The Executive Summary: New year brings new faces to state executive offices in Virginia, Utah and Indiana

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January 9, 2014

Edited by Maresa Strano

The Executive Summary is back from its holiday hiatus and ready to kick off the new year properly. The first edition of 2014 looks at the notable state executive happenings of recent weeks, paying special attention to the myriad office changes which took place and will soon come to pass.

States sprint to the finish in 2013 office turnover race

Many people find the holiday season to be ripe for reflecting on past mistakes and making resolutions to pave a better future. Proving state executives are no exception, nine officials, including one attorney general, one state auditor, three state agriculture commissioners and four public service commissioners, resigned between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you push the date back a couple of weeks, 23 percent of the year’s resignations took place between November 1 and December 16. In most cases of unscheduled vacancies, governors in their respective states are sent scrambling to appoint new heads of executive departments and agencies, which must reorient themselves to suit the new or incoming leadership. No governor felt the weight of such changes more heavily in recent months than Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who appeared bewildered by the rate of turnover in his cabinet by Thanksgiving following the particularly surprising resignation of newly minted state auditor Dwayne Sawyer.[1] In December, the Indiana Democratic Party chairman made a public records request to Pence’s office for information illuminating the governor’s vetting process for appointments. Indiana ended the year with seven executive office resignations on the board.

Virginia prepares for new Democratic order after party's November elections sweep

Meanwhile, Virginia is poised to say goodbye to three familiar faces - Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli - before the new class of all-Democratic 2013 election winners is sworn in to take their place on January 11. Compared to the numerous office changes previously mentioned, Virginia's turnover carries not only personnel adjustments, but immense partisan implications as well. Mark Herring's survival of the December attorney general election recount will make him the first Democrat to control the office in almost two decades when he is sworn on January 11.[2]. His win, along with the November 2013 victories by Gov-elect Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Gov-electRalph Northam, cements the complete partisan overhaul of the state's top-tier executive branch in favor of the Democratic Party, as well as marking the first time all five of Virginia's statewide offices - adding in both U.S. Senate seats - are held by Democrats since 1969.

2013 in review

Before the state executive team closed out 2013, we took a look back and reviewed some of the top events that took place in executive offices over the course of the year. The top state executive official resignations of 2013 found four of the top eight resignations came from the offices of lieutenant governors. 2013 was also a year for several feuds and controversies for state executive officials. Our top feuds highlighted five face offs between officeholders in the state executive branches and our list of top controversies reviewed four controversial events in state officials’ 2013 that did not land them in our top resignations review, despite calls for their resignations. The top state executive official original reports of 2013 took a look back at analytical articles released by Ballotpedia’s state executive project throughout the year. These included analyses of education, vacancies, native states, and irregular office changes as well as a look forward to incumbent state executives’ plans for 2014 elections. 2013 was also the first year we gave out eleven 2013 State Executive Awards to various categories highlighting notable events or accomplishments throughout the year. The recipients included candidates, offices, incumbents and states.
See also: 2013 State Executive Awards, Top 2013 controversies in state executive offices not leading to resignation, Top state executive official resignations of 2013, Top 2013 state executive feuds and Top state executive official original reports of 2013

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Virginia Inaugurations Set for Saturday

Gov-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) will succeed Bob McDonnell (R).

This Saturday, January 11, 2014, Terry McAuliffe will be sworn in as the 72nd Governor of Virginia on the Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia. The inaugural ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1851, will begin at 12 pm, followed by a parade.[3] At this time, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring will also be sworn into their new posts as Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.[4] The inauguration is expected to cost $1.64 million, some of it funded by private donations. Medical related industries have donated $180,000 to the event and $135,000 has come from energy companies including coal, which has been seen as a controversial acceptance from McAullife who was backed by many environmentalists. Currently, donations to the inauguration over $10,000 are disclosed on the Virginia Public Access Project Website. Taxpayers will end up covering slightly more than half a million for the ceremonial events. Inaugural balls however, are completely covered by private donations.[5][6] Anyone interested in following the ceremony, can stream it online on the Virginia General Assembly Website.

After nine months, Rick Scott sued for overdue lieutenant governor vacancy

Rick Scott still hasn’t found “the one,” long after the resignation of Jennifer Carroll, former Lt. Gov. and Scott’s 2010 running-mate.

On January 6, lobbyist and former social studies teacher Barbara DeVane filed a lawsuit with the Florida Supreme Court in hope of spurring action to fill the state lieutenant governor’s office, which has now been vacant over nine months.[7][8] Since ex-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) resigned from her post on March 12, 2013, Gov. Rick Scott’s only decisive move to address the vacancy has been to to shut down the office, apparently as a way to save the state money.[9][10] In the close wake of Carroll’s departure, Scott indicated he planned to appoint a lieutenant governor as soon as the legislative session ended in May 2013, but nothing came of it.[11]

The complexity of the situation is mainly constitutional, but Scott’s reluctance to treat it in a timely fashion reflects the depth of the commitment involved in his decision. The Florida Constitution states that in the event that the lieutenant governor’s office becomes vacant, the Governor “shall” appoint someone else, but does not specify a timeline or conditions for carrying out that appointment process. With Scott gearing up for what is expected to be a tough re-election campaign, his ongoing demurral to name Carroll’s replacement is strongly linked to his need to find an individual worthy of being his 2014 running-mate.

DeVane’s brief asks the state’s preeminent legal body to force Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a new lieutenant governor, citing Article 4, Section 3 of the constitution, which gives the Lieutenant Governor authority to act in place of the Governor if he/she is incapacitated or unable to deal with a state emergency.[7] Apart from her concern about the consequences of such hypothetical scenarios arising without a lieutenant governor available to step in, DeVane also claims that by delaying the appointment, Scott has ignored the law's language which calls for the appointment to be made "upon" a vacancy occurring.

"This is not a duty that the governor can choose to undertake when he feels like it,” she said.[11]

Click here to read the DeVane v Scott brief in its entirety.

Disgraced Utah attorney general succeeded by former campaign foe

Sean Reyes appointed to job to which he sought election, but lost to Swallow, in 2012.

Sean D. Reyes was appointed by Governor Gary Herbert as the new Attorney General of Utah, filling the vacancy left by John Swallow’s recent resignation amid scandal. Reyes will have to run for election in 2014 to serve out the remaining two years of Swallow's term. Reyes’ appointment relieves interim officeholder Brian Tarbet from duty. Tarbett had taken over the role following Swallow’s resignation on December 3, 2013.[12]

An active member of the Utah Republican party, Reyes served as a member of the State Central Committee and as a delegate for the party on the local, state, and, in an alternate capacity, the national level. He was appointed by Governor John Huntsman to serve on the Third District Judicial Nominating Commission and spent years working on President George W. Bush's National Congressional Commission, conducting public hearings throughout the country to advise the Administration and Congress on Latino issues.[13]

The 2012 Republican primary race between Reyes and Swallow was called "one of the dirtiest in years." Organized attacks by SuperPACs were mobilized against both candidates in the week leading up to the June 26 election, spilling over into the candidate debates, and resulting in at least one defamation suit, from Reyes, who accused Swallow of working illegally "in concert" with the Nevada based PAC "It's Now or Never, Inc," to run a smear campaign against him.[14] In 2013, the Utah House Special Investigative Committee presented documents that demonstrate the Swallow campaign's connection with the "It's Now or Never, Inc" PAC as part of that committee's "inquiry into allegations of improper conduct by Attorney General John Swallow."[15][16]

Most of the PAC-sponsored anti-Reyes TV and radio spots claimed that he lacked the rectitude and civility required of a high ranking public servant, based on a 1993 reckless driving episode and an alleged under the table cash contribution made to his political consultant.[17] Reyes retaliated by suing Swallow for defamation of character, and by bringing up a disclosure incident from Swallow's 2002 congressional campaign which resulted in formal penalties, in contrast with his treasurer's mistake. "He knows he can't beat me when it comes to credentials, either legal credentials or leadership credentials, so he resorts to these kinds of bush league tactics," Reyes stated. "[18] The UTE SuperPAC responsible for sending mailers and airing - predominantly radio - spots against Swallow accused the deputy attorney general of being a target of a federal investigation for intervening in a Salt Lake County bid process.[17] Swallow's camp insisted that the mailer in particular, which insinuated the candidate is poised for federal indictment, was a lie, and a "malicious hit piece and a potential violation of state law."[19]

Indiana loses and replaces second round of 2013 auditor and agriculture director appointees, plus two appointments needed to fill state utility commission vacancies

Dwayne Sawyer abruptly resigned five months after replacing Tim Berry as state auditor
Suzanne Crouch traded her seat in the state legislature to take Sawyer's place in auditor's office
Resigned agriculture director Gina Sheets passed the reins to Ted McKinney this week.
Kari Bennett quit the IURC for private sector job, still has not been replaced.
Larry Landis' imminently effective resignation from the IURC means two vacancies for Pence to fill

In July, former Indiana Auditor of State Tim Berry left to assume the role of Indiana Republican Party chairman, and Gov. Mike Pence (R) was “blind-sighted” when Sawyer, the man he appointed to replace Berry, decided to step down, citing family reasons.[20] Suzanne Crouch was tapped by Pence on December 16, 2013 to fill the vacancy and was sworn in on January 2, 2014, relieving interim officeholder Erin Sheridan. Crouch is a former Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives, representing District 78.[21][21] She is running for a full term as state auditor in the 2014 elections.

Pence lost his second appointed Indiana Director of Agriculture of the year, Gina Sheets, when she announced in December she was moving to Liberia to assist with an agriculture advancement project.[22][23][24] Sheets was succeeded on January 7, 2014, by Ted McKinney.[25]

The same week Sawyer resigned, State utility regulatory commissioner Kari Bennett also quit, with roughly five months left on her term, to take a new job. Sheets and Sawyer have been replaced, while Bennett has not. Pence will need to fill two seats on the regulatory panel once commissioner Larry Landis' resignation, tendered last fall, takes effect this month.[26]

Virginia Agriculture Commissioner resigns

Matt Lohr, Virginia's 14th Commissioner of Agriculture, resigned his position in mid-December to become director of the Farm Credit Knowledge Center at Farm Credit of the Virginias.[27] He was appointed to the position by Governor Bob McDonnell on March 26, 2010.[28] Before his appointment, Lohr was a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He represented District 26 from 2005 until his resignation on April 30, 2010.

Following Matt Lohr's resignation, Sandra J. Adams assumed the office in an interim capacity.[29] Adams is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Government Financial Manager. She had served as Deputy Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for three and a half years when she took over as acting commissioner when Matt Lohr resigned. She previously served as VDACS acting commissioner for five months in 2010.[29]

2014

See also: State executive official elections, 2014

Ballotpedia has counted and is currently tracking a total of 218 state executive positions in 42 states that will be on the ballot next year. That is more than double the number of positions that were elected in 2012, when 94 positions were elected. The eight states that are not holding executive official elections in 2014 are Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Mark your calendar
DateEvent
January 112013 Virginia election winners sworn in
February 5Ohio candidate filing deadline
February 7Indiana candidate filing deadline
February 15Nebraska candidate filing deadline (Incumbents only)

The offices up for election include:

2013

Reviewing the 2013 Virginia attorney general recount

Attorney General-elect Mark Herring (D) will succeed Ken Cuccinelli (R).

A statewide recount took place the week of December 16 in Virginia to bring closure to the race for state attorney general. Two days into the recount, Mark Obenshain (R) conceded the election to his fellow state Senator Mark Herring when the margin separating the two candidates reached a reported 907 votes, surpassing his threshold of hope for the possibility of a turnaround victory.[30] He called to congratulate Herring prior to the concession, which arrived before the official results could be announced by the recount court, overseen by Judge Beverly W. Snukals, the following day, December 19. Obenshain ordered the recount on November 27, shortly after the State Election Board certified Herring the winner by a miniscule 165 votes out of 2.2 million cast.[31]. Such a slim margin yielded a recount-upon request opportunity for Obenshain, by law, to be conducted at the expense of the taxpayer. Official results confirmed Herring won by a margin of 907 votes.[32]

The 2013 attorney general contest pitted two respected senators against each other in pursuit of the state's chief legal post, soon to be vacated by two-term officeholder and recently defeated GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli (R).[33][34] Until the attorney general race became worthy of headlines as "the closest statewide election in Virginia history,"[35] it attracted little fanfare. Herring and Obenshain ran dignified and uneventful campaigns amidst an otherwise tension-rich climate dominated by mudslinging and controversial comments, from the governor's race and unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson, respectively.

Herring's official victory gives all five of Virginia's statewide offices to Democrats for the first time since 1969. In cruel twist of fate, 1969 was also the year that Obenshain's late father, Republican Richard Obenshain, ran for, and lost, the race for Virginia Attorney General.[36][37] Richard Obenshain died in a plane crash during his 1978 campaign for U.S. Senate.[38]

Recount: Virginia Attorney General General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMark Herring (MOV post-recount +907) 50% 1,105,045
     Republican Mark Obenshain 50% 1,104,138
Total Votes 2,209,183
Election Results Virginia State Board of Elections.
Virginia Attorney General General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMark Herring (MOV pre-recount +165) 49.9% 1,103,777
     Republican Mark Obenshain 49.9% 1,103,612
     N/A Write-In 0.2% 4,892
Total Votes 2,212,281
Election Results via Virginia State Board of Elections.

252px-Question book-3 trans.png

‘’’Q. What Virginia Governor’s first lady resided in the executive residence twice, once as the daughter of a Governor, and again as a wife?’’’

‘’’Answer: Governor Tim Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, is also the daughter of Governor Linwood Holton. Anne Holton was recently appointed as the new Secretary of Education by Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe.’’’[39]


References

  1. ‘’Indystar.com,’’ “Democrats seek answers in state auditor resignation,” December 5, 2013
  2. Politico, "Mark Obenshain to request recount in Virginia attorney general race," November 26, 2013
  3. ‘’Inaurguration of Terry McAuliffe,’’ About, accessed January 9, 2014
  4. ‘’Leesburg Today,’’ Herring takes over as AG Saturday, January 9, 2014
  5. ‘’Washington Times,’’McAuliffe hauls in coal money to fund inauguration despite green pledge, January 6, 2014
  6. ‘’NBC 12,’’ McAuliffe Inauguration totals more than $1.6 million, January 7, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 ‘’Florida Supreme Court,’’ “Petition for Writ of Mandamus,” January 6, 2014
  8. ‘’Ballot Access News,’’ “Florida Taxpayer Asks Florida Supreme Court to Order Governor to Appoint a Lieutenant Governor,” January 7, 2013
  9. Governing, "Florida Lt. Gov Resigns Amid Federal Probe," March 13, 2013
  10. The Tampa Bay Times, "Gov. Rick Scott shuts down lieutenant governor's office to save money," March 25, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 ‘’Reuters,’’ “Florida governor sued for not appointing new lieutenant governor,” January 6, 2013
  12. Deseret News, "Acting Utah Attorney General Brian Tarbet not ruling out run for top spot," December 3, 2013
  13. Sean Reyes for Attorney General "About Sean," accessed March 14, 2012
  14. KSL.com, "Mysterious ads, slander allegations plague attorney general's race," June 21, 2012
  15. House Special Investigative Committee, "2A - Briefing on Investigative Findings," January 2, 2014
  16. House Special Investigative Committee, "Motion Final (Nov. 22, 2013)," January 2, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Desert News, "Republican AG candidates ding each other on campaign finance issues," June 19, 2012
  18. The Desert News, "GOP candidates for Utah attorney general engaged in nasty battle," June 18, 2012
  19. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Mailer alleges Utah AG candidate was investigated by feds," June 13, 2012
  20. ‘’WTHR.com,’’ “Indiana State Auditor Dwayne Sawyer unexpectedly resigns,” November 26, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 Indiana Governor Mike Pence, "Press Release: Governor Pence Names Suzanne Crouch New Auditor of the State," December 16, 2013
  22. ‘’JC online “Gina Sheets excited about new AG job” Accessed January 24, 2012
  23. Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, "News release: Commissioner Kari Bennett to leave the IURC," November 8, 2013
  24. Evansville Courier-Press, "Indiana utility regulator criticized over job change," November 13, 2013
  25. Indiana Office of the Lieutenant Governor, State House, "Press release: Governor Pence Appoints Ted McKinney as Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture," December 4, 2014
  26. Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, "News release: IURC Commissioner Larry Landis Announces Plans to Retire in 2014," September 23, 2013
  27. DelmarvaNow, "State ag commissioner bids fond farewell," November 19, 2013
  28. Washington Post, "McDonnell appoints Lohr agriculture commissioner," March 16, 2010
  29. 29.0 29.1 VDACS, "Commissioners Message," accessed December 19, 2013
  30. Washington Post, "Obenshain concedes Virginia attorney general's race to Herring," December 18, 2013
  31. Virginia State Board of Elections, " Election Results – General Election – November 5, 2013," accessed November 25, 2013
  32. Virginia State Board of Elections, "2013 Attorney General Recount Race Results," accessed January 9, 2014
  33. Watchdog Virginia, "Undervotes loom large in AG recount bid," November 27, 2013
  34. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Obenshain lawyer raises possibility of contesting AG race," December 10, 2013
  35. NBC Washington, "In Va. Attorney General Race, Herring Ahead by 163 Votes," November 12, 2013
  36. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "'Sweet' victory for Herring in AG race," updated December 20, 2013
  37. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "'Sweet' victory for Herring in AG race," updated December 20, 2013
  38. The Washington Post, "Virginia GOP picks staunch conservatives as statewide candidates," May 18, 2013
  39. ‘’’ABC 7,’’’ Anne Holton, wife of Tim Kaine, named Virginia secretary of education, January 3, 2014