Ballot Box Weekly: Previewing next week's elections

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October 30, 2013

Edited by Jamie Applegate

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Welcome to the fourth edition of our new publication, Ballot Box Weekly, a compilation of election coverage from across the various pages on Ballotpedia and Judgepedia. Our weekly series will be published on Wednesday afternoons and cover a range of election news from our projects, including candidate filing deadlines, primaries and elections. The report focuses specifically on the projects covered by the staff of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia: state executives, state legislatures, school boards, State courts, Congress and state and local ballot measures. We'll be bringing you an assortment of elections coverage each week from up and down the ballot. This report is generated by the non-profit, nonpartisan Lucy Burns Institute, the organization that sponsors Ballotpedia and Judgepedia.

This week's Ballot Box Weekly features a look at a special state legislative election in South Carolina as well as a preview of the many elections taking place on November 5. Read about this and more in this week's report.

This Week in Elections
States with Elections: 1
States with filing deadlines: 0
**South Carolina held a special election for a seat in its state legislature.

What happened at the polls?

This week, South Carolina held a special election for a vacant seat in its House of Representatives.[1]

South Carolina House of Representatives District 93

Voters in South Carolina hits the polls on Tuesday to fill a seat in the state legislature. Former Rep. Harry Ott, Jr. resigned his seat in order to become executive director of the state's Farm Service Agency. The special election pit Ott's son Russell L. Ott (D) against Republican Charles H. Stoudemire Jr.. Ott won the election and will serve out the remaining year of his father's term.

According to unofficial results from the South Carolina State Election Commission, Ott received 1,898 votes (68 percent). In contrast, Stoudemire received 894 votes (32 percent).[2] Stoudemire had previously run against Harry Ott, Jr. in 2010 for the same seat and had been defeated. Ott won the election with 66.08 percent of the vote while Stoudemire received 33.89 percent.[3].

Issues such as education, jobs and farming were key focus points throughout the election. Stoudemire said he was running for the seat to bring new jobs and advancements to the district and argued that there had been a lack of growth in recent years.

"If you look at District 93 over a span of time, our unemployment has gone up, poverty level has gone up. … We're not advancing and I don't see anyone coming up with programs to help us advance," Stoudemire told the The Times and Democrat newspaper of Orangeburg, South Carolina.[4]

Ott will join a Democratic minority in both the House and Senate.
South Carolina State Senate Partisan Breakdown

Party As of January 2015
     Democratic Party 18
     Republican Party 28
Total 46

South Carolina House Partisan Breakdown

Party As of January 2015
     Democratic Party 46
     Republican Party 77
     Vacant 1
Total 124
Election Coverage across Ballotpedia/Judgepedia -- October 28-November 1, 2013
Race Date Number of Seats Up for Election
South Carolina House of Representatives District 93 General Election October 29, 2013 1

Upcoming Candidate Filing Deadlines

There were no filing deadlines this week and there are none in the next week.[1]

Looking ahead: upcoming elections

Next Tuesday is the general election date for most 2013 elections. Despite being the busiest election day of 2013, it will still be a light election compared to most even-year November elections. Elections will be taking place across the country for ballot measures, state legislatures, courts, school boards and Congress. Here are a few races to watch.

  • November 5: A local ballot measure election in Cincinnati, Ohio would address pension reform. The Cincinnati Pension Reform Charter Amendment Initiative seeks to change the city's public pension plan for new hires from a Defined Benefit Plan to a Defined Contribution Plan. If it is approved by voters, the amendment would also implement contribution caps for the city and make cost of living adjustments compatible with actual increases in the consumer price index, with a cap at 3 percent annually. Several other rules are also potentially established by the amendment, such as a stipulation that no city employee can simultaneously earn income from a city or government job and receive retirement benefits.
Quote of the Week

"We label if a juice is from concentrate or not. We label whether or not an ingredient is artificial or not. Even though the artificial vanilla is molecularly identical to the natural vanilla, we have a right to know it's artificial."
--David Bronner, a supporter of the passage of the Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure which would require that foods which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such.[5]

Highlighted profile

Barbara O'Brien is a candidate for an at-large seat on the Denver Board of Education. She is running for election to the board against challengers Michael Kiley and Joan Poston on November 5, 2013.

O'Brien previously served as Lieutenant Governor to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter from 2007 to 2011. O'Brien has received endorsements for her school board campaign from notable elected officials across the state including Congressmen Jared Polis (D) and Ed Perlmutter (D). She has also received endorsements from former Colorado governors Bill Ritter and Roy Romer as well as former state first ladies Jeannie Ritter and Bea Romer.[8]

O'Brien has also raised a reported $173,324 in campaign contributions during the course of her campaign.[9]

Several issues are at stake in the election, including the potential implementation of Amendment 66, a constitutional amendment that increases income taxes to support public education. Voters will decide whether the measure passes on November 5 as well. O'Brien has come out in support of the issue along with all but one of the other candidates for the four seats open on the board.[10]

School reform is also an issue in this election. Several reforms have been implemented by Superintendent Tom Boasberg since his appointment in 2009, including increasing the district's emphasis on charter schools and closing poor-performing facilities. Opponents of Boasberg's reforms cite a persistent achievement gap between affluent and low-income student populations.[11]

The direction of the seven-member board could change significantly based on the results of this election. Three current members of the board are not seeking re-election. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) has endorsed at-large candidate Michael Kiley, District 2 candidate Rosario C. de Baca, District 3 candidate Meg Schomp and Roger Kilgore in District 4. These candidates want to slow down or halt development of charter schools in the district. Democrats for Education Reform, a non-profit organization supporting Boasberg's reforms, has endorsed O'Brien as well as Rosemary Rodriguez (District 2), Mike Johnson (District 3) and incumbent Landri Taylor (District 4).[12]

Elections scoreboard

There was one general election this week.[1]

Elections Scoreboard -- Breaking Down the Ballot Box
General Election Results Analysis
Total races 1
Incumbents running 0
Total uncontested races 0
 % seats won by Democratic candidate 100%**
 % seats won by Republican candidate 0%
 % seats won by Independents 0%
**Russell L. Ott won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives

Election highlights

It's always election season somewhere. Here are some snippets of election news across the various Lucy Burns Institute project areas.


Several states are holding state legislative elections next week. Regular elections will take place in New Jersey and Virginia in addition to special elections in eight states. States holding special elections on November 5 include:

In total, 220 seats of the country's 7,383 state legislators are up for election in the November 5, 2013 state legislative elections. A total of 93 percent of incumbents are running for re-election. Of those, 15 faced a primary challenger and one quarter of incumbents faced no challenge at any level of the 2013 election. Here are several races to watch.

New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly

All 40 State Senate and 80 General Assembly seats are up for election. No candidates are unopposed in the November 5 general election. However, in two districts the major party candidate is opposed by only a third party candidate. In District 20: Incumbent Democrat Raymond Lesniak is opposed by Independent Pal Drejaj and in District 25 Incumbent Republican Anthony Bucco is opposed by Independent Maureen Castriotta. In the primary election, held on June 4, 2013, only seven incumbents faced opposition with all seven incumbents emerging victorious.

Heading into the November 5 election, the Democratic Party holds the majority in the New Jersey State Senate:

New Jersey State Senate
Party As of November 4, 2013 After the 2013 Election
     Democratic Party 24 24
     Republican Party 16 16
Total 40 40

In the General Assembly, no candidates are unopposed in the November 5 general election. In District 25, the major party candidates are opposed by only third-party challengers. All 11 incumbents who faced primary opposition were victorious in the June 4 primary. In New Jersey, voters elect two General Assembly members from each district. Heading into the November 5 election, the Democratic Party holds the majority in the New Jersey General Assembly:

New Jersey General Assembly
Party As of November 4, 2013 After the 2013 Election
     Democratic Party 48 48
     Republican Party 32 32
Total 80 80

Virginia House of Delegates

All 100 seats of the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election this year. Heading into the November 5 election, the Republican Party holds a commanding majority in the chamber.

Virginia House of Delegates
Party As of November 4, 2013 After the 2013 Election
     Democratic Party 32 33
     Republican Party 65 67
     Independent 1 0
     Vacancy 2 0
Total 100 100

Washington State Senate

Washington will be holding three special elections for its state senate. Seats are vacant in Districts 7, 8 and 26. The race for District 26 has garnered attention because as of October 19, more than $2.3 million has been spent on this race, making it the most expensive state legislative campaign in Washington history. The candidates themselves reported spending nearly $1.2 million while outside spending as accounted for another $1.2 million. It has drawn interest because the Republican-led coalition currently holds a one-vote majority in the chamber and a Republican win would increase that lead. The seat was previously held by a Democratic incumbent.

Washington State Senate District 7

Republican PartyAugust 6 GOP primary:
November 5 Special election candidates:
Republican Party Brian Dansel
Republican Party John Smith

Washington State Senate District 8

Republican PartyAugust 6 GOP primary:
November 5 Special election candidates:
Republican Party Phillip R. Lemley
Republican Party Sharon Brown

Washington State Senate District 26

November 5 Special election candidates:
Democratic PartyNathan Schlicher
Republican Party Jan Angel

November 5th Elections

While no school board elections were held this week, next week is an important one for school boards across the country.[1] 201 school board general elections are being held across the country on November 5 in the country's top 1,000 school districts.[1] States electing school board members include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Major issues include financial policies and changing education standards, including the implementation of new federal Common Core standards in some states.

The number of seats up in different states include:

  • California: 114 seats
  • Colorado: 51 seats
  • Connecticut: 35 seats
  • Massachusetts: 40 seats
  • Ohio: 54 seats
  • Pennsylvania: 60 seats
  • Texas: 32 seats
  • Virginia: 28 seats
  • Washington: 78 seats

There are several races to watch next week.


Voters in 16 school districts among Colorado's largest districts by enrollment will cast ballots for 51 seats on November 5.

  • Douglas County School District has attracted national attention with a debate over pay-for-performance policies for teachers and the involvement of outside groups. A slate of candidates opposing the board's reform policies will face off against four candidates who support the current board.
  • The Adams 12 Five Star School Board election is set against a federal investigation into financial wrongdoing by district officials involving millions of dollars.[13]


Ten of the top enrollment districts in Texas, including its largest, Houston Independent School District, will hold elections on November 5, 2013 for 28 seats. There are 44 candidates running for election, 24 of whom are incumbents.

Candidates in Houston ISD, the seventh-largest district in the United States, and Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, the third-largest district in Texas have faced several issues. One issue has centered on how best to use scarce district resources to meet the various needs of many students. Houston ISD is struggling with deep budget cuts in public education imposed in 2011 and adjusting to a narrowly approved tax rate increase.[14] The increase aims to help fund pay raises, as well as the district's Apollo reform program, which allows for specially hired tutors and longer school days.[15] Longtime incumbent Lawrence Marshall of Houston's District 9, is not seeking re-election and is currently under FBI criminal investigation for allegedly taking vendor money.[16]

Both New Jersey and Virginia will be holding elections for state executive officials next week.


Virginia will be holding elections for the offices of Attorney General of Virginia and Governor of Virginia. Virginia's gubernatorial race has garnered significant news attention.

Incumbent Republican Bob McDonnell is term-limited from running for re-election in 2013 as Virginia's strict term limits mean that Virginia governors cannot serve two consecutive terms.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli entered the gubernatorial race rather than seek another term as Virginia Attorney General and will face Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis.[17]

While many of the early election polls through April projected Cuccinelli to lead in the general election, McAuliffe is leading in several polls including a 52 percent to 42 percent lead from a Politico poll published October 5–6, 2013. Sarvis has been polling around 10 percent.[18][19]

Democrat Mark Herring will be squaring off against Republican Mark Obenshain for the open position of Attorney General. Polls indicate that the race may be a close one. While a Christopher Newport poll ending October 6, 2013 shows Herring up 45 percent to 42 percent, a Roanoke University poll, ending the day before on October 5, 2013, has Obenshain leading the race 38 percent to 35 percent, with 26 percent of undecided voters compared to Newport poll's 14 percent.[20][21]

New Jersey

In New Jersey, voters will vote for a Governor and Lieutenant Governor on November 5. Incumbent Governor Chris Christie (R) and incumbent Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno are running for their second term. In addition, this year's elections will only be the second lieutenant gubernatorial election in New Jersey's history. Christie and Guadagno will face Democratic opponents Barbara Buono for Governor and Milly Silva for Lieutenant Governor. Christie is expected to win in a landslide.

Courts across the country will see new and old faces voted for on November 5. Elections will be held in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.


Voters in Pennsylvania will be voting on two judges currently sitting on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on November 5. The court is the court of last resort for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was established by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1722 as a successor to a Provincial Appellate Court that had been established in 1684. It is the oldest continually sitting appellate court in North America. Democrat Max Baer and Republican Ronald Castille will both be seeking retention on November 5. Castille is the Chief Justice of the court and was first elected to the court as a Republican in a partisan election in 1993; his current term expires in December of 2013. Baer was first elected in 2003 and his term expires this year.

Alabama will hold a runoff election for a congressional seat next week.


Alabama will be holding a Republican runoff election for its 1st Congressional District. The runoff, between candidates Bradley Byrne and Dean Young could prove competitive as controversy has surrounded both candidates. On October 10, 2013, Bradley Byrne posted on his Facebook account accusing his opponent, Dean Young, of attacking his daughter as part of his campaign. Young denied the accusations.[22] Young also elicited controversy by asking his opponents to sign a pledge saying that if elected to Congress, they will take active steps to oppose gay marriage.[23] The pledge also supports a proposed change to the state's Republican Party's bylaws that would expel any member of the party's steering committee who takes a public position in favor of gay marriage – or any other position counter to the party platform.[23]

The district is considered heavily Republican. The Republican runoff will likely decide who represents the district.

Several important state and local ballot measures are up for election next week and deal with issues ranging from the labeling of genetically engineered food to education funding.

Here are two state measures to watch.

Washington Initiative 522

Washington Initiative 522 is a ballot measure aiming to require certain foods and seeds for sale to consumers that come from plants or animals which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such. If these foods are not labeled correctly, a penalty of up to $1,000 per day per mislabeled item could be assessed on the violator. The stipulations in I-522 would take effect on July 1, 2015.[24]

According to the Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, I-522 defines GMOs as foods in which there have been "changes to genetic material produced through techniques that directly insert DNA or RNA into organisms or that use cell fusion techniques to overcome natural barriers to cell multiplication or recombination."[25]

A similar measure, California's Proposition 37, was narrowly defeated on November 6, 2012. Proposition 37 enjoyed a 61 percent lead in the polls in early September of 2012 with more than $45 million spent to defeat it.

If I-522 is passed, it will be the first measure of its type in the country.[26]

Colorado Amendment 66

Amendment 66, if approved, will increase the state's income tax to raise the amount spent on funding public school districts by about 16.6 percent from $5.5 billion under the current law to a little over $6.4 billion. When the increases in charter school funding are added, this amounts to a $950 million increase.[27] Amendment 66 will also allow for the implementation of the new Public School Finance Act Senate Bill 213. The new tax and education funding formulas found in SB 13-213 will go into effect in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Currently the statewide per-pupil funding is $6,652 and is projected to rise to $7,426 under SB 13-213.[28][29][30] Colorado Commits to Kids is sponsoring the initiative.[31]

These increases amount to an 8 percent increase for income tax on those making less than $75,000 per year and a 26.6 percent increase for any taxable income over $75,000 per year. There is also a clause in the language of Amendment 66 which allows the General Assembly to "annually adjust the income thresholds for the income tax increment for inflation." The language also "requires that at least 43 percent of state income, sales and excise tax revenue ... be set aside annually to pay for public education."[32]

The measure has attracted controversy. The Colorado Education Association (CEA), although big supporters of Amendment 66, may sue to eliminate parts of Senate Bill 191, which would be funded by Amendment 66. Teacher unions, especially the CEA, are opposed to SB 191 because it establishes new standards for teachers and principals and restricts teacher tenure, allowing tenure to be removed after two consecutive "low-performance" years.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 These figures refer only to the elections that are covered by Ballotpedia and Judgepedia staff. They may not be comprehensive. If you would like to send details about an election not covered, contact us
  2., "State House of Representatives District 93 Special Election," accessed July 31, 2013
  3. South Carolina general election results
  4. The Times and Democrat, "Education, Jobs Focus in House 93 Race," October 20, 2013
  5. My, "The fight over I-522: Do we really need GMO food labels?," accessed October 30, 2013
  6. Colorado Department of Education, "SchoolView Data Center," accessed August 7, 2013
  7. El Paso County, Colorado, "Official Sample Ballot for 2013 Coordinated Election," accessed October 2, 2013
  8. Barbara O'Brien for Denver Public Schools, "Endorsements," Accessed October 29, 2013
  9. Colorado TRACER, "Candidate and Candidate Committee Detail," Accessed October 29, 2013
  10. EdNews Colorado, "DPS Election 2013," Accessed October 30, 2013
  11. Denver Post, "Tom Boasberg, Denver school leader, has a lot riding on board election results," August 30, 2013
  12. EdNews Colorado, "DPS board endorsements mount up," September 16, 2013
  13. Fox 31 Denver, "Caught on tape: School officials laughing as they talked about hiding millions of dollars" March 27, 2013
  14. Charles Kuffner, Off the Kuff, "Demagnetized," published October 19, 2013
  15. Ericka Mellon, The Houston Chronicle, "In close vote, HISD approves 3-cent tax rate increase," published October 11, 2013
  16. Ericka Mellon, The Houston Chronicle, "Longtime HISD trustee opts not to seek re-election," published August 27, 2013
  17. Independent Political Report, "Robert Sarvis Receives Libertarian Party of Virginia Nomination for Governor in 2013," accessed October 30, 2013
  18. [ "Politico Poll," accessed October 30, 2013]
  19. Slate "Poll: Libertarian Candidate Hurting Dem in Virginia, GOP Still Losing," accessed October 30, 2013
  20. "Christopher Newport Poll," accessed October 30, 2013
  21. "Roanoke University poll," accessed October 30, 2013
  22., "Bradley Byrne accuses Dean Young of attacking his daughter," accessed October 15, 2013
  23. 23.0 23.1, "Gay marriage feud erupts in AL-01 congressional race," accessed August 22, 2013
  24. Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Explanatory Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
  25. Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Explanatory Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
  26. Kansas City Business, "Will Washington state break U.S. logjam on labeling GMO food?" October 17, 2013
  27. Legislative Council, School District Impacts of SB 213 vs. Hypothetical $915 Million Revenue Increase with Current Formula
  28. EdNews Colorado, "See how your district's funding would change under SB 13-213," September 29, 2013
  29. The Spot (blog), "Colorado Senate debates Mike Johnston's bill to overhaul school finance," April 1, 2013
  30. Denver Post, "Colorado school finance revamp next takes tax increase to voters," May 5, 2013
  31. Colorado Commits to Kids website
  32. Steamboat Today, "No on Amendment 66: Reform is about more than dollars," October 24, 2013