Breaking down the August state legislative primaries in Mississippi
By: Geoff Pallay
JACKSON, Mississippi: In 5 weeks, Mississippi’s Democratic and Republican candidates face party primaries in order to qualify for the November 8 general election. Each district holds two parallel primaries to select major party nominees. However, in the majority of districts, voters might as well stay home, given the lack of contested primaries.
Mississippi has 52 Senate districts and 122 House districts, leaving 348 possible primaries combined in the two chambers. In Mississippi, a primary is "contested" when at least two candidates are competing for their respective party’s nomination.
There are only 26 contested primaries out of the 104 primaries in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, only 51 of the 244 primaries are contested. All told, only 77 out of the 348 primaries on August 2 (22.1%) will require voters to choose between multiple candidates. In the remaining 271 primaries (77.9%), the candidate automatically advances to the general election.
Previous elections and primaries
How does this coming primary compare to prior years' levels of competition? The table below compares the 2007 and 2011 primary candidate lists according to the following factors:
- Was there an incumbent in the primary? If not, this was considered "Open"
- Was the primary "contested," as described above, meaning at least one candidate would ultimately "lose" the primary
The table breaks down the variables by political party as well.
- Total contested primaries have decreased from 78 in 2007 to 77 in 2011
- The number of incumbents contested has decreased from 46 in 2007 to 39 in 2011, while the number of uncontested incumbents has grown even more. In 2007, 110 incumbents were uncontested but 109 will advance straight to the general election in 2011.
- The total number of uncontested primaries has stayed largely the same -- 164 in 2007 and 166 in 2011.
- One factor in Mississippi that stands out in primaries is the number of primaries where no candidate declares for election at all -- meaning the winner of the opposing primary is virtually guaranteed of winning in November. In other words, the primary ultimately serves as the de facto general election. In 2007, there were 106 primaries where no the major party did not field a candidate. In 2011, that figure has decreased by one to 105.
- When combining all 696 primaries over the past 2 elections, 330 -- or 47.4% -- of all primaries have been uncontested.
- However, when factoring in the primaries with no candidate at all, only 22.3% of all primaries were contested in 2007 and 2011 combined.
|Comparing Contested Primaries of past two MS Elections|
- Senate Incumbents
- Of the senate's 52 incumbents, 43 are running for re-election. Of these 43 incumbents, 32 will not face a primary opponent. The remaining 11 incumbents will face a primary challenger. Of these incumbents 5 are Democrats and 6 are Republicans.
- House Incumbents
- There are 122 total incumbents running in the 2011 House of Representatives elections. Of the state’s 244 House primaries, an incumbent is running in 106 of them. Of these 106 primaries, only 28 are contested -- 18 Democratic and 10 Republican.
- Senate Open Primaries
- An open primary occurs whenever an incumbent is not running. This can result from the incumbent’s retiring or being a member of another political party. There are 61 open primaries in the State Senate, 31 are Republican, 30 are Democratic.
- Of the 31 open Republican primaries, only 10 are contested -- although another 11 fielded no candidate at all. Of the 30 open Democratic primaries, 5 are contested with 18 unfilled slots.
- Therefore, of the 61 total Senate open primaries, only 15 are contested.
- House Open Primaries
- Of the 244 House primaries, 139 had no incumbent running. Of these 139, 75 are Republican and 64 are Democratic. Of the 75 open Republican primaries, only 15 are contested. Of the 64 open Democratic primaries, only 8 are contested.
Comparison to prior elections
Compared to the most recent election in Mississippi (2007 the list of candidates this year is similar in statistical makeup with respect to competitiveness. The total figures are nearly identical with respect to total uncontested and contested primaries.
|Comparing Overall Competitiveness of past two MS Elections|
|Total open seats||18||25|
|Open seats %||0||0|
|Total incumbents without primary||110||109|
|Incumbents w/out primary %||1||1|
|Total candidates with no major party opposition||105||103|
|No major party opposition %||1||1|
Comparison to other states
Here is how the 2011 Mississippi elections would have stacked up to the 46 states measured in the 2010 index.
- Open seats: With 14.4% of seats open, Mississippi would have been the 21st most competitive state in this variable, just above Alabama and below Massachusetts.
- Primaries: With 62.6% of incumbents running unopposed in primaries, Mississippi would have been the 8th most competitive state in this variable, just above Utah and below Rhode Island.
- Major Party Candidates with no Major Party Opposition: With 59.2% of seats fielding only one major party candidate, Mississippi would have been the 41st most competitive state in this variable, just above Alabama and below Texas.
Ballotpedia note: Kevin Diana, Justin Haas, Tyler King and Tyler Millhouse contributed to this report.
- State legislative elections, 2011
- Mississippi State Senate elections, 2011
- Mississippi House of Representatives elections, 2011