Welcome to Saturday and this week's edition of the State and Local Tap. Join us for a review of the last year in state legislative special elections u
The Tap

Good morning! In today's Tap, we're using a federal anniversary to look back on the year in state legislative special elections. We also have coverage of next week's marijuana ballot measure in Compton and the week in 2018 primaries. Enjoy this week's primary news? Then join us again on Monday with our new feature, The Heart of the Primaries.

Democrats have gained 30 seats in state legislative elections since Trump took office

  • During President Donald Trump’s (R) first year in office, Democrats experienced a net gain of 30 seats in state legislative general and special elections combined.
    • In state legislative special elections spanning 2017 and early 2018, Democrats had a net gain of 12 seats, while Republicans had a net loss of 12 seats. Ninety-eight special elections were held in 2017. Ten special elections have been held so far in 2018 and another 38 special elections have been scheduled for later in the year.
    • Regularly scheduled elections in New Jersey and Virginia also took place in 2017. In New Jersey, Democrats had a net gain of three seats and increased their majorities in both chambers. In the Virginia House of Delegates, Democrats gained 15 seats and cut the Republican majority from 66-34 to 51-49.
  • It is common for the president’s party to lose seats in state legislative elections. During President Barack Obama’s (D) two terms in office, Democrats experienced a net loss of 968 state legislative seats. This was the largest net loss of state legislative seats for a two-term president since World War II. President George W. Bush (R) had a net loss of 324 state legislative seats during his two terms in office.

Wisconsin Senate District 10 seat flips from R to D in special election with national spotlight

  • Patty Schachtner (D) defeated Adam Jarchow (R) and Brian Corriea (L) in the Wisconsin Senate District 10 special election, receiving 54.5 percent of the vote. The election marks the first partisan change during a Wisconsin legislative special election since 2011 when two Wisconsin State Assembly seats were flipped from Republican to Democratic. The seat was left vacant after Sheila Harsdorf (R) resigned after being appointed to a state cabinet position. Harsdorf held the seat from 2001 to 2017, winning the recall election leveled against her in 2011 with 57.6 percent of the vote. Harsdorf won the seat with 59.2 percent and 63.2 percent of the vote in 2012 and 2016, respectively.
    • The special election saw the lowest voter turnout in the district in a decade. From 2008 to 2016, the average total votes cast in Wisconsin Senate District 10 was 85,090. According to unofficial vote tallies, the special election saw a drop in total voter turnout of roughly 73 percent, with 22,273 votes cast. Just over one-third of the number of electors turned out to vote in the 2018 election compared to the second-lowest instance of voter turnout, a 2011 recall election. In 2011, 64,411 citizens cast a vote, compared to the 22,273 who voted in the 2018 special election.
    • The special election garnered national interest, with outside groups providing contributions and resources to both the Democratic and Republican candidates. District 10 last saw a similar amount of outside involvement during the 2011 recall effort. Democratic groups, such as Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and Conservative groups, like Americans for Prosperity and the Republican State Leadership Committee, spent money on the election.
Wi Dist 10 special election voter turnout

Voters in Compton, California, to decide competing marijuana measures

  • On January 23, less than a month since recreational marijuana sales became legal in California on New Year’s Day under Prop. 64, Compton voters will decide competing measures concerning marijuana businesses. One of the measures is a citizen initiative and the other was referred to the ballot by the Compton City Council. If both receive majority approval, the one with the most “yes” vote will supersede the other.
    • Measure I is a citizen initiative establishing a 5 percent tax, allowing marijuana businesses in limited commercial and commercial zones, and allowing less control by the city council; citizen initiatives cannot be changed by the city council without voter approval.
  • Measure C is a measure referred to the ballot by the city council establishing a 10 percent tax, allowing businesses in commercial zones, and giving more control over marijuana regulation to the city council.
States in session this week

Democracy for America endorses Jesus Garcia for IL-4

  • Democracy for America, a progressive PAC with ties to Bernie Sanders, has endorsedJesus Garcia in the Democratic primary for Illinois' 4th Congressional District. In its announcement on January 17, the PAC said, "DFA was a proud supporter of Garcia in his race to become Chicago’s Mayor in 2015 and worked alongside him in support of Bernie Sanders’ campaign for President in 2016.  The member-driven, people-powered progressive PAC has 18,411 members in the City of Chicago (and more than one million members nationwide) and works closely with four affiliated grassroots groups in and around the city."
    • Garcia has also been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), whom Garcia is running to replace after Gutierrez announced his retirement. Garcia, a former Cook County commissioner, challenged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2015 re-election bid, making it to a runoff election where he was defeated by 12 points.

Progressive Democratic representatives endorse Newman over Lipinski in IL-3 primary

  • Progressive Illinois State Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D) and Jan Schakowsky (D) have endorsed challenger and political newcomer Marie Newman over incumbent Dan Lipinski (D) in the Democratic primary for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. Lipinski has held the office since 2004, succeeding his father Bill after six terms in Congress.
    • "The people of Illinois' 3rd District want a pro-health care, pro-immigrant, pro-woman, pro-LGBTQ Member of Congress to represent them in Washington. Unfortunately, the current Member does not reflect those values, which is why I am endorsing Marie Newman for Congress," Schakowsky said in a statement on January 17.
    • Lipinski has drawn criticism for his conservative leaning as a member of the Democratic Party, including his anti-abortion views and his votes against the DREAM act and the Affordable Care Act. Newman, a self-described progressive, has based her campaign on her opposition to Lipinski's positions on reproductive issues, healthcare, and immigration.
Map of state government trifectas

Tuesday's other special elections
South Carolina holds state House special elections

  • Special elections were held for two vacant seats in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

    • In District 99, Nancy Mace (R) defeated Cindy Boatwright (D) to win election. The seat was vacant following James Merrill's (R) resignation on September 1, 2017. On December 14, 2016, Merrill was indicted by a grand jury on 30 counts of ethics violations. Later that same day, he was suspended by Jay Lucas, the Republican Speaker of the South Carolina State House. The grand jury allegations claim that Merrill took money for personal use from groups with a stake in state House legislation and failed to report it on state House disclosure records.
    • In District 28, Ashley Trantham (R) won election with no opposition. She had previously defeated three other candidates in the Republican primary. The election was held to replace Rep. Eric Bedingfield, who announced that he would resign from the state House effective January 18 in order to become the director of government affairs at Greenville Technical College.
    • Following this round of special elections, the state House partisan composition will be 79 Republicans and 44 Democrats with one vacancy remaining. The Republican Party also controls the state Senate and governor's office, making South Carolina one of 26 states featuring a Republican trifecta.

Republicans maintain control of Iowa House seat

  • In a special election, Jacob Bossman (R) defeated Rita DeJong (D) to represent District 6 in the Iowa House of Representatives. According to unofficial results, Bossman garnered 55.7 percent of the vote. The seat became vacant when Jim Carlin (R) was elected to the state Senate in December 2017. Iowa is one of 26 Republican trifectas. Republicans control the Senate with a 29-20 majority and the House with a 58-41 majority with one vacancy. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is running for re-election in 2018.

New Mexico Legislature changes sexual harassment policy in aftermath of controversies involving legislators

  • On January 15, 2018, the New Mexico Legislative Council voted 15-0 to adopt a new sexual harassment policy for the state legislature. The policy includes a revised definition of harassment, biannual harassment training for legislators, and a new investigatory process that would bring in an outside lawyer to look into allegations against lawmakers. The previous policy passed in 2008 and gave legislative leaders and their staff the ability to investigate allegations.
  • The New Mexico Legislature had three incidents related to sexual misconduct in the aftermath of the similar allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017.
  • According to a report from the Associated Press, in the last months of 2017, about three-fourths of state legislatures had at least one of its chambers update its sexual harassment policies. Ballotpedia has identified 10 state legislators who resigned after sexual misconduct allegations were brought against them.

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