The Daily Brew: The decade in state legislative special elections

Welcome to the Thursday, Feb. 25, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. The state legislative seats that have switched parties in special elections since 2010
  2. St. Louis to use new mayoral primary system for the first time on March 2
  3. Explore procedural due process through our latest Learning Journey

The state legislative seats that have switched parties in special elections since 2010

As we gear up to cover the 27+ state legislative special elections already scheduled in 2021, I thought it would be interesting to look at the number of seat flips that have happened as a result of special elections since 2010. Here’s an overview.

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 71 state legislative special elections took place each year. In those 782 elections, 103 seats (13.2%) changed partisan control. Democrats flipped 56 seats, Republicans flipped 41, and independent and third-party candidates flipped six.

2017 had the highest number of flips during this time period, with Democrats flipping 14 seats and Republicans flipping three. This was also the year with the highest net change for Democrats, who gained a net of 11 seats out of 98 special elections. Republicans’ highest net gain was five seats in 2013.

Since 2010, Democrats have gained a net of 12 state legislative seats in special elections, and Republicans have lost a net of 17 seats.

The state with the highest number of flips since 2010 is New Hampshire, where 11 seats have changed partisan control. Massachusetts and Connecticut follow with nine flips each. 

Twenty-five states use special elections to fill state legislative vacancies and four other states (Kansas, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington) use special elections in some circumstances. Twenty-seven states held state legislative special elections in 2020. 

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St. Louis to use new mayoral primary system for the first time on March 2

Thirty-one cities in the top 100 cities by population are holding mayoral elections this year. One of those cities, St. Louis, is doing so using a primary that’s the first of its kind in the city.

This election will feature the first use of approval voting in the city’s history. Candidates of all political affiliations will run in the election without partisan labels, and voters may choose any number of candidates to vote for. The two candidates to receive the most votes will advance to the general election on April 6. Voters approved this voting method in November 2020 as Proposition D.

Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) is not running for re-election. Four candidates are running in the primary: 2017 mayoral candidate Andrew Jones, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Aldermen President Lewis Reed, and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. Each has a partisan affiliation: A. Jones ran as a Republican in 2017, and the other three candidates have previously run for office as Democrats.

Based on reporting required eight days before the election, Spencer leads all candidates in contributions with $356,000, followed by T. Jones with $333,000, Reed with $271,000, and A. Jones with $20,000. Spencer also leads in money spent ($326,000), followed by T. Jones ($267,000), Reed ($233,000), and A. Jones ($10,000).

T. Jones has received the most noteworthy endorsements in the race, including Saint Louis County Executive Sam Page, Democracy for America, and the state council of the SEIU. Spencer received endorsements from former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl Jr. and former Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury. The St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed both Spencer and Reed.

In 22 of the 31 cities that are holding mayoral elections this year, the incumbent is Democratic. Seven incumbents are Republican, one is independent, and one is nonpartisan.

Proposition D was one of 17 approved local election policy ballot measures in 2020 in the top 100 largest cities. Voters in six cities in four states approved ranked-choice voting measures that year.

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Explore procedural due process through our latest Learning Journey

Ballotpedia is excited to introduce our newest Learning Journey on notable court cases pertaining to procedural due process in the context of the administrative state. In this Journey, we will guide you through the court cases that have defined the concept of due process over time as well as those that have clarified the scope of liberty and property interests. 

We will also explore court cases that have shaped the concept of due process in the context of administrative rulemaking, adjudication, enforcement, standing, and judicial review.

Ballotpedia’s Learning Journeys allow you to dive deeper into the topics you want to learn about. Click here to choose from 25 different journeys to explore.
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About the author

Dave Beaudoin

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