Author

Douglas Kronaizl

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

4.6% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 182 state legislative incumbents—48 Democrats and 134 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 38 states that have held primaries, 4.6% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

These totals include data from Tennessee, which held primaries on Aug. 4, as well as Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin, which held primaries on Aug. 9. So far:

  • Connecticut: one Democrat lost;
  • Minnesota: three Democrats lost; and,
  • Tennessee: two Republicans lost.

No incumbents have lost in Vermont or Wisconsin, though races featuring incumbents remain uncalled.

This year, Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 2,186 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 134 (6.1%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 48 of the 1,753 who filed for re-election (2.7%) have lost.

Forty-one of these 182 incumbent defeats (23%) 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 38 states that have held primaries so far, 10 have Democratic trifectas, 19 have Republican trifectas, and nine have divided governments. Across these 38 states, there are 5,106 seats up for election, 81% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 23 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: nine Democratic, nine Republican, and five top-two.



Contested state legislative primaries increase in Hawaii this year

There are 51 contested state legislative primaries in Hawaii this year, representing 34% of the total number of possible primaries. This is a 65% increase from 2020.

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

Of the 51 contested primaries, 36 are for Democrats and 15 are for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 29 in 2020, a 24% increase. For Republicans, the number increased 650% from two in 2020.

Twenty-five contested primaries feature an incumbent, representing 40% of all incumbents running for re-election. This is a higher rate of incumbents in contested primaries compared to 2020, but lower than rates in the 2018 and 2016 cycles.

All 25 incumbents in contested primaries are Democrats.

Overall, 205 major party candidates—126 Democrats and 79 Republicans—filed to run. All 51 House districts and 25 Senate districts are holding elections.

Hawaii has had a Democratic trifecta since the party won control of the governorship in 2010. Democrats currently hold a 47-4 majority in the House and a 24-1 majority in the Senate.

Hawaii’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 13, the 13th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:



There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 9, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come
  2. Here’s what’s on the ballot in Vermont
  3. Previewing the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District

There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come

There are currently 75 vacancies on the federal judicial bench and another 42 judges are slated to retire or assume senior status in the weeks ahead.

These vacancies are for Article III judgeships, a term used to describe judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of International Trade, courts of appeal, and district courts.

Article III judgeships are lifetime presidential appointments. All nominees are subject to Senate confirmation.

As of Aug. 1, Biden had nominated 130 individuals to Article III judgeships. Fifty-six are in the confirmation process and 74 had been confirmed.

When looking at presidents since Ronald Reagan (R), Biden is tied with former President Bill Clinton (D) for the most Article III appointments made through Aug. 1 of the second year in office.

With the upcoming vacancies, the president and the Senate do not need to wait for a position to become vacant before starting the confirmation process for a successor. For example, Biden nominated Bradley Garcia to replace Judge Judith Rogers on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit once Rodgers assumes senior status on Sept. 1.

There are currently 18 nominees pending for upcoming vacancies.

We don’t know when each vacancy will take place. Twenty-six judges did not announce a specific date when they will leave the bench. The next scheduled vacancy is Aug. 13, when Judge Gershwin Drain assumes senior status on the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Keep reading 

Here’s what’s on the ballot in Vermont

Four states—Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin—are holding primaries today, Aug. 9. We’ve previewed the primaries in all of those states but one: Vermont. 

Vermont is one of 34 states holding U.S. Senate elections this year and one of seven where that seat is open. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), first elected in 1974, is retiring. Both Democrats and Republicans are holding contested primaries to select their nominees for the general election.

The open U.S. Senate race led to another opening, this one in the state’s at-large U.S. House district. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D), first elected in 2006, is one of the three Democrats running to succeed Leahy. 

All six of the state executive offices elected statewide are on the ballot this year. Two incumbents—Gov. Phil Scott (R) and Auditor Doug Hoffer (D)—are on the ballot, with the remaining four positions open. Democrats are holding three contested primaries and Republicans are holding two.

All 180 state legislative seats—30 in the Senate and 150 in the House—are also on the ballot. 

Regardless of how the primaries turn out, we already know that at least 32% of the Legislature will be made up of newcomers next year. This is because 57 seats are currently open, meaning no incumbents are running. This is the largest number of open seats in the past five election cycles.

Democrats currently hold a 21-7 majority in the Senate and a 91-56 majority in the House, with the remaining seats either vacant or held by minor party/independent officeholders.

Vermont is one of 13 states with a divided government and one of three—along with Maryland and Massachusetts—where Republicans control the governorship and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.

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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Previewing the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District

For today’s preview of upcoming battleground primaries, we are looking at the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District. Here’s what you need to know.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R) is running for re-election and faces challengers Anthony Bouchard, Harriet Hageman, Robyn Belinkskey, and Denton Knapp.

This is the final Republican primary featuring an incumbent—Cheney—who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump (R) following the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Cheney is also the only Republican seeking re-election this year who is a member of the select committee formed to investigate the events on and leading up to Jan. 6, 2021.

Cheney said she is “proud of [her] strong conservative record,” adding, “It is tragic that some in this race have sacrificed those principles, and their duty to the people of Wyoming, out of fear and in favor of loyalty to a former president.”

Trump endorsed Hageman, an attorney and legal consultant, in the primary. Hageman said, “Wyoming is entitled to a representative in Congress who remembers who sent her there and remembers what their wishes are … Liz Cheney is doing neither, and I will do both.”

A July 15 poll found Hageman leading Cheney 52% to 30% with 11% undecided. Wyoming effectively has an open primary system, where voters can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary on Election Day.

Five primaries featuring Republican incumbents who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 have already occurred.

Two incumbents lost to primary challengers Trump endorsed. Both incumbents ran in partisan primaries—similar to Wyoming’s—which are limited to voters participating in either a Democratic or Republican primary.

Two incumbents advanced to the general election and one remains in an uncalled primary. These three incumbents ran in top-two primaries, where every candidate appears on the same primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation, and the top-two finishers advance to the general election.

Keep reading



Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 23% compared to 2020

There are 23% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 53% more Republican primaries and 8% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 39 states that account for 5,011 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (81%).

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 Aug. 1, we have added post-filing deadline data from Florida and Vermont. Overall, 11 states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 20 have Republican trifectas, and eight have divided governments.

Of the 39 states in this analysis, 36 are holding partisan primaries. Three states—California, Nebraska, and Washington—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in 11 states, decreased in 21, and remains the same in three. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 31 states, decreased in four, 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 3.0% 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.



Newcomers will represent at least 32% of Vermont’s state legislative seats next year

Fifty-seven state legislative seats up for election in Vermont this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This represents 32% of the state’s legislature, a marked increase compared to recent election cycles.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers are guaranteed to win all open seats.

Vermont restructured its House and Senate during the state’s redistricting process. Previously, the state had 117 state legislative districts containing 180 seats. After redistricting, there are 125 districts, still containing 180 seats.

While the number of open seats increased this year, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—decreased compared to the 2020 election cycle.

Across all districts, there are 24 contested primaries, representing 10% of all possible primaries.

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

There are 17 Democratic primaries, a 23% decrease from 2020. Republicans are holding seven contested primaries, the same number as in 2020.

Overall, 276 major party candidates filed to run for the state’s 150 House and 30 Senate seats this year: 174 Democrats and 102 Republicans.

Vermont has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship in 2016. Democrats hold a 91-46 majority in the House, with 12 other seats held by minor party or independent officeholders and one vacancy. The party holds a 21-7 majority in the Senate, with two seats held by minor party officeholders.

Vermont’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 12th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Vermont House of Representatives elections, 2022

Vermont State Senate elections, 2022



Exclusive: Candidate filings before/after Dobbs draft ruling

Welcome to the Friday, August 5, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Candidate filings before and after Dobbs draft ruling
  2. Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law
  3. Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski killed in car accident

Candidate filings before and after Dobbs draft ruling

Here at Ballotpedia, we meticulously track candidate data filings. One thing we’ve always watched are candidate filing numbers and in particular, how those might change around various events. For instance, in 2020 we looked at whether candidate filing numbers changed before/after COVID lockdowns began in March. 

This year, we wanted to see whether the draft Dobbs release impacted candidate filings. On May 2, Politico released a draft majority opinion from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court. The following month, the Supreme Court issued its formal decision, finding no constitutional right to abortion and overruling Roe v. Wade.

In most cases, this decision left state legislatures to decide whether or not to allow or prohibit abortions. 

Would the Dobbs ruling lead to any change in the number of state legislative candidates filing for office?

We compared filing deadline statistics—like the number of major party candidates per seat and the percentage of seats contested by both major parties—between those states whose filing deadlines came before May 2 and those whose filing deadlines came after.

In the 32 states with filing deadlines before the release of the draft opinion, 2.2 major party candidates filed per seat up for election, and 55% of all seats up for election were contested by both major parties.

In the 10 of the 15 states with filing deadlines after May 2 for which we have finished gathering data, we found the number of candidates per seat was lower at 2.0, and the percentage of major party competition was higher at 61%.

From here forward, we will refer to the 32 states with filing deadlines before May 2 as BD and the 10 states with filing deadlines after May 2, which we have data for, as AD.

While the figures between BD and AD states vary from one another, they remain similar to what we have seen in these states across previous election cycles.

When taken collectively and over time, the number of candidates per seat in the BD states has ranged from 2.0 to 2.3, with the 2.2 figure from this year being slightly higher than what we saw in 2020.

Among the AD states, the figure has ranged from 1.8 to 2.1, with 2.0 actually representing a decrease from what we saw in 2020.

Major party competition is another helpful metric when comparing filing deadline statistics. These figures tell us what percentage of seats are being contested between both major parties—indicating competition on the ballot—and, inversely, what percentage are contested by just one of the two major parties.

Major party competition is higher in the AD states, but, historically, these states have tended to have more major party competition than the BD states. 

In every election cycle since 2014, the AD states have had a rate of major party competition between two and nine percentage points greater than in BD states except for 2018.

For both BD and AD states, the rate of major party competition is lower this year than it was in 2020.

Of the 32 BD states, eight have Democratic trifectas, 19 have Republican trifectas, and five have divided governments.

Of the 10 AD states, four have Democratic trifectas, two have Republican trifectas, and four have divided governments.

New York is counted twice since its Assembly’s filing deadline came before May 2 and its Senate deadline came after.

We have not finished processing data for five additional states with filing deadlines after May 2: Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. There are two Democratic trifectas, one Republican trifecta, and two divided governments among this group.

Use the link below to view total and state-specific filing deadline statistics at all levels of government.

Keep reading 

Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law

On July 28, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-2 to downgrade the accreditation status of the Tulsa and Mustang Public Schools for violating a 2021 law that prohibits teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another.” Local commentary describes the law as prohibiting critical race theory in public schools.

This is the first time the law has been enforced in Oklahoma.

The Tulsa downgrading stemmed from a high school teacher’s complaint in 2021 that mandatory staff training materials contained “statements that specifically shame white people … and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature.

The board downgraded Mustang Public Schools over a January 2022 complaint regarding a teacher’s anti-bullying lesson.

Board member Estela Hernandez, who voted in favor of the downgrades, said the decision was “sufficient in this case because we need to send a message that the deliberate breaking of the law needs to be on probation.”

State Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister, the state’s Democratic nominee for governor, voted against the downgrades, saying, “The penalties are heavily weighted against Tulsa … because of an obsession or peculiar focus that [Gov. Kevin Stitt (R)] has with them … And then Mustang became collateral damage.”

The districts have one year to make changes in order to improve their accreditation statuses. The Oklahoma Department of Education could revoke the districts’ accreditation altogether if more violations occur, forcing the districts to close.

The Oklahoma Board of Education is made up of six members representing the state’s six congressional districts, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. The state superintendent of education, elected statewide in midterm election cycles, also serves on the board.

For more information about the latest in school politics and governance, subscribe to Hall Pass, our weekly newsletter covering elections, commentary, and research across the political spectrum on the issues facing school boards.

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Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski killed in car accident

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) died in a car accident on Aug. 3. Walorski had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District since 2012. Before serving in Congress, Walorski worked as a television reporter and a nonprofit director. She also served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 2004 to 2010.

A special election will be called to fill the vacancy created by Walorski’s death since the vacancy occurred more than 74 days before the general election. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said his office had not yet begun the process of setting the election, though it is likely the special election will take place at the same time as the district’s regular general election on Nov. 8.

Walorski was also on the ballot for the regular general election, seeking another term. 

Democratic Party officials in the 2nd District will select a candidate for the special election. Republican Party officials will select both a candidate for the special election along with a candidate to replace Walorski on the regular general election ballot.

The winner of the special election will serve in Congress until Jan. 3, 2023, the end of Walorski’s current term. The winner of the regular general election will serve a full, two-year term beginning on Jan. 3.

Since 2019, eight members of Congress—three Democrats and five Republicans—passed away while in office. In addition to Walorski, two other incumbents passed away this year: U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska). 

Special elections to fill the remainder of those terms will coincide with each state’s regularly-scheduled primary elections: Aug. 9 in Minnesota and Aug. 16 in Alaska. 

The special election in Indiana’s 2nd District will be the 17th to take place during the 117th Congress, tied for the most special elections in a single Congress over the past three decades.

Keep reading



Gibbs defeats incumbent Meijer in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District Republican primary

John Gibbs defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer in the Republican primary for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District on August 2, 2022.

Meijer, first elected in 2020, was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump (R) following the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump endorsed Gibbs in this primary.

In a Candidate Connection survey submitted to Ballotpedia, Gibbs said, “No one else has fought in Washington like I have under President Trump,” and that he would “[reduce] government largess and overreach which threatens civil rights, civil liberties and our way of life.” 

The primary received notable satellite spending in its final weeks, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spending $449,854 on ads opposing Gibbs.

Meijer wrote that the ads were, instead, intended to boost support for Gibbs in the primary, calling the spending a “naked political [gambit] aimed at elevating the weaker Republican candidate ahead of the November … elections.”

Gibbs’ campaign did not respond to the DCCC ads but, following the primary, said money did not play a role in the race and that his victory “is an important lesson for the powers that be … to learn they’ve really got to respect what the people want.”

Gibbs will face Hillary Scholten (D) in the general election. Scholten ran against Meijer in 2020, receiving 47% of the vote. The 3rd District’s line changed during redistricting with Michigan Radio’s Nisa Khan and Emma Ruberg describing the district as becoming more Democratic-leaning as a result.

Meijer’s defeat—along with U.S. Rep. Andy Levin’s (D) in Michigan’s 11th District—brings the total number of U.S. House incumbents defeated in primaries to 11 for this cycle. Over the past decade, this is second only to 2012, the most recent post-redistricting cycle, when 13 incumbents lost in primaries.



Dixon wins Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial primary

Tudor Dixon defeated seven other candidates—four on the ballot and three write-ins—in Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial primary on Aug. 2, 2022.

Dixon is a former anchor for America’s Voice News. During the primary, Dixon called herself “the visionary and clear policy leader in the Republican field,” saying she would “rebuild and grow the economy, stop the indoctrination of our school children, … [and] apply common-sense reforms to Michigan’s elections.”

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Right to Life Michigan, and former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Dixon in the primary.

Dixon will face incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the November general election. Whitmer was first elected governor in 2018, receiving 53% of the vote. Joe Biden (D) won Michigan during the 2020 presidential election, receiving 51% of the vote to Trump’s 48%.

As of Aug. 2, three independent forecasters rated the general election as Lean or Tilt Democratic.



4.7% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 156 state legislative incumbents—39 Democrats and 117 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 33 states that have held primaries, 4.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

These totals include data from Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Washington, which held state legislative primaries on Aug. 2. No incumbents have lost, so far, in Arizona, Michigan, and Washington, though races featuring incumbents remain uncalled. For the remaining states:

  • Kansas: one Democrat and three Republicans lost;
  • Ohio: one Democrat and two Republicans lost; and,
  • Missouri: four Democrats and two Republicans lost.

This year, Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 1,901 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 117 (6.2%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 39 of the 1,432 who filed for re-election (2.7%) have lost.

Thirty-four of these 156 incumbent defeats (22%) 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 33 states that have held primaries so far, nine have Democratic trifectas, 18 have Republican trifectas, and six have divided governments. Across these 33 states, there are 4,306 seats up for election, 70% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 87 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: 24 Democratic, 33 Republican, and 30 top-two.

You can view more information about state-specific and historic information regarding incumbent defeats by clicking “Learn More” below.



Tennessee has its fewest contested state legislative primaries in five election cycles

Tennessee has 36 contested state legislative primaries this year, 16% of the total number of possible primaries, and a 5% decrease from 2020.

This is the fewest contested state legislative primaries in Tennessee over the past five election cycles.

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

Of the 36 contested primaries, 11 are for Democrats and 25 are for Republicans. For Democrats, this is down from 14 in 2020, a 21% decrease. For Republicans, the number increased 4% from 24 in 2020.

Fifteen contested primaries feature an incumbent, representing 15% of all incumbents who filed for re-election. This is the lowest rate of incumbents in contested primaries over the past five election cycles in the state.

Five of the incumbents in contested primaries are Democrats, and 10 are Republicans.

Overall, 214 major party candidates—79 Democrats and 135 Republicans—filed to run. All 99 House districts and 17 of the state’s 33 Senate districts are holding elections.

Seventeen of those districts are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This guarantees at least 15% of the districts holding elections will be represented by newcomers next year.

Tennessee has had a Republican trifecta since 2010 when the party won control of the governorship. Republicans currently hold a 72-24 majority in the House, which has one vacant district, and a 27-6 majority in the Senate.

Tennessee’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 11th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Tennessee House of Representatives elections, 2022

Tennessee State Senate elections, 2022