The Executive Summary: Elections, candidate filings and new appointments

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June 28, 2012

There's been a lot happening in the world of state executives since our last update two weeks ago: filing deadlines in New Hampshire and Vermont, primary elections in Oklahoma and Utah and new appointments in Iowa and Oregon. Plus, this week we begin our "Featured Office" section with a closer look at Public Service Commissioners across the nation.


This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 5, 2012.

  • 13 states have already held primary elections
  • Candidate filing periods have closed in 7 other states
  • Delaware and Louisiana have not had yet any deadlines pass

Primary election wrap-ups: June 26, 2012:

Oklahoma: This year, two seats on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission are up for election. One seat is for a regular term, expiring in 2018. The incumbent, Bob Anthony (R), was first elected in 1988. He easily defeated his primary challenger, Brooks Mitchell, and will be unopposed in the November 6 general election.[1] The second race for a seat on the commission is a special election to fill the remainder of former commissioner Jeff Cloud's unexpired term, which ends in 2014. Cloud resigned from the commission in 2011, after which Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Patrice Douglas (R) to serve in his seat until the 2012 election. Douglas is now running completely unopposed for election to Cloud's seat.[2]

Utah: In Utah, major party candidates are not necessarily nominated with a primary election. Each party holds a statewide convention during which the party delegates vote for candidates. If a candidate receives more than 60% of the delegate vote, they receive the party's nomination and no primary election is held. If no candidate receives the requisite 60% of the delegate vote, the top two finishers from the convention face off in the June 26th primary. Third party candidates - if there are multiple candidates seeking the nomination - are selected via the primary election. This year, only three primary races were held in Utah - the Constitution Party nomination for governor, the Republican nomination for attorney general and the Republican nomination for auditor.

  • Governor: Before the primary, three sets of candidates had already qualified for the general election: the Democratic and Republican parties selected their gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates during the statewide conventions, and only one set of Libertarian candidates filed to run. One additional candidate was added to the field in the after the primary: Kirk Pearson defeated Brandon Nay by more than 30 percentage points to win the Constitution Party nomination; he has yet to announce his running mate.[3]
  • Attorney General: At the Utah Republican Party's state convention in mid-April, outgoing attorney general Mark Shurtleff's deputy chief John Swallow fell 5.5% short of the requisite 60% of the delegate vote necessary to clinch his party's nomination, forcing the race to the June 26 primary election for the voters to decide.[4] His opponent, Sean D. Reyes, captured 45.5% of the delegate vote but only garnered 32% of the primary vote. Swallow will advance to the general election to face Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith (D), who ran unopposed for his party's nomination, and perennial attorney general candidate, Libertarian W. Andrew McCullough.[5]
  • Auditor: After failing to secure his party's nomination at the state convention, incumbent Auston Johnson (R), who has held the office since July of 1995, fell to state Rep. John Dougall in yesterday's primary election. Dougall will go on to face Mark Sage, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination,[6] and Richard Proctor, who was unopposed for the Constitution Party nomination, in the general election.[3]

Candidate filings

New Hampshire (June 15th)

Only one state executive office is up for election in New Hampshire this year: governor. Two years ago, the current governor, John Lynch won election to an unprecedented fourth consecutive two-year term. In September of 2011, he announced he would not seek another term in office. He explained: although "for me, being governor of the State of New Hampshire is the best job in the world [and] serving in this role is the highest privilege of my life, democracy demands periodic change. To refresh and revive itself, democracy needs new leaders and new ideas."[7] Six candidates eager to take Lynch up on his call to "refresh and revive" the Granite State filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State:

Democratic Party Democratic

Republican Party Republican

Vermont (June 14th)

Six state executive positions are up for election this year: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor. Incumbents are seeking re-election in five of the six contests: current auditor Thomas Salmon announced he has achieved the goal set when he took office of transforming the auditor's office into a "first-rate performance audit shop," and plans to move on to "new challenges."[8] The only contested state executive primary race this year is the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Incumbent Bill Sorrell, who first assumed the office by appointment in 1997, will face current Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan, in the August 28th primary election.

Upcoming key dates:

June 29West Virginia post-primary campaign finance reports due
June 30Georgia campaign disclosure report due
July 5New Mexico fourth primary campaign finance report due


  • Iowa Commissioner of Insurance

On June 15, 2012, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) announced his appointment of Nick Gerhart as the new Iowa Commissioner of Insurance. Gerhart will begin transitioning into the Department in the fall of 2012 but will not assume full responsibilities until the end of the year.[9]

Gerhart, a vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs at the Sammons Financial Group, will take over for incumbent Susan Voss, who is retiring at the end of 2012. Voss, appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2005, has worked in the department since 1993. She praised the choice of Gerhart, stating, “Nick is a great guy. I worked with him on issues affecting Iowa carriers during the Dodd-Frank legislative debate in Washington D.C. Our work was bipartisan. He is known by our office and I expect a very smooth transition.”[10]

  • Attorney General of Oregon

Current Oregon attorney general John Kroger (D) will vacate his state executive seat by the end of June, six months before his voter-confirmed successor is scheduled to take office. As Kroger prepares to move to Portland to start his new job as President of Reed College, 2012 Democratic attorney general nominee and presumptive general election victor Ellen Rosenblum readies herself to step into his shoes.[11]Governor John Kitzhaber (D) decided to appoint Rosenblum interim attorney general until the formal conclusion of the 2012 election season. Rosenblum will be sworn in on June 29, making her the first woman in Beaver State history to hold the office- “an historic moment," said Gov. Kitzhaber[12] Rosenblum, whose general election status will now show “incumbent,” has committed her entire career to Oregon's legal system. She is a retired trial and appelate judge, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

"People are going to be watching me carefully, and closely, and they should be," Rosenblum said in an interview about her performance leading up to the general election.[12] In order to follow her appointed stint with a full 4 year elected term, Rosenblum needs to overtake Republican write-in challenger James Buchal in November.[13] Buchal, a Portland attorney, received 12,816 write-in votes in the primary- enough to qualify him for the GOP slot on the general election ballot, according to official results published by the secretary of state's office.[14]

Featured office: Public Service Commissioners

Imagine you are one of the wealthiest men on the planet and you possess a great fondness for the ocean. Imagine you want to use your wealth to explore that fondness further by buying an island in Hawaii. Where do you begin?

Quick facts about Public Service Commissioners
  • A multi-person board, ranging from 2 to 7 members
  • A total of 186 commissioners across all 50 states
  • Publicly elected in 11 states
  • Average salary: $115,563 (in 2010)

When Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) took the stage last week to announce the sale of Hawaii's sixth largest island of Lana'i to billionaire Oracle CEO and aspiring nature impresario Larry Ellison, he waxed romantic about Ellison's passion for sailing and Lana'i's history as a prolific pineapple producer. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the government agency most instrumental in the complicated transfer of the 140-square mile island got a rare shout-out in the governor's online statement confirming the sale.[15]

That agency is the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. The name varies from state to state - in New Mexico it's known as the Public Regulation Commission - but all 50 states have a state-wide, regulatory board comprised of anywhere from two to seven members. The official duties differ slightly among the states, but the general role of the commission is to regulate essential utility services such as electricity, gas, telecommunications, private water and sewage and water/land transport companies. In most states, cable television, internet service providers and mobile phone companies do not fall under the purview of the public utilities commission.

Hawaii is one of 39 states that selects its commissioners via a permutation of gubernatorial appointment and state legislative confirmation; eleven states publicly elect their commissioners through the primary/general election processes, and one state, Virginia, decides through legislative vote.

As of 2011, each commissioner earned an annual salary of $90,060, making them the third lowest paid public service commissioners in the nation. The highest paid can be found in South Carolina, where each of the commission's seven members received compensation in the amount of $160,272 last year.[16]

Recent news articles


  1. Oklahoma State Election Board, "Results: For Corporation Commissioner," accessed June 26, 2012
  2., "Corporation commissioner Jeff Cloud to resign," September 1, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Associated Press, "Campaign 2012: Utah - Summary vote results," accessed June 27, 2012
  4. Utah Republican Party, "Election Results: Utah Attorney General," April 21, 2012
  5. Standard-Examiner, "Dee: Attorney general campaign won't hurt current job," March 12, 2012
  6. Examiner, "Utah democrats hold state convention this weekend; Matheson unopposed," April 20, 2012
  7., "Governor won't seek corner office again," September 19, 2011
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named biz
  9. Oskaloosa News, "Nick Gerhart named new Iowa Insurance Commissioner," June 15, 2012
  10. Des Moines Register, “D.M. insurance executive Gerhart chosen as new Iowa insurance Commissioner,” June 14, 2012
  11., “Rosenblum 'honored' at attorney general appointment,” June 6, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1, “Kitzhaber taps Rosenblum to take over for AG Kroger,” June 6, 2012
  13. Oregon Live, “Oregon Republicans now have candidates for attorney general, treasurer, courtesy of write-in votes,” June 6, 2012
  14. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, “2012 Official Primary Election Results-Attorney General,” accessed June 20, 2012
  15. Governor of the State of Hawaii Neil Abercrombie, “Governor's statement on Lana'i Sale,” June 20, 2012
  16. The Council of State Governments, "Book of the States 2011 -- Table 4.11," accessed June 25, 2012