Decade-high rate of state legislative incumbents defeated in 2021

Welcome to the Tuesday, November 9, Brew. 

By: Doug Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Decade-high rate of state legislative incumbents defeated in 2021
  2. Six police-related local ballot measures were decided on Nov. 2
  3. One month until the first filing deadline for 2022

Decade-high rate of state legislative incumbents defeated in 2021

According to unofficial state legislative election results, 7.4% of incumbents who sought re-election in 2021 were defeated in either the primary or general election. This is the highest incumbent loss rate Ballotpedia has recorded in a decade of covering odd-year election cycles. Compared to recent even-year elections, the loss rate in 2021 is lower than 2020 (7.6%) and 2018 (9.2%).

Three of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers held regular elections in 2021: New Jersey’s state House and Senate and Virginia’s House of Delegates. 

Out of the 220 state legislative elections in 2021, incumbents ran for re-election to 203 of them. Heading into the general election, we had already seen a decade-high rate of incumbents defeated in primaries in odd-year election cycles after 3.9% of incumbents lost to primary challengers. This translates into eight incumbents—five Democrats and three Republicans.

At least seven incumbents—all Democrats—have been defeated in general elections, bringing this year’s total to 15 incumbents defeated, or 7.4% of all incumbents who ran for re-election. There are still 14 races still to be called, meaning these numbers could change.

Even with the uncalled races, the incumbent losses have affected the political landscapes in New Jersey and Virginia.

In New Jersey, one of the two incumbents defeated was Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D). First elected in 2003 and re-elected four times, Sweeney’s loss to Edward Durr (R) means New Jersey’s Senate Democrats, who will retain a majority in the chamber, will elect new leadership for the upcoming legislative session.

In Virginia, the defeat of at least five Democratic incumbents means Democrats will lose majority control of the chamber, which they won in 2019. This was the first election since 1999 where Democrats were defending a majority in the House. These defeats, plus the victory of Glenn Youngkin (R) over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in the state’s gubernatorial election, means Virginia’s trifecta status will change from a Democratic trifecta to a split government. Democrats maintain majority control of the state Senate, which did not hold elections in 2021.

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Six police-related local ballot measures were decided on Nov. 2

We’ve covered a dozen police-related ballot measures this year, six of which voters decided on Nov. 2.

Minneapolis and Austin both defeated measures related to police structure and funding—a measure to replace the police department in Minneapolis and a measure to guarantee funding to police in Austin. The other four Nov. 2 measures concerned police oversight and practices and were all approved. Here’s a recap:

According to unofficial election results, voters in Minneapolis, Minn., defeated Question 2, an initiative that would have changed the city charter, replacing the police department with a department of public safety.

Voters in Austin, Texas, defeated Proposition A, an initiative that would have established a minimum police staffing level of at least two officers per 1,000 residents. Of the state’s 10 largest cities, Austin ranked third for the number of officers per 1,000 residents at 1.9 in 2019.

Voters in Albany, N.Y., Cleveland, Ohio, and Denver, Colo., approved ballot measures that changed the oversight structure of their respective police departments. In Bellingham, Wash., voters approved Initiative 2, which prohibits facial recognition and predictive policing technology.

Ballotpedia also tracked six local ballot measures related to law enforcement that appeared on pre-November ballots in 2021. Three of those measures were defeated and three were approved.

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One month until the first candidate filing deadlines for 2022

With the 2021 general elections one week behind us, we’re taking a look at the upcoming 2022 election cycle. The first filing deadlines for statewide primary candidates are set to take place in Texas and North Carolina on Dec. 13 and 17, respectively.

Eight states have filing deadlines in January and February of 2022. Eighteen states have deadlines in March while 12 have deadlines set in April and May. The remaining 10 states have filing deadlines in June and July.

Texas and North Carolina also lead the pack with the earliest primary elections in the 2022 cycle, scheduled for March 1 and 8, respectively. Here’s a look at when states will be holding primaries in 2022 by month:

  • June: 18 states
  • August: 14 states
  • May: 11 states
  • September: 4 states
  • March: 2 states

One state—Louisiana—technically holds its primaries in November with all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, running on the same ballot. If a candidate receives over 50% of the vote, he or she wins outright. If no candidate wins a majority, the race advances to a runoff election in December between the top two vote-getters.

Heads up: 364 days until the November 2022 general election.

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