55% of state legislative primaries are contested in Louisiana this year

Welcome to the Friday, September 1, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. 55% of Louisiana legislative primaries contested this year
  2. State supreme courts issued 43 opinions between Aug. 21-27
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many school board recall efforts were successful between 2009 and 2022?

55% of Louisiana legislative primaries contested this year

Mississippi, New Jersey, Virginia, and Louisiana are the only states holding legislative elections this year. The first three states have already held primary elections, and Louisiana will be the last to do so on Oct. 10. As a reminder, Louisiana holds unique elections in what we call the Louisiana majority vote system. A candidate with more than 50% of the vote wins outright. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top-two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of partisan affiliation. 

The state’s filing deadline for legislative elections was Aug. 10. With the field set, here is some pre-election analysis.

  • There are 39 districts in the Louisiana Senate and 105 in the House, making for a combined 144 possible primaries in October. Seventy-nine of those primaries—54.9%—are contested. This is lower than in 2019 (63.9%) and 2011 (56.3%) but higher than in 2015 (48.6%). There are 60 contested primaries in the state House and 19 in the state Senate.
  • Forty-three incumbents face primary challengers, representing 41.3% of all incumbents running for re-election. In percentage terms, this is lower than in 2019 (46.4%) and 2011 (45.5%) but higher than in 2015 (34.5%).
  • Of the 43 incumbents in contested primaries, 14 are Democrats and 29 are Republicans.
  • Forty of 144 seats are open, meaning no incumbents are running. This guarantees that at least 28% of the legislature will be newcomers next year, the second-largest such percentage since 2011.

Across all states holding state legislative elections this year, 23.6% of primaries have been contested and 26.7% of incumbents have faced primary challengers.  

California, Nebraska, Washington, and Alaska use different variations of the top-two primary in at least some elections.

Louisiana has had a divided government since 2016, with Republicans controlling both legislative chambers and a Democrat holding the governorship. Republicans currently have a 71-33 majority in the House and a 27-12 majority in the Senate.

Louisiana’s state legislative general elections will be held Nov. 18. 

Click the link below to read more about Louisiana’s upcoming primaries.
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State supreme courts issued 43 opinions between Aug. 21-27

Let’s check in on state supreme court activity last week. 

State supreme courts issued 143 opinions from Aug. 21-Aug. 27. The Kentucky Supreme Court led the field with 36 opinions issued, followed by Georgia with 21 and Pennsylvania with 13. Last week’s 143 opinions account for 3% of the year-to-date total of 4,375. West Virginia leads with 310 opinions issued since Jan. 1, followed by Delaware with 283 and Pennsylvania with 272.

State supreme courts issued an average of 129 opinions per week this year, less than in 2022 (143) and 2021 (160). This figure is less than the 2022 weekly average of 143. It’s also less than the average of 160 opinions issued per week in 2021.

Supreme courts in four states have issued fewer than 25 opinions since the start of the year.

Some of the state supreme court opinions issued this year include those in:

  1. California, where the supreme court reversed a court of appeals decision, ruling “the court of appeals misconstrued the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, Cal. Elec. Code 14025 et seq.” The court of appeals had overturned a superior court finding that “the at-large method of electing city council members in the City of Santa Monica diluted Latino voters’ ability to elect their preferred candidates and their ability to influence the outcome of council elections.” 
  2. South Carolina, where the court, having found the 2021 version of the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act unconstitutional, declared the 2023 version of the act constitutional. 
  3. Washington, where the court determined that a violation of Washington’s animal protection laws could not be used to “establish a claim for a public nuisance.” 

Supreme courts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, and Delaware regularly end the year as some of the country’s most active courts. Collectively, they accounted for 26% of all opinions issued in 2021 and 2022, and, to date, 27% in 2023.

Every state and the District of Columbia has at least one supreme court, known as a court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas have two courts of last resort, one for civil cases and one for criminal proceedings. Supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. Instead, they hear appeals of decisions made in lower courts. The number of justices on each state supreme court ranges from five to nine.

In 2020, we conducted a study identifying the partisan balance on every state supreme court. You can find that research here. We also identified which justices ruled together most often in our Determiners and Dissenters report found here.

Wisconsin held an election for a seat on its supreme court on April 4. That was the most expensive state judicial election in U.S. history. One other state supreme court seat is on this ballot this year—this time in Pennsylvania. That election, between Daniel D. McCaffery (D), a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, and Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio (R), a judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, is scheduled for Nov. 7. Carluccio completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. The court currently has a 4-2 Democratic majority.
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#FridayTrivia: How many school board recall efforts were successful between 2009 and 2022?

In the Thursday Brew, we took a close look at the Aug. 29 recall election against two members of the West Bonner County School District in Idaho. Unofficial results from the Bonner County Elections Department show that voters recalled Zone 4 Representative Keith Rutledge 66-34% and Zone 2 Representative Susan Brown 63-37%. 

The recall effort began after the school board voted 3-1 to rescind an English Language Arts curriculum from McGraw-Hill because of concerns about social-emotional learning. Brown and Rutledge voted to rescind.

In that Brew story, we included a chart showing the 472 recall elections against school board members from 2009 to 2022—and how many officials were successfully removed from office. 

 How many school board recall efforts were successful between 2009 and 2022?

  1. 78
  2. 136
  3. 203
  4. 145