TagState leg

Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 38% compared to 2020

There are 38% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 77% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 7%,

These figures include elections in 20 states that account for 2,476 of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (40%).

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

Since our last update, we have added post-filing deadline data from four states: Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and New Mexico. Overall, five states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 12 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 20 states in this analysis, 18 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 seven, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 17 states and decreased 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.



Percentage of New Mexico state legislative incumbents facing primaries at its highest since 2014

Twelve of the 57 New Mexico state legislators running for re-election—eight Democrats and four Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 21% of incumbents seeking re-election, the highest rate since 2014. The remaining 45% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

While there are fewer incumbents in contested primaries this year than in 2020 (12, down from 20), a higher percentage of incumbents running for re-election face contested primaries than in 2020.

The state House of Representatives holds elections in its 70 districts every two years. The state Senate, on the other hand, holds elections every four years to coincide with presidential elections. Only the House districts are up for election this year.

Despite the fact that only one chamber is holding elections this year, the number of open districts is at its highest since 2014. An open seat is one where no incumbents filed to run. This means 18.6% of the districts holding elections this year will be represented by newcomers.

Open districts most commonly exist when an incumbent chooses not to seek re-election. During redistricting, open districts might also exist if an incumbent is drawn into a new district, leaving their old district open.

In New Mexico, all 13 open districts were caused by incumbents choosing not to seek re-election. Every incumbent who filed for re-election did so in the district he or she represented before redistricting.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in New Mexico this year was March 24. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 70 House districts.

Overall, 129 major party candidates filed to run: 69 Democrats and 60 Republicans. That’s 1.8 candidates per district, down from 2.1 in 2020 but up from 1.7 in 2018.

New Mexico has been a Democratic trifecta since voters elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in 2018. Democrats currently hold a 26-15-1 majority in the Senate and a 44-24-1 majority in the House.

New Mexico’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 7, the sixth statewide state legislative primary date of the 2022 election cycle.

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Rate of state legislative incumbents facing contested primaries in Georgia at its highest since 2014

Image of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sixty-three of the 188 Georgia state legislators running for re-election this year—27 Democrats and 36 Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 34% of incumbents seeking re-election, the highest rate since 2014. The remaining 66% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

A contested primary is one where more candidates are running than there are nominations available. After redistricting, it is common to see primaries where two incumbents run against one another. This can happen if a district’s lines are redrawn to place two incumbents in the same district.

This year, there are three incumbent versus incumbent primaries in Georgia. In these races, since only one candidate can win the nomination, one incumbent is guaranteed to lose:

  • House District 100: Reps. David Clark (R) and Bonnie Rich (R), from House Districts 98 and 97, respectively, filed to run against one another.
  • House District 106: Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D), from House District 107, filed to run against Rep. Rebecca Mitchell (D).
  • House District 149: Rep. Danny Mathis (R), from House District 144, filed to run against Rep. Robert Pruitt (R).

The total number of contested primaries—including those without incumbents—also reached its highest point since 2014. With 236 districts, there are 472 possible primaries every election cycle.

This year, there are 104 contested primaries—51 Democratic primaries and 53 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 49 in 2020, a 4% increase. For Republicans, that number increased 71%, from 31 in 2020 to 53 in 2022.

This is also the state’s first cycle since 2016 with more Republican primaries than those for Democrats.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Georgia this year was March 11. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 56 Senate districts and 180 House districts.

Fifty-one of those districts were left open, meaning no incumbents filed to run, the most since 2014.

Overall, 495 major party candidates filed to run this year: 238 Democrats and 257 Republicans. That equals 2.1 candidates per district, up from 2.0 in 2020 and 1.9 in 2018.

Georgia has been a Republican trifecta Republicans won control of the state House in 2004. Republicans currently hold a 34-22 majority in the Senate and a 103-76 majority in the House.

Georgia’s primaries are scheduled for May 24, the fifth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

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Newcomers will represent 31% of Iowa’s state legislative districts next year

Forty-six state legislative districts up for election this year in Iowa are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. That equals 33% of the 134 districts up for election and 31% of all 150 districts in the Iowa General Assembly.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers to the assembly are guaranteed to win open districts. This is the most guaranteed newcomers to the Iowa General Assembly since 2014.

This year, 41 districts are open because incumbents either retired or chose to run for some other office. Five other districts are open due to redistricting moving incumbents into districts with other incumbents. This can lead to incumbent versus incumbent contests if multiple incumbents choose to run in the same district.

There are four incumbent versus incumbent contests in Iowa this year. In these races, since only one candidate can win, one incumbent is guaranteed to lose:

The total number of contested primaries—including those featuring incumbents and those in open districts—reached its highest point since 2014.

This year, there are 44 contested primaries—13 Democratic primaries and 31 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 12 in 2020, an 8% increase. For Republicans, the number increased 94% from 13 in 2020 to 31 in 2022.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Iowa this year was March 18. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 100 House districts and 34 of its 50 Senate districts.

Overall, 254 major party candidates filed: 112 Democrats and 142 Republicans. That equals 1.9 candidates per district, the same as in 2020, and down from 2.0 in 2018.

Iowa has been a Republican trifecta since Republicans won control of the Senate in 2016. Republicans currently hold a 32-18 majority in the Senate and a 60-40 majority in the House.

Iowa’s primaries are scheduled for June 7, the sixth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

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Missouri General Assembly passes one election-related bill in 2022 session

The 2022 session of the Missouri General Assembly adjourned on May 13. Ballotpedia tracked 21 election-related bills in this year’s session, 20 of which appear to have died (i.e., these bills failed to clear both chambers of the legislature by the time of its adjournment). One bill – House Bill 1878 – did clear both chambers of the legislature by the time of its adjournment. The bill would modify Missouri’s voter identification requirements as follows: 

  • Voters casting absentee ballots in person would be required to present photo identification. 
  • A voter without the required photo identification would be permitted to vote by provisional ballot upon completing an affidavit. If the voter subsequently submits a valid form of identification, or an election official verifies the voter’s identity by matching the signature on the provisional ballot envelope against the signature on file, the ballot would be counted. 

The final vote in the state Senate was 23-11, with 23 Republicans voting in favor and 10 Democrats and one Republican in opposition. The final vote in the state House was 97-47, with 96 Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor and 47 Democrats in opposition. It awaits action from Gov. Mike Parson (R).

The Missouri General Assembly is a bicameral legislature composed of a 34-member Senate and a 163-member House of Representatives. The 2022 session convened on Jan. 5. 

Missouri is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas in the U.S. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the General Assembly. There is a 24-10 Republican majority in the Senate and a 108-49 majority in the House. 



Percentage of Arizona state legislative incumbents facing primaries at its highest since 2014

Twenty-eight of the 51 Arizona state legislators running for re-election this year—nine Democrats and 17 Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 55% of incumbents seeking re-election, the highest rate since 2014. The remaining 45% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

Twenty-eight incumbents is, by itself, the largest number of incumbents in contested primaries since 2014. But it is also similar to recent cycles. The rate of incumbents in contested primaries is higher this year than 2018 and 2020 because fewer incumbents are seeking re-election.

Thirty-nine incumbents did not file for re-election, nine because of term limits. This is the largest number of retiring incumbents in Arizona since 2014.

In addition to the 39 retirements, four other seats are open this year because incumbents are running in different districts as a result of redistricting. When district lines are redrawn incumbents might find themselves living in new districts. This can result in incumbents challenging other incumbents in primary or general elections.

This year there are three primaries featuring multiple incumbents. In each of these races, at least one incumbent is guaranteed to lose:

Additionally, Sens. Christine Marsh (D) and Nancy Barto (R) were drawn into a contested general election in Senate District 4.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Arizona this year was April 4. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 60 House seats and 30 Senate seats.

Overall, 203 major party candidates filed to run this year: 91 Democrats and 112 Republicans. That equals 2.3 candidates per seat, up from 2.0 in 2020.

Arizona has been a Republican trifecta since 2008. Republicans currently hold a 16-14 majority in the Senate and a 31-29 majority in the House.

Arizona’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2, the tenth statewide state legislative primary date of the 2022 election cycle.

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

So far this year, 44 state legislative incumbents—11 Democrats and 33 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the nine states that have held primaries, 4.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost. This is both the largest number and highest incumbent loss rate in these nine states since 2014.

So far this year, the loss rate has been higher for Republicans than for Democrats. Of the 593 Republican incumbents seeking re-election, 33 (5.6%) lost in primaries. For Democrats, 11 of the 343 incumbents running (3.2%) lost to primary challengers.

However, fewer Democratic incumbents are facing primary challengers than their Republican counterparts. Around 17% of Democratic incumbents faced contested primaries compared to 37% for Republicans.

Overall, among those nine states, 936 incumbents filed for re-election, and 278 (30%) faced contested primaries. This is the largest number since 2014.

Sixteen of the incumbents who lost primaries so far were 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.

Of the nine states that have held primaries so far, one had a Democratic trifecta, five had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these nine states, there are 1,114 seats up for election, 18% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 37 primaries featuring incumbents—six Democrats and 31 Republicans—that remain uncalled. Additionally, there are five primary runoffs in Texas scheduled for May 24 with incumbents present.

You can view a full list of defeated incumbents and defeat totals from previous years by clicking “Learn More” below.



Twenty-six incumbents face contested primaries in California, down from recent cycles

Twenty-six of the 69 California state legislators running for re-election this year—21 Democrats and five Republicans—face contested primaries. This is fewer than the 37 incumbents in contested primaries in 2018 and 2020, but more than in earlier cycles.

California began using top-two primaries in 2012, where every candidate, regardless of party affiliation, appears on the same ballot, and the top-two vote-getters advance to the general election. In 2010 and before, California held partisan primaries where candidates from each party competed against one another to win their parties’ nominations for the general election.

While the number of incumbents in contested primaries increased after the switch in 2012, most ultimately advance to the general election. Only two state legislative incumbents have lost in a top-two primary in California: Assms. Tyler Diep (R) and William Brough (R) in 2020.

One reason for the decrease of incumbents in contested primaries is the increase in open districts. Thirty-four of the state’s 100 legislative districts holding elections this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This is the most open districts since 2012.

Open districts can exist for a number of reasons. An incumbent might choose to retire or seek another office. They might also be prohibited from running due to term limits. Open districts are also common after redistricting when incumbents might be drawn into a new district, leaving their old district open.

This year, there are 31 retiring incumbents: 20 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and one independent. Of that total, seven incumbents were term-limited, all in the Senate. The remaining three open districts were caused by incumbents running against other incumbents in Assembly Districts 34, 73, and 75.

Overall, 295 candidates filed to run in top-two state legislative primaries this year: 168 Democrats, 119 Republicans, and eight independent or third-party candidates.

California has had a Democratic trifecta since 2011 following the election of Gov. Jerry Brown (D). Democrats currently hold a 31-9 majority in the Senate and a 58-19-1 majority in the Assembly.

California’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 7, the sixth statewide primary date of the 2022 election cycle.

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Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 41% compared to 2020

The number of contested state legislative primaries is up 41% this year compared to 2020. Democratic primaries are down 6%, Republican primaries are up 76%, and top-two/four primaries are up 18%.

These figures include data from 16 states that account for 1,850 of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (30%).

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

Three states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 10 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 16 states in this analysis, 14 are holding partisan primaries. Two states—California and Nebraska—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in six states, decreased in six, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 13 states and decreased 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.

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.



Two bills passed during Missouri’s 2022 legislative session

The Missouri General Assembly adjourned on May 13 having passed two bills during the 2022 legislative session. Both House Bill 3014 and House Bill 3015 are appropriation bills. There were a total of 11 resolutions adopted between the two chambers.

In 2021, Missouri state legislature passed a total 58 bills. That is 97% decrease in passed bills from last year’s legislative session to this year’s session. Alaska passed the fewest amount of bills last year with a total of 48 bills. 

After the Missouri legislature adjourns, there will be 20 state legislatures in session, 28 adjourned, one in special session, and one yet to convene.

The Missouri General Assembly is the state legislature of Missouri. It is a bicameral legislature composed of a 34-member Senate and a 163-member House of Representatives. Senators are term limited to two terms and representatives are limited to four. The Missouri General Assembly is a part-time legislature. Legislative sessions are held between January and May. 

Missouri is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas in the U.S. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the General Assembly. There is a 24-10 Republican majority in the Senate and a 108-49 majority in the House. The Republicans have a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers. In the event of a veto issued by Gov. Parson, the Republican majority is large enough to override the veto without any votes from members of the Democratic party. 

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