A closer look at the 229 incumbents who lost state legislative primaries

Welcome to the Friday, October 21, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Most state legislative primary defeats in over a decade
  2. Ballot measure campaigns have raised $808 million this cycle
  3. Maine is one of 11 states where Democrats are defending a U.S. House district Donald Trump won in 2020

Most state legislative primary defeats in over a decade

A total of 229 legislators—4.7% of those who ran for re-election—lost in primary elections this year, up 46% compared to 2020. This is both the highest number and percentage of incumbent defeats since 2010.

Republican incumbents lost at more than twice the rate of Democratic incumbents. Of the 2,568 Republicans who ran for re-election, 6.2% lost. That’s compared to 3.0% of the 2,271 Democrats who ran.

With this increase, we decided to put together a page cataloging each defeat: who won, who lost, and margin of defeat. We also looked for any notable storylines and provided brief summaries ranging from rematches to redistricting to other political conflicts.

Here are a few examples:

  • In North Dakota’s House District 33, a multi-member district, Rep. Jeff Delzer (R) lost to Anna Novak (R) and Rep. Bill Tveit (R). This was the second cycle in a row Delzer had lost a primary. He lost in 2020 but was appointed back to his old seat to fill a vacancy after the general election. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) supported Delzer’s challengers in 2020 and 2022. As the House Appropriations chairman, Delzer had clashed with Burgum over budget issues.
  • In Pennsylvania’s House District 16, Sen. Pat Browne (R) lost to Jarrett Coleman (R) by 19 votes. Browne first assumed office in 2005. Redistricting removed a significant portion of Allentown, which had been central to the former district.
  • In Ohio’s House District 16, Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D) defeated Rep. Monique Smith (D) 56% to 44%. Sweeney was first elected to District 14 in 2018 and Smith was elected to District 16 in 2020. After redistricting, portions of the old District 14 became part of the new District 16, creating the incumbent v. incumbent primary.

Redistricting affected the increase in defeats this year. Of the 229 defeats, 47 came from incumbent v. incumbent primaries like the one in Ohio’s House District 16. 

Redrawn lines can place more incumbents in a district than there are available nominations, guaranteeing a defeat. In 2012, the last post-redistricting cycle, there were 51 guaranteed primary defeats, 26% of that year’s total.

Most of the defeated legislators assumed office at some point since 2016: 157 incumbents assumed office within the past six years, accounting for 69% of this year’s total. Thirty-nine of the defeated incumbents (17%) assumed office between 2009 and 2015, and the remaining 32 (14%) assumed office at some point earlier than 2009.

You can use the link below to read more about each of this year’s 229 defeated incumbents.

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Ballot measure campaigns have raised $808 million this cycle

As of Oct. 18, supporters and opponents of the 140 statewide ballot measures certified for the ballot this year have raised a total of $808.4 million. Voters have already decided five of those measures, 132 are slated for Nov. 8, and three in Louisiana are up on Dec. 10.

In 2020, supporters and opponents raised $1.3 billion through Dec. 31 for 129 ballot measures.

  • Most of this year’s contributions have gone to measures in California (76%), followed by Massachusetts (6%), and Colorado (4%).
  • In 2020, the top three states were California (62%), Illinois (10%), and Massachusetts (5%).
  • In 2018, they were California (31%), Nevada (11%), and Florida (11%).

The chart below compares total contributions between 2018, 2020, and 2022, along with the amount going to campaigns in California:

California’s Proposition 27 alone accounts for 47% of all contributions to ballot measures nationwide, with $383.8 million raised between supporters and opponents. Proposition 27 would legalize online and mobile sports betting in the state.

Outside of California, Massachusetts’ Question 1 has had the most contributions at $28.5 million. Question 1 would create a tax of 4% for income over $1 million, in addition to the existing 5% flat-rate income tax, and dedicate revenue to education and transportation purposes.

The chart below shows the five ballot measures that have received the most contributions so far:

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Maine is one of 11 states where Democrats are defending a U.S. House district Donald Trump won in 2020

Today is the 39th day of our 50 States in 50 Days series, and we’re featuring Maine, the Pine Tree State!

Week One: Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota
Week Two: California, Georgia, Texas, Montana
Week Three: North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Illinois, Idaho
Week Four: Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, Minnesota, West Virginia
Week Five: Vermont, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, Ohio
Week Six: South Carolina, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee
Week Seven: Colorado, New Jersey, Washington, Alabama, Utah
Week Eight: Mississippi, Maryland, Rhode Island, Oklahoma

On the ballot in Maine

At the federal level, voters in Maine will elect two U.S. Representatives. Maine uses ranked-choice voting in general elections for federal offices. Learn more about this voting system here.

At the state level, the governorship is the only state executive office on the ballot. All 186 state legislative seats—35 in the Senate and 151 in the House—are also up for election.

We are also covering city council elections in Augusta, the state’s capital, and one recall election in Medway.

Redistricting highlights

The number of U.S. House districts in Maine remained the same at two following the 2020 census.

Congressional and state legislative elections will take place under new district lines following the census. Our side-by-side map comparison tool allows you to compare each district. Here’s an example of what Maine’s congressional map looked like before and after the 2020 census:

You can interact with our map comparison tools by visiting our Maine redistricting page here.

Partisan balance

  • Maine has one Republican U.S. Senator: Susan Collins. The other, Angus King, is an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
  • Democrats represent both of the state’s U.S. House districts.
  • Maine has had a Democratic governor since Janet Mills’ election in 2018.
  • Democrats hold a 22-13 majority in the Senate and a 77-63-3 majority in the House.
  • With a Democratic governor and majorities in both legislative chambers, Maine is one of 14 Democratic trifectas, a status it has held since 2019. This is one of three moderately vulnerable Democratic trifectas this year.
  • Along with the governor, Maine has a Democratic attorney general and secretary of state, making it one of 18 states with a Democratic triplex.

Seats contested by only one major party

This year, 30 state legislative seats in Maine, or 16% of those up for election, do not have major party competition. When a candidate from only one of either major party runs for a state legislative seat, the seat is all but guaranteed to be won by that party.

Democrats are running for 170 seats (91%). Sixteen seats (9%) do not feature a Democratic candidate, meaning Republicans will likely win.

Republicans are running for 172 seats (92%). Fourteen seats (8%) do not feature a Republican candidate, meaning Democrats will likely win.

Maine is one of five states where Democrats hold legislative majorities, but Republicans are running for more seats.

Key races

  • Governor: incumbent Janet Mills (D) faces former Gov. Paul LePage (R) and Sam Hunkler (I). Mills was first elected in 2018 after serving eight years as the state’s attorney general. LePage, who was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, could not run in 2018 due to term limits. Three election forecasters rate the race as Lean Democratic.
  • 2nd Congressional District: incumbent Jared Golden (D) faces former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) and Tiffany Bond (I). Golden defeated then-incumbent Poliquin in 2018, 50.6% to 49.4%, in the nation’s first U.S. House race decided by ranked-choice voting. This is one of 13 U.S. House districts Democrats are defending that former President Donald Trump (R) won in 2020. Trump defeated President Joe Biden (D) in the 2nd District 51.6% to 45.5%. 

Ballot measures

There are no statewide ballot measures in Maine this year.

Between 1985 and 2021, 249 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots: voters approved 186 (75%) and defeated 63 (25%).


  • Polls open between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., depending on location, and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
  • Maine does not require voters to present identification when voting.
  • Early voting is available from Oct. 9 to Nov. 3.
  • Maine allows same-day voter registration. Mailed registrations were due on Oct. 18.
  • All voters are eligible to vote by absentee/mail-in ballot. Election officials must receive applications by Nov. 3 and voters must return absentee/mail-in ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Want to learn more about the elections you’ll be voting in this year? Click here to use our Sample Ballot Lookup tool! 

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