Mercedes Yanora

Mercedes Yanora is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Rep. Barbara Cooper, Tennessee’s oldest serving lawmaker, dies

Tennessee Rep. Barbara Cooper (D) died on Oct. 25, 2022.

Cooper was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1996. According to U.S. News & World Report, she was the oldest serving lawmaker in Tennessee history. Cooper most recently ran for election in 2020, winning with 72.7% of the vote.

If there is a vacancy in the Tennessee General Assembly, there are two ways a vacancy can be filled. When 12 months or more remain in an unfilled term, a special election must be held within the allowable time frame set by law. If fewer than 12 months remain in a term, members of the legislative body in the county that the vacancy occurred must vote on a replacement.

As of Nov. 1, there have been 132 state legislative vacancies in 42 states during 2022. Sixty-two of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 132 vacancies, 68 are Democratic and 62 are Republican. Democrats have filled 36 vacancies, while Republicans have filled 25.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer dies

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer (D) died on Sept. 30, 2022. 

Baer was elected to the state supreme court in 2003. He was retained with 71% of the vote on Nov. 5, 2013. Prior to joining the court, he was an administrative judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. He also worked as an attorney in private practice and as a deputy attorney general with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

In Pennsylvania, state supreme court vacancies are filled by appointment. Appointed judges are allowed to run in the next general election more than 10 months after the vacancy.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states to elect its supreme court justices via partisan elections. The other states are Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

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54.10% of state legislatures are Republican, 44.32% Democratic

At the end of September 2022, 54.10% of all state legislatures in the United States were Republicans, while 44.32% were Democrats. There are 7,383 state legislative seats in the country.

Republicans controlled 62 chambers, while Democrats held 36. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Democrats held 863 state Senate seats and 2,409 state House seats, losing one Senate seat since last month. Republicans held 1,092 state Senate seats and 2,902 state House seats, gaining two House seats since last month.

Independent or third-party legislators held 40 seats, including 33 state House seats and seven state Senate seats. There were 67 vacant state House seats and 10 vacant state Senate seats.

Compared to September 2021, Democrats have gained two state Senate seats (861 v. 863) and lost 29 state House seats (2,438 v. 2,409). Republicans have gained one state Senate seat (1,091 v. 1,092) and lost 10 state House seats (2,912 v. 2,902). 

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Nevada Supreme Court Justice Abbi Silver retires

Nevada Supreme Court Justice Abbi Silver retired on Sept. 29, 2022. Silver was the only judge in Nevada’s history to be elected to every court in the state’s court system.

Silver was elected to the state supreme court in 2018, filling the seat vacated by Justice Michael Douglas. Prior to this election, Silver served on the Nevada Court of Appeals from 2015 to 2019. She was one of three judges appointed to form the court, which was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment. Silver became chief judge of the court on Jan. 2, 2017. She also served on the Las Vegas Municipal Court, Las Vegas Justice Court, and the Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court.

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Selection solicits and screens applicants. The commission presents a list of three nominees to the governor, who appoints one to fill the vacancy until the next general election. If the predecessor’s term is not expiring that election cycle, the appointed justice must win election to the court in order to serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

In 2022, there have been 19 supreme court vacancies in 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Jonathan Skrmetti starts term as Tennessee attorney general

Jonathan Skrmetti’s (R) term as Tennessee attorney general began Sept. 1. The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed Skrmetti to the position on Aug. 10, 2022, to replace Herbert H. Slatery (R). 

Prior to this appointment, Skrmetti served as Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) chief legal counsel. From 2018 to 2021, he was the chief deputy to the attorney general. Skrmetti graduated from Harvard Law School.  

As of this writing, Tennessee was a triplex. A state government triplex is a term to describe when one political party holds the following three positions in a state’s government: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Tennessee is one of 23 states with a Republican triplex.  

Tennessee is unique in that the attorney general is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, rather than the governor. The attorney general is directly elected in 43 states, appointed by the state legislature in Maine, and appointed by the governor in the remaining five.

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Incumbent Kim Schrier (D) and Matt Larkin (R) are running in the general election for Washington’s 8th Congressional District

Incumbent Kim Schrier (D) and Matt Larkin (R) are running in the general election for Washington’s 8th Congressional District on November 8, 2022.

Schrier, a pediatrician, was first elected in 2018, winning the open seat by a margin of five percentage points. Before that election, Republicans had represented the 8th District since 1983. Schrier was re-elected in 2020 in one of 37 U.S. House races decided by five percentage points or less.

Larkin, an attorney and owner of a manufacturing business, was the 2020 Republican nominee for Washington attorney general.

Politico’s Jessica Piper wrote after the top-two primary, “The [party vote share in the primary] indicates a close race brewing this fall[.] … [Schrier, who] spent significantly on early ads boosting her standing and seeking some distance from the Biden administration, remains in a competitive position. But Republicans may be able to invest more in the race now that they have a clear candidate[.]”

Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) have prioritized this election. The DCCC designated Schrier as a member of its 2022 Frontline Program, a program providing resources intended to help incumbents hold competitive seats. The NRCC included this district in its target list for 2022 and named Larkin as an “On the Radar” member of its Youngs Guns program.

Voters in the district backed Joe Biden (D) in the 2020 presidential election by a margin of seven percentage points. According to The Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight, the district’s partisan lean did not change after redistricting.

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 118th Congress. All 435 seats in the House are up for election. As of August 18, 2022, Democrats hold a 220-211 advantage in the U.S. House with four vacant seats. Republicans need to gain a net of seven seats to win a majority in the chamber.

Sen. Kevin Priola joins Democratic Party

Colorado Sen. Kevin Priola announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and would register as a Democrat on Aug. 22. Priola belonged to the Republican Party since 1990.

Priola was elected to District 25 on Nov. 8, 2016, as a Republican. He previously represented District 56 in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2017. From 2009 to 2013, Priola represented House District 30, but later represented District 56 because of redistricting changes.

Priola announced his party change on Aug. 22 via statement. Of his decision to change his party affiliation, he said, “I cannot continue to be a part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen…To be clear, I will not be changing the way I vote on legislation. I just simply will now cast my votes with a D next to my name instead of an R.” 

As of August 2022, Ballotpedia staff have counted 157 state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Of the 157, 42 state senators and 115 state representatives have switched parties. Twenty-two state senators have switched from Democratic to Republican, while seven have switched from Republican to Democratic. Of the 115 state representatives, 54 have switched from Democratic to Republican, while 15 have switched from Republican to Democratic.

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Minnesota State Senator David Tomassoni dies

Minnesota State Senator David Tomassoni (I) died on Aug. 11, 2022, at Solvay Hospice. Tomassoni represented District 6 from 2001 to 2022. Prior to joining the state Senate, Tomassoni served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1991 to 2001.

Tomassoni was elected to the state Senate in 2000. At the time of his death, he was serving as senate president pro tempore. He had previously served as president of the senate in 2020. On Nov. 18, 2020, Tomassoni and Sen. Thomas Bakk announced that they were leaving the Democratic-Farmer-Labor caucus to form a new independent caucus.

Since the legislature’s session has already concluded, no special election will be called to replace Tomassoni since he had already announced he would not run for re-election. A new state senator for the district will be elected in the November election.

As of Aug. 18, Ballotpedia has identified 156 state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Of those 156, 41 were state senators and 115 were state representatives. Tomassoni was one of eight state legislators to switch parties in 2020. Of the eight, two switched from Democratic to independent, one from Democratic to Republican, one from Republican to Libertarian, one from independent to Republican, and three from Democratic to independent. 

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May 2022 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 54.33% Republicans, 44.39% Democrats

According to Ballotpedia’s May partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States, 54.33% of all state legislators are Republicans and 44.39% are Democrats.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. This refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans control 62 chambers, while Democrats hold 36. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber to be organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Nationally, the state legislatures include 1,961 state senators and 5,368 state representatives. Democrats hold 860 state Senate seats—losing one since April—and 2,417 state House seats, up two from last month. Republicans hold 4,011 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—1,093 state Senate seats (down three since April) and 2,918 state House seats, an increase of one. Independent or third-party legislators hold 41 seats, of which 33 are state House seats and eight are state Senate seats. There are 54 vacant seats.

Compared to May 2021, Democrats have lost seven state Senate seats (867 v 860) and 33 state House seats (2,450 v 2,417). Republicans have gained two state Senate seats (1,091 v 1,093), while the number of state House seats has remained the same.  

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Karen Peterson resigns from Louisiana State Senate

Karen Peterson (D) resigned from the Louisiana State Senate on April 8 to focus on recovering from depression and a gambling addiction. She represented District 5 from 2010 to 2022. According to The New Orleans Advocate, a federal probe is being conducted into Peterson’s finances and gambling addiction. 

Prior to joining the state Senate in 2010, Peterson served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1999 to 2010. She most recently ran for election in 2021, challenging Troy Carter (D) in the special election for U.S. House Louisiana District 2. Carter was elected with 55.2% of the vote.

If there is a vacancy in the Louisiana State Senate, the vacant seat must be filled by a special election. An election is required if there are six months or more left in the unexpired term. The presiding officer in the house where the vacancy happened must call for an election no later than 10 days after the vacancy occurred. The presiding officer must determine the dates for the election along with all filing deadlines. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term.

As of April 11, there have been 52 state legislative vacancies in 28 states during 2022. Twenty-two (22) of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 52 vacancies, 34 are Democratic and 18 are Republican. Democrats have filled 15 vacancies, while Republicans have filled seven.  

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