This Week in RSLC News: The Myth of “Nonpartisan” Ballot Initiatives, Mike Turzai Re-Elected as Pennsylvania Speaker of the House, and more

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RSLC President Matt Walter, in an interview with the New York Times, pushed back on many of the so-called “nonpartisan” statewide ballot initiatives in 2018 which focused on removing power from state legislators to draw state legislative and Congressional district lines. “Cleverly worded ballot measures regarding redistricting are often nothing more than Democrat politics wrapped in some sort of illusion of citizen-participated good government,” Walter said. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by Eric Holder, supported many of these supposed “nonpartisan” initiatives including in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. Walter additionally noted that victories by Republicans at the state legislative level in 2010, which flipped over 20 legislative chambers, were largely won on lines drawn by Democrats.


On Thursday afternoon, Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves – the former RLGA chairman – announced he is running for governor in 2019.  In his announcement at the Mississippi Republican Party headquarters, Reeves pledged to run an “optimistic campaign” and declared, “Every kid in our state deserves an opportunity for success.” Republican incumbent Governor Phil Bryant is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai was unanimously re-elected as Speaker on Tuesday upon the opening of the 2019-2020 legislative session for the Pennsylvania legislature. “We have a responsibility to govern, and I believe all of us who have taken the oath of office today are committed to making the House and state government as a whole more open and transparent,” Turzai said in his opening session remarks. Turzai highlighted improving educational opportunities, growing family-sustaining jobs, and ending the opioid epidemic as areas where he believes Democrats and Republicans can work together to find common solutions in the upcoming session. 

In a 0p-ed entitled, “I’m leaving the Texas legislature but not the debate,” outgoing Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus said he “will use [his] voice and platform to continue advancing the ideas and solutions [Texans] need.” Straus promoted the legislation his caucus passed to bolster public education, mental health services, and improve infrastructure in the state all while maintaining “commitment to fiscal discipline.” Speaker Straus served as the Chairman of the RLCC during the 2016 election cycle and was first elected to the Texas House in 2005. 

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced his intentions to run for Governor in 2020 saying in his announcement, “The Democrats have controlled the governor’s office for a long time now. I think it’s a great time to have some conservative leadership.” Stapleton has served as the Secretary of State since 2016 and previously served in the state Senate from 2001 to 2008. Stapleton pledged to work alongside the Republican majorities in the state legislature to “to lead the conversation on how we steer towards a Montana that has stronger families and higher wages, lower taxes, and smaller government.”

Two candidates have officially declared for the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race: Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer. Hagedorn is the former chief legal adviser to outgoing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and currently sits on a state District Court of Appeals. His opponent has received the endorsement of numerous Democrat groups in the state and was appointed to her current judicial post by former Democrat Governor Jim Doyle. Conservatives have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court and have the potential to increase their majority in the April race. The spring election will also feature many Walker-appointed district court judges who will be up for election for the first time since their appointments.