 31. The winner will serve until December 2022.

The seat became vacant after Rob Bonta (D) was appointed attorney general of California. Bonta was confirmed by the state legislature on April 22. He had represented District 18 since 2012.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 59-19 majority in the California Assembly with one independent member and one vacancy. California has a Democratic 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 June, 40 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. California held 28 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Jennifer Konfrst elected as minority leader of Iowa House

Democrats in the Iowa House of Representatives selected Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (D-43) as the new House minority leader on June 14. Konfrst replaces Rep. Todd Prichard (D-52), who announced on June 2 that he would be stepping down as minority leader. Konfrst is the first woman to lead the Iowa House Democrats. 

“I’m honored to earn the trust of my colleagues to lead our fight to ensure Iowans’ voices are heard and truly represented in Des Moines,” Konfrst said in a statement following the vote.

Konfrst was first elected to the Iowa House in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020. She had been serving as House minority whip since the start of her second term in January 2021.

The minority leader of a state house is responsible for directing the minority party strategy, assembling party members for important votes, and acting as a spokesperson for the party’s policy positions.

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