Ballotpedia determines trifecta status could change in four states in 2023 elections

Three states are holding gubernatorial elections in 2023, and four states are holding regularly scheduled legislative elections in eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers. As a result, five states’ trifecta status is at stake this year:

  • Mississippi—one of 22 states with a Republican trifecta,
  • New Jersey—one of 17 states with a Democratic trifecta, and
  • Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia—three of 11 states with divided government.

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Ballotpedia’s annual trifecta vulnerability ratings estimate the chances of trifectas breaking and forming. Our assessment of gubernatorial races is based on race ratings from the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. For legislative races, we use the absolute number of seats and the proportion of seats that would need to change control. Both chambers in a state’s legislature are evaluated individually.

New Jersey’s Democratic state government trifecta is moderately vulnerable in 2023, according to this methodology. New Jersey does not hold its gubernatorial election in 2023, but all seats in both state legislative chambers are up for election. If Republicans gain five seats in the Senate or six seats in the House, they will win a majority in one chamber or the other and would break the Democratic trifecta. Democrats will retain their trifecta if they lose fewer than five seats in the state Senate and six seats in the General Assembly. New Jersey will hold legislative elections using districts enacted after the 2020 census for the first time. Democrats have held partisan control of both chambers of the New Jersey legislature since 2004.

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia all have a possibility of becoming Republican trifectas.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is term-limited and national election publications rate the race to replace him as Leans Republican. All state legislative seats in Louisiana are up for election, with Republicans having an eight-seat majority in the state Senate and a 20-seat majority in the state House.

Kentucky’s Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is running for re-election. National publications rate that race as Leans Democratic. The last five Kentucky governors—since 1995—have alternated between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the Kentucky legislature, and the state does not hold legislative elections until 2024. 

Virginia will not hold gubernatorial elections until 2025, and the current governor is Republican Glenn Youngkin. All 140 legislative districts in the state are holding elections. Democrats have a two-seat majority in the state Senate and Republicans have a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates. Virginia, like New Jersey, will hold legislative elections using districts enacted after the 2020 census for the first time.

Mississippi’s Republican trifecta is rated not vulnerable according to this analysis. The governor’s race is rated as Likely Republican and Republicans have a 12-seat majority in the state Senate and a 20-seat majority in the state House. 

Trifecta control affords a political party the opportunity to advance its agenda. Gaining or breaking trifectas—or in some cases, maintaining divided government—thus often becomes a major priority for a party heading into each election cycle.

The 2022 elections resulted in changes to the trifecta status in six states. In Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota, divided governments became Democratic trifectas. In Nevada, the Democratic trifecta became a divided government, and in Arizona, the Republican trifecta became a divided government. Between 2010 and 2022, 79 state government trifectas were broken or gained.

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