Tagstate senate

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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Alex Kasser resigns from Connecticut Senate

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.

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Redistricting review: Illinois enacts state leg., supreme court maps

On June 4, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law new maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court, making Illinois the first state to enact new district maps in this redistricting cycle.

Upon signing the maps into law, Pritzker said, “Illinois’ strength is in our diversity and these maps help to ensure that communities that have been left out and left behind have fair representation in our government. These district boundaries align with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts, which help to ensure our diverse communities have electoral power and fair representation.” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R), who voted against the new maps, said, “Gov. Pritzker, you sold out. You sold out independents, you sold out Republicans, you sold out Democrats, to the partisan Democrat machine which has destroyed Illinois.”

State supreme court districts were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. The General Assembly approved the state legislative redistricting plan (HB2777) and the supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642) on May 28. In both chambers, the votes split along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to deliver granular redistricting data to the states until mid-August, and in light of the state constitution’s June 30 deadline for state legislative redistricting, Illinois lawmakers used population estimates from the American Community Survey to draft the new maps.

It is not clear when lawmakers will begin the congressional redistricting process. The state constitution sets no deadline for congressional redistricting.

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Special elections to be held in two Georgia legislative districts on June 15

Image of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

Special elections are being held on June 15 to fill vacant seats in Districts 34 and 156 in the Georgia House of Representatives. If no candidate earns a majority of the vote in the special election, the top two vote-getters will advance to a general runoff election. The runoff, if necessary, will be held on July 13. The winners of the special elections will serve until January 2023.

In the District 34 election, Sam Hensley Jr. (D), Priscilla Smith (D), David Blinkhorn (R), Devan Seabaugh (R), and Chris Neill (L) are running in the special election. The special election became necessary after Bert Reeves (R) resigned his seat on April 30 to become Georgia Institute of Technology’s vice president of university relations. Reeves served in the state House from 2015 to 2021.

In the District 156 election, Wright Gres (D), Leesa Hagan (R), and Wally Sapp (R) are running in the special election. The special election became necessary when Greg Morris (R) resigned his seat on April 13 to join the Georgia Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Board. Morris served in the state House 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 Georgia House of Representatives by a margin of 101 to 77 with two vacancies.

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. Pennsylvania held 44 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Louisiana legislature refers two more amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning waiving certain water charges and limiting increases in assessed value for Orleans Parish properties

The Louisiana Legislature voted on Sunday and Monday to refer two more amendments to the Nov. 2022 ballot, bringing to total to four. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

Last week, the legislature referred two amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning investing state money in stocks and electronic filing and remittance of sales taxes.

Louisiana Waiving Water Charges Amendment

This measure would allow local governments to waive water charges for water lost because of damage to infrastructure if damages are not caused by the customer.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 59 (HB 59) by Rep. Jeremy LaCombe (D) on March 4, 2021. On May 19, the House passed HB 59 in a vote of 102-0. The Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 36-1 on June 6. The “no” vote came from Democratic Senator Karen Carter.

Louisiana Limit on Assessed Value Increase of Reappraised Property in Orleans Parish Amendment

The amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year. The effective date of the amendment is January 1, 2023.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 143 (HB 143) by Rep. Matthew Willard (D) on April 12, 2021. On May 10, the House passed HB 143 in a vote of 97-3. The bill was amended and passed in the Senate on June 2 in a vote of 26-6. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and approved the amendment on June 7, in a vote of 94-1.

Potential 2021 and 2022 Louisiana ballot measures

There are six other constitutional amendments for the 2022 ballot and three amendments for the 2021 ballot that have passed one chamber of the Louisiana Legislature. They would appear on the statewide ballot if passed in the second chamber. The state legislature is set to adjourn its 2021 session on June 10, 2021.

Louisiana historical ballot measure statistics

From 2000 to 2020, 132 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana. Of the total, 96 amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, and 36 amendments appeared on the ballot during odd-numbered years.

The average number of amendments appearing on the statewide ballot was 10 in even-numbered years and 4 in odd-numbered years.

Voters approved 71.88% (69 of 96) and rejected 28.13% (27 of 96) of the amendments during even years. Voters approved 69.44% (25 of 36) and rejected 30.56% (11 of 36) of the amendments during odd years.

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Special election primary to be held June 12 in Louisiana Senate district

A special election primary is being held on June 12 for District 7 of the Louisiana State Senate. Joanna Cappiello-Leopold (D), Gary Carter Jr. (D), Mack Cormier (D), and Patricia McCarty (R) are running in the primary. Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

The District 7 seat became vacant after Troy Carter (D) won a special election for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District on April 24. Carter had represented District 7 since 2016. He resigned on May 10, a day prior to his swearing-in as a member of Congress.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 27-11 majority in the Louisiana Senate with one vacancy. Louisiana 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, 38 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. Louisiana held 36 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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May 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats: 54.3% Republicans, 44.9% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s May partisan count of state legislative seats found that 54.30% of state legislators are Republicans and 44.93% are Democrats.

At the end of every month, Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, which refers to which political party holds a majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans currently control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber, the Alaska House of Representatives, has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the end of May, Republicans held 1,091 of the 1,972 total state senate seats, while Democrats held 867. The Democrats lost two seats since April, while the Republicans’ number of seats stayed the same. Democrats also held 2,450 of the 5,411 total state House seats (up one from last month), while Republicans controlled 2,918 (also up one). Third-party or independent officeholders held 38 seats, and there were 19 vacancies.

In May, Democrats had a net loss of one seat, while Republicans had a net gain of one. Compared to May 2020, Democrats have lost 142 state legislative seats, while Republicans have gained 153 seats. 

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Redistricting review: Illinois lawmakers approve state legislative, supreme court maps

Last week, Illinois lawmakers approved revised maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court. Both sets of maps were approved along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign HB2777 and SB0642 into law. 

Illinois lawmakers released the proposed maps on May 21. Sen. Omar Aquino (D), chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said, “Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes. This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”

Rep. Tim Butler (R) criticized the proposals: “Tonight’s drop of partisan maps is yet another attempt to mislead voters in an effort to block fair elections. We continue our call upon Governor Pritzker to live up to his pledge to the people of Illinois and veto a map that was drawn by politicians like what we see here today.”

Illinois lawmakers also released proposed maps for state supreme court districts, which were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. 

The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to _The Chicago Tribune_, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said it was necessary to redraw the court’s district maps to ensure more equal populations between districts: “This map is about equal representation in the state’s most important court. As we strive for all to be equal before the law, we must ensure we all have an equal voice in choosing those who uphold it.” 

The state Republican Party opposed the redrawn the state supreme court map: “This is a brazen abuse of our judicial system and nothing more than political gamesmanship with what should be an independent court, free of corrupt influence.”

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Flynn wins special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 22

Pennsylvania State Senate District 22 held a special general election on May 18. Martin Flynn (D) won the special election with 51.5% of the vote and defeated Chris Chermak (R), Marlene Sebastianelli (G), and Nathan Covington (L). 

The filing deadline passed on March 29.

The special election became necessary when John Blake (D) resigned to join the staff of U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D). Blake served from 2011 to 2021.

Pennsylvania 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. Republicans control the Pennsylvania State Senate by a margin of 28 to 21, with one independent. Republicans also control the state House by a margin of 113 to 90. Tom Wolf (D) is the governor. 

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Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English resigns

Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English (D-7) resigned on May 1, citing the long-term health effects of a past COVID-19 infection. 

English said he contracted COVID-19 in November 2020. “After many discussions with my doctors, talks with those close to me and careful thought, I am announcing my retirement from the Hawai‘i State Senate, effective May 1, 2021,” English said in a press release. “Having been deemed a long hauler, I was diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. My new normal will require me to address some of the challenges left to my short and long-term memory and other cognitive issues derived from the virus. These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health.”

English represented Hawaii’s 7th state senate district from 2000 to 2021. He ran unopposed in the 2014 and 2018 general elections. He served as the Hawaii Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021. The state Senate appointed Sen. Dru Kanuha (D-3) as the new majority leader on May 5.

If there is a vacancy in the Hawaii State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.

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