2014 state legislative elections analyzed using a Competitiveness Index
All three aspects of Ballotpedia's Competitiveness Index -- the number of open seats, incumbents facing primary opposition and general elections between partisan candidates -- showed poor results compared to the prior election cycle. States with elections in 2014 held fewer general elections between partisan candidates, fewer incumbents faced primary opposition and more incumbents ran for re-election than in recent years.
Since 2010, when the Competitiveness Index was established, there had not been an even-year election cycle to do statistically worse in any of the three categories. See the following chart for a breakdown of those scores between each year.
|Overall Comparison between years|
|% Open Seats||18.6%||21.2%||17.0%|
|% Inc that did face primary||22.7%||24.6%||20.1%|
|% Candidates that did face major party opp||67.3%||61.7%||57.0%|
Of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats, 6,057 were up for election in the November 4, 2014 state legislative elections. This article is an overview of our analysis of the degree of competitiveness in 2014's state legislative elections. The analysis utilized the 3-factor "Competitiveness Index."
3-factor Competitiveness Index
- Incumbents in primaries: Incumbents with a primary challenger in the 2014 state legislative elections
- Major party candidates with no competition: Major party candidates with major party competition in the November 2014 state legislative elections
- Open seats: Open seats in the 2014 state legislative elections
- Summary chart: State legislatures compared by extent of electoral competitiveness in 2014
In 2014, we also took a look at state legislative incumbent turnover. State legislative incumbent turnover in 2014
Competitiveness: Incumbents in primaries
A total of 1,009 incumbents faced a primary challenger in 2014.
Since 5,026 incumbents ran for re-election in 2014, that means that only 20.1% of them faced a primary challenger. In 2012, 1,175 (24.6%) of incumbents faced a primary opponent.
The remaining 4,017 incumbents (79.9%) that ran for re-election in 2014 had no primary challenger.
Competitiveness: Major party candidates with no competition
There are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives. Heading into the election, there were only 72 total third party legislators out of 7,383 total state legislators. Of those 72, 49 were Nebraska State Senators, where all candidates must run as a nonpartisan. Thus, a major party candidate is virtually guaranteed election when facing third parties.
- Given that major party candidates win nearly 100% of the time, a candidate running without any major party opposition is essentially assured election -- even if there are third party candidates.
- There was only one major party candidate in 2,606 (43.02%) of the 6,057 seats up for election in 2014.
- There was more than one major party candidate in 3,451 (56.98%) of the 6,057 seats up for election in 2014. In 2012, 3,709 (61.7%) seats had two or more major party candidates.
Competitiveness: Open seats
There was no incumbent running for re-election in 1,030 (17.0%) of the 6,057 seats up for election in 2014, either because he or she voluntarily chose not to run again, faced term limits or was affected by redistricting. This is a decrease from 21.2 percent in 2012.
In 5,027 (83.0%) of the 6,057 seats up for election in 2014, the incumbent ran for re-election.
In addition to themes previously presented in the Competitiveness Index, Ballotpedia staff analyzed primary results to look for the following circumstances:
- Incumbents who were defeated by primary challengers
- Overall turnover, including defeated incumbents and retirements, and the total number of open seats heading into the general election.
What we found is that while Republicans have a higher degree of turnover, the margin between that turnover and the partisan balance of seats with elections is not great. Furthermore, while Republicans were challenged in the primary at a higher rate, incumbents from both sides advanced past primary elections at similar rates.
- Of the 1,009 partisan incumbents who faced primary opposition, 130 were defeated.
- 47 Democrats were defeated, with 88.78 percent advancing past the primary.
- 83 Republicans were defeated while the remaining 85.93 percent advanced.
- Overall, 87.12 percent of incumbents advanced past the primary.
- 1,012 partisan incumbents declined to seek re-election.
- 1,159 incumbents, including nonpartisan incumbents, retired or were defeated, meaning that 19.14 percent of seats were open heading into the general election.
- Republicans accounted for 54.99 percent of overall partisan incumbent turnover, while Democrats made up for 45.01 percent. Of the seats up for election in 2014, 51.6 percent were held by Republicans and 47.5 percent were held by Democrats.
Using the official primary candidate lists from each state, staff members analyzed each district's race to look for the following circumstances:
- No incumbent running with only one candidate
- No incumbent running with a contested primary
- Incumbent is running uncontested
- Incumbent is running in a contested primary
- No candidate has declared
General election competitiveness
Using the official candidate lists from each state, staff members analyzed each district's race to look for the following circumstances:
- Incumbent is not running
- Only one major party candidate in the general election
After the raw data was obtained, our staff analyzed the states to determine if there was noticeable partisan difference as well as the difference between states with and without term limits.
- To know which states have the most competitive electoral environment and which states have the least competitive electoral environments in 2014. The term "competitive" is not used to declare which states are hotly contested between political parties. Instead, the term is used to indicate competitive environment on a ballot access level. The goal of the Competitiveness Index is to assess the relative competitiveness of state legislative elections by noting where incumbents are being challenged and if opportunities for election bids are being considered by candidates.
- To develop a Competitiveness Index to be used in future years, so that political observers can assess the ebb and flow of state legislative election competitiveness over time.
- State legislative elections, 2014
- Competitiveness Index by year: 2013 • 2012 • 2011 • 2010
- Comparing the competitiveness index for state legislative elections