The Pennsylvania State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would change how candidates for lieutenant governor are selected.
In Pennsylvania, a political party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a joint ticket at the general election. As of 2020, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries for their party’s nomination and then form a joint ticket.
The constitutional amendment would allow a political party’s candidate for governor to choose their own candidate for lieutenant governor. The ballot measure would provide that political parties may approve or reject their gubernatorial candidate’s pick for lieutenant governor. The system would look similar to how a presidential candidate selects their running mate.
Because the Pennsylvania Constitution requires the legislature to approve an amendment during two successive legislative sessions, the legislature will need to adopt the amendment again during the 2021-2022 legislative session for it to appear on the ballot. If it appears on the ballot in 2021, it could be in effect for the 2022 gubernatorial election.
The constitutional amendment passed the state Senate on January 28, 2020, in a vote of 46-3. In the state House, legislative Democrats were more divided. While 105 of 110 House Republicans supported the amendment, 25 of 92 House Democrats did so. A simple majority vote was required in each chamber.
The current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania is John Fetterman (D), who defeated incumbent Mike Stack (D) in the 2018 primary election. The Pennsylvania Governor is Tom Wolf, who is term-limited from running at the next gubernatorial election in 2022.
Pennsylvania is one of eight states in which the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary but runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in general election.
The ballot measure would make Pennsylvania the 11th state in which the lieutenant governor is chosen by the gubernatorial nominee after the primary and runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general election.
Pennsylvanians haven’t rejected a constitutional amendment referred by the legislature since 1981. Since then, voters have approved 26 constitutional amendments.
Former Rep. Tammie Wilson (R) announced her resignation from the Alaska House of Representatives on January 24, 2020, which took effect at the end of the day on Jan. 25. She left her District 3 seat to take a job as a policy adviser with the Office of Children’s Services at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Wilson first assumed office in the state House in December 2009. She previously served as an Assembly Member for Fairbanks North Star Borough from 2008 to 2009. She also worked as an owner of an antique collection store and automotive shop.
Wilson’s departure creates the first vacancy of the year in Alaska’s legislature and the 23rd vacancy overall in state legislatures in 2020. Members of the Alaska Republican Party will recommend a replacement to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R), who has 30 days from Wilson’s departure to make an appointment to fill the seat. After Wilson’s resignation, the party composition of the Alaska House of Representatives was 22 Republicans, 15 Democrats, two independents, and one vacancy.
This week: Two Van Drew challengers withdraw in NJ-02, six candidates now running in open GA-14 primary, and Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12.
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Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.
“As for the ‘vulnerable’ Republicans, they need to buck up. The only way they have a chance to win is by firmly supporting the President. …
If they try to take the ‘reasonable’ route by crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats, they can forget about winning in November. Their efforts to curry favor with the media will backfire on them. Rather than bring moderate Democrats (if there is still such a thing other than 2016 Trump voters) over to them, they will alienate their base. That base will be furious and without their avid support, there will be far fewer door knockers and phone bank volunteers.”
“There’s a good chance [Susan Collins] will join the Democrats during the vote. Already, she’s expressed her willingness to work with the other side of the aisle to reach a compromise that will suit both parties. And unlike the other centrist Republicans who have said they’d like to hear from Bolton, Collins has the most to lose. She’s up for reelection in Maine this year, and her Democratic challenger has raised a significant amount of money and has tapped noteworthy endorsements. …
If she does break with her party on the trial rules vote, it’s unlikely the GOP will hold it against her. The Republican Party has much more of a vested interest in maintaining Collins’s Senate seat (a seat the Democrats need if they’re going to flip the Senate in 2020) than they do in preventing Bolton from testifying.”
Defense contractor Brian Fitzherbert and businessman David Richter withdrew from New Jersey’s 2nd District Republican primary, leaving two candidates in the race: Rep. Jeff Van Drew and Bob Patterson, a former Acting Associate Commission of the Social Security Administration.
Van Drew switched his affiliation from Democratic to Republican on December 19, 2019, after he voted against impeaching President Donald Trump in December. Trump endorsed him. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, local Republican Party leaders endorsed Van Drew in the following weeks, including some who had previously endorsed Richter.
Richter is now running in New Jersey’s 3rd District Republican primary. He said of his switch, “When I decided to run for Congress, it was to flip a congressional seat. That’s already happened. I’m endorsing Jeff Van Drew.”
Van Drew had been a member of the New Jersey Senate before winning the 2nd District in 2018.
New Jersey’s candidate filing deadline is March 30. The primary is June 2.
Open GA-14 primary candidate field grows to 6
Six Republicans are currently seeking the GOP nomination in George’s 14th Congressional District. The incumbent, Rep. Tom Graves, announced in December he would not seek re-election.
The latest entrant is state Rep. Kevin Cooke. In addition to representing District 18 in the state House, Cooke is the associate athletic director at Shorter University. In his campaign announcement, Cooke said:
“The question is who do you trust to stand up to big government Republicans behind closed doors in Washington. … Choosing a candidate based on rhetoric is dangerous and conservatives fall for it every cycle. This is a Republican primary in Georgia. We will all say we want to stop socialism, support our President, protect life, defend the Second Amendment and build the wall. Talk is cheap.”
Ben Bullock recently announced his switch from Georgia’s 7th District race to the 14th District primary, saying, “For over 200 years, my family has lived, served in both the military and elected office, farmed, and operated small businesses in the 14th congressional district.” Bullock founded a real estate investment firm and served in the Air Force.
Businesswoman Marjorie Greene was the first candidate in the primary, announcing her switch from the 6th District race to the 14th following Graves’ retirement announcement. Neurosurgeon John Cowan, former assistant district attorney and Air Force veteran Clayton Fuller, and Kyle Perkins are also running.
The filing deadline is March 6. The primary is May 19. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the primary vote, a runoff will be held July 21.
Georgia’s 14th District is one of 36 open House seats this year, and Graves is one of 26 Republicans retiring from the House.
The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index, which compares districts’ presidential election results to national averages, found this district to be the 10th-most Republican district in the country.
Club for Growth PAC endorses challenger in TX-12
Club for Growth PAC endorsed former Colleyville City Councilmember Chris Putnam in his primary bid against incumbent Kay Granger in Texas’ 12th Congressional District. It’s the first time the group has endorsed a challenger to a Republican House incumbent since 2016.
Granger first took office in 1997. Trump endorsed her re-election bid in December.
Putnam joined the race in September, saying, “Just like President Trump, we need an outsider to bring proven business experience to drain the Washington swamp.”
Club for Growth describes itself as the “leading free-enterprise advocacy group in the nation.” The group’s president, David McIntosh, said Granger “has recklessly voted for out-of-control deficit spending, backroom bloated budget deals, and debt limit increases.”
Granger campaign representative Keats Norfleet said, “Kay is proud to be endorsed by President Trump and she’s proud of her record of delivering conservative results for her district. … It’s ironic that [the Club for Growth] would choose to support a candidate that voted to raise property taxes and grow the budget while serving on his local city council.”
Protect Freedom PAC is also involved in the race. The group spent $547,000 on a TV ad released last week criticizing Granger on abortion. The group says it was “founded for the purpose of supporting pro-freedom and liberty-minded candidates.”
The primary is March 3.
Montana gubernatorial candidates meet for first debate
The three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Montana appeared on the debate stage together for the first time Thursday. State Attorney General Tim Fox and state Sen. Al Olszewski participated in a debate last November which Rep. Greg Gianforte did not attend. All three stated their support for cutting taxes, lowering spending, and supporting the growth of Montana’s energy sector.
Fox said that because he was born in Montana and had served as state attorney general, he was the candidate most familiar with the issues Montanans face and would perform best in the general election. Fox said that he outperformed Gianforte in the 2016 election when he ran for attorney general and Gianforte challenged incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D).
Gianforte said that he had the business experience necessary to develop Montana’s economy. He highlighted his experience in founding and managing a software company that had 1,100 employees when Oracle purchased it in 2011. Gianforte also said that he had a close working relationship with President Trump and would follow the president’s lead in cutting state taxes and regulations.
Olszewski said that he had the right mix of experience as a state legislator and the operator of his medical practice. He said that gave him a better sense than the other candidates of what needed to be done in Montana and how to do it. Olszewski said crime was a major policy priority and that he would put up billboards on the state line offering rewards for information on drug dealers and human traffickers.
The candidate filing deadline is March 9. The June 2 primary will be open to all registered voters. No Republican has won election as governor of Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.
Poll shows 48 percent undecided in Utah GOP gubernatorial primary
A Suffolk University/Salt Lake Tribune poll of likely primary voters shows 48 percent are still undecided in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Among those who did voice a preference, former Jon Huntsman (R) has 26 percent, followed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox at 18 percent, and former House Speaker Greg Hughes at 7 percent.
Jeff Burningham, Aimee Winder-Newton, and Thomas Wright each received 1% support. The poll did not measure support for Jason Christensen. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.
A Y2 Analytics poll of registered Republican voters conducted in December for UtahPolicy.com showed Cox leading Huntsman 41 to 29 percent. Rep. Rob Bishop, who was seen as a potential candidate at the time but since joined Thomas Wright’s campaign as his running mate, had 9% support. That poll, which had a margin of error plus or minus 4.6, did not allow respondents to say that they were undecided.
The candidate filing deadline is March 19. The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only.
Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner’s resignation to run for attorney general takes effect this week
Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp (R) resigned effective Friday to challenge state Attorney General Curtis Hill (R). Krupp joins attorney John Westercamp (R), who launched his campaign in June.
Hill is currently undergoing a review before the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission following allegations of misconduct. In July 2018, four women who worked in the state legislature, including a member of the state House, accused Hill of inappropriately touching them at an event that March. Hill has denied the allegations.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), who had called for Hill’s resignation after the allegations were made public, has so far declined to endorse in the race. In Indiana, state executive candidates other than gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial nominees are nominated at party conventions rather than being selected in primaries. The Republican nominating convention will take place on June 19-20.
Alaska Senate President draws primary challenger as conflict within caucus grows
Roger Holland filed a letter of intent to run against Alaska Sen. Catherine Giessel (R). Holland is a political newcomer and works for the Alaska Department of Transportation.
In a campaign announcement on Facebook, Holland cited Giessel’s cooperation with House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I) as a reason for the primary challenge. Edgmon changed his party affiliation from Democratic to undeclared in February 2019, before he was elected speaker of the chamber where Republicans held a numerical majority.
Last week, Anchorage Daily News reported that several Republican members of the Senate had been stripped of their committee assignments over their position on the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). The committee changes were approved 13-7, with all seven votes coming from Republicans who voted against the PFD changes in 2019. Republicans hold a 13-7 numerical majority in the chamber.
Giessel last faced a primary challenger in 2012, when she defeated Joe Arness 68-32 percent. She represents District N, which covers portions of South Anchorage. She was first elected to the Senate in 2010. In the last three election cycles, Giessel won each general election by at least five percentage points.
Term-limited senator joins SD House primary field
State Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24), who is term-limited and unable to run again for the seat, filed paperwork to run for one of the two state House seats representing the same district. Both of the current House incumbents are also term-limited and not running for re-election. Monroe is the fourth Republican candidate to file for the two seats.
The other candidates are Mike Wiesgram, a businessman from Pierre, Bob Lowery, a former Assistant Executive Director for the SD High School Activities Association, and Will Mortenson, who worked in former Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s (R) administration.
Republicans are expected to win both House seats in November. In 2018, both Republican candidates won with 35 and 37 percent of the vote, compared to the Democratic candidates’ 18 and 11 percent of the vote. In 2016, 2014, and 2012, both Republican candidates were unopposed in each general election.
U.S. Senate candidate drops out of race to run for KS Senate
Bryan Pruitt (R) announced he was dropping out of the Republican primary for Kansas’ U.S. Senate seat and running for District 22 in the Kansas state Senate instead. The other declared Republican candidate in the race is Craig Bowser. The district is currently represented by Tom Hawk (D), who was elected in 2012.
Pruitt said he wants to focus his efforts on improving Kansas. “As I met with voters, I realized I could accomplish more in Kansas than I ever could trying to fix Washington D.C. at this time . . . I see an opportunity to flip [the seat] from Democrat back to Republican. Taking back [District] 22 will solidify Republican control of the Kansas State Senate and allow me to do the important work of implementing conservative change for all Kansans,” Pruitt said.
District 22 changed party control from Republican to Democratic control in 2012. In that race, Bob Reader (R) defeated incumbent Roger Reitz in the Republican primary before losing to Hawk 51-49 in the general election. District 22 covers portions of Manhattan.
“The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to electing more Republicans to state legislatures. The RLCC’s primary mission is gaining and growing Republican control of more state legislative chambers by targeting national resources to support winnable local races.” – RLCC website
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) is a state-oriented national Republican organization that seeks to elect Republicans to state legislatures. Founded in 2003, the RLCC is an affiliate of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). The RLCC provides financial training and strategic assistance to Republican candidates and also operates campaign training schools in some states.
This week: We preview the MD-07 special primary on Feb. 4, Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, and several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues
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Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.
“In the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic Party was the subject of bitter and widespread criticism from its left wing. The party’s strategy was to flip the House by recruiting moderate candidates who would avoid controversial left-wing positions and instead focus attention on Trump’s agenda, especially his effort to eliminate Obamacare. The left predicted the strategy would fail — only an inspiring progressive agenda could mobilize enough voters to win back the House. …
As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. …
Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed.”
“When moderate Democrats assure us that they would win back more white swing voters than progressive Democrats would, I am haunted by the thought that the evidence is hardly so reassuring. I see moderate candidates struggling with younger voters, who are more likely to favor progressive policies, and are more likely than older voters to stay home or vote third party if they don’t like the Democrat. …
The low-hanging fruit [voters who voted for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016] is disproportionately composed of young voters, and especially young black voters. Democratic primary voters should value candidates’ performance with these other swing voters as much as they value their performance with white swing voters.”
Democrats have held the 7th District since 1953 when Maryland gained an additional district following the 1950 census. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was D+26, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 26 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. This made Maryland’s 7th District the 41st-most Democratic nationally.
In addition to the special election, Maryland is holding a regularly scheduled primary on April 28, 2020. Regular primary winners will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election to compete for a full term in the 117th Congress.
Cook changes CA-25 race rating to Likely Democratic
The Cook Political Reportchanged its race rating for California’s 25th District special election from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic, saying that Democratic candidate “Christy Smith has emerged as a heavy favorite” and that the district has trended Democratic in recent years.
California’s 25th District will have both a special election primary and a regularly scheduled primary on March 3. The state holds top-two primaries. In the special primary, a candidate can win outright by getting more than 50% of the vote. Otherwise, a special general election for the top two candidates will be held on May 12.
In the regular primary, the top two candidates will advance to the November general election (nobody can win outright).
According to Cook, “Of the dozen candidates running in each election, there are only three with a serious shot at advancing to either a May 12 special runoff or November: Smith (who flipped a GOP-held Assembly seat in 2018) and two Republicans, former Rep. Steve Knight (whom [Katie] Hill defeated by nine points in 2018) and Navy veteran Mike Garcia.”
The Los Angeles GOP backed Garcia, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Knight.
Cook said Republicans held a 4 percentage point registration advantage in 2012 when the district supported Mitt Romney for president, and that Democrats now have a 6 percentage point registration advantage. Hillary Clinton won the District in 2016.
Smith released her first TV ad last week in which she said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower drug costs.” The position is distinct from that of another prominent Democrat in the race, Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur, who backs Medicare or All.
Former Rep. Katie Hill resigned in November 2019 following her acknowledgment of having had a relationship with a campaign staffer. Knight represented the district from 2015 to 2019.
Texas AFL-CIO backs Cisneros in TX-28, no endorsement in Senate primary
The Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education endorsed Jessica Cisneros in her challenge to Texas’ 28th District Rep. Henry Cuellar. The primary is March 3.
Cisneros’ other endorsers include Justice Democrats, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos endorsed Cuellar. The group American Workers for Progress recently released an ad saying Cuellar has worked to protect healthcare and lower drug prices. The group says it “works to ensure that leaders at every level are focused on reducing barriers to job growth and addressing economic challenges to guarantee a better future for all Americans.”
Cuellar said the 28th District is made up of “more moderate, conservative Democrats.” He voted in favor of a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks in 2017 and has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Cuellar was first elected in 2005.
Cisneros said her campaign is “the only one in this race with an ear to the ground in Texas’ 28th Congressional District. … We know we are the people’s campaign.”
The Texas AFL-CIO did not endorse in the U.S. Senate race as no candidate received 2/3rds of the vote at the AFL-CIO meeting. The Democratic primary features 12 candidates. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed MJ Hegar in the race.
Several House progressives say they will pay DCCC dues
Progressive Congressional Caucus Co-Chairs Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan, along with several other progressive representatives, said they would pay member dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after a meeting with DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she will not pay dues for the 2019-2020 election cycle as she opposes a DCCC policy, made official in 2019, that it will not give business to any consultant who works for a primary challenger to an incumbent Democrat. As we wrote in the first issue of Heart of the Primaries, Ocasio-Cortez started a PAC to support Democratic primary candidates, including challengers.
Pocan said Ocasio-Cortez “has a very unique ability to raise lots of money on the outside that no one else does and she can use that to also be helpful. … For most of us, it’s the collective efforts that happen through the DCCC that help make sure that we’re in the majority.”
Jayapal and Rep. Ro Khanna said they disagree with the DCCC policy but will pay dues to help support maintaining a Democratic House.
According to Politico, “Withholding dues is not an uncommon practice. Dozens of House Democrats have shirked the duty this year for an array of reasons, such as fundraising prowess, dynamics in their district and members’ own relationships with DCCC.”
According to a DCCC document obtained by The Intercept, DCCC dues range from $150,000 to $1 million during the 2020 election cycle depending on the member’s seniority.
Molly Gray launches bid for lieutenant governor of Vermont
Vermont assistant attorney general Molly Gray announced Monday that she would seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Kelly joins four other Democrats, including 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate Brenda Siegel, state Senate Majority Leader Tim Ashe, and state Sen. Debbie Ingram. Incumbent David Zuckerman is running for governor, leaving the office open.
Vermont is one of eight states to allow fusion voting, where a candidate may be affiliated with multiple political parties on the ballot. In recent years, some Vermont Democrats have cross-filed with the Vermont Progressive Party, a political party founded in 2000. Incumbent David Zuckerman is a member of the VPP who cross-filed as a Democrat. Of the four Democrats currently in the running for lieutenant governor, only Ashe has cross-filed with the VPP in previous elections.
Vermont’s lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and is tasked with presiding over the state Senate, casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate, and serving as acting governor while the governor is out of state. In the 2018 election, Zuckerman won re-election over challengers Donald Turner Jr. (R) and Murray Ngoima (Liberty Union) by a margin of 18.4 percentage points.
The candidate filing deadline is May 28. The August 11 primary is open to all registered voters.
Seventeen Democrats file for West Virginia executive offices
Seventeen Democrats filed for the state’s six executive offices, setting up contested primaries for all but two.
Seven candidates filed for governor. West Virginia Democrats have won the last six gubernatorial elections, tying their all-time record for most consecutive wins in the state. However, Gov. Jim Justice switched to the Republican Party in August 2017, meaning that Democrats will need to defeat an incumbent governor to continue their streak. A December poll found three of the declared candidates—activist Stephen Smith, state Sen. Ron Stollings, and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango—were leading the field and were about even with one another.
Contested primaries are also in store for the other top executive offices. Attorney Sam Petsonk and state Del. Isaac Sponaugle will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), while Brent Pauley and former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant are in the running for secretary of state. The only other contested primary is for commissioner of agriculture, where four Democrats are seeking the nomination.
Incumbent state Treasurer John Perdue (D) is running unopposed, while Mary Claytor is the only Democrat to have filed for state auditor.
The May 12 primaries will be open only to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
DSA-backed candidates in NY announce criminal justice platform
A group of five candidates for the New York Senate and Assembly backed by the Democratic Socialists of America released a criminal justice platform. The package of legislation calls for decriminalizing the adult sex trade, eliminating cash bail, create safe injection sites, and a number of other changes. The five candidates are all from Brooklyn and Queens: Jabari Brisport (SD-25), Marcela Mitaynes (AD-51), Boris Santos (AD-54), Phara Souffrant Forrest (AD-57), and Zohran Mamdani (AD-36).
Democratic strategist Evan Stavisky said that the platform was more about presenting united ideas as a party than it was individual results in the primary races. “[W]hile it is not yet clear how much support each bill has in each of these districts, presenting a common platform enables them to advance their agenda regardless of the outcome of any individual primary,” he told the Queens Daily Eagle.
The Daily Eagle noted both challengers and incumbents agree on several of the bills, but decriminalizing the adult sex trade was a particular point of contention. In the last month, state bail and discovery changes have divided more moderate and liberal Democrats in the state capitol.
WI Sen. announces retirement, setting up competitive primary
Wisconsin Sen. Mark Miller (D) announced that he would not seek re-election in Wisconsin’s 16th Senate District. Following the announcement, state Rep. Melissa Sargent said she would seek the nomination, while state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, Madison Ald. Samba Baldeh and Kelda Roys also expressed their interest in running. Miller was first elected in 2004 and served as leader of the Democratic caucus on several occasions.
District 16 covers portions of southeast Madison. Miller never faced a challenger in any of his re-election campaigns in 2008, 2012, or 2016. Republicans currently hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate, and 16 of the 33 seats are up for election this fall.
“Rebuilding the Democratic Party starts at the local level. The DLCC recruits, trains, and supports local Democrats running for state legislative office. We give our candidates resources, field support, and the data they need to run smart, winning campaigns.” – DLCC website
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is a 527 political organization whose aim is to oversee state-based political campaigns for Democratic candidates. The organization runs grassroots campaigns and provides campaign assistance to candidates with the goal of gaining a Democratic majority in state congresses.
In December 2019, The Washington Postreported the DLCC planned to spend $50 million in 2020, ahead of redistricting. The group said it would target the state House in Iowa, Texas, and Michigan; Minnesota’s Senate; and both chambers in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
In January 2020, Politicoreported that the DLCC had “quadrupled its staff, partnered with a slew of other large Democratic groups … and planned to target as many as 14 states.” In addition to the chambers listed above, Politico reported that Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin were potential targets for later in the year.
Bernalillo County commissioners appointed Marian Matthews (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on January 7, 2020. She was sworn in that same day to represent District 27, which was represented by the late Rep. William Pratt (D) until he passed away on December 25, 2019. Pratt first assumed office in January 2019 following the death of Lorenzo “Larry” Larranaga.
Prior to her appointment, Matthews declared her candidacy for the District 27 seat. Before his death, Pratt had announced that he would not run for re-election.
Matthews is an attorney and longtime resident of the district. She previously served as the Deputy Attorney General to then-Attorney General Tom Udall (D). Her professional experience includes teaching at Central New Mexico Community College.
Matthews’ appointment fills the only vacancy in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
On January 13, 2020, Jesse Johnson (D) was appointed to fill the District 30-Position 2 seat in the Washington House of Representatives. The seat had been vacant since former Rep. Kristine Reeves (D) resigned in December 2019 to run for U.S. Congress.
Johnson represents District 30 along with Position 1 Rep. Mike Pellicciotti. Both of their terms end in January 2021.
Johnson’s appointment leaves zero vacancies in the Washington House of Representatives. All 98 House seats are up for election in 2020. The Democrats currently have a state government trifecta in Washington, holding a majority in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
On January 23, the filing deadline passed to run in the Maine House of Representatives District 128 special election. Political parties in Maine had until that date to submit candidate nominations to the secretary of state. Two candidates, Kevin O’Connell (D) and Garrel Craig (R), are competing in the general election on March 3, 2020.
The special election was called after Arthur Verow (D) passed away on December 19, 2019. Verow represented District 128 from 2012 to 2016 and from 2018 to 2019.
Heading into the election, Democrats have an 87-61 majority with five independent members and two vacancies in the state House. Maine has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
As of January, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Supporters of a veto referendum petition effort targeting the repeal of Utah Senate Bill 2001 reported submitting 152,000 signatures on January 21 to put the bill on the November ballot. SB 2001, titled Tax Restructuring Revisions, was designed to make changes to the state tax code including decreasing the individual and corporate income tax rates and increasing the sales tax on food. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures are required. As of 8 a.m. on January 24, county clerks had verified 97,208 signatures as valid. County clerks have until February 4, 2020, to verify the signatures.
A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law passed by the state legislature. There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level.
On January 23, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R), Senate President Stuart Adams (R), and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson (R) announced that the legislature would repeal Senate Bill 2001 on January 27, the first day of the legislative session, therefore rendering the referendum effort moot. Herbert and legislative leaders said, “We applaud those who have engaged in the civic process and made their voices heard. We are not foes on a political battlefield, we are all Utahns committed to getting our tax policy right. That work is just beginning. Once the repeal is signed into law, the legislature will begin work under the reinstated tax code to prepare the fiscal year 2021 state budget. Repealing SB 2001 will enable the legislature to draft the budget without the uncertainty of a referendum potentially changing the tax code midway through the budget year.”
Utah Director of Elections Justin Lee said county clerks will continue verifying signatures and that the state legislature is being asked to clarify what will happen if the tax reform bill is repealed and the referendum qualifies for the ballot.
SB 2001 was sponsored by Republican Sen. Lyle Hillyard and was passed by the Utah Legislature in a special session on December 12, 2019.
The referendum, filed by individuals including former state representative Fred Cox (R), seeks to repeal SB 2001. Among other things, SB 2001 was designed to make the following changes:
1. decrease the individual income tax rate;
2. decrease the corporate franchise tax and corporate income tax rate;
3. changes how the personal exemption tax credit is calculated;
4. create a nonrefundable tax credit for social security benefits;
5. increase the sales tax on food and food ingredients;
6. create a refundable grocery tax credit;
7. create a sales tax exemption for menstrual products; and
8. create a tax on gasoline (motor fuel) and special fuels, adds a new tax on diesel fuel.
Supporters of the referendum effort, who would be advocating for a “no” vote on the tax bill if it appears on the ballot, include the Utah Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Utahns Against Hunger, Harmons Grocery, and candidates for Governor, Zachary Moses (D), Aimee Winger Newton (R), Jeff Burningham (R), Jason Christensen (R), and Jon Huntsman Jr. (R). The Utah Parent Teacher Association said, “It is Utah PTA’s position that the tax reform legislation that was recently approved by Utah’s Legislature in a special session is a threat to the long-term funding of education in Utah. It cuts Utah’s funding source for education and places an untenable burden on Utah’s most vulnerable populations, including families with children who are already going hungry without adequate means to purchase food.”
Utah Senate Majority Whip Daniel Hemmert (R), who voted in favor of the tax bill in the Senate, said, “The education fund will still be better off [under the bill] than it has been in prior years, to the tune of about $200 million.” The Sutherland Institute in Utah, which describes itself as a conservative nonpartisan think tank, opposes the referendum effort. The institute said the tax bill would result in “a substantial tax cut” for 90% of Utahns, increase public school funding, and “stabilize and enhance social services.”
There have been four veto referendum measures on the ballot in Utah from the first in 1954 to the latest, which appeared on the ballot in 2007. In all four cases, the referendums resulted in the targeted law being repealed.
Between 1906 and 2018, a total of 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3%) of the targeted laws. Conversely, voters upheld 181 (34.7%) of the targeted laws.
In its January campaign finance filing, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, which is leading the campaign in support of Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment, reported receiving over $500,000 in loans from Marsy’s Law for All, the national foundation that has funded 12 statewide Marsy’s Law ballot measure campaigns. It was founded in 2009 by Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. Nicholas was the sponsor of the first Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in California as Proposition 9 in 2008. All 12 campaigns received majority voter approval; however, two of those amendments were overturned in Montana and Kentucky.
Ballotpedia tracked the campaign finance data for all 12 campaigns. Contributions in support of Marsy’s Law amendments totaled $102.3 million. The average amount contributed per measure was $8.5 million. Ohio’s efforts in 2017 received the highest amount in contributions with $10.6 million. These numbers exclude the $6.6 million spent in 2019 on Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment. A majority of electors voted to approve the ballot measure. However, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined the secretary of state from certifying election results, pending a court ruling on the amendment’s constitutionality.
Wisconsin voters will decide on the amendment on April 7, 2020. The amendment would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including a right to privacy; a right to the protection of information; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to reasonable protection from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of the release, escape, or death of the alleged criminal in a timely manner; a right to speak in any hearing related to the rights of the victim; a right to submit information about the case to authorities; a right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the alleged criminal; and a right to be informed of all rights and protections granted by the constitutional amendment and related laws.
Two former Missouri State Senators – Shalonn “Kiki” Curls (D) and Jason Holsman (D) – have resigned their seats to take state executive positions. Both were appointed by Gov. Mike Parson (R) and confirmed by their colleagues in the Senate.
Curls, who previously represented District 9, assumed office as one of three commissioners on the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission following her confirmation on January 16, 2020.
That same day, Holsman joined the five-member Missouri Public Service Commission, which is charged with regulating electric, steam, natural gas, water and sewer and telephone companies in Missouri. Holsman previously represented District 7.
The departure of Holsman and Curls from the Senate leaves two vacancies in the chamber and reduces the number of Democratic senators’ from ten to eight. The Republicans hold a state government trifecta in Missouri with the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.
The typical process for filling vacancies in the Missouri State Senate requires the governor to call for a special election. Both Curls and Holsman were term-limited at the time of their appointments, however, and were therefore not eligible to run for re-election. With both seats up for election later this year, Gov. Parson may elect not to call for special elections for the seats.