The Executive Summary: Only two primaries and two months until the general election
Edited by Geoff Pallay
Welcome to September's first The Executive Summary. This edition will highlight recent primary results from Arizona and Vermont, as well as a number of appointments, mergings and resignations. You will also find updates on the North Dakota Public Service Commission controversy.
In each of our six previous installments, we have a brought a different state executive position into the spotlight, and this issue is no exception. Apropos the ringing in of a new school year, this week's featured office profile focuses on the Superintendent of Schools.
Elections and filings
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.
- 19 states have already held primary elections.
- Louisiana will hold its primary election for statewide races on November 6, 2012, when all other states hold their general election.
- As of September 6th, candidate filing periods have closed in all 22 states.
- Since the last edition, two states held primary elections: Vermont and Arizona.
Primary election wrap-up August 28
There are three seats on the quasi-executive Arizona Corporation Commission up for election this year. All six candidates who filed for the office, including the full trio of incumbent commissioners, made it past the primary elections on August 28th and will advance to the general election on November 6th. Below is complete list of candidates who will advance to the general election:
Last week's primaries in Vermont sealed the nomination of Democratic incumbent attorney general Bill Sorrell as well the general election candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor, also up for election this year. Excluding Sorrell and challenger T.J. Donovan, who conceded Wednesday morning after a hard-fought and extraordinarily close race, every Republican, Democratic, and Progressive Party candidate seeking election to state executive office this year in Vermont skated through the primary round unopposed. Of these six positions, current auditor Thomas Salmon is the only incumbent not running for re-election in 2012. Salmon said he can retire with satisfaction after having achieved all the goals he set for the office, and plans to move on to "new challenges."
Since there was only one contested primary, the fall fields were basically set when the candidate filing period closed in June, barring one critical point of uncertainty: Write-in candidates can play an influential role in Vermont elections, and neither the identity nor the general election presence of those sleepers can be determined conclusively until all primary results are tabulated and submitted for review by representatives of the Democratic, Republican and Progressive parties. The write-in candidate mystery is the subject of particular interest this election cycle. After receiving the Progressive Party's nomination for governor in the spring, Party chairwoman Martha Abbott said she would yield her candidacy to incumbent Peter Shumlin in order to give government-financed health care system the best shot possible. One week after the primary, Abbott bowed out of the race, confessing that her candidacy was a purely strategic maneuver to prevent another member of her party from winning. Progressives responded to Abbott's initial threat of withdrawal by mounting a write-in campaign for the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Annette Smith. The statutory requirements for Smith's write-in nomination are that she must receive more votes than an opponent whose name is already printed on the ballot, or else more than half the votes as the number of petition signatures needed to file for the office. For governor, that would be a minimum of 251 votes.  According to secretary of state Jim Condos (D), who is effectively unopposed for re-election in 2012, the details about write-in candidates such Smith will be available as soon as possible. The exact general election match-ups cannot be known until those results are finalized, but here is a list of candidates already certified for advancement as of September 5th:
|Mark your calendar|
|September 10||New Mexico and Washington campaign finance reports due|
|September 11||Primary election in Delaware|
|September 11||Primary election in New Hampshire|
|September 17||Vermont post-primary campaign finance reports due|
|September 19||New Hampshire post-primary reports due|
On August 30, 2012, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation were merged into the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The merger of the departments of agriculture and conservation became law in the spring of 2012 when the state passed it as part of a supplemental budget package. Gov. Paul LePage announced his intentions to combine the two departments in the fall of 2011, saying a joint department could better serve farming and forestry related industries and help them drive economic development.
Walter Whitcomb was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage in August 2012 as the head of this new Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Whitcomb previously served as the now defunct Commissioner of Agriculture.
Texas Education Commissioner
Michael Williams was sworn in as the new Texas Commissioner of Education on September 1, 2012. Governor Rick Perry appointed Williams, who formerly served on the Texas Railroad Commission, to succeed resigned officeholder Robert Scott as the state's chief education officer. Scott's resignation in the summer of 2012 came months after the Texas Legislature devastated the state education agency by approving a $5 billion public school budget cut.
Prior to his appointment as the state's top education official, Williams spent nearly 14 years on the Texas Railroad Commission. He was initially appointed to the commission in 1998 by former President George W. Bush to fill an open seat, and was subsequently re-elected in 2000, 2002, and 2008. Williams was the first African American to hold a statewide elected position in the state.
Resignations, Sierra Club V. Salazar
North Dakota Public Service Commission Controversy revisited
Twelve-year North Dakota Public Service Commission Chairman Tony Clark resigned from the Public Service Commission on June 15, 2012 to accept an appointment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He was given the oath of office by North Dakota Senator John Hoeven. The day before assuming his new role as Commissioner for the federal government, the ND PSC praised him for his twelve years of service and reportedly presented him with a global positioning system device for his car as a parting gift. He will be succeeded as Chairman by Brian Kalk.
In the last edition of The Executive Summary we reported on the current legal battle involving the two remaining ND Public Service Commissioners after Clark's resignation, Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer. Cramer and Kalk, both Republicans, ran against each other in this yearʼs primary election for North Dakotaʼs one seat in the U.S. House seat. Cramer defeated Kalk for the GOP nomination on June 12th. Unsurprisingly, the suit has become a fixture of Cramer's Democratic opponent's campaign; the attorney general's intervention means the taxpayers will foot the bill for the PSC's legal defense.
The lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was brought in May by conservation groups intent on leveraging two--technically licit--incidents of Kalk and Cramer accepting campaign contributions from coal industry executives into an action by the feds to commandeer the PSC's surface mining jurisdiction in North Dakota. Kalk and Cramer are being accused of conflict of interest and the North Dakota attorney general's office sought permission from U.S. Magistrate Charles Miller Jr. to intervene in the case on the agency's behalf, which Miller granted last Monday. Now, the agency can access the court filings, fight the accusations, and try to salvage the PSC's regulatory rights.
Public Service Commission Chairman turned FERC commissioner Tony Clark, who has also served in the role of North Dakota Commissioner of Labor under Gov. Ed Shafer, accepted $1,500 in reported donations from coal interests during his 2000 and 2006 campaigns. Former North Dakota governor and current U.S. Senator John Hoeven submitted Clark's name for the federal appointment. Hoeven later gave him the oath of office, exactly two weeks after the Sierra Club and Dakota Resource Council filed the federal lawsuit accusing the commissioners of malfeasance. Hoeven serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Congress. Both Hoeven and Clark were repeat recipients of campaign contributions from North American Coal Corporation, based in Dallas, TX. As Chairman of the PSC, Clark approved a 5,000-acre expansion of the Falkirk coal mine in Bismarck, ND. Falkirk is owned by North American Coal Corp.
If Kalk and Cramer are ruled guilty for violating the North Dakota Bribery Statute and/or Federal Surface Mining and Reclamation Act--both prohibit public service commissioners from accepting gifts from companies they regulate--as a result of their ethically dubious campaign finance practices, the PSC may have to cede North Dakota coal mining authority to the federal government. Such authority could fall within the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, on which Clark currently sits. And if that event does come to pass, Kalk and Cramer will no doubt be asking themselves how Clark managed to get off so easy.
At the very least, they'll be wanting their GPS back.
|Quick facts about Superintendents of Schools|
The office of Superintendent of Schools is a state level position in all 50 states. The office holder, who may also be known as Superintendent of Education or Chief School Administrator, is in charge of overseeing and coordinating the state's elementary and secondary schools, with the scope of responsibility varying from state to state.
School superintendents are usually selected by members of the state's school board, or they may be appointed by the governor or another body. Requirements for the superintendent's position also varies by state - some states may require a candidate for the superintendency to hold a Ph.D., Ed.D., or similar terminal degree. An active teaching certification is also a common requirement. An appointed superintendent may have a set term at the end of which they must go through appointment again. In addition to this, appointed superintendents serve at the pleasure of the appointing body or official and may be fired or asked to resign.
While the majority of states appoint the position, 14 allow voters to decide. This year elections for Superintendent are being held in five states - Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Washington.
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead is currently the longest serving Superintendent in the country. First elected in 1984, Sanstead did not seek re-election this year. He previously served as a state Senator, state Representative, and Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota.
Recent news articles
- 2012 elections review: State executive primaries in Vermont and Arizona set ballots for November August 29
- Kansas district attorney investigates Governor, legislators for private meetings August 30
- Ohio joins growing brood of GOP-led states to suffer voting-law setbacks September 4
- Ballotpedia:Statewide projections for the November 6, 2012 elections September 1
- Arizona Secretary of State, "Unofficial 2012 Primary Election Results," Accessed August 29, 2012
- Burlington Free Press, "Close AG primary outcome provides lessons," August 29, 2012
- Associated Press Campaign 2012, "Vermont Primary Results," August 29, 2012
- Vermont Business Magazine, "Vermont Auditor Tom Salmon will not run for re-election," May 18, 2012
- Boston.com, "Winner of Progressive primary for Vt. governor quits," September 4, 2012
- Vermont State Legislature, "The Vermont Statues-TItle 17 Chapter 49," accessed August 28, 2012
- Burlington Free Press, "Wind power critics must wait until next week for results of write-in campaign," August 29, 2012
- Vermont Secretary of State, "Unofficial election results," August 28, 2012
- Bangor Daily News, "Maine's Agriculture and Conservation departments to merge Aug. 30, but little will change" Accessed August 30, 2012
- Sun Journal "LePage appoints departing Commissioner Beardsley to state education board" Accessed August 30, 2012
- Star-Telegram, "Arlington's Michael Williams appointed new state education commissioner," August 28, 2012
- Associated Press via WDAY.com, "North Dakota Public Service Commissioner leaves Friday," June 15, 2012
- The Republic, "ND Public Service Commission to take part in coal regulation lawsuit challenging its authority," August 28, 2012
- The Bismarck Tribune, "Clark takes oath for FERC," June 15, 2012
- Follow the Money, "North Dakota contributors 2006: North American Coal," accessed August 28, 2012
- Follow the Money, "North Dakota contributors 2000: North American Coal," accessed August 28, 2012
- Capsule News, "A Publication Dedicated to Coal People," October-November Issue 2007