Compared to this point in 2018, state legislative elections in 2020 are less competitive with fewer open seats, fewer incumbents facing primary challenges, and fewer primaries, overall.
Every week, we compile the latest numbers on state legislative candidates across the country. As of April 8, we’ve collected post-filing deadline data in 20 states. In 2020, 2,606 state legislative seats are up for regular election in those states, compared to 2,539 in 2018.
5,608 major party candidates—2,808 Democrats and 2,800 Republicans—have filed to run for state legislature in these states, compared to 5,598—2,863 Democrats and 2,735 Republicans—in 2018.
Elections in open seats tend to be more competitive than those where an incumbent is seeking re-election. So far, there are fewer open seats in 2020 than in 2018. In 2020, 356 major party incumbents (14% of seats up for election) are not running for re-election, compared to 419 major party incumbents (17%) in 2018.
Fewer incumbents face primary challenges in 2020 than in 2018. So far in 2020, 437 primaries feature an incumbent (16.8% of all seats up for election). Additionally, one independent ran in a top-two primary in California. In 2018, there were 441 such primaries (17.4%) in addition to a Libertarian incumbent facing a nonpartisan primary in Nebraska. In 2018, 86% of incumbents in these states won their primaries.
Overall, there are fewer contested state legislative primaries in 2020 than in 2018, with 906 and 958, respectively. These totals include all competitive top-two and nonpartisan primaries.
On November 3, 2020, 1,164 state senate seats and 4,711 state house seats are up for regular election for a total of 5,875 seats across 86 chambers in 44 states. There is a Republican majority in 52 chambers, a Democratic majority in 33, and a power sharing agreement in the Alaska House.