Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 32% compared to 2020

There are 32% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 64% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 26 states that account for 3,254 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (53%).

A primary is contested when there are more candidates running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update on June 3, we have added data from two states. Overall, seven states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 16 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 26 states in this analysis, 24 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 12, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 22 states, decreased in one, and remains the same 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. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 1.5% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.

About the author

Douglas Kronaizl

Douglas Kronaizl is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at