Our latest primary competitiveness report

Welcome to the Friday, June 4, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. 79% of New Jersey state legislative incumbents won’t face a contested primary this year
  2. Idaho governor rescinds lieutenant governor’s executive order banning mask mandates
  3. Sports betting initiative qualifies for 2022 ballot in California

79% of New Jersey state legislative incumbents won’t face a contested primary this year

Every year, our team of election analysts crunches the numbers on contested primaries. In odd years, it is a much easier task, with only two states holding regular state legislative elections in NovemberNew Jersey and Virginia. Let’s take a look at the figures.

  • Ninety percent of state legislative incumbents in New Jersey are seeking re-election this year. Of these 108 incumbents, 79%—85 legislators—will advance to the general election without a primary challenge.
  • The remaining 23 incumbents—nine Democrats and 14 Republicans—will face contested primaries on June 8.

An incumbent primary defeat—along with retirements and general election losses—contributes to the overall incumbent turnover during each election cycle. The most common cause of incumbent turnover is retirement, which, over the past decade, accounted for 70% of all state legislative turnover. Primary election defeats—at 10%—were the least common cause of turnover.

Primary election defeats of incumbents in New Jersey are especially rare. Since 2011, one state legislative incumbent has lost a primary: Assemb. Joe Howarth, who lost in a 2019 Republican primary.

Contested incumbent primaries became more common in New Jersey during the 2017 state legislative elections. In 2019, a third of incumbents faced primary challenges—the highest rate this decade. The rate decreased to around one-fifth of all incumbents facing contested primaries in 2021 but remains higher than rates from the first half of the past decade.

Virginia is also holding elections for its House of Delegates this year. Based on preliminary data, the state could have a decade-high rate of incumbents facing contested primaries at 18.1%. Out of 100 incumbents, 94 are seeking re-election, and 17 will face contested primaries. Political parties in Virginia use a mixture of primaries and conventions to select nominees. All primaries will take place on June 8. Each party’s district units chose the dates of their conventions. Ballotpedia will update its primary competitiveness data for Virginia as it becomes available.

Ballotpedia has analyzed competitiveness in state legislative elections every year since 2011. Our analysis of last year’s data found that 79.7% of state legislative incumbents advanced to the general election without a primary challenge, which was up from 78.1% in 2018. Interested in the data from your state? Click here to read our 2020 report.

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Idaho governor rescinds lieutenant governor’s executive order banning mask mandates

Since early 2020, we’ve been tracking state government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. One aspect of our coverage is state-level mask requirements. Here’s a story we’re following from Idaho relating to mask mandates in the state. The story is a little confusing, so bear with me on this. I had to double-check with our team to make sure I had it right.

Here’s the setup. Idaho is a Republican state trifecta and is one of 11 states that did not issue a statewide face-covering order during the pandemic. Typically, when a governor is out of state, the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor. While Gov. Brad Little (R) attended a conference out of state, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R) issued an executive order prohibiting state and local government entities from issuing mask mandates in order to mitigate the spread of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19. Several cities in Idaho, including Boise, had enacted face-covering requirements last fall. The Idaho Senate did not vote on a bill that the state House of Representatives passed in April prohibiting local governments from issuing mask mandates.  

McGeachin announced on May 19 that she was running for governor in the 2022 election. Little, who was first elected in 2018, has yet to announce whether he will run for re-election. 

In a statement posted to her gubernatorial campaign website, McGeachin wrote that she signed the order “to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions—including public schools—from imposing mask mandates in our state.”

Upon returning on May 28, Little (R) rescinded McGeachin’s executive order, calling it an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt” that “amounts to tyranny—something we all oppose.” Little told the Idaho Capital Sun that McGeachin issued the executive order without his knowledge or approval. 

Idaho Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane issued an opinion on May 28 stating that McGeachin’s executive order exceeded her authority as acting governor. Kane wrote, “Oddly, it seems to have been issued in an effort to undermine the existing authorities of the state and its political subdivisions to issue mask mandates. This executive order appears to run counter to both the Idaho Constitution and the Governor’s statutory executive order authority.” 

Idaho’s governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately and do not run on a joint ticket. Since 2010, four gubernatorial elections nationwide have had an incumbent governor running against the state’s lieutenant governor. In each case, the incumbent governor won either the primary or general election:

  • West Virginia (2011)—Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) defeated acting Lt. Gov. Jeffrey Kessler (D) in the Democratic primary of the state’s special gubernatorial election after Joe Manchin (D) was elected to the Senate.
  • South Carolina (2018)—Gov. Henry McMaster (R) defeated Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant (R) in the Republican primary.
  • Vermont (2020)—Gov. Phil Scott (R) defeated Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (Vermont Progressive Party/Democratic) in the general election.
  • North Carolina (2020)—Gov. Roy Cooper (D) defeated Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) in the general election.

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Sports betting initiative qualifies for 2022 ballot in California

Yesterday, I wrote about the first statewide ballot measure in Illinois to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Here’s a summary of a statewide sports betting initiative in California that also recently qualified for the state’s 2022 ballot.

California voters will head to the polls on Nov. 8, 2022, to decide an initiative that would legalize sports betting. The ballot initiative would amend the state constitution and state statutes to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California. The measure would apply a 10% tax on profits from betting at racetracks and legalize roulette and dice games, such as craps, at tribal casinos. 

The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which supports the proposal, launched in November 2019. On Dec. 14, 2020, the campaign filed 1,427,373 signatures. On May 26, 2021, the office of Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that the initiative qualified for the ballot after counties found 1,061,282 signatures to be valid. The minimum number required was 997,139.

Several American Indian tribes support the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering. The campaign had raised $11.57 million through March 31, 2021. Mark Macarro, chairman of Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, said: “Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe and experienced gaming locations. We are very proud to see tribes from across California come together for this effort, which represents an incremental but important step toward giving Californians the freedom to participate in this new activity in a responsible manner.”

Opponents launched the No on the Gambling Power Grab PAC, which terminated in late 2020. The PAC raised $1.09 million. Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Association, said: “This initiative does nothing to advance sports wagering, and instead expands the tribal casinos’ tax-free monopoly on gaming and rewards those operators for prioritizing their own wealth over public health and safety.”

California is one of 21 states that has not legalized sports betting. Twenty-nine states and D.C. have legalized or passed laws legalizing sports betting. In California, a constitutional amendment is required to legalize sports betting because the state constitution defines what types of gambling are permitted in the state. Since 2018, four states have legalized sports betting through ballot measures. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, effectively allowing states to legalize it. Thirteen states had active sports betting industries as of November 2019.

The sports betting ballot initiative joins two other citizen-initiated measures on the 2022 general election ballot in California. 

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