James McAllister

James McAllister is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

How did political parties perform in races where the same candidates ran in 2018 and 2020?

In the 2020 general election, 402 elections in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope were rematches between the same candidates who ran for office in 2018. These rematches represented about 4.2% of all general election races in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope.

Rematch elections in 2020 included:

  • 56 races for the U.S. House.
  • One state executive race.
  • 342 state legislative races.
  • Three local races in our coverage scope.

Results in 26 rematch races (three U.S. House races and 23 state legislative races) were unavailable as of December 1.

Of the called races in 2020, Republicans won 229 (about 57%) to Democrats’ 146 (about 36%) and third-party and nonpartisan candidates’ two (about 0.5%). 

In 2018, Republicans won 222 (about 55%) of the 2020 rematch districts, while Democrats won 175 (about 44%), and third-party or nonpartisan candidates won two (about 0.5%).

In 2020, 87 rematches (about 22%) were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or fewer. In 2018, 130 (about 32%) of the same races were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or fewer.

Republicans flip legislature and gain trifecta control in New Hampshire

Republicans are projected to flip control of New Hampshire’s state Senate and House to gain trifecta control of the state. A state government trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house in a state’s government.

Heading into the election, New Hampshire had been under a divided government since 2019, when Democrats flipped the state Senate and House. Before 2019, New Hampshire had been governed by a Republican trifecta since 2017, when Gov. Chris Sununu (R) was elected.

New Hampshire is the second state Republicans flipped from divided power to trifecta control. They gained trifecta control in Montana after Greg Gianforte (R) defeated Mike Cooney (D) in the governor’s race. If Republicans pick up a net of two trifectas, the country would have 23 Republican-held trifectas, 15 Democratic-held trifectas, and 12 divided governments.

Eighty-six state legislative chambers held elections in 2020. Ballotpedia identified seven states as potential trifecta pickups.

Additional reading:

Incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) defeats Amy McGrath (D) in U.S. Senate election in Kentucky

Incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) defeated Amy McGrath (D), Brad Barron (L), and Randall Lee Teegarden (Unaffiliated) in the November 3, 2020, general election for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. As of Oct. 14, McGrath had raised $90 million—more than any other U.S. Senate candidate in the country other than Jamie Harrison (D). McConnell was sixth in fundraising nationally with $57 million.

We are tracking 16 of the 35 U.S. Senate races this year as battlegrounds. Heading into the election, Republicans held 12 of those seats Democrats held four. Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate. Democrats need to win a net four seats to win an outright majority in the chamber.

How much pension debt does your state have?

Unfunded liabilities refer to a pension fund’s debts—the payments owed to members of the pension fund that exceed its assets of current capital and their projected investment returns. This difference between assets and liabilities is monitored as an indicator of pension fund performance, management, and ability to pay retiree benefits.

In the years between 2003-2018, combined state pension funds’ unfunded liabilities have grown from $233 billion to $1.237 trillion. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 296 state-administered pension funds in fiscal year 2018. In that same year, state government pension funds held $2.98 trillion in assets and carried $4.22 trillion in liabilities, resulting in a funding gap—the funds’ combined unfunded liabilities, or pension debt—of $1.237 trillion.

The trend between 2003 and 2018 showed a steady decline in the funded ratio for state pension funds as the growth in fund liabilities outran the growth in assets. The funding ratio of states’ pension funds dropped from nearly 90 percent in 2003 to below 80 percent in the six years between 2003 and the Great Recession year of 2009. The aggregate state pension fund ratio dropped to a low point of 65.9 percent in 2016, before rebounding to the 70 percent level in 2018.

How much debt does your state’s government have per person?

The average per capita debt across all 50 states in 2018 was $3,600. Nineteen states were above this per-capita average, with 31 states below. In 2000, average state debt per capita was $1,942.

In 2018, the states with the least debt per capita were: 

  • Tennessee ($929 per capita)
  • Nebraska ($1,068)
  • Nevada ($1,135)
  • Georgia ($1,266)
  • Florida ($1,299). 

The states with the highest debt per capita were: 

  • Massachusetts ($11,423)
  • Connecticut ($11,280)
  • Rhode Island ($8,593)
  • Alaska ($8,011)
  • and New York ($7,576). 

The US Census Bureau defines debt as “all long-term credit obligations of the government and its agencies whether backed by the governments’ full faith and credit or non-guaranteed, and all interest-bearing short-term credit obligations,” and includes “judgments, mortgages, and revenue bonds, as well as general obligations bonds, notes, and interest-bearing warrants.” State debt includes financial arrangements where a state-affiliated institution (like a public university), a hospital, or a quasi-governmental authority (like a stadium district) issues debt that the state government guarantees, but the entity makes the debt payments. The definition does not include underfunded pension obligations as state debt.

How much revenue does your state receive from the federal government per person?

Federal outlays are revenue that state governments receive directly from the federal government.

Between fiscal years 2014 and 2017, annual per capita federal outlays to states ranged from $1,141 (Virginia) to $4,849 (Wyoming).

The average annual per capita outlays across all states is $2,055, which is close to Michigan’s average ($2,009) and California’s ($2,053) over those four years.

Eight states experienced per capita declines in their federal outlays between 2014 and 2017 in the following amounts:

  • Wyoming ($818) 
  • South Dakota ($79)
  • Oklahoma ($65)
  • Idaho ($58)
  • Maine ($45)
  • Florida ($36)
  • North Carolina ($10) 
  • Hawaii ($7). 

Forty-two states experienced per capita increases in their federal outlays between 2014 and 2017. The top five per capita increases in those years were:

  • New Mexico ($776)
  • California ($695)
  • Nevada ($661)
  • Alaska ($625)
  • Pennsylvania ($593)

President Donald Trump tests positive for the coronavirus

On Oct. 1, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. In a tweet on Oct. 2, Trump said, “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.” 

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked the following government officials and candidates who have died, been diagnosed with, or quarantined as a result of the coronavirus:

  1. One federal official, four state officials, and two local officials in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope have died of the coronavirus.
  2. Sixteen federal officials and two federal candidates have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  3. Ninety-one state officials or candidates have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  4. Twenty-two local officials in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  5. An additional 43 people at the federal level, 78 at the state level, and 26 at the local level have self-quarantined but not tested positive for coronavirus. 

What percentage of your state’s general revenue comes from the federal government?

All states receive aid from the federal government, usually in the form of grants. In fiscal year 2018, the average percentage of general revenues that the states brought in from federal aid was 32.5%—or about one-third of their general revenues. From 2000 to 2018, the total share of federal outlays among all fifty states was 30.7% of their general revenue.

Between 2014 and 2018, 27 states saw increases in the percentage of their general revenues that come from federal outlays, 22 states saw decreases, and one state (Missouri) stayed the same.

In fiscal year 2018, the top five states by percentage of state general revenues from federal outlays were:

  • Louisiana (45.1%)
  • Montana (44.4%)
  • Mississippi (42.6%)
  • Alaska (42.3%)
  • Wyoming (42.1%) 

The bottom five states were:

  • Virginia (20%)
  • Kansas (21.1%)
  • Hawaii (21.3%)
  • North Dakota (21.9%)
  • Connecticut (23.6%)

Alaska had the largest increase in federal outlays between fiscal years 2014 and 2018. The state received 42.3% of its general revenues from federal outlays in 2018, up from 26.9% in 2014.

How many races in 2020 had the same candidates in 2018?

In the 2020 general election, 366 elections in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope are rematches between the same candidates who ran for office in 2018.

Rematch elections in 2020 include:

    1. 23 elections for the U.S. House
    2. One state executive election
    3. 339 state legislative elections
    4. Three local races in our coverage scope.

Republicans won 205 of the 2018 races that are now rematches, while Democrats won 159 and third party or nonpartisan candidates won two.

Of the 23 U.S. House rematches, Democrats won 13 and Republicans won 10 in 2018. A Republican won the state executive race in 2018.

Of the 339 state legislative rematches, Republicans won 193, Democrats won 145, and third party candidates won one in 2018.

Debate over federal aid to states in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus-related business closures and job losses reduced state income and sales tax revenues. State budget shortfalls resulting from lost tax revenue are projected to total between $41 billion and $110 billion in fiscal year 2020. In FY 2021, shortfalls are projected between $121 billion and $290 billion.

Between March and August 2020, Congress and President Donald Trump (R) appropriated funds to assist state and local governments with revenue shortfalls caused by decreased tax revenue twice.

Historical data shows:
• As of 2019, 30.7% of total state spending was derived from federal funds.
• The number of federal programs through which aid is appropriated—more than 1,300 as of May 2019—tripled between the 1980s and 2020.
• Between FY 2017 and FY 2019, total state spending increased at the fastest rate since the Great Recession.

Advocates for increased assistance for states have called on Congress and President Trump to appropriate additional federal funds to offset declines in tax revenue and budget shortfalls. A group of directors of seven nonpartisan governmental associations wrote, “If we want our nation’s health and economy to recover, state and local governments must be part of the solution.” The commentary criticized the HEALS Act introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for not providing state or local funding.

Opponents of increased assistance acknowledge that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are substantial, but say reckless state spending—enabled by increased federal aid over time—exacerbated the economic fallout from COVID-19. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “The president is not going to bail out Chicago and New York and other states that prior to the coronavirus were mismanaged.”