Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 38% compared to 2020

There are 38% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 77% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 7%,

These figures include elections in 20 states that account for 2,476 of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (40%).

A primary is contested when more candidates file to run than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update, we have added post-filing deadline data from four states: Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and New Mexico. Overall, five states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 12 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 20 states in this analysis, 18 are holding partisan primaries. Two states—California and Nebraska—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in nine states, decreased in seven, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 17 states and decreased in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities.