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State legislative incumbent turnover in 2014

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2014 Competitiveness Overview
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Primary competition (state comparison)
Incumbents defeatedVictorious challengers
Primary competitiveness
Major party challengers (state comparison)
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Impact of term limits on # of open seats
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Star bookmark.png   Chart Comparing 2014 Results   Star bookmark.png
Chart Comparing 2014 ResultsComparisons Between Years
Competitiveness IndexAbsolute Index
2014 State Legislative Elections
State legislative incumbent turnover in 2014
Competitiveness Studies from Other Years
200720092010201120122013

Incumbent turnover, the combination of legislators retiring or losing in primaries, shifted back down to levels seen in elections four years prior. Nevertheless, 83 major party incumbents lost a primary. Thirty-six percent of those were Democratic seats; 64 percent were Republican.

State legislative elections in 2014 did not see as many defeated incumbents as 2012, primarily due to redistricting. A larger percentage of incumbents chose to seek re-election than in recent years.

Republican incumbents were challenged in the primary elections at a higher rate, suggesting that different segments were continuing to compete over the direction of the party. In an interview with Ballotpedia, Tim Storey, an election expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures, stated that "both parties go through phases where there is a conflict over the identity of the party. Democrats went through a similar phase during the years when President Bill Clinton was in office, and now it's the Republican's turn." Storey said that the change tends to be specific to each state and requires a certain tension in the party. He pointed towards states such as Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas as ones with this Republican tension.

Although Republican incumbents received more primary challenges, and there may have been tension within the party, the difference between the percentage of Democrats winning primaries compared to Republicans was fairly insignificant -- just under 3 percent -- and was on par with recent years.

The incumbent turnover rates in 2014 fell in between results from 2010 and 2012. There was a spike in 2012 turnover on account of a large number of incumbents from both parties, but particularly Republicans, being challenged and defeated in primaries. Redistricting played a large role in 2012, moving multiple incumbents into the same district to face off. Additionally, many districts had been redrawn in such a way that left some incumbents in unfamiliar territory and vulnerable to primary challenge. The degree of turnover seen in 2014 was more along the lines of what was seen in 2010.

Incumbent turnover compared by year
2010 2010 percent 2012 2012 percent 2014 2014 percent
Retired Democrats 579 52.07% 517 46.66% 467 46.15%
Defeated Democrats 53 48.62% 73 37.06% 47 36.15%
Total D turnover 632 51.76% 590 45.21% 514 45.01%
Retired Republicans 533 47.93% 591 53.34% 547 54.10%
Defeated Republicans 56 51.38% 124 62.94% 83 63.85%
Total R turnover 589 48.24% 715 54.79% 628 54.99%

For the full set of data, please visit our Google spreadsheet here.

Review of incumbent turnover

Using official candidate lists, Ballotpedia staff analyzed each chamber for trends in incumbent turnover. Our findings were based on all 46 filing deadlines and primaries. The final primary elections were held on September 9, 2014.

We focused on the following four circumstances for major party incumbents:

  • Incumbents who retired, leaving open seats;
  • Districts where incumbents faced primary opposition;
  • Incumbents who were defeated by primary challengers; and
  • Overall turnover and the number of open seats heading into the general election.

Open seats

In 2014, 1,012 partisan state legislators declined to seek re-election. Some chose to leave office to seek higher office, personal reasons and, in some cases, without choice due to term limits. In any case, the open seats leave an opportunity for new candidates with aspirations towards their state legislature. Around 90 percent of incumbents who run for their current seat win re-election.

CA2014image03.png

The number of incumbents who did not seek re-election included:

Democratic Party 467 Democrats
Republican Party 545 Republicans

Primary opposition incumbents & defeated incumbents

In the 46 states that held a primary election in 2014, 419 Democratic incumbents and 590 Republican incumbents faced primary opposition.

CA2014image1.png

Overall there was little difference between Democrats and Republicans in the percentage of incumbents defeated by an opponent:

Democratic Party 47 Democrats were defeated, with 88.78 percent advancing past the primary.
Republican Party 83 Republicans were defeated, while the remaining 85.93 percent advanced.

Overall turnover

Republicans controlled 51.6 percent of the seats in the 87 chambers with elections, while Democrats held 47.5 percent. Those figures are based only on districts up for election in 2014. Vacancies are attributed towards the party that previously held the seat.

Republicans felt a slightly greater impact of incumbent turnover in 2014:

  • Just under 54 percent of retired incumbents were Republican and about 46 percent were Democrats.
  • Republicans accounted for 64 percent of all incumbents defeated in primaries. Democrats represented 36 percent.
  • In total, 55 percent of all partisan incumbent turnover was attributed towards Republicans and 45 percent to Democrats.

The following table details what percentage of partisan incumbents retired, incumbents defeated in primary and overall turnover is attributed to each party.

Incumbent turnover in 2014 state legislative elections
Incumbents retired Defeated in primary Turnover
Democrats Republicans Democrats Republicans Democrats Republicans
State Senate 44.56% 55.44% 33.33% 66.67% 43.32% 56.68%
State House 46.52% 53.48% 36.79% 63.21% 45.41% 54.59%
Totals 46.15% 53.85% 36.15% 63.85% 45.01% 54.99%

States compared by overall turnover

The following table details, by state, overall incumbent turnover.

"Seats up" represents the number of state senate and state house seats up in the state. The share of those seats as a part of all 6,057 seats up in 2014 is listed under "Total seats up in 2014." "Incs retired" represents the number of incumbents who did not seek re-election. The number of incumbents facing primary opposition, and how many of them were defeated, is listed under "Incs facing primary" and "Incs defeated." "% Incs facing primary" details, of the incumbents who faced a primary challenger, what percentage of the incumbents advanced past the primary. The percentage of seats that will be open heading into the general elections is represented under "Percent of seats up."

States compared by overall turnover
State Seats up Total seats up in 2014 Incs retired Incs defeated Incs facing primary % Incs winning primary Total Percent of seats up
Total 6,057 100%[1] 1,011 130 1,008 87.10% 1,158 19.12%
Texas 165 2.72% 15 11 39 71.79% 26 15.76%
Illinois 137 2.26% 14 3 14 78.57% 17 12.41%
Indiana 125 2.06% 8 3 11 72.73% 11 8.80%
North Carolina 170 2.81% 14 4 28 85.71% 18 10.59%
Ohio 116 1.92% 27 3 23 86.96% 29 25.00%
Nebraska 25 0.41% 17 0 1 100% 17 68.00%
West Virginia 117 1.93% 11 7 33 78.79% 18 15.38%
Arkansas 118 1.95% 31 4 8 50.0% 35 29.66%
Idaho 105 1.73% 11 6 31 80.65% 17 16.19%
Georgia 236 3.90% 17 5 48 89.58% 22 9.32%
Kentucky 119 1.96% 11 2 14 85.71% 13 10.92%
Oregon 76 1.25% 16 1 5 80.0% 17 22.37%
Pennsylvania 228 3.76% 26 5 42 88.10% 31 13.60%
Alabama 140 2.31% 20 7 40 82.50% 27 19.29%
California 100 1.65% 33 0 43 100% 33 33.00%
Iowa 125 2.06% 15 0 8 100% 15 12.00%
Montana 125 2.06% 47 2 18 88.89% 49 39.20%
New Mexico 70 1.16% 11 2 7 71.43% 13 18.57%
South Dakota 105 1.73% 33 0 17 100% 33 31.43%
Maine 186 3.07% 59 1 3 66.67% 60 32.26%
Nevada 53 0.88% 10 0 13 100% 10 18.87%
North Dakota 72 1.19% 13 0 4 100% 13 18.06%
South Carolina 124 2.05% 9 2 20 90.0% 11 8.87%
Colorado 83 1.37% 23 0 2 100% 23 27.71%
Maryland 188 3.10% 50 12 92 86.96% 62 32.98%
Oklahoma 126 2.08% 31 0 13 100% 31 24.60%
Utah 89 1.47% 12 3 19 84.21% 15 16.85%
Kansas 125 2.06% 13 3 21 85.71% 16 12.80%
Michigan 148 2.44% 51 1 24 95.83% 52 35.14%
Missouri 180 2.97% 29 1 20 95.0% 30 16.67%
Washington 123 2.03% 13 1 17 94.12% 14 11.38%
Tennessee 116 1.92% 12 8 26 69.23% 20 17.24%
Hawaii 64 1.06% 5 3 20 85.0% 8 12.5%
Connecticut 187 3.09% 24 2 9 77.8% 27 13.90%
Minnesota 134 2.21% 15 0 5 100% 15 11.19%
Wisconsin 116 1.92% 26 0 11 100% 26 22.41%
Alaska 54 0.89% 8 2 4 50.0% 10 18.52%
Wyoming 75 1.24% 11 4 27 85.19% 15 20.0%
Arizona 90 1.49% 27 3 24 87.50% 30 33.33%
Florida 140 2.31% 17 1 22 95.45% 18 12.86%
Vermont 180 2.97% 24 1 7 85.71% 25 13.89%
Delaware 51 0.84% 2 2 9 77.78% 4 7.84%
Massachusetts 200 3.30% 21 1 15 77.78% 22 11.0%
New Hampshire 424 7.00% 119 11 98 88.78% 130 30.66%
Rhode Island 113 1.87% 7 2 24 91.67% 9 7.96%
New York 213 3.52% 21 1 30 96.67% 22 10.33%

States compared by year: 2012 vs. 2014

The following chart details turnover, retired incumbents in addition to incumbents defeated in primary elections, and the percentage of seats up that the turnover represents. The same sets of data for 2012 and 2014 are presented alongside each other for context.

The states that saw the largest change between 2012 and 2014 were:

  1. Nebraska - 34.62 percent in 2012 to 68 percent in 2014 (33.4%)
  2. Kansas - 34.55 percent in 2012 to 12.80 percent in 2014 (21.8%)
  3. Idaho - 36.19 percent in 2012 to 16.19 percent in 2014 (20.0%)
  4. Florida - 31.88 percent in 2012 to 12.86 percent in 2014 (19.02%)
  5. North Carolina - 27.65 percent in 2012 to 10.59 percent in 2014 (17.1%)
Total incumbents out before the general election
2014 2012
State Total Percent of seats up Total Percent of seats up
Total 1,158 19.12% 1,314 21.85%
Texas 26 15.76% 19 12.67%
Illinois 17 12.41% 37 20.90%
Indiana 11 8.80% 21 16.80%
North Carolina 18 10.59% 47 27.65%
Ohio 29 25.00% 16 13.68%
Nebraska 17 68.00% 9 34.62%
West Virginia 18 15.38% 21 17.95%
Arkansas 35 29.66% 49 36.30%
Idaho 17 16.19% 38 36.19%
Georgia 22 9.32% 20 8.47%
Kentucky 13 10.92% 12 10.08%
Oregon 17 22.37% 13 17.57%
Pennsylvania 31 13.60% 25 10.96%
Alabama 27 19.29% No election --
California 33 33.00% 44 44.00%
Iowa 15 12.00% 27 21.43%
Montana 49 39.20% 46 36.51%
New Mexico 13 18.57% 26 23.21%
South Dakota 33 31.43% 37 35.24%
Maine 53 28.49% 65 34.95%
Nevada 10 18.87% 18 33.33%
North Dakota 13 18.06% 18 24.00%
South Carolina 11 8.87% 27 15.88%
Colorado 23 27.71% 34 40.00%
Maryland 62 32.98% No election --
Oklahoma 31 24.60% 21 16.80%
Utah 15 16.85% 21 23.08%
Kansas 16 12.80% 57 34.55%
Michigan 52 35.14% 23 20.91%
Missouri 30 16.67% 60 33.33%
Washington 14 11.38% 27 21.77%
Tennessee 20 17.24% 28 24.35%
Hawaii 8 12.50% 10 13.16%
Connecticut 26 13.90% 26 13.90%
Minnesota 15 11.19% 45 22.39%
Wisconsin 26 22.41% 21 18.26%
Alaska 10 18.52% 8 13.56%
Wyoming 15 20.0% 18 24.00%
Arizona 30 33.33% 32 35.56%
Florida 18 12.86% 51 31.88%
Vermont 25 13.89% 22 12.22%
Delaware 4 7.84% 12 19.35%
Massachusetts 22 11.0% 10 5.00%
New Hampshire 130 30.66% 117 27.59%
Rhode Island 9 7.96% 16 14.16%
New York 22 10.33% 20 9.39%

See also

References

  1. This is the percentage of seats to this date that have held a primary.