Two more states added to contested state legislative primaries analysis

Welcome to the Tuesday, June 14, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Number of contested state legislative primaries is up 32% compared to 2020
  2. South Dakota voters defeated Amendment C on June 7
  3. A look at the June 14 primary elections

Number of contested state legislative primaries is up 32% compared to 2020

Here’s this week’s update from the world of contested legislative primaries. We’ve provided regular updates about the elevated number of state legislative primaries throughout the election cycle. This week, we added Illinois and Oklahoma, bringing the total to 26 states accounting for 3,254 (53%) of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year.

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%.

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

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 is unchanged in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

Use the link below to view these topline figures and additional state-specific statistics.

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A look at the June 14 primary elections

Four states—Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina—are holding primary elections today, June 14. Here are some highlights. You can click on the states’ names to view other races on their ballots.


At the state legislative level, there are 32 contested primaries, three of which include incumbents. This is down from 34 contested primaries in 2020. Seventy-one incumbents are not seeking re-election, meaning more than one-third of the state legislature will be new next year.


Eight candidates are running in the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary, including retired Army captain Sam Brown and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt. NBC’s Natasha Korecki and Adam Edelman wrote, “There are signs that grassroots support is propelling [Brown] … though [Laxalt],” who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump (R), “maintains a solid lead in public polls.” Incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), first elected in 2016, faces three primary challengers.

North Dakota

While six state executive offices are up for election, there is only one contested primary. Two Republicans are running in the open secretary of state race. Incumbent Al Jaeger (R), first elected in 1992 and the second-longest serving secretary of state in the country, is not seeking re-election.

South Carolina

All seven U.S. House incumbents—one Democrat and six Republicans—are seeking re-election. Four face contested primaries, including two of which we are watching closely: 

  • In the 1st District, Rep. Nancy Mace (R) faces Kate Arrington (R). Mace was first elected in 2020 after defeating Rep. Joe Cunningham (D). Cunningham defeated Arrington in 2018 to win the district for Democrats after Arrington defeated then-incumbent Mark Sanford (R) in the district’s primary that year. Mace voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
  • In the 7th District, Rep. Tom Rice (R) faces six challengers including state Rep. Russell Fry (R). Rice is one of 10 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted to impeach Trump in 2021.

Trump endorsed Arrington and Fry in their respective primaries.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!

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South Dakota voters defeated Amendment C on June 7

Now that you are caught up on what is happening today, let’s take a quick trip back in time to last week’s election events. 

On June 7, South Dakota voters defeated Constitutional Amendment C 67% to 33%. While this was the only statewide ballot measure on the June ballot, if passed, it could have affected a separate measure—Amendment D—which will appear on the November ballot.

The state legislature put Amendment C on the June ballot. It would have changed the percentage of votes needed to approve ballot measures that would increase taxes or fees, or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years to a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote rather than a simple majority, the current standard. Three states—Florida, Utah, and Washington—require supermajority votes to enact certain constitutional amendments.

Amendment D, a citizen-initiated measure on the November ballot, would expand Medicaid in South Dakota. Had voters approved Amendment C, Amendment D would have needed 60% of the vote to pass due to its cost. In a fiscal note, the state legislative research council said Amendment D would require the state to appropriate $166 million over the first five years.

Zach Nistler, a representative for South Dakotans for Fair Elections, a group opposing Amendment C, told KELOLAND News that South Dakota voters opposed Amendment C to keep majority rule for ballot measures. “South Dakotans are listening and engaged and we trust South Dakotans to make important decisions for our state,” Nistler said, “[t]hat is why over 60% of South Dakotans showed up to oppose Amendment C and protect our majority rule.”

State Rep. Jon Hansen (R), a sponsor of Amendment C, told the Argus Leader that the measure failed due to the influence of groups from outside of South Dakota. “Unfortunately, Amendment C came up short today because liberal groups who want to tax and spend our money on their own special interest programs poured a million and a half dollars … into false and misleading advertising,” Hansen said.

Through May 18, South Dakotans for Fair Elections raised $1.2 million. Its largest donors were the National Education Association ($455,960), The Fairness Project ($367,696), Avera Health ($250,000), and Sanford Health ($250,000), the latter two being the largest hospital systems in the state.

South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes, which supported Amendment C, raised $905,988, including $836,488 from Americans for Prosperity and $50,000 from the Opportunity Solutions Project.

Since 1985, voters in South Dakota have approved 26 legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and rejected 27.

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