Number of special congressional elections at its second-highest level in three decades

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 2, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Number of special congressional elections reaches second-highest level in three decades
  2. It’s Election Day in six states
  3. Legislators are introducing more public-sector union bills this year

Number of special congressional elections at its second-highest level in three decades

Sixteen special elections have been called to fill vacancies in the 117th Congress—two for the Senate and 14 for the House. Republicans held nine of those seats and Democrats held seven.

This is the second-highest number of special congressional elections over the past three decades, continuing a trend of these elections becoming more frequent.

The most congressional special elections between 1991 and 2022 was 17 during the 115th Congress (2017-2018).

The current cycle is tied with the 113th Congress (2013-2014) as having the second-most congressional special elections at 16.

In more recent cycles, the number of special congressional elections tended to increase during congressional sessions immediately following a presidential election.

Looking just at the special congressional elections in the current cycle, Republicans have had a net gain of one seat so far with Mayra Flores (R) winning in Texas’ 34th Congressional District. Filemon Vela (D) previously represented this district. Partisan control did not change in the nine remaining special elections that have been held.

Four House special elections will take place between now and the general election: one in Alaska, one in Minnesota, and two in New York for the state’s 19th and 23rd Districts.

The two Senate special elections will take place at the same time as the November general elections in California and Oklahoma.

The table below shows results from special elections in every Congress over the past decade.

Democrats had their largest net gain during the 115th Congress (2017-2018), picking up four seats. 

The current Congress is the only one in the last decade where Republicans have netted a House seat based on the special elections held so far.

The U.S. Constitution requires that all vacancies in the U.S. House be filled through special elections. This differs from Senate vacancies, which are not laid out in the Constitution. Thirty-seven states fill Senate vacancies through a gubernatorial appointment and 13 using special elections.

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It’s Election Day in six states

Today, Aug. 2, is Election Day in six states—Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Washington—in what is the busiest primary date remaining on the 2022 calendar.

Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and Washington are holding U.S. Senate primaries, and every state, apart from Ohio, is holding primaries for the U.S. House.

Arizona, Kansas, and Michigan are also holding primaries for most of their state executive offices, including governor. Missouri and Washington are holding primaries for state auditor and secretary of state, respectively.

All six states are also holding state legislative primaries. This includes Ohio, which held primaries for other offices last May but had to reschedule its state legislative primaries due to litigation over the state’s redistricting maps.

Let’s take a look at three of the 10 battleground races we will be following tonight:

Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary:

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is term-limited. Five candidates will appear on the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot, including former news anchor Kari Lake and former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, both of whom have led in endorsements and polls.

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Lake and former Vice President Mike Pence (R) endorsed Taylor Robson.

In a July 6 poll, Lake received support from 40% of respondents and Taylor Robson had 35%. The remaining 25% of respondents were either undecided or supporting some other candidate.

Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary:

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer and John Gibbs, a former assistant undersecretary in the Trump administration, are running for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.

Meijer is one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump endorsed Gibbs in the primary.

Regarding his impeachment vote, Meijer said, “I take the oath I swore to the Constitution, an oath I took under God, seriously and voted accordingly.” 

Gibbs said, “By voting to impeach … Peter Meijer chose to be fawned over by the media & the DC establishment instead of doing what’s right & representing those who voted for him.”

Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Democratic primary:

U.S. Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens will compete in one of the last incumbent v. incumbent primaries of the cycle in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, where issues of progressivism and U.S.-Israeli relations have played a central role. 

Levin’s endorsers include U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC. Stevens’ endorsers include former U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (D) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The winner of the primary will likely win the general election with three independent forecasters rating that contest as Solid or Safe Democratic.

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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Legislators are introducing more public-sector union bills this year

State legislators have introduced 51% more bills dealing with public-sector union policy this year compared to previous years.

Democratic legislators have driven this increase, introducing 91 public-sector union bills this year, up 86% from the party’s average over the preceding three years.

Between 2019 and 2021, legislators introduced an average of 99 public-sector union bills between January and July, compared to 141 such bills introduced so far this year.

These bills range from acts prohibiting public employers from spending public money on a union’s political or lobbying activities to those creating tax credits for union dues.

Republicans have also introduced an increased number of public-sector union bills at 46 this year, up 18% compared to the party’s averages.

Of the 141 public-sector union bills introduced so far this year, 10 have been enacted: Democrats introduced six, Republicans introduced three, and a Democratic-led committee introduced one.

This is down from 2021, when 12 such bills had been enacted as of July, but up from 2020 and 2019, which had three and seven enacted bills, respectively.

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