Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 94% of incumbents won re-election on Nov. 3—Here’s the breakdown by state

94% of incumbents won re-election on Nov. 3—Here’s the breakdown by state

Our researchers continue to analyze last year’s elections, and today, we’re looking at the state-by-state re-election rate for the 7,458 federal, state, and local incumbents who ran for re-election on Nov. 3.

In last year’s general elections, 94% of incumbents nationwide won re-election. This includes races in which incumbents ran unopposed but does not include recall elections. In the 2018 general election, 92% of incumbents nationwide won re-election. 

Here are five highlights by state:

  • California had the lowest incumbent re-election rate, at 85%. New Jersey was the only state where 100% of the incumbents we track won re-election. In 2018, Texas had the lowest incumbent re-election rate at 81%, and Mississippi was the only state where 100% of the incumbents we track won re-election.
  • More than 90% of incumbents won re-election in 46 states. The states with re-election rates less than 90%: California, New Hampshire, Ohio, and West Virginia. In 2018, 12 states had re-election rates less than 90%.
  • 96% of congressional incumbents were re-elected. In 38 states, 100% of congressional incumbents won re-election. 
  • 95% of state-level incumbents (state executives, legislators, and judges) were re-elected. All state-level incumbents seeking re-election were re-elected in five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and New Jersey.
  • 89% of local incumbents in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope won re-election on Nov. 3. In five states, 100% of local incumbents we track were re-elected. 

Click the link below to see how incumbents fared by state broken down by congressional, state executive, state legislative, judicial, and local offices. 

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California voters to decide flavored tobacco ban referendum in 2022 

California voters will decide a veto referendum next year of a state law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. The secretary of state’s office confirmed on Jan. 22 that petitioners submitted more than 623,212 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot in November 2022. 

The veto referendum would overturn Senate Bill 793 (SB 793), which bans the sale of flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, except for hookah tobacco, loose-leaf tobacco, and premium cigars. Under SB 793, retailers would be fined $250 for each sale violating the law. California enacted SB 793 in August, and it was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. Because the veto referendum was certified, the law is suspended pending the outcome of the election.

The California Coalition for Fairness is supporting the veto referendum to repeal SB 793. The campaign raised $21.2 million through Jan. 1, including $10.4 million from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and $9.8 million from Philip Morris USA. Ballotpedia has not yet identified any committees opposing the veto referendum. Supporters of upholding the ban include Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If SB 793 had gone into effect, California would have been the second state after Massachusetts to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. California would have been the fifth state to ban flavored e-cigarettes. In 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco. Voters subsequently upheld the measure in a local veto referendum in June 2018.

This measure is the 50th veto referendum in California since that process was adopted in 1911. Of the previous 49 veto referendums, voters upheld 20 (41%) of the laws and repealed 29 (59%). California voters last decided a veto referendum in 2020, when they repealed a law to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects. 

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Governor’s appointment shifts partisan balance of New Mexico Supreme Court

After New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed former appeals court judge Julie Vargas to succeed Judith Nakamura (R) on the state supreme court last month, all five New Mexico Supreme Court justices will have been either elected as Democrats or appointed by Democratic governors. Nakamura retired on Dec. 1. Gov. Susana Martinez (R) appointed Nakamura in November 2015.

Under New Mexico law, state supreme court vacancies are filled through assisted gubernatorial appointment, in which the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from a judicial nominating commission. Gubernatorial appointees must stand in a partisan election in the next election cycle to remain on the court. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham has appointed three state supreme court justices, and Chief Justice Michael Vigil and Associate Justice Barbara Vigil (no relation) were elected as Democrats. 

New Mexico is one of seven states that use partisan elections to select state supreme court justices for either initial or subsequent terms. Of those seven states, four—Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—have a majority of Democratic justices while three—Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas—have a Republican majority.

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Pennsylvania state Senate District 48 special election set for May 18

Election officials have scheduled a special election in Pennsylvania’s state Senate District 48 for May 18. The former incumbent, David Arnold (R), died of brain cancer on Jan. 17, creating the vacancy. There is no primary, and political parties will nominate candidates directly.




About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.