Note: This is an abridged version of the weekly Tracker, for the full report click here.
The drama of the recall elections in Wisconsin finally came to an end last Tuesday as Democrats officially took control of the state Senate. The 40-minute session was largely ceremonial, with John Lehman (D) taking the oath of office. Democrats elected new leadership, naming Sen. Fred Risser as President of the Senate. Risser, who takes over from Mike Ellis (R), is the longest serving state senator in the country, having been first elected in 1962.
During the session new Majority Leader Mark Miller (D) proposed a special session on job creation, saying the people couldn’t wait until next year for the legislature to act. Republicans dismissed the comments as “political theater” and a spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker (R) said there would only be a special session if leaders from both parties in both houses agreed to an agenda, something extremely unlikely.
As Republicans have pointed out, the Democratic victory may be short lived as half of the senate seats will be up for election in November. Of those 16 seats, only 6 are held by Republicans. Additionally, the GOP controlled the redistricting process this year, putting into place Republican friendly maps. The switch in power has not been unusual in recent years – this has been the fourth time since 2004 that the chamber has changed hands. Democrats went into the 2010 elections with an 18-15 majority, but saw Republicans take the Senate 19-14.
Adding to the changes in the Senate, Gov. Walker announced Wednesday he was appointing Sen. Rich Zipperer (R) as his deputy chief of staff. Zipperer, who has served in the Senate since 2011, will resign his seat effective August 5. With his term not up until January 3, 2015, Walker plans to call a special election.
Ceremony aside, gaining power has allowed Democrats a position to request documents related to the redistricting process that have been kept secret by Michael Best & Friedrich, the law firm that was hired by Republicans to draw the new maps. Shrouded in secrecy, the process was done behind closed doors with Republicans signing an oath that they would not discuss the maps in public. The firm was forced to release some of those documents earlier this year per court order, but have continued to keep others under wraps. Miller, who requested the documents, said he would make them public.
This week 2 out of 50 state legislatures – Ohio and Massachusetts – are meeting in regular session. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.
In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states’ having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.
Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 15 special sessions in 13 states. There are no special sessions currently ongoing.
2012 Legislative Elections
A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.
1,301 (65.97%) of the country’s 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country’s 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for election during the presidential election year.
- 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
- 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.
The 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines have passed.
- See also: 2012 election dates
There are no state legislative primaries taking place this week.
So far, primaries have taken place in 24 states.
A total of 76 state legislative incumbents have been defeatedin a primary – 54 Republicans and 22 Democrats.
States with upcoming primaries:
So far in 2012 there have been 28 special elections in 12 states.
There is one special election scheduled to take place this week.
Thad Viers (R) resigned on March 21, 2012–a day before being indicted for stalking and harassment in the first degree. A special election to replace him will be held on July 24. A special Republican primary was held on June 5. Given the small gap between the special election and the general election, local leaders called for a law blocking the special election. It was not approved prior to the special election.
- No candidates filed
General election candidates: