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State Legislative Tracker: Wisconsin recall primaries begin, Minnesota shutdown continues

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July 11, 2011

By Jackie Arthur

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In this week's State Legislative Tracker there are 7 states still in regular session.


So far this year, 43 out of 50 state legislative sessions have officially adjourned their regular session. This week, no states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 regular session.

Special sessions

Special sessions are expected to be a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts.

As of this week, California, Virginia and Wisconsin continue their special sessions. North Carolina is scheduled to begin a special redistricting session July 13-21.[1]

A total of 13 special sessions have adjourned this year in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture as of July 11, 2011

The following 5 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

Note: California and Wisconsin are both convened in ongoing special sessions, but are still considered to be in regular session.
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

Sessions spotlight

This week, our spotlight focuses on Wisconsin where recall elections begin tomorrow. Also, an update on Minnesota's second governmental shutdown since 2005.[2]

Wisconsin: Tomorrow's Democratic recall primary begins the first of two recall primaries to take place in Wisconsin this year. The winning Democratic candidates from Tuesday's primary will advance to face Republicans Robert Cowles, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, and Dan Kapanke in the general election on August 9.

Recall campaigns directed against 16 Wisconsin state senators were launched in the wake of events surrounding the introduction of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 11, the "Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill" in February 2011, including the union protests in Madison, Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.[3][4]

Six Republican and three Democratic state senators have been targeted by active recall campaigns. Recall sponsors filed signatures on petitions targeting the senators. Challenges were filed in all 9 of those campaigns, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board approved the six campaigns against Republicans at meetings on May 23 and May 31, and approved the three campaigns against Democrats on June 8.

Recalls against the six Republicans were all certified on June 3, which sets the date for the recall election for July 12, 2011. However, since multiple candidates filed to run against the incumbents, a primary will be held on July 12 while the actual recall will be four weeks later, on August 9, 2011. Recall primaries against two Democratic senators are scheduled for July 19, 2011. Additionally, because there is only one Republican candidate running in District 30, that recall will take place on July 19 when incumbent Dave Hansen (D) faces David VanderLeest (R).

2011 Wisconsin Recall Campaigns
District State senator Winning % in 2008 Recall papers filed Recall signatures required Recall signatures submitted Recall signatures validated Percentage of signatures validated Opponent Recall primary date Recall election date
Jim Holperin 51.2% February 19 15,960 23,300[5] 19,255[6] 82.63% Kim Simac[7] July 19 August 16
Robert Wirch 66.7% February 24 13,537 18,300[8] 17,138[6] 93.65% Jonathan Steitz[9] July 19 August 16
Dave Hansen 66.1% February 25 13,852 18,872[10] 15,540[6] 82.34% David VanderLeest[11] N/A July 19
Robert Cowles Unopposed March 2 15,960 26,000[12] 23,959[13] 92.15% Nancy Nusbaum[14] July 12 August 9
Alberta Darling 50.5% March 2 20,343 30,000[15] 22,243[13] 74.14% Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch[16] July 12 August 9
Sheila Harsdorf 56.4% March 2 18,816 23,000[17] 23,685[13] 102.97% Shelly Moore[18] July 12 August 9
Luther Olsen Unopposed March 2 14,733 24,000[19] 22,207[13] 92.52% Assemblyman Fred Clark[20] July 12 August 9
Randy Hopper 50.05% March 2 15,269 22,500[21] 22,953[13] 102.01% Jessica King[22] July 12 August 9
Dan Kapanke 51.4% March 2 15,588 30,000[23] 21,776[13] 72.58% Assebmlywoman Jennifer Shilling[24] July 12 August 9

Minnesota: Today, the Minnesota government enters its 11th day of shutdown, with no sign of a resolution in sight. Republican Representative Larry Howes told the Minneapolis Star that he "doesn't see a quick conclusion" to the closure, and that his gut tells him that if it is not resolved by the time the state fair rolls around, it could be as long as next year before it is over.[25]

On Friday, July 1, the Minnesota government officially entered "shut down," as lawmakers were not able to overcome the budget stalemate. Most fireworks, picnics and celebrations were called off as all government services except those deemed essential were cut off for the immediate future. Campgrounds, state parks, highway rest stops, golf courses, and zoos will remain closed until a budget agreement can be reached. Thousands of workers face layoffs, a cessation of state issued drivers licenses and road construction screeched to a halt.[2] Roughly 23,000 of approximately 36,000 state employees will be furloughed, and all but the most critical state functions suspended.[26] Some of the services spared from the shutdown are police patrols, prison staffing, the executive and legislative branches of state government and the courts, and programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and temporary assistance to needy families.[26]

The Republican controlled Legislature and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton have been at odds since early January over spending. Earlier this year, Dayton vetoed the Legislature's proposed budget, largely because it did not contain the revenue he had anticipated.[27]

To help solve the problem, Governor Dayton requested that Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin appoint a mediator to intervene. Legislators also petitioned the judge, asking her to order Dayton to call for a special legislative session. Both requests were turned down.


A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

Three state legislative primaries remain in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011. The next primary will be in Mississippi on August 2, 2011.

The next state with a signature filing deadline is Louisiana on September 8. Virginia's signature filing deadline was June 15, however a full and comprehensive candidate list has not yet been released. Virginia's primary has been rescheduled to August 23, 2011 instead of its usual date of June 14, 2011[28] after delays and uncertainty in the redistricting process.[29].[30]

Vacancy news

On July 4, Oklahoma Representative Rusty Farley passed away, leaving a vacancy in the House of Representatives. Farley died in a Paris, Texas hospital of a pulmonary aneurysm at the age of 57.[31] A special election to fill the now vacant District 1 seat must be called within 30 days.

Partisan composition of the Oklahoma House

Party As of February 2015
     Democratic Party 29
     Republican Party 72
Total 101

As of today, the state with the most legislative vacancies is New York. The Assembly currently has six vacancies.

Partisan composition of the New York Assembly

Party As of February 2015
     Democratic Party 105
     Republican Party 44
     Vacancy 1
Total 150

See also: State House vacancies and State Senate vacancies

Special elections

There are two special election this week, as well as the Democratic recall primary races tomorrow in Wisconsin.


Arkansas Representative Fred Smith (D) was convicted of theft for failing to repay a school district a duplicate payment of over $29,000. Smith has resigned, but has promised to appeal the decision.[32] A special election will be held to replace him on July 12, 2011.[33]
Absentee Vote Controversy
The Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners will send monitors to observe the July 12 special election. The decision to send the monitors is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations made by Democratic primary candidate Kim Felker. Felker claims that she received an offer to illegally obtain absentee votes, an offer she refused. Felker was defeated in the primary by eight votes, but lost the absentee vote 69-401. Felker also reported several irregularities at the Turrel polling site. Hudson Hallum said that he observed no irregularities in the primary, but had no objection to the monitors. He also noted that the "offer," as recorded on Felker's answering machine, did not appear to offer anything illegal.[34][35]

Republican Party Republican Candidate:
Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Independent Independent Candidate:

Wisconsin recalls

June 12 Republican recalls
Tomorrow, Wisconsinites will hit the polls to vote in the Democratic primary recall election. The winners will run on August 9 against the six Republican incumbents who are targeted for recalls. In order to run in the July 12 election, candidates were required to turn in 400 valid signatures to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board by 5 p.m. CST on June 14. Since multiple candidates filed, the July 12 election will be a primary and the recall took place August 9. The following Democratic candidates will appear on the July 12 ballot:

Republican Party Incumbent: Robert Cowles, District 2

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:

Republican Party Incumbent: Alberta Darling, District 8

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:

Republican Party Incumbent: Sheila Harsdorf, District 10

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:

Republican Party Incumbent: Luther Olsen, District 14

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:

Republican Party Incumbent: Randy Hopper, District 18

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:

Republican Party Incumbent: Dan Kapanke, District 32

Democratic Party July 12 Democratic primary:


Utah House District 30
On June 13, Utah's first openly gay legislator, Jackie Biskupski (D), resigned when unforeseen circumstances called for her to move outside her district.[37] Democratic Party Vice Chairman Richard Jaramillo says the seat will be filled during a special election July 16 at the state party convention.[38]

Upcoming special elections for the month of July include:


  1. North Carolina General Assembly, Legislative Calendar, accessed July 11, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 CBSNews, Pawlenty: Minnesota shutdown could be a good thing, July 1, 2011
  3. CNN, "Wisconsin battle shifts to recall votes," June 15, 2011
  4. Wall Street Journal, "Wisconsin Fight Moves to Recalls," June 16, 2011
  5. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Jim Holperin Recall Committee," accessed on June 9, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 WisPolitics, "Dem recalls certified," June 8, 2011
  7. Simac defeated Robert Lussow in a primary on July 19
  8. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Taxpayers to Recall Robert Wirch," accessed on June 9, 2011
  9. Steitz defeated Fred Ekornaas in a primary on July 19
  10. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Recall Dave Hansen," accessed on June 9, 2011
  11. John Nygren was removed from the ballot by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board for insufficient signatures, on June 27, 2011
  12. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Cowles," accessed on June 9, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Chart detailing recall signatures, accessed on May 23, 2011
  14. Nusbaum defeated Otto Junkermann in a primary on July 12
  15. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Darling," accessed on June 9, 2011
  16. Pasch defeated Gladys Huber in a primary on July 12
  17. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Harsdorf," accessed on June 9, 2011
  18. Moore defeated Isaac Weix in a primary on July 12
  19. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Olsen," accessed on June 9, 2011
  20. Clark defeated Rol Church in a primary on July 12
  21. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Hopper," accessed on June 9, 2011
  22. King defeated John Buckstaff in a primary on July 12
  23. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Kapanke," accessed on June 9, 2011
  24. Shilling defeated James Smith in a primary on July 12
  25., Minnesota shutdown still going strong, July 11, 2011
  26. 26.0 26.1 Reuters, UPDATE 2-Minnesota government shutdown begins after talks fail, July 1, 2011
  27., Shutdowns loom in Iowa, Minnesota, June 27, 2011
  28. Ballot Access News, "Virginia House Passes Bill Moving 2011 Primary from June to August," January 20, 2011 (dead link)
  29. Virginia General Assembly, "History of House Bill 1507 (2011)"
  30. Virginia Public Access Project, "Update:Primaries to be held August 23," January 30, 2011
  31. Oklahomans mourn death of state legislator, July 5, 2011 (dead link)
  32., "Arkansas State Rep. Fred Smith Resigns," January 26, 2011 (dead link)
  33., "Special Election in District 54," February 14, 2011
  34. Arkansas News, "Authorities investigating East Ark. primary, monitors requested," July 4, 2011
  35. Arkansas News, "State to send monitors to observe East Arkansas election," July 6, 2011
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 WisPolitics, "WisDems: Dems to end placeholder candidacies in recall elections," June 17, 2011
  37. The Salt Lake Tribune, Two openly gay candidates vying for Biskupski’s seat, June 29, 2011
  38. Fox13now, 6 Democrats vying for Utah House seat, June 30, 2011