Tagtrifecta

Trifecta status on the line in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election on Nov. 8

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), and three others are running in the general election for governor of Pennsylvania on November 8, 2022. Incumbent Tom Wolf (D) cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

Shapiro was elected as attorney general in 2016 and served as Montgomery County Commissioner from 2011-2017 and state representative from 2005-2011. Shapiro’s campaign has focused on two key messages: his experience and work as attorney general and his potential ability as governor to veto legislation passed by the legislature’s Republican majority. Shapiro said his experience in the criminal justice system and on cases related to LGBTQ issues, workers’ issues, and election security are things he would continue to pursue as governor. Shapiro’s campaign website highlighted abortion and absentee/mail-in voting issues where he would veto legislation he disagreed with.

Mastriano was elected as a state senator from the Cumberland Valley in 2018. He served in the United States Army from 1988 to 2017. Mastriano also proposed a number of election policy changes, including eliminating no excuse absentee/mail-in voting and drop boxes, enacting universal voter identification, and prohibiting the use of private donations or grants for election administration. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its overturning of Roe v. Wade, Mastriano called on the state legislature to pass a bill banning abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Mastriano said he would rescind any remaining mask and vaccine mandates related to the coronavirus pandemic on his first day in office and work to pass a law banning similar future mandates.

How the state runs its elections has been one focus of each candidate’s campaign. As of 2022, the governor of Pennsylvania has the power to appoint a secretary of state charged with certifying election results, determining which voting machines the state uses, and ordering recounts and recanvasses of elections. Shapiro said, “[I will] appoint a pro-democracy Secretary of State to run our elections, expand pre-registration opportunities for young people, and implement same-day voter registration through Election Day.” Mastriano’s website said he would “Appoint a Secretary of State with experience in securing elections from fraud.”

Heading into the election, Pennsylvania has a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. A Shapiro win would preserve this divided government, while a Mastriano win would create the opportunity for a Republican trifecta if Republicans also hold the state legislature. A trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship and a majority in both legislative chambers. Across the country, there are 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments.

Minor party, independent, and write-in candidates include Christina Digiulio (G), Joseph Soloski (Keystone Party of Pennsylvania), and Matt Hackenburg (L).

Each candidate has a running mate for lieutenant governor. Shapiro’s running mate is state Rep. Austin Davis and Mastriano’s running mate is state Rep. Carrie DelRosso.



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.



Democrats defending seven vulnerable trifectas this year, Republicans defending six

Thirteen state government trifectas are vulnerable in 2022, according to Ballotpedia’s annual trifecta vulnerability ratings. Democrats are defending seven vulnerable trifectas and Republicans are defending six.

The Democratic trifectas in Delaware and Washington are highly vulnerable. Neither of those two states are holding gubernatorial elections in 2022 but in both states, Democrats have a five-seat or less advantage in the state Senate. Democratic trifectas in Colorado, Maine, and Nevada are moderately vulnerable. Two Democratic trifectas—Illinois and Oregon—are considered somewhat vulnerable.

Arizona is the only highly vulnerable Republican trifecta this year. The governor’s race is currently rated as a Toss-up, and Republicans have a one seat majority in both the state House and Senate. Three Republican trifectas in Georgia, New Hampshire, and Texas are classified as moderately vulnerable. The Republican trifectas in Florida and Iowa are somewhat vulnerable.

Ballotpedia also assessed the chances of new trifectas forming in states that are currently under divided government. According to our methodology, states that qualified as a possible Democratic trifecta pickup are Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina, while Republicans have pickup chances in Alaska and Kansas. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, both parties have the opportunity to establish a state government trifecta.

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. There are currently 23 Republican trifectas and 14 Democratic trifectas. The remaining 13 states have divided governments.

Thirty-six states are holding gubernatorial elections this year and 88 of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly-scheduled elections.

Ballotpedia calculates the chances of trifectas breaking and forming by evaluating each trifecta component individually and assessing the chances of them changing control. We base our evaluations of gubernatorial races on ratings from The Cook Political ReportInside Elections, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. We assess state legislative chambers according to the absolute number of seats up for election and the proportion of seats that would need to flip for partisan control to change, evaluating both chambers in a state’s legislature individually.

The 2020 elections resulted in Republicans gaining two trifectas—in Montana and New Hampshire—both of which had divided government at the time of the election. In 2021, Republicans in Virginia broke what had been a Democratic trifecta by winning the governorship and control of the House of Delegates. Between 2010 and 2021, 73 state government trifectas were broken or gained.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: State government trifectas at the Super Bowl

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

  1. State government trifectas at the Super Bowl
  2. A look at next week’s school board recall in San Francisco
  3. Three-fourths of Alabama state legislative districts are contested by only one of the two major parties

State government trifectas at the Super Bowl

This Sunday, Feb. 13, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams will face off in Super Bowl LVI. While we here at Ballotpedia are excited about the big game, we couldn’t resist taking a look at past results through the lens of our historical state government trifecta data from 1967 to 2021.

The matchup this year will pit a team from a state with a Republican trifecta—the Bengals, located in Ohio—against a team from a state with a Democratic trifecta—the Rams in California.

A government trifecta exists when one party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governorship in a given state.

If the Bengals win, it will be the third year in a row where a team from a state with a Republican trifecta has won the Super Bowl after the Buccaneers in Florida last year and the Chiefs, who play in Missouri, in 2020.

If the Rams win, it will be the first time since 2016 that a team from a state that had a Democratic trifecta has won the Super Bowl. The last team to win from a Democratic trifecta was the Denver Broncos in 2016.

The chart below shows each Super Bowl based on the winning team’s state government trifecta status at the time of each team’s victory.

Historically, teams from states that had divided governments—where no single party has a trifecta—have won the most Super Bowls at 25 (45%). One team—the New England Patriots from Massachusetts—makes up six of those victories. Every time the Patriots have won a Super Bowl, Massachusetts has had a divided government.

Teams from states that had Democratic trifectas have won 19 Super Bowls (35%) and hold the longest winning streak from 1970 to 1978. The Dallas Cowboys, located in Texas, won four Super Bowls while their state had a Democratic trifecta.

Teams from states that had Republican trifectas have won eight Super Bowls (15%) including the first three ever held. The Green Bay Packers, located in Wisconsin, won three Super Bowls while their state had a Republican trifecta.

Only one team has won a Super Bowl under all three trifecta statuses: the Broncos in Colorado. The team won in 1998 under a divided government, in 1999 under a Republican trifecta, and in 2016 under a Democratic trifecta.

The Bengals have never won a Super Bowl, but they have been to two in 1982 and 1989. In both years, Ohio had a divided government. The Rams have won one Super Bowl—the 34th in 2000—when the team was located in Missouri, which had a Democratic trifecta at the time.

The increased number of teams from states with divided governments around the 1900s and into the 2000s tracks with nationwide trends. In 1992, there were 31 states with divided governments and 19 trifectas. Today, there are 37 trifectas—14 Democratic and 23 Republican—and 13 divided governments.

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A look at next week’s school board recall in San Francisco

Recall elections against three of the seven members of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education are scheduled for Feb. 15, 2022. Petitions to recall board members Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga were certified in October 2021.

All three board members named in the recall petitions were first elected to four-year terms on Nov. 6, 2018. The other four members of the board were not eligible for recall at the time as they had not yet served in their current terms for six months.

Recall supporters said they were frustrated that schools in the district remained closed for nearly a year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters also said they were upset the board had taken time voting to rename 44 buildings rather than focus on school re-openings. 

Siva Raj, a parent who filed notices of intent to recall, said, “From day one, the campaign was a campaign to get politics out of education … What we saw consistently was a pattern where school board leadership focused on a lot of political stunts and symbolic gestures.” 

Mayor London Breed endorsed the recall in November 2021, saying, “Sadly, our school board’s priorities have often been severely misplaced.” If any board members are recalled, Breed will appoint replacements.

On Feb. 21, 2021, López announced that the board would put building renaming on hold to focus on re-opening plans. At a board meeting on April 6, 2021, members unanimously voted to rescind the approval of the renaming process. At the same meeting, they voted to return students to full-time, in-person instruction at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jill Tucker, opponents of the recall “question why the city is spending more than $3 million on a recall election when the three board members’ terms are up in January 2023.” 

The members being recalled also spoke out against the efforts. At an August 2021 event, Collins said, “When I see certain people getting upset, I know I’m doing the right thing.” López said, “The people who are behind this don’t know us, they don’t know our work, they don’t know what we’ve been doing, they don’t know what we are dedicated to.”

The last San Francisco official to face a recall election was then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1983. Feinstein survived the recall with 81% of the vote in her favor.

So far in 2022, Ballotpedia has tracked 24 recall efforts against 64 school board members. Four recalls against seven members have already gone to a vote so far this year, all of which were defeated.

In 2021, we tracked 92 recall efforts against school board members, more than any year since at least 2006. The next most-active year was 2010 with 38 recall efforts. 

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Three-fourths of Alabama state legislative districts are contested by only one of the two major parties

After every filing deadline, we crunch the numbers to see how competitive elections will be at different levels of government and in different states. All year, we will be bringing you updates for all 50 states.

Today, we are looking at Alabama, the third state to have a filing deadline this cycle.

Of the 140 state legislative districts holding elections in Alabama this year, either a Democrat or Republican is likely to win 105 (75.0%) because no candidates from the opposing party filed to run. The filing deadline for candidates running for state offices in Alabama was Jan. 28.

Democrats likely will win 27 districts—six in the Senate and 21 in the House—because no Republican filed to run for them. Republicans likely will win 78 districts—21 in the Senate and 57 in the House. In 2018, 83 districts had no major party competition (59%) and 73 (52%) were uncontested in 2014.

The remaining eight Senate and 27 House districts likely will be contested between both major parties. This is the lowest rate of major party competition in the state since at least 2014.

But, before the general elections, candidates may need to pass through a primary.

Sixty-three of the 280 possible major party primaries (22.5%) are contested, meaning more than one candidate filed for a party’s nomination in a given district. While Republicans will have their highest number of contested primaries compared to recent elections, Democrats will have their lowest. Overall, the total number of major party primaries is at its lowest since at least 2014, which had 64 contests.

Overall, 271 candidates filed to run for the 140 districts: 88 Democrats, 182 Republicans, and one Libertarian. This equals 1.94 candidates per district, down from 2.15 in 2018 and 2.02 in 2014. Additional minor party and independent candidates may still file to run before May 24. 

Alabama holds state legislative elections every four years during midterm cycles. The state’s primaries are the 11th in the nation, alongside Arkansas and Georgia. All three states will hold primary elections on May 24. In all three, if no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election on June 21.

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36.5 percent of Americans live in a Democratic trifecta, 41.8 percent live in a Republican trifecta

At the start of 2022, 36.5 percent (120 million) of Americans lived in a state with a Democratic trifecta, while 41.8 percent (137 million) lived in a state with a Republican trifecta. The other 71 million Americans lived in a state with a divided government.

A state government trifecta is a term to describe single-party government, when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. At the start of 2022, there were 38 trifectas—15 Democratic and 23 Republican.

Virginia’s will change from a Democratic trifecta to a state with divided government when legislators and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) are sworn into office on Jan. 12. In the 2021 elections, Republicans won control of the Virginia House of Delegates and the governor’s office, currently held by Democrat Ralph Northam. Democrats still control the Virginia State Senate.

When this happens, 33.9 percent of Americans (112 million) will live in a state with a Democratic trifecta, 41.8 percent (137 million) will live in a state with a Republican trifecta, and 24.3 percent (78 million) will live in a state with divided government.

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Assessing the vulnerability of the Democratic trifectas in New Jersey and Virginia

Gubernatorial or state legislative elections are taking place in two states, New Jersey and Virginia, in 2021. Trifecta status is at stake in both states.

A trifecta exists when one party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house. There are currently 38 trifectas: 23 Republican trifectas and 15 Democratic trifectas. The remaining 12 states have a divided government where neither party has a trifecta. Ballotpedia has calculated the vulnerability of both trifectas with elections in 2021. Trifecta vulnerability is calculated by Ballotpedia by assessing each component’s chance of changing control. Gubernatorial races are rated using race ratings from the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. Legislative races are assessed based on the absolute number of seats and the proportion of seats that would need to be flipped. Both chambers in a state’s legislature are evaluated individually.

New Jersey has been a Democratic trifecta since Gov. Phil Murphy (D) assumed office in 2018. It has scheduled elections for governor, all 40 state Senate seats, and all 80 state Assembly seats. Election forecasters rate the governor’s race Solid Democratic. Republicans need to either win that election, flip six out of 40 state Senate seats (15%), or flip 13 out of 80 state Assembly seats (16.25%) in order to break the Democratic trifecta. Ballotpedia therefore assesses New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta as not vulnerable.

Virginia has scheduled elections for governor and all 100 state House seats in 2021. The state is also a Democratic trifecta, and has been since the start of the 2020 legislative session. Election forecasters rate the gubernatorial election as Leans Democratic and Republicans would need to flip six of the 100 state House seats (6%). Ballotpedia has assessed Virginia’s Democratic trifecta as moderately vulnerable.

Changes in a state government’s policy priorities often follow changes in trifecta status, as trifecta control affords a political party the opportunity to advance its agenda. Gaining or breaking trifectas—or in some cases, maintaining divided government—thus often becomes a major priority for a party heading into each election cycle. Between 2010 and 2020, 72 state government trifectas were broken or gained.

Additional reading:

State government trifectas

Historical and potential changes in trifectas



Alaska House of Representatives elects temporary speaker

Forty-six state legislatures are currently in session. The Alaska House of Representatives has been in session since Jan. 19. But no regular business has taken place because legislators have not elected a permanent speaker or organized committees.

Partisan control of the House was uncertain after the 2020 elections, split between those favoring a Republican-led majority and those supporting a multi-party coalition. Republicans won 21 of 40 seats, but Rep. Louise Stutes (R) joined a coalition of 16 Democrats and three independents, leaving legislators split into two 20-member factions.

The Alaska House elected Josiah Patkotak (I) unanimously as temporary speaker on Feb. 4. Patkotak was elected to his first term on Nov. 3. He is presiding over the chamber until a permanent speaker is elected, taking over for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) who had filled the role of presiding officer since the legislative session began. Legislators have not submitted any nominations for a permanent speaker as of Feb. 9.

Alaska has a Republican governor, and Republicans control the state Senate, so final control of the chamber will also determine the state’s trifecta status.

The Alaska House faced a similar situation after the 2018 elections. That year, Republican-aligned candidates won 23 seats, and Democratic-aligned candidates won 17. A coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (I) as House speaker on Feb. 14, 2019. Edgmon was originally elected as a Democrat but changed his party affiliation to independent before he was elected speaker. Both parties split control of key leadership positions and committees.



Special election to be held Jan. 23 in Texas state House district

A special general election is being held on January 23 for District 68 of the Texas House of Representatives. Charles Gregory (D), John Berry (R), Jason Brinkley (R), Craig Carter (R), and David Spiller (R) are running in the general election. A general election runoff will be scheduled if no candidate earns at least 50% of the vote.

The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of January, 20 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Donald Trump wins 20 states with trifectas, Joe Biden wins 18

After the 2020 elections, Republicans had 23 trifectas, Democrats had 15 trifectas, and 11 states had divided governments. Trifecta status in Alaska is pending. A trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Two divided government states gained Republican trifecta status following the 2020 elections. Joe Biden (D) won New Hampshire, which gained a Republican trifecta when Republicans won majorities in the state legislature. Donald Trump (R) won Montana, which gained a Republican trifecta when Greg Gianforte (R) won the governorship.

Besides New Hampshire, Biden also carried the Republican trifecta states of Arizona and Georgia. Republicans have had a trifecta in Arizona since 2009 and in Georgia since 2005.

In total, Trump won 20 Republican trifectas and Biden won three. Biden won the statewide vote in all 15 Democratic trifecta states.

Biden won three states Donald Trump (R) won in 2016 that now have divided governments. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all went to Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. All three states previously had Republican trifectas; Michigan’s and Wisconsin’s were broken in the 2018 elections, while Pennsylvania’s was broken in the 2014 election.

Biden also won the presidential vote in four other divided government states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont. Hillary Clinton (D) won these states in 2016. 

Trump won four divided government states that he also won in 2016: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina. These states all gained divided trifecta status after electing Democratic governors. Louisiana elected a Democratic governor in 2015, followed by North Carolina in 2016, Kansas in 2018, and Kentucky in 2019.



Three states split presidential and gubernatorial vote

Three states voted for presidential and gubernatorial candidates of different parties this year, while at least two voted for presidential candidates of a different party than the state’s trifecta status.

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Heading into the 2020 elections, Republicans held 21 state government trifectas and Democrats held 15. The 14 remaining states had divided government, where neither party holds a trifecta. Republicans gained at least two trifectas in states with divided governments this year, picking up trifectas in Montana and New Hampshire. As of Nov. 16, Alaska’s final trifecta status remained too close to call, leaving the possibility of a third trifecta pickup for Republicans. No other states’ trifecta statuses changed as a result of the election.

Joe Biden (D) won all 15 states with Democratic trifectas as well as Arizona, which has a Republican trifecta, and New Hampshire, which gained one. As of Nov. 16, the results of the presidential election in Georgia, a Republican trifecta, remained too close to call. Four of the five outlets Ballotpedia tracks had called the state for Joe Biden.

Donald Trump (R) won the other 20 Republican trifecta states. Of the 12 states with divided government after the election (including Alaska), five voted for Donald Trump and seven for Joe Biden.

Eleven states elected a governor this year, including seven with Republican governors at the time of the election and four with Democratic governors. Three states split their presidential and gubernatorial votes. New Hampshire and Vermont re-elected the Republican governors first elected in 2016 while voting for Joe Biden for president. North Carolina re-elected the Democratic governor first elected in 2016, while voting a second time for Donald Trump.

All 11 states also held gubernatorial elections in 2016. That year, five states split their presidential and gubernatorial votes. Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia elected Democratic governors while also voting for Donald Trump (R). New Hampshire and Vermont elected Republican governors while also voting for Hillary Clinton (D).

Both Montana and West Virginia voted for Donald Trump a second time while also electing a Republican as governor. In Montana, Greg Gianforte (R) was elected governor after losing to incumbent Steve Bullock (D) in the 2016 election. In West Virginia, Jim Justice (R) was re-elected. Justice was first elected as a Democrat in 2016 and joined the Republican Party the following year.