Non-partisan U.S. Political News Reporting

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Voter backlash down the ballot: Incumbency advantage drops in November’s hottest school board races

Nov 5 2014

By: Daniel Anderson

Voters pulled the lever on school board candidates in 25 of America’s largest and most volatile school districts on November 4, 2014. The intense debate over American public education grew more fierce in 2014 as parents, educators, reformers and residents fought over the implementation of Common Core, the establishment of charter schools, the adoption of teacher merit pay and other issues impacting the education of tens of millions of children.

Ballotpedia selected these 25 school board races for more extensive coverage due to a variety of factors. Many of the following districts are engulfed by education reform debates. Several are massive entities with more than 100,000 students enrolled, while others saw a shift in the board’s leadership and governing majority.

In Indianapolis Public Schools in Indiana, three education reform advocates in favor of charter schools and school autonomy ousted all three incumbents up for re-election and thereby solidified the board’s pro-reform governing majority. In Sweetwater Union High School District in California, a whole new school board was elected after a wave of criminal convictions and a retirement cleared the board of incumbents. Two of the former board members who were removed by law lost big at the ballot box in their comeback bids. In Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska, voters approved a $421 million bond measure, which was the largest Nebraska school bond issue in recent history.

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Midterm Election Countdown: “Big Money”

Oct 29 2014

By: Joel Williams

Across the United States, races on every part of the ballot are drawing an ever-increasing amount of funding from both candidates and outside sources. The Congressional midterms will be the most expensive midterm elections to date. A contentious ballot measure in Oregon has broken a state record for spending, while two more in California raised enough money to fund their own U.S. Senate campaigns. At the state level, gubernatorial and state supreme courts have raised hefty sums. National legislative campaign committees of both major parties have raised money for a number of state legislative races, while locally one school board race featured a candidate openly complaining about outside spending in her favor.

Ballotpedia and Judgepedia provide comprehensive coverage of all these elections. Click here for links to more detailed information on each race.

Congressional midterm most expensive ever

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, almost $4 billion will be spent by the time this Congressional midterm is over. That would make it the most expensive midterm ever by nearly $400,000. In 2010, the midterm generated more than $3.6 billion, while spending in the 2006 elections only reached $2.8 billion. Of the $4 billion spent this cycle, about $2.7 billion is projected to be spent by candidates and parties, while outside groups should account for close to $900 million.

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State Legislative Tracker: Wisconsin legislator pleads no contest to sexual assault charges

Oct 27 2014

Edited by: Joel Williams

This week’s tracker includes a look at the settlement of a case against a Wisconsin state assemblyman.

Pennsylvania: Before the legislative break for the upcoming general election, the Pennsylvania State Senate and Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow “membership organizations” like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups that are “adversely affected” by local gun ordinances to sue municipalities.[1] The Senate passed House Bill 80 by a vote of 32 to 16, while the House passed the bill by a vote of 138 to 56.[2] According to Section 6120 of the state’s Uniform Firearms Act, “no county, municipality, or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”[3] Currently, there are 30 municipalities in Pennsylvania that have local ordinances governing lost or stolen guns, 10 of which are located in the Philadelphia suburbs.[1][4] Also included in House Bill 80 is a provision that forces local municipalities to pay the legal fees for the plaintiff of any lawsuits filed against the municipality that they end up losing. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-153) called the bill “a dangerous provision that threatens municipalities’ financial stability.”[1] John Hohenwarter, the Pennsylvania liaison for the NRA, said that the new bill would “rein in” the municipalities that for the past decade have exceeded their authority on gun laws.
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Midterm Election Countdown: The South Regional Review

Oct 22 2014

By: Sarah Rosier

With plenty of statewide ballot measures, toss-up U.S. Senate races and contested judicial offices, the South is home to many of the hottest races and measures in 2014. Voters throughout the region will head to the polls on November 4 to choose candidates for offices ranging from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. There are a total of nine governor’s mansions, 56 other state executive offices, 162 U.S. House seats, 15 U.S. Senate seats (including one special election in Oklahoma), 1,811 state legislative seats, 47 statewide ballot measures, 1,796 judicial offices and 715 school board seats in the nation’s largest school districts up for grabs.

Ballotpedia and Judgepedia are providing comprehensive coverage of all these elections from now to November. Click here for links to more detailed information on each race.

West Virginia House of Delegates

The West Virginia House of Delegates faces the prospect of Republican control for the first time since the 1930s. Fueled by an 11-seat swing in 2012 and a defection since, many analysts consider the Republican Party to have a serious chance of closing the six-seat gap. The GOP has filed to run candidates in all of the state legislative seats up for election this year, ensuring that no Democratic candidate runs unchallenged.

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Alabama speaker, up for re-election, indicted on 23 counts

Oct 21 2014

By: Joel Williams

Montgomery, Alabama: On October 20, 2014, a grand jury indicted Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) on 23 total counts. Each count carries a maximum penalty of two to 20 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. Hubbard was booked in the Lee County jail that same day. The charges include:[1]

The indictment does not remove him from his position in the legislature, his role as speaker or from the 2014 ballot. Hubbard is still slated to face Shirley Scott-Harris (D) in the general election on November 4.[1]

Hubbard suggested that these charges are nothing more than a witch hunt. In a statement, he said, “Friends, if there was any doubt that this was a political witch hunt, I think it is pretty clear right now that is exactly what it is. This has been going on for two years, dragging on and on, and here they come two weeks before an election and make these allegations. The fact is that we’ve done some great things in this state and some powerful people don’t like it.”[1]

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State Legislative Tracker: Sports betting passes in New Jersey, awaiting signature

Oct 20 2014

Edited by: Joel Williams

This week’s tracker includes a look at another attempt to legalize sports betting in New Jersey.

Last week, no state adjourned its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

New Jersey: In an attempt to help the struggling casinos and horse racetracks in New Jersey, the New Jersey State Senate and New Jersey General Assembly have passed legislation that would legalize sports betting. The Senate passed S2460 by a vote of 27 to 1, while the General Assembly passed A3711 by a vote of 73 to 4.[1][2] In 2011, New Jersey voters approved a referendum that would legalize sports betting, but after the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie (R) agreed on legislation, the major American sports leagues and the NCAA sued seeking an injunction, which a judge granted in 2013.[3] The groups argued that the legislation was in violation of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting in all states, except Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.[3] Those four states chose to opt out at the time of the ban. Last year a federal appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling against New Jersey’s 2012 sports betting legislation, but suggested that the state might be able to offer sports betting in casinos and racetracks if it was not regulated by the state.
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Midterm Election Countdown: The West Regional Review

Oct 15 2014

By: Tyler King

The West has no shortage of elections rated as toss-ups or with just a slight lean. Voters will head to the polls on November 4 to choose candidates for offices ranging from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. There are a total of 10 governor’s mansions, 54 other state executive offices, 102 U.S. House seats, eight U.S. Senate seats, 1,106 state legislative seats, 51 statewide ballot measures, 987 judicial offices and 526 school board seats in the nation’s largest school districts up for grabs.

Ballotpedia and Judgepedia are providing comprehensive coverage of all these elections from now to November. Click here for links to more detailed information on each race.

Marijuana on the ballot

Voters in Alaska will decide the fate of Ballot Measure 2, which, if approved, would allow people age 21 and older to posses up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia would also be made legal under the measure. These changes would be implemented at the state level; however, these acts would still remain illegal under federal law.[1][2]

This is the third attempt in the last 15 years to decriminalize marijuana in Alaska. In 2000, voters defeated Measure 5, which sought to “do away with civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who use marijuana, or other hemp products.” The legalization of recreational marijuana was once again defeated at the polls in 2004 when voters turned down Measure 2, which attempted to “remove civil and criminal penalties under state law for persons 21 years or older who grow, use, sell or give away marijuana or hemp products.”

The 2012 elections proved to be groundbreaking for marijuana legalization support groups.

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Incumbents dominate in two Alaska school board elections, Alabama runoff decided

Oct 8 2014

By: Lauren Dixon

Incumbents dominated in two Alaska school board elections held on October 7, 2014, although only one district actually needed to send voters to the ballot box. The incumbents largely succeeded through a lack of opposition, since just two seats were contested.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Board of Education had three seats up for election this year. Challenger Michael O’Brien triumphed over incumbent John Thies for Seat E, while incumbent Wendy Charmaine Dominique defeated newcomer Denis Gardella for Seat G. Incumbent Sean Rice ran unopposed to retain Seat G.

On the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Board of Education, both incumbents ran unopposed. R. “Ole” Larson and Tiffany R. Scott were re-elected to Seats D and E, respectively.

Elsewhere in the country, the fate of an Alabama runoff election on the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education was also decided following a close August election. Challenger Elisa Ferrell defeated Anson Knowles by just 408 votes to win the District 3 seat and a four-year term.

Note: An (i) next to a candidate’s name indicates incumbent status.

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Midterm Election Countdown: The Midwest Regional Review

Oct 8 2014

By: Nick Katers

The Midwest has been a hotbed of close polls and big campaign spending heading into this year’s general election. Voters throughout the region will head to the polls on November 4 to choose candidates for offices ranging from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. There are a total of nine governor’s mansions, 54 other state executive offices, 94 U.S. House seats, seven U.S. Senate seats, 1,604 state legislative seats, 25 statewide ballot measures, 1,259 judicial offices and 114 school board seats in the nation’s largest school districts up for grabs.

Ballotpedia and Judgepedia are providing comprehensive coverage of all these elections from now to November. Click here for links to more detailed information on each race.

Close calls for gubernatorial races

Frenzied races to governor’s mansions are taking place throughout the Midwest as politicos see potential gains for their parties. The Wisconsin gubernatorial race is the third race for Gov. Scott Walker (R) since his election in 2010. He faced a recall effort in 2012 due to his support for a 2011 bill that curbed collective bargaining rights for public-employee unions. Walker will face former executive Mary Burke in the November election, and the campaign has focused on the state’s recovery from recession.

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State Legislative Tracker: Unopposed New York legislator indicted

Oct 6 2014

Edited by: Joel Williams

This week’s tracker includes a look at another indictment of a New York legislator. That legislator is unopposed in the 2014 general election.

Last week, no state adjourned its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

Arizona: The Supreme Court will hear arguments from the Republican-controlled Arizona legislature against the state’s independent redistricting commission as early as next year. Republican legislative leaders argue that putting the drawing of congressional districts in the hands of the commission violates the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which states that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof”.[1][2] Mary O’Grady, attorney for the commission, has argued that the “Legislature” as named in the clause refers to the “lawmaking process of the state,” including the ballot initiative. Senate President Andy Biggs (R) dismissed O’Grady’s argument, saying that while Arizona “has more direct democracy than most states,” the clause is specific in its meaning. A three-member district court panel split in favor of the commission’s constitutionality in February. The high court has not yet decided whether to take a separate case involving the drawing of legislative districts, which the commission also has responsibility for.
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