The Ballotpedia News Update

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News about: elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government: elections, congress, state executive officials, state legislatures, recall elections, ballot measures and school boards. You can find a full list of projects here.


The Tuesday Count: California will remain one state as “Six Californias” fails signature count

Edited by Ryan Byrne

0 certifications
148 measures for 2014

Six Californias (News)
Education (Quick hits)
Minimum Wage (Spotlight)

You won’t be able to live in a state named after a mineral used in microchips or one named after our third president. Silicon Valley and Jefferson would have been two of the six states called for by Timothy Draper’s "Six Californias" Initiative. The initiative failed to make the ballot following the California Secretary of State's random signature count, which revealed a low number of valid signatures. As a result, Californians will not be voting on partitioning their state in 2016, unless supporters jumpstart a new initiative.[1] Across the Atlantic Ocean, the United Kingdom is facing an even more radical partition proposal. The Scots, who have been part of the United Kingdom since 1707, will be voting on a Scotland Independence Referendum on September 18, 2014.[2]

Meanwhile, the question of public funding of private education is heating up in Hawaii. A battle line is being drawn, with private preschools pushing for the amendment and the state's largest teacher's union calling for a "no" vote.[3] Two of California's most expensive initiatives are starting to sink in the polls. This could just be a bump in the road, or opposition campaigns could be effectively targeting and convincing voters that the initiatives are flawed.[4]

Following the passage of a $15 per hour minimum wage law in Seattle, 15 Now activists want to take their proposal across Lake Washington to Bellevue. According to The Seattle Times, Bellevue is more "conservative" and "business-friendly" than Seattle. The new geography may come with a tougher fight for 15 Now.[5] Other supporters of a $15 minimum wage have started collecting signatures to place an initiative on the ballot in Los Angeles, as well.[6]


At least 52 new members will walk the halls of the U.S. Congress in 2015

By Kristen Smith and the Congress team

Between the four incumbents who were defeated in primaries and the 48 incumbents not seeking re-election in 2014, there will be a guaranteed minimum of 52 new faces in Congress when the new term begins on January 3, 2015. In comparison, in 2012, 14 incumbents were defeated in primaries (13 representatives and one senator) and 52 incumbents did not seek re-election. A total of 97 new members were elected to Congress.[7][8][9][10]

The 48 incumbents who have chosen not to seek re-election in 2014 have done so for various reasons. A total of 13 U.S. House members decided to give up their seats in order to run for U.S. Senate instead. Four of the representatives who chose to retire in 2014 were considered among the most vulnerable incumbents in 2014, including Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) and Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA).[11][12] U.S. Representative and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is also stepping down in 2014, after having won re-election in 2012 by a mere 1.2 percent and facing campaign finance investigations by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Office of Congressional Ethics.[13] Other retiring members include Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), who cited concerns with her health after undergoing treatment for lung cancer, and Sen. John Walsh (D-MT), who withdrew from the election amid accusations of plagiarism in his thesis from the United States Army War College.[14][15] The longest-serving U.S. representative, John Dingell (D-MI), also decided to retire in 2014, at the age of 87, after serving his 29th term.[16]

Two other members of the 113th Congress planned to retire in 2014, but passed away before the election. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) passed away on June 3, 2013, from viral pneumonia.[17] Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R-FL) passed away on October 18, 2013, after being hospitalized for a back injury.[18] Special elections were held to fill the vacancies in both seats.

According to a Gallup poll conducted June 5-8, 2014, approval ratings for U.S. Congress are lower than ever in 2014. With only 7 percent of Americans having "a great deal" or "a lot" of confidence in Congress, Gallup announced, "Americans' current confidence in Congress is not only the lowest on record, but also the lowest Gallup has recorded for any institution in the 41-year trend."[19] Another poll, conducted August 28-29, 2014, by Rasmussen Reports, revealed similar results. When asked, "Generally speaking, how do you rate the way that Congress is doing its job?," only 6 percent of voters rated the performance of U.S. congressmen as "good" or "excellent," while 65 percent rated it as "poor."[20]

It comes as a surprise, then, that only four U.S. Representatives and no U.S. Senators were defeated in their primaries during the 2014 election cycle. One article from National Journal suggests that, despite the small number of defeats, incumbents have been gradually losing their advantage. The article states, "Fewer and fewer incumbents are running unopposed each election, and the rate of incumbents finishing under 60 or 70 percent in their primaries has more than doubled in recent elections."[21] Studies on the competitiveness of U.S. House primaries further support this conclusion. According to a 2013 Ballotpedia study on contested primaries, in the four congressional elections between 2004 and 2010, an average of only 26.3 percent of incumbents faced primary challengers. By 2012, this percentage had almost doubled, with 51.40 percent of incumbents facing primary challengers.

State Legislative Tracker: South Carolina Speaker indicted

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at an indictment against the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Arkansas school board elections largely unopposed

School Board badge.png

By Lauren Dixon

Competition is not in the cards for four of the seven Arkansas school districts holding elections on September 16, 2014. Cabot, Conway, Fort Smith and Rogers school districts will have either unopposed incumbents or newcomers winning the golden ticket to a new five-year term.

In Conway, both seats up for election will be filled by unopposed newcomers; Wesley "Trip" Leach in Zone 4 and Scott Champlin in Zone 5. Rogers School District has only one seat up for election, which will be filled by newcomer Amy Horn. The three districts that do have competitive races — Bentonville, Little Rock and Springdale — only have one challenger opposing the incumbent in each race.

President Obama reveals plans to deal with ISIS

By Phil Heidenreich

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President Barack Obama addressed the nation on September 10, 2014

Washington, D.C.: President Barack Obama outlined air strikes, including in Syria, an increased number of U.S. military advisers in Iraq, aid for Iraqi ground forces and continued humanitarian support to those displaced by ISIS in an attempt to "degrade, and ultimately destroy" the terrorist group. Obama stated that with the help of a "broad coalition" and assistance from the new Iraqi government, the United States would help eliminate the group. The national address came on the heels of much debate during the congressional recess on the proper way to deal with ISIS, another issue covered in the address, with Obama calling on Congress to grant the administration provisions to help Syrian opposition forces battle ISIS in Syria.[22]

The president explained, "If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven," but he did insist that the U.S. would not be involved in another ground war in Iraq. He received support across the aisle from his plan due to what had been perceived by Republicans as a weak response to a strong terrorist network. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) stated, "The President's plan announced this evening is an encouraging step in the right direction."[22] Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians, who have been heavily targeted by ISIS, were disappointed, claiming that the lack of ground forces and using only air strikes would not be enough to stop the group.[23]

Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet with Middle East diplomats on September 11, 2014, in order to establish the coalition, though it was not believed to be an easy sell to those countries. Included in the countries visiting with Kerry in Saudi Arabia were Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.[24]

The increased number of military advisers would bring the total number in Iraq to 1,700, while more than 150 air strikes have been called.[25][26]

January 2014

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  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named nosix
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named scotland
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named hawaii
  4. San Jose Mercury News, "Poll: Dim prospects for Prop. 46 medical malpractice measure," September 11, 2014
  5. The Seattle Times, "Bellevue latest target of push for $15 minimum wage," September 10, 2014
  6. CBS Los Angeles, "Ballot Initiative Hiking Minimum Wage To $15 To Begin Collecting Signatures," September 10, 2014
  7. Bloomberg, "Congressional Primaries End With Most House Defeats Since 1992," accessed September 15, 2014
  8. USA Today, "Sen. Richard Lugar defeated in Indiana's GOP primary," accessed September 15, 2014
  9. National Journal, "See the New Faces of the 113th Congress," accessed September 15, 2014
  10. Roll Call, "Freshman Members of the 113th Congress," accessed September 15, 2014
  11. Newsmax, "Owens Becomes Third Vulnerable Democrat to Quit House," accessed September 16, 2014
  12. The Washington Post, "Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) to retire," accessed September 16, 2014
  13. Politico, "Michele Bachmann not running again," accessed September 16, 2014
  14. Garden City Patch, "Update: McCarthy Will Not Seek Re-election," accessed September 15, 2014
  15. The Washington Post, "John Walsh just dropped out of Montana’s Senate race. Now what?," accessed September 15, 2014
  16. Detroit Free Press, "John Dingell, longest-serving U.S. representative, to retire," accessed September 15, 2014
  17. The Huffington Post, "Frank Lautenberg Dead: New Jersey Senator Dies At 89," accessed September 15, 2014
  18. Politico, "Bill Young, longest-serving House Republican, dies," accessed September 15, 2014
  19. Gallup Politics, "Public Faith in Congress Falls Again, Hits Historic Low," accessed September 15, 2014
  20. Rasmussen Reports, "Congressional Performance," accessed September 12, 2014
  21. National Journal, "From Tactical Spending to Amazing Ads, Here Are the Lessons of the 2014 Primaries," accessed September 15, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 CNN, "Obama escalates ISIS campaign in Iraq, broadens it to war-ravaged Syria," September 10, 2014
  23. NBC News, "Iraqi Christians Say Obama's Plan for ISIS Will Not Be Enough," September 11, 2014
  24. NBC News, "Tricky Diplomacy Awaits U.S. in ISIS Fight, Analysts Say," September 10, 2014
  25. Huffington Post, "Obama Authorizes Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria," September 10, 2014
  26. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named obamaadress