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State Legislative Tracker: Incumbents being defeated in primaries at higher rate than in 2010

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July 30, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a look at a new Ballotpedia study on incumbents who have been defeated in primaries.

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Weekly highlight

Incumbent study

On July 26, 2012, Ballotpedia released a preliminary study, Primary Change: Anti-Incumbency Voting Patterns in State Legislative Primaries, which looked at the results of primaries through the first few months of 2012 elections. The study concluded that with nearly 50 percent of primaries completed, the rate of success for challengers against incumbents in contested primaries was nearly double that of 2010. Through July 26, 76 incumbents had fallen to challengers in 513 contested races -- a rate of 14.8 percent.

There will be 6,015 state legislative seats up for election in 2012. Thus far, a total of 2,930 seats have held primaries, which accounts for 48.7 percent of the seats that will be up for election this presidential year.

Of the 76 incumbents that have lost a primary in 2012, 22 are Democratic incumbents and 54 are Republican incumbents.

The 14.8 percent of incumbents who have lost a primary in 2012 is 76.7 percent higher than the 8.38 percent in 2010. Twelve of the 76 incumbents defeated this year lost to a fellow incumbent in districts whose boundaries were changed through redistricting. Even subtracting these incumbents, the rate of defeats in 2012 is higher than in 2010.

See the full study here

Indiana Dems change leaders

After weeks of rumors, the Indiana House Democratic Caucus named Linda Lawson to be the new Minority Leader. Lawson, who was serving as Minority Floor Leader, replaces B. Patrick Bauer.[1]

Bauer had served in the post since 2002 and did not attend the vote. He first learned of the news from Twitter posts by reporters who were outside of the meeting. He stated, “I didn’t like the way they went about this process. I thought it was pretty ugly. But they came out with a good person to move on, somebody I felt would be a good floor leader. So they emulated my choice for a leader.”[2]


This week 2 out of 50 state legislatures - Ohio and Massachusetts - are meeting in regular session. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.

Thirty-eight states have adjourned for the year, while four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - will not hold regular sessions in 2012.

Current sessions capture for the week of July 30, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

All states have convened their regular 2012 legislative sessions.

The following states have ended their regular session:

Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, July 30, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,308 (44.8%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,956 (53.6%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 37
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 28
Total Special Sessions 16

In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 16 special sessions in 13 states. There is one special session currently ongoing in New Jersey.


On Friday, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced a special session on gambling for August 9. Maryland was tentatively scheduled to hold a special session to address the issue on July 9 but an 11-member work group appointed by the governor could not reach consensus on a plan to expand gambling in the state. Joined by Democratic legislative leaders at a news conference, O'Malley said immediate action was required on gambling in order to positively influence job creation and increase revenue.[3]

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R) criticized the governor's decision, stating, “The real crisis in Maryland is not whether there should be a sixth casino location, but rather the trend of recent job losses. The state is bleeding jobs at a rate of tens of thousands on a monthly basis, and the best the Governor O'Malley can muster is, ‘If you give me another casino, I can get you 3,000 jobs in a few years.’”[3]


Governor Mark Dayton (D) announced earlier this month that there will be a special session to address flood relief. Tentatively scheduled for late August, a date had not been scheduled as state and local officials were waiting to hear how much the federal government would cover.[4]

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier granted federal money for damage to public infrastructure, Dayton received a shock last week when FEMA said they would not provide any assistance to individuals whose homes were damaged in the flooding. The governor plans on appealing the decision and has even considered a personal appeal to President Barack Obama.[5]

"I can't imagine how anybody can go up and look at the devastation up in Duluth and the surrounding area and not realize how many people didn't have flood insurance because this has not happened before and lost everything, and to tell them that this is not a disaster justifying the federal government's involvement, to me, is just really cruel and wrong," Dayton stated.[5]

New Jersey

The New Jersey General Assembly is meeting in special session today in order to attempt to bypass a recent ruling of the state Supreme Court. In a 3-2 decision on July 24, the Court ruled that judges and justices, unlike other state employees, do not have to make additional contributions for pension and health benefits as the state Constitution does not allow their pay to be cut.[6]

In reaction, the Legislature is taking up a resolution that would ask voters to change the constitution in order to give lawmakers the power to reduce judicial salaries.[7]

In recess

As of today, July 30, 7 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • California - In recess from July 8, 2012 to August 5, 2012.[8]
  • Illinois - In recess until January 7, 2013.[8]
  • New Jersey - In recess from July 3, 2012 to August 19, 2012.
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[8]
  • Michigan - In recess from July 20 to August 14, 2012.
  • Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.[8]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[8]
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State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 138 out of 142 (97.2%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 43/43
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, ME, MS, MT)
**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)


On July 26, 2012, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) filed a lawsuit seeking clearance from a federal court that the state's redistricting plan for the legislature does not violate the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit, which is a required provision of the VRA, will be heard by a three-judge District Court. Critics of the plan have said it is gerrymandered in order to ensure Republican control.[9]


In mid-July 2012, the Maryland State Board of Elections announced that opponents of the congressional redistricting plan passed in October 2011 had collected a sufficient number of signatures in order to place the issue on the November 6 ballot. Opponents of the map needed 55,736 signatures in order to qualify their petition. Supporters of the petition drive argue that the map was gerrymandered in order to favor Democrats.[10] The Referendum, if approved, would overturn the congressional redistricting plan.

On July 26, the Maryland Democratic Party filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the petition drive. Many of the signatures were collected through an online process which automatically fills in most of the information required on petitions. According to the suit, this process violates the law by filling out petitions with voter information. It also argues that at least 5,000 signatures that were certified as valid are in fact invalid. Striking these signatures would bring the total number below the required number to get the issue on the ballot.[11]

See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
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A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for election during the presidential election year.

  • 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
  • 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.

The 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines

As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines have passed:


See also: 2012 election dates

There are state legislative primaries taking place this week in Georgia and Tennessee, with primary runoffs in Texas.

So far, primaries have taken place in 24 states:

A total of 76 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 54 Republicans and 22 Democrats.

States with upcoming primaries:

Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. In 2011, there were 11 state legislative recalls in three states, four of which resulted in the legislator being recalled. In 2012, there have been four state legislative recalls - three have failed while one succeeded.


Recall efforts are currently targeting four Republican members of the Louisiana House of Representatives - Charles "Chuck" Kleckley, Kevin Pearson, George Cromer and Ray Garofalo.

The legislators have been targeted primarily because of their support for controversial public education reforms backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).[12]


2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns continued on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful on November 8, 2011). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) set their sights on the August 2012 ballot, but in April organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts.[13] The Caswell campaign remains active.

Following several attempts to get recall language approved against Sen. Randy Richardville, organizers succeeded on June 12, 2012. The approved petition language against Richardville states that one reason for the recall is Richardville's support for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.[14]

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 28 special elections in 12 states.

There are no special election scheduled to take place this week.

Recent election results

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg On July 24, South Carolina's special election was decided:

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • August 7: Pennsylvania Senate District 40
  • November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68

See also