State Legislative Tracker: Colorado senate leadership picture remains unclear

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October 7, 2013

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a partisan count update and a look at the leadership shakeup in the Colorado State Senate.

Weekly highlight

Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

  • Colorado: In the aftermath of the state's first legislative recalls, the Colorado State Senate is starting to fill in the gaps. Republicans Bernie Herpin and George Rivera, who were elected to fill the vacancies of Democrats John Morse and Angela Giron, respectively, were sworn in last Thursday. Democrats, who maintain control of the Senate at 18 to 17, now face leadership races following the ouster of Morse, who served as President of the Senate. Though she has not formally announced her plans, Majority Leader Morgan Carroll is said to be running for the position, which she is favored to win. The lone announced candidate is Rollie Heath, who is running for Carroll's seat. Nominees for Senate president must be confirmed by the Senate at-large, which may lead to a power struggle. Mary Hodge, a self-styled moderate who has expressed interest in both positions but says she does not have the votes within her caucus, told the The Denver Post that after talking with Minority Leader Bill Cadman, "[Republicans] would like their 17 votes to count," suggesting a possible alliance to win the presidency. The elections are due to take place later this month or early in November. Morse and Giron were recalled on September 10 following efforts by pro-gun groups who cited their support of gun control legislation passed earlier this year.[1][2]
  • Pennsylvania: Last Thursday, Reps. Brian Sims and Steve McCarter (D) introduced House Bill 1686, also known as the Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Act. This bill would legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania and would also recognize marriages legally performed in other states. More than 30 Pennsylvania lawmakers have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state in the U.S. that does not allow same-sex marriage and civil unions. Marriage equality bills have been introduced in the past three legislative sessions of the Pennsylvania General Assembly but have failed in both the house and senate. Sims and McCarter believe there is a good chance for the bill to pass the House and Senate since many states have legalized same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act this past summer. McCarter said of the bill that "This goes beyond simply legalizing gay marriage. This is about ensuring all Pennsylvanians have equal benefits and protections before the law. Marriage equality and the benefits associated with it need to be afforded to all of our citizens, and the people of Pennsylvania support that idea." If passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the bill would then go to the desk of Governor Tom Corbett (R). In the past, Corbett has openly supported a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. It will be interesting to see what his response will be if House Bill 1686 passes the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[3][4][5][6]
  • Texas: After 17 years in the state capitol, Texas State Senator Tommy Williams (R) announced this week that he will not be returning for the 2015 legislative session. The District 4 senator is expected to give an official resignation date following meetings with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst about his transition out of office. Williams currently serves on a number of committees, including as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Williams has stressed that he won’t be leaving the state legislature to retire. In addition to his work as president of Woodland’s Financial Services, sources have confirmed that Williams has been in discussions with the chancellor of the Texas A&M University System over a government relations position. Speaking of his time in the legislature, Williams called the experience rewarding. “I’ve enjoyed my years of service to the citizens of Southeast Texas,” he said. Prior to his election to the chamber in 2002, Williams served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1997-2002.[7][8][9][10]
  • Utah: Several lawmakers are seeking to raise the age limit for tobacco purchases in Utah from 19 to 21 years old. Representative Kraig Powell (R) and Senator Stuart C. Reid (R) are drafting the bills, and they cite research that suggests many smokers become addicted at about age 20. Reid also noted that, "If people have not smoked by age 21, studies show it is extremely unlikely that they will ever begin smoking." According to the Surgeon General, 90 percent of smokers begin using cigarettes before age 18, which is the legal threshold for purchases set by the federal government. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah already have raised the age to 19, which Utah decided to do to avoid the possibility of high school students smoking. Other states and localities that are considering boosting the legal purchasing age to 21 years old include Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Texas, New York City and Chicago. A recent study regarding the New York City proposal found that increasing the age to 21 would likely decrease smoking substantially among 17- to 20-year-olds. Proponents of increasing the smoking age also point to savings in health care costs and simplification of purchase checks to match alcohol age restrictions. Opponents of age increases cite the loss of cigarette tax revenue, which is an important source of income for many states, and the moral equivalency of being able to vote and serve in the military at age 18 but not being able to chose to smoke until age 21.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

As of today, October 7, 2013, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and 49 state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 51.7% of all seats while Democrats hold 46.7%. All told, Republicans control 57 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 41 chambers. One chamber is nonpartisan.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,445 46.6%
Republican state legislators 3,820 51.7%
Independent (and nonpartisan) state legislators 67 0.91%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 12 0.16%
Vacancies 44 0.60%

State Senates

The partisan composition of state senates refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate. Altogether, in the 50 state senates, there are 1,972 state senators.

As of October 7, 2013, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 21 chambers
  • Republican Party 28 chambers
  • Independent 1 chamber (Nebraska)
See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of January 5, 2015, 1,900 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. This total is updated monthly.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 847 43.2%
Republican state senators 1,051 53.5%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.48%
Independent state senators 3 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.1%
Vacancies 14 0.56%


As of January 5, 2014, there are 14 vacancies in ten states. This total is updated monthly.

State Vacancies
Arkansas 2
Connecticut 1
Florida 1
Maine 1
Missouri 2
Nevada 1
Ohio 1
Pennsylvania 1
Utah 2
Wisconsin 2


As of January 5, 2014, there are five state senators in four states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Republican. This total is updated monthly.

State Independents/Third Party
Alabama 1 (Independent)
Mississippi 1 (Independent)
Rhode Island 1 (Independent)
Vermont 2 (Vermont Progressive)

State Houses

The partisan composition of state houses refers to which party holds the majority of seats in the state house or the lower level of each state legislature. Altogether, in the 49 state houses, there are 5,416 state representatives.

As of October 7, 2013, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 20 chambers
  • Republican Party 29 chambers

Cumulative numbers

As of December 1, 2014, 5,338 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. This total is updated monthly.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,535 46.9%
Republican state representatives 2,803 51.8%
Independent state representatives 12 0.22%
Third party representatives 6 0.11%
Vacancies 51 0.94%


As of December 1, 2014, there are 51 state house vacancies in 18 different states. This total is updated monthly.

State Vacancies
California 1
Florida 4
Georgia 1
Illinois 1
Indiana 1
Maine 2
Massachusetts 6
Missouri 2
Nevada 1
New Hampshire 14
New York 11
North Dakota 1
Ohio 1
Pennsylvania 1
Texas 1
Vermont 1
Virginia 1
Washington 1


As of December 1, 2014, there are 18 state representatives in 6 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Republican. Three members of the Maine House of Representatives are non-voting Native American representatives. This total is updated monthly.

State Independents/Third Party
Arkansas 1 (Green)
Georgia 1 (Independent)
Louisiana 2 (Independent)
Maine 7 (3 non-voting Native American representatives, 4 Independent)
Michigan 1 (Independent)
Vermont 9 (5 Vermont Progressive Party, 4 Independent)

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of October 7, 2013
See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.

Currently five out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session.

As of April 8, all states states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions.[18]

The following states have ended their regular session:[19]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, February 2, 2015
There are 7,387 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,445 (46.6%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,820 (51.7%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 40
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 57
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 2
2013 Session Information
Total Special Elections 54
Total Special Sessions 17

In recess

As of today, October 7, there are 5 state legislatures currently in recess:[20]

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 140 out of 142 (98.6%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 42/43 (Maps ordered redrawn: TX)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: ME, MT; Maps ordered redrawn: AK, TX)
**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)
See also: Status of redistricting maps after the 2010 census

While the great majority of states have completed their redistricting following the 2010 census, the issue still remains for a handful of states. Maine and Montana are not required to have their maps completed until 2014. Alaska and Texas, however, saw their maps rejected for legal reasons and will have to take up the drawing of maps once again.

See also: State legislative elections, 2013

A total of 3 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 5, 2013.

The 3 chambers with elections in 2013 are in 2 states. They are:

Louisiana and Mississippi also typically hold elections in odd years. However, legislators are elected to 4-year terms in those states and those will not be up for election again until 2015.

40 of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2013, and 180 of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 220 of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats are up for re-election on November 5, 2013.

Signature filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2013 state legislative elections

The state legislative filing deadlines were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • April 1, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 4, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 100 voters in the legislative district. Candidates are required to disclose any criminal convictions.[21]

  • Virginia:
  • March 28, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 11, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 125 qualified voters in the legislative district. Major party candidates are required to submit a primary filing fee equal to 2% of the annual salary for the office sought in effect in the year in which the candidate files. In 2013, the primary filing fee was $352.80.[22]


The state primaries were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • June 4, 2013
  • Virginia:
  • June 11, 2013


New Jersey had a quiet election, with all competing incumbents winning their primaries.

There were only three hotly contested races, all in the Senate, but none resulted in the ousting of an incumbent:[23]

Republican PartyDistrict 13: Incumbent Joe Kyrillos, Jr. defeated challenger Leigh-Ann Bellew.
Democratic PartyDistrict 20: Incumbent Raymond Lesniak defeated challenger Donna Obe.
Democratic PartyDistrict 34: Incumbent Nia H. Gill defeated challengers Mark C. Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr..

Virginia experienced two upsets in an otherwise quiet day of primaries for the House of Delegates. Voter turnout was expected to fall below 5 percent based on projections at polling locations.[24]

Virginia's legislative primaries yielded a pair of defeats for incumbent legislators. The defeated incumbents were supporters of a recently passed transportation bill that increases sales and gas taxes to improve roadways.[25][26] The successful challengers lodged primary challenges in part to protest the bill's passage, which they called the biggest tax increase in the state's history.[27]

Republican Party Mark J. Berg defeated Beverly Sherwood in District 29.
Republican Party Dave A. LaRock defeated Joe T. May in District 33.

Five incumbents were able to fend off primary challenges in the June 11 primaries:

Republican Party C. Todd Gilbert defeated Mark W. Prince in District 15.
Republican Party Bill Howell defeated Craig E. Ennis in District 28.
Republican Party Bobby Orrock defeated Dustin R. Curtis in District 54.
Democratic Party Roz Dance defeated Evandra D. Thompson in District 63.
Democratic Party Algie Howell defeated Richard James in District 90.

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2013

There are five special election primaries scheduled for this week: two in Alabama, one in Arkansas, one in Massachusetts and one in Tennessee.

UncheckedBox.jpgAlabama House of Representatives District 74

Rep. Jay Love (R) resigned on August 1, 2013, to work for the Business Council of Alabama. A special election has been called for December 3, with a primary on October 8 if necessary.[28]

Democratic Party October 8 Democratic primary:
  • No candidates filed to run
Republican Party October 8 GOP primary:

UncheckedBox.jpgAlabama House of Representatives District 104

Rep. Jim Barton (R) resigned on August 7, 2013, to work for the Kinney Capitol Group. A special election has been called for December 3, with a primary on October 8 if necessary.[29]

Democratic Party October 8 Democratic primary:
Republican Party October 8 GOP primary:

UncheckedBox.jpgArkansas Senate District 21

Sen. Paul Bookout (D) resigned on August 21, 2013, after he was fined $8,000 by the Arkansas Ethics Commission for spending campaign funds on personal items. A special election has been called for January 14, with a primary on October 8, 2013, if necessary. The filing period for candidates ran from September 3 to September 6, 2013.[30][31][32]

Democratic Party October 8 Democratic primary:
Republican Party October 8 Democratic primary:

UncheckedBox.jpgMassachusetts State Senate 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District

Sen. Michael Knapik (R) resigned to become the executive director of advancement at Westfield State University. A special election has been called concurrent with the regularly-scheduled November 5 elections, with a primary on October 8. Candidates had until September 5 to file certified nomination papers.[33][34][35]

Democratic PartyOctober 8 Democratic Primary:
Republican PartyOctober 8 GOP Primary:

UncheckedBox.jpgTennessee House of Representatives District 91

Rep. Lois DeBerry (D) passed away on July 28, 2013, from pancreatic cancer. A special election has been called for November 21, with a primary on October 8 if necessary. Candidates had until August 29 to file certified nomination papers.[36][37][38]

Democratic PartyOctober 8 Democratic primary:
Libertarian PartyLibertarian candidates:

Recent election results

October 1, 2013

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgSouth Carolina State Senate District 42
Sen. Robert Ford (D) resigned on May 31, 2013 amidst an ethics investigation. A special election has been called for October 1, with a primary on August 13. The filing period for candidates ran from June 21 to July 1.[39][40][41][42]

October 1 Special election candidates:
Democratic Party Marlon Kimpson Green check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Billy Shuman
Libertarian Party Alex Thornton
Libertarian Party Rodney Travis

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • October 15: Florida House of Representatives District 36
  • October 22: Iowa House of Representatives District 33
  • October 29: South Carolina House of Representatives District 93
  • November 5: Fifteen special elections in various states. List available here.
  • November 16: Louisiana House of Representatives District 87

See also


  1. Associated Press, "2 GOP state senators sworn in after Colorado recalls," October 2, 2013
  2. The Denver Post, "Leadership battle underway in Colorado Senate after recall election," October 2, 2013
  3., "Pa. lawmakers unveil new marriage equality bill," accessed October 3, 2013
  4., "Same-sex-marriage bill to be introduced in Pa.," accessed October 3, 2013
  5., "Pa. lawmakers introduce same-sex marriage bill," accessed October 3, 2013
  6., "Two Philadelphia-area legislators introduce PA marriage equality bill," accessed October 3, 2013
  7. “The Texas Tribune”, “Tommy Williams to Leave Texas Senate”, accessed October 3, 2013
  8. “The Courier”, “Williams resigns from senate seat”, accessed October 3, 2013
  9. “The News”, “Senator Tommy Williams Resigning”, accessed October 3, 2013
  10. “Burnt Orange Report”, “SD-4 Tommy Williams (R) to resign from Texas State Senate”, accessed October 3, 2013
  11. KSL, "Utah House bill seeks to save lives by raising legal smoking age," October 2, 2013
  12. ABC 4 Utah, "Lawmakers seek to increase legal smoking age in Utah," October 2, 2013
  13. CNN, "Doctors support raising the smoking age," August 26, 2013
  14. Hawaii Tribune Herald, "Bill would raise tobacco age limit to 21," September 11, 2013
  15. Wall Street Journal, "New York City's Plan to Raise Age for Cigarette Purchases Spreads," May 16, 2013
  16. Salt Lake Tribune, "Lawmakers seek to raise Utah smoking age to 21," October 2, 2013
  17. Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, "Raising the Minimum Legal Sale Age for Tobacco and Related Products," 2012
  18. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 7, 2013
  19. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 7, 2013
  20., "Daily Session Summary," accessed October 7, 2013 (dead link)
  21. New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013 (dead link)
  22. Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
  23., "Polls close in 2013 N.J. primary elections as votes are tallied," June 4, 2013
  24. Washington Post, "Voter turnout sparse for down-ticket races in Virginia," June 11, 2013
  25. CBS DC, "Virginia Primary Results Roll In," June 11, 2013
  26., "Howell’s transportation PAC helping candidates," June 7, 2013
  27. WRIC, "Virginia Primary Round Up," June 11, 2013
  28., " Special elections set for Ala. House districts," August 8, 2013 (dead link)
  29., " Special elections set for Ala. House districts," August 8, 2013 (dead link)
  30., "Arkansas lawmaker steps down from Senate seat," August 20, 2013
  31., "Gov. Beebe Sets Special Election to Replace Recently Resigned Senator," August 28, 2013
  32., "Official candidate list," accessed September 9, 2013
  33., "Dates set for Western Massachusetts state Senate special election," August 7, 2013
  34., "Special State Election - Second Hampden and Hamphshire Senate District," accessed August 23, 2013
  35. "Official candidate list," accessed September 25, 2013
  36., "Political Season Heats Up With District 91 Deadline," August 28, 2013
  37., "11 File For State House District 91 Special Election," August 30, 2013
  38., "Certified Candidate List," accessed September 6, 2013 (dead link)
  39., "Special election set for former Sen. Ford's seat," June 5, 2013
  40., "State Senate District 42 Special Election," accessed July 2, 2013
  41., "Marlon Kimpson wins District 42 Senate runoff," August 27, 2013
  42., "Unofficial election results," October 2, 2013