Author

Douglas Kronaizl

Douglas Kronaizl is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 30% compared to 2020

There are 30% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 62% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 9%.

These figures include elections in 29 states that account for 3,661 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (59%).

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

Since our last update on June 21, we have added post-filing deadline data from New York and Wisconsin. Overall, eight states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 17 have Republican trifectas, and four have divided governments.

Of the 29 states in this analysis, 27 are holding partisan primaries. Two states—California and Nebraska—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in 10 states, decreased in 14, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 25 states and decreased in two. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 1.5% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.



New York sees increase in state legislative incumbents facing contested primaries this year

Fifty-one of the 191 New York state legislators running for re-election this year—46 Democrats and five Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 27% of incumbents seeking re-election, an increase from previous election cycles. The remaining 73% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

A contested primary is one where more candidates run than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

The total number of contested primaries—including those without incumbents—also increased compared to recent election cycles. With 213 districts, there are 426 possible primaries every election cycle.

This year, there are 75 contested primaries (18%): 60 Democratic primaries and 15 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 53 in 2020, a 13% increase. For Republicans, the number increased 150% to 15 compared to six contested primaries in 2020.

New York allows fusion voting, where more than one political party can support a common candidate. It is common for candidates to seek both major and third-party nominations. Under this system, if a candidate loses one primary but wins another, he or she may appear on the general election ballot with the nomination of the party won.

New York is holding two separate primaries this year due to delays caused by redistricting. Primaries in the 150 Assembly districts are scheduled for June 28. The 63 Senate districts will hold primaries on August 23.

Across both chambers, 25 of those districts were left open, meaning no incumbents filed to run, a decrease from the 33 open districts in 2020 but up from the 18 in 2018.

Overall, 468 major party candidates filed to run this year: 291 Democrats and 177 Republicans.

New York has been a Democratic trifecta since the party won a clear majority in the Senate in 2018. Democrats had held a numerical majority before that time, but Republicans controlled the chamber through a series of power-sharing agreements and Democratic members caucusing with the party.

Democrats currently hold a 106-43-1 majority in the Assembly and a 43-20 majority in the Senate.

Additional reading:



Decade-high 23% of state legislative seats are open so far this year

A decade-high 23% of state legislative seats up for election this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This is based on an analysis of 30 states where Ballotpedia has collected post-filing deadline data in 2022.

Open seats typically occur when an incumbent leaves office. In post-redistricting years, it is also common to see open seats when incumbents are drawn into other districts, leaving their old districts open. Across these 30 states, the next-closest rate of open seats came in the last post-redistricting cycle, 2012, with 22% of those seats without incumbents.

Open seats can alter the makeup of state legislatures both in terms of politics and personality. Since no incumbents are present, newcomers to the chamber are guaranteed to win these seats. The number of newcomers can also increase if incumbents lose in primaries or general elections.

There are four states—Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Idaho—where over one-third of the state legislature will be represented by newcomers based solely on the number of open seats.

Of these four, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine all have term limit laws, which can force incumbents to leave office after serving a maximum number of years. Maine had the largest number of term-limited incumbents in this group with 46, followed by Colorado with 14, and Arizona with nine.

In three states—Utah, Indiana, and South Carolina—less than 10% of the state legislature is guaranteed to newcomers based on open seats. None of these three states have term limit laws.

Additional reading:



5.4% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 111 state legislative incumbents—18 Democrats and 93 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 21 states that have held primaries, 5.4% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

In addition to earlier primaries, these totals include initial results from primary runoffs in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia. So far, four incumbents have lost in those states:

  • Three Republicans in Arkansas; and,
  • One Republican in Georgia.

No incumbents have lost in Alabama’s primary runoffs so far.

This year, Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 1,265 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 93 (7.3%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 18 of the 786 who filed for re-election (2.3%) have lost.

But fewer Democratic incumbents are facing primary challengers than their Republican counterparts. Around 20% of Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election faced contested primaries compared to 34% for Republicans.

In these 21 states, 2,053 incumbents filed for re-election, 588 of whom (29%) faced primary challengers.

Twenty-seven of these 111 incumbent defeats (24%) were guaranteed due to redistricting. When states redraw legislative lines, incumbents can oftentimes end up in a new district with other incumbents leading to incumbent versus incumbent primaries or general elections. Since, in these races, there are more incumbents running than nominations or seats available, at least one incumbent must always lose.

Of the 21 states that have held primaries so far, five have Democratic trifectas, 13 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 21 states, there are 2,650 seats up for election, 43% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 37 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: 19 Democratic and 18 Republican.



Contested state legislative primary numbers remain similar to recent election cycles in Maryland

With all 118 state legislative districts in Maryland up for election this year, there are 236 possible primaries. Of that total, 36.4%, or 86, are contested, similar to recent cycles in 2014 and 2018, which had 84 and 89 contested primaries, respectively.

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

The 86 contested primaries this year include 51 Democratic primaries and 35 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is down from 64 in 2018, a 20% decrease. For Republicans, that number increased 40% from 25 in 2018 to 35 in 2022.

Overall, 444 major party candidates—260 Democrats and 184 Republicans—filed to run for the state’s 141 House and 47 Senate seats.

Thirty-nine of those seats are open, meaning no incumbents filed. This guarantees that at least 21% of the legislature will be represented by newcomers next year.

There are 151 incumbents who filed for re-election: 108 Democrats and 43 Republicans. Of this total 95 (63%) face contested primaries, a lower rate than in 2018 (71%) and 2014 (67%).

Maryland has had a divided government since voters elected Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2014. Hogan is term-limited and unable to seek re-election this year. Democrats hold a 99-42 majority in the House and a 32-15 majority in the Senate.

Maryland’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for July 19, the ninth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:



Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 31% compared to 2020

There are 31% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 61% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 27 states that account for 3,520 of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (54%).

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

Since our last update on June 13, we have added post-filing deadline data from one state: Wyoming. Overall, seven states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 17 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 27 states in this analysis, 25 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 13, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 23 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.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 1.6% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.



One new state added – state legislative contested primaries up 31% compared to 2020

Welcome to the Tuesday, June 21, 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 31% compared to 2020
  2. A look at Illinois’ upcoming primary elections
  3. What elections we are covering today

Number of contested state legislative primaries is up 31% compared to 2020

Here is this week’s update on contested legislative primaries. We’ve provided regular updates about the elevated number of state legislative primaries throughout the election cycle. This week, we added Wyoming, bringing the total to 27 states accounting for 3,520 of the 6,166 (54%) state legislative seats up for election this year.

There are 31% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 61% 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 27 states in this analysis, 25 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 13, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 23 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 figures and additional state-specific statistics.

Keep reading 

A look at Illinois’ upcoming primary elections

Voters in five states—Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah—will participate in the next round of primary elections on June 28, in addition to those in Mississippi and South Carolina deciding runoff elections. We’ve brought you breakdowns from Colorado and have more planned for the week ahead. 

Today, let’s  look at Illinois, the races on the ballot, and how their primaries work.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) is seeking a second term and running uncontested in her primary. On the Republican side, seven candidates are seeking the nomination to face Duckworth in the general election.

Voters will also decide primaries in the state’s 17 U.S. House districts, one fewer than in the previous decade. Illinois lost a congressional district after the 2020 census, meaning the state currently has more incumbents than districts up for election. This, and the general redrawing of lines, has resulted in two incumbent v. incumbent primaries.

  • In the 6th District, U.S. Reps. Sean Casten (D) and Marie Newman (D) are seeking the Democratic nomination. While Casten is the current 6th District representative, political researcher Frank Calabrese wrote that 41% of the voters in the new district come from Newman’s 3rd District and 32% come from Casten’s old 6th District. One challenger, Charles Hughes (D), is also running in the primary.
  • In the 15th District, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R) and Mary Miller (R) are seeking the Republican nomination. Daily Kos reported that 28% of the new district’s voters come from Davis’ old 13th District and 31% came from Newman’s old 15th District. As of June 15, this primary came in second in terms of most satellite spending out of all House races this cycle, according to Open Secrets.

Overall, 16 incumbents filed for re-election and two—U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos (D) and Adam Kinzinger (R)—are retiring.

Five state executive offices are also up for election, plus that of lieutenant governor, who is elected alongside a gubernatorial candidate. Four of the five Democratic incumbents are running, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the only incumbent facing a contested primary. Sec. of State Jesse White (D), first elected in 1998, is retiring.

Illinois has a number of state court primaries taking place this year, including one Democratic primary for an open seat on the state supreme court. In 2020, we released a report detailing the partisan balance of state supreme courts and found Illinois to have a 4-3 Democratic majority, meaning the outcome of these elections in November will decide the governing majority of the state supreme court.

The open position is in the 2nd District, currently held by a Republican. But district lines were redrawn during redistricting. Now, the Republican incumbent, Justice Michael Burke, who had a partisanship score of mild Republican, is running in the 3rd District, which is currently held by retiring Justice Robert Carter (D).

There are also four Democratic primaries and one Republican at the intermediate appellate court level, which you can read more about here.

Finally, voters will decide primaries across all 177 districts at the state legislative level. There are 51 primaries—25 Democratic and 26 Republican—representing 14.4% of all possible primaries. This is the first time since at least 2014 where Republican primaries have outnumbered those for Democrats. Democrats currently hold majorities in both chambers.

Illinois is one of 21 states that conduct open primaries, meaning voters can choose which party’s primary ballot they want to use by publicly stating their affiliation at the polling place.

In Illinois, candidates can advance from a primary with a plurality, rather than a majority, of the vote. The state does not hold runoff elections. This means the candidate with the most votes—even if less than 50% of the total votes cast—advances to the general election, something especially pronounced in races with a large number of candidates.

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!

Keep reading 

What elections we are covering today

All things considered, today, June 21, is one of the quieter days on the 2022 primary election calendar. But we still have a number of races across the country including five U.S. House primaries in Virginia and runoff elections in the three states that voted on May 24: Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia.

Here’s a look at some of the battleground races we will be watching closely:

  • Republican U.S. Senate runoff in Alabama: Katie Britt and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks advanced to a runoff after neither received over 50% of the vote in their earlier primary. Britt won 45% to Brooks’ 29%, with the remaining vote split between four other candidates. Former President Donald Trump (R) initially endorsed Brooks, but rescinded his endorsement in March and later endorsed Britt. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R), first elected in 1986, is retiring.

We are also covering a nonpartisan special election for the city assembly in Anchorage, Alaska, and races in Washington, D.C., including the city’s mayoral primaries.

Keep reading



A look at contested state legislative primaries in Illinois

Photo of the Illinois State Capitol building

With all 177 state legislative districts in Illinois up for election this year, there are 354 possible primaries. Of that total, 14.4%, or 51, are contested, slightly higher than in 2018 when 45 primaries accounted for 14.3% of that year’s 314 possible primaries.

A primary is contested when more candidates file to run than there are nominations available meaning at least one candidate must lose.

The 51 contested primaries this year include 25 Democratic primaries and 26 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is down from 28 in 2020, an 11% decrease. For Republicans, that number increased 160% from 10 in 2020 to 26 in 2022.

This is also the state’s first cycle since 2014 with more Republican primaries than those for Democrats.

The difference between raw numbers and percentages of contested primaries is due to Illinois’ unique type of 2-4-4 term length system for state senators. This puts more districts up for election in 2022 compared to previous election cycles, which increases the number of possible primaries.

In Illinois, senators are divided into three groups, with each group having a two-year term at a different part of the decade between censuses, with the remainder of the decade taken up by two four-year terms.

In the election immediately following a census, all 59 Senate districts hold elections, starting a new 2-4-4 cycle. All 118 House districts are up for election each cycle.

Of the 177 districts up for election in 2022, 22 are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. These districts are guaranteed to be won by newcomers and account for 12% of the general assembly.

Of the 155 incumbents who filed for re-election, 25—15 Democrats and 10 Republicans—face primary challengers. This is the largest number of incumbents in contested primaries since 2014.

Overall, 314 major party candidates filed to run for Illinois’ state legislative districts: 160 Democrats and 154 Republicans.

Illinois has been a Democratic trifecta since voters elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in 2018. Democrats currently hold a 40-18 majority in the Senate with one vacancy and a 73-45 majority in the House.

Illinois’ state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 28, the eighth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:



At least 11(+) state legislative incumbents lost primaries on Tuesday

Welcome to the Friday, June 17, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. 5.1% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries
  2. A look at Virginia’s upcoming primary elections
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many members of Congress are not running for re-election (so far)?

5.1% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

State legislative incumbents are losing to primary challengers at an elevated rate this election cycle. Here’s our latest update – so far this year, 104 incumbents—18 Democrats and 86 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

That means, across the 21 states that have held primaries, 5.1% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an 86% increase from 2020.

In addition to earlier primaries, these totals now include preliminary results from those held in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina on June 14. So far, 11 incumbents have lost across those states:

  • One Democrat and five Republicans in North Dakota; and,
  • Five Republicans in South Carolina.

No incumbents have lost in Maine or Nevada primaries so far.

Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 1,265 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 86 (6.8%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 18 of the 786 who filed (2.3%) have lost.

Fewer Democratic incumbents are facing primary challengers than their Republican counterparts. Around 20% of Democratic incumbents filed to run in contested primaries compared to 34% for Republicans. Overall, across these 21 states, 2,053 incumbents filed for re-election, 588 of whom (29%) faced primary challengers, another increase compared to recent cycles.

Redistricting has played a role in this increase of these incumbent defeats. Twenty-seven of the 104 incumbent defeats (26%) were guaranteed even before the polls closed. These were incumbents running in incumbent v. incumbent primaries, something that becomes more common after redistricting when lines are redrawn, which can place multiple incumbents in the same district. 

In these incumbent v. incumbent primaries, there are more incumbents running than nominations available, meaning at least one is guaranteed to lose.

Of the 21 states that have held primaries so far, five have Democratic trifectas, 13 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers.

Across these 21 states, there are 2,650 seats up for election, 43% of the nationwide total.

There are currently 61 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents—31 Democratic and 30 Republican—which includes two uncalled incumbent v. incumbent primaries, guaranteeing at least two more defeated incumbents.

Keep reading

A look at Virginia’s upcoming primary elections

Next week will be a quiet one in terms of elections. Only one state—Virginia—is holding statewide primaries on June 21. Adding to the quietness is the fact that, unlike most other states, Virginia holds its state-level elections—for offices like the governor and legislature—in odd-numbered years, leaving only federal offices on the even-year statewide ballot.

With no U.S. Senate races on the ballot, that leaves just the state’s 11 U.S. House districts up for election in 2022. But not every voter will see a primary election on their ballots because of Virginia’s rules regarding unopposed candidates and nominating contests. Here’s how it works.

  • If a candidate is running unopposed, that primary is canceled and the unopposed candidate automatically advances to the general election.
  • Eight Democratic primaries were canceled for this reason, including those for six of the seven Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election. Three Republican primaries were also canceled because candidates ran unopposed, including those for two of the four incumbents running for another term.
  • Virginia allows parties to form committees at different levels of government to decide how they will nominate candidates. 
    • Some committees may choose to use the state-run primaries, those scheduled for June 21. 
    • Others may choose to run their own nominating contests like conventions, which are typically open to a smaller number of voters who register as delegates, or firehouse primaries, which operate like regular primaries but at a limited number of venues and under the oversight of the party.

Two district Democratic committees chose to hold nominating contests, so they have already decided their general election nominees. Four district Republican committees also chose to hold nominating contests, including that of one incumbent.

This leaves one Democratic primary on the June 21 ballot: the contest between U.S. Rep. Don Beyer and Victoria Virasingh in the Alexandria-area 8th District.

There are four Republican primaries scheduled across the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th Districts. The contests in the 2nd and 7th Districts will determine Republican nominees to face Democratic Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger in what are expected to be some of the most competitive general elections in the state this year.

In those districts holding primaries, candidates can advance with a plurality, rather than a majority, of the vote. Virginia does not hold runoff elections. This means the candidate with the most votes—even if less than 50% of the total—advances to the general election.

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!

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many members of Congress are not running for re-election (so far)?

In the Monday Brew, we brought you an update about the decade-high rate of congressional retirements this cycle. Roughly 12% of the Democratic caucus is not seeking re-election, a high point over the last five cycles. Of the Republican caucus, just under 9% are not seeking re-election, the party’s lowest rate since 2016.

By the numbers, how many members of Congress are not running for re-election (so far)?

  1. 55
  2. 82
  3. 33
  4. 71


5.1% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 104 state legislative incumbents—18 Democrats and 86 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 21 states that have held primaries, 5.1% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

In addition to earlier primaries, these totals include preliminary results from primaries held in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina. So far, 11 incumbents have lost in those states:

  • One Democrat and five Republicans in North Dakota; and,
  • Five Republicans in South Carolina.

No incumbents have lost in Maine or Nevada primaries so far.

Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 1,265 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 86 (6.8%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 18 of the 786 who filed for re-election (2.3%) have lost.

But fewer Democratic incumbents are facing primary challengers than their Republican counterparts. Around 20% of Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election faced contested primaries compared to 34% for Republicans.

In these 21 states, 2,053 incumbents filed for re-election, 588 of whom (29%) faced primary challengers.

Twenty-seven of these 104 incumbent defeats (26%) were guaranteed due to redistricting. When states redraw legislative lines, incumbents can oftentimes end up in a new district with other incumbents leading to incumbent v. incumbent primaries or general elections. Since, in these races, there are more incumbents running than nominations or seats available, at least one incumbent must lose.

Of the 21 states that have held primaries so far, five have Democratic trifectas, 13 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these 21 states, there are 2,650 seats up for election, 43% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 61 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: 31 Democratic and 30 Republican.