Vote button trans.png
April's Project of the Month
It's spring time. It's primary election season!
Click here to find all the information you'll need to cast your ballot.




2010 state legislative elections analyzed using a Competitiveness Index

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
2010 Competitiveness Overview
Competitiveness logo 4.jpg
Primary competition (state comparison)
Incumbents with no primary challenge in 2010
Incumbents with no challenges at all in 2010
Incumbents defeatedVictorious challengers
Major party challengers (state comparison)
List of candidates with no competition
Open seats (state comparisons)
Impact of term limits on # of open seats
Long-serving senatorsLong-serving reps
Star bookmark.png   Results Comparisons  Star bookmark.png
Chart Comparing 2011 ResultsComparisons Between Years
Party differences
Competitiveness Index
2010 State Legislative Elections
Competitiveness Studies from Other Years
2007200920112012

By Geoff Pallay and Leslie Graves

SLP badge 2010 election.jpg

6,125 seats of the country's 7,384 state legislative seats were up for election in the November 2, 2010 state legislative elections.

This article is an overview of our analysis of the degree of competitiveness in 2010's state legislative elections. The analysis utilized this 3-factor "Competitiveness Index" .

Some background on the elections:

  • There are 99 state legislative chambers in the U.S.; two in every state except Nebraska.
  • 88 of the 99 legislative chambers held a general legislative election on November 2.[1]
  • 1,167 (59.2%) of the country's 1,971 state senate seats were up for election in the 43 state senates holding November elections.
  • 4,958 (91.6%) of the country's 5,413 state house seats were up for election in the 46 state houses holding November elections.
  • Altogether, 6,125 seats were at stake in 88 legislative chambers on November 2, 2010.

Using our 3-factor "Competitiveness Index", we've contrasted each of the 46 states with 2010 state legislative elections.

According to our electoral competitiveness metric, the five most competitive state legislative chambers holding elections in 2010 were:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Michigan
  3. Arizona
  4. Nevada
  5. Maryland

Based on our index, the five states with the least competitive elections were:

46. Texas
45. Tennessee
44. Delaware
43. Kentucky
42. New Mexico

We arrived at these overall rankings by adding up the individual ranks from open seats, primary opposition, and major party general election challenge and then dividing by three.

Objectives

Our objectives in the study were:

Competitiveness logo 4.jpg
  • To know which states have the most competitive electoral environment and which states have the least competitive electoral environments in 2010.
  • To collect data about the overall competitiveness of the 2010 state legislative elections. "When we first started building state-by-state lists of state legislative candidates, we were surprised at the number of seats where there was minimal or no competition. It was especially surprising because many observers on the national level regard 2010 as a highly-competitive election environment." The picture that emerged as we continued our study suggests that this is not the case at the level of state legislative elections, despite a relatively high degree of voter discontent. Our guess is that even many highly-engaged or newly-engaged political activists are unaware of the opportunities that exist for expanded electoral competitiveness at the level of state legislative elections. These observations led us to develop and present an empirical study of this phenomenon.
  • To develop a Competitiveness Index that can used in future years, so that political observers can assess the ebb and flow of state legislative election competitiveness over time.

Open seats

Main article: Open seats in the 2010 state legislative elections

In 4,985 (81.4%) of the 6,125 seats up for election on November 2, the incumbent ran for re-election.

In 1,140 (18.6%) of the 6,125 seats up for election on November 2, the incumbent did not run for re-election.

  • Alternatively, of the 6,125 legislative seats up for election in 2010, 5,750 incumbents could, legally, have run again in 2010.
  • Of those 5,750 seats, 770 incumbents (13.4%) who could have run again in 2010 chose not to.

After adjusting for term limited state legislators, 86.6% of the incumbents who were legally able to run again in 2010 chose to run again.

Incumbents in primaries

Main article: Incumbents with no primary challenger in the 2010 state legislative elections

1,133 incumbents faced a primary challenger in 2010.

Since 4,985 incumbents ran for re-election in 2010, that means that only 22.7% of them faced a primary challenger.

3,852 incumbents (77.3%) running for re-election in 2010 had no primary challenger.

Although this data did not come into play in our Competitiveness Index, we also noted that of the 1,133 incumbents who did have a challenger:

  • 12 incumbent Democratic senators were defeated in a primary.
  • 7 incumbent Republican state senators were defeated in a primary.
  • 40 incumbent Democratic state representatives were defeated in a primary.
  • 37 incumbent Republican state representatives were defeated in a primary.

Altogether, 96 incumbent state legislators who ran for re-election in 2010 lost in a primary. This is 8.4% of the 1,133 who had primary opposition. It is 1.9%, when compared to the 4,985 incumbents running for re-election.

Although we didn't use this factor in calculating the overall degree of competitiveness of the 2010 state legislative elections, we also collected information about which incumbents had no primary election challenge and no general election challenge.

According to our data, about one in four incumbents -- 26.12% exactly -- faced no challenge at any level of the 2010 election.

Status Senate House Total
Seats up 1,167 4,958 6,125
Incumbents running 894 4,091 4,985
 % with no incumbent 23.6% 17.5% 18.6%
Incumbents with no primary 708 3,144 3,852
 % with no primary 79.2% 76.8% 77.3%
Candidates with no major party opposition 320 1,680 2,000
 % with no major party opposition 27.4% 33.9% 32.7%
Incumbents with no primary or general 210 1,085 1,295
 % with no primary or general 23.5% 26.5% 26.0%

Major party candidates with no competition

Main article: Major party candidates with major party competition in the November 2010 state legislative elections

There are 1,971 state senators and 5,413 state representatives. There are only 24 total third party legislators out of 7,384 total state legislators. Thus, a major party candidate is virtually guaranteed election when facing third parties.

  • In 320 (27.4%) of the 1,167 senate seats up for election, there is only one major party candidate running for election
  • In 1,680 (33.9%) of the 4,958 house seats up for election, there is only one major party candidate running for election
  • 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 2,000 (32.7%) of the 6,125 seats up for election in 2010. Nearly 1 in 3 districts holding elections that November fielded only one major party candidate.

States

In addition to compiling the national information above, we also took the state-level data to determine which states had more competitive elections versus the others. Below are the top three and bottom three most competitive states.

Open seats (incumbent not running)

Main article: Open seats in the 2010 state legislative elections

Least competitive states

2010 Open seats map.png
  1. New Mexico: 4.3%. In New Mexico, 3 of 70 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 95.7% of the 70 state house seats up for election. (The New Mexico State Senate is not holding an election this year.)
  2. Texas: 4.82%. In Texas, 8 out of 166 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 95.2% of the 166 total legislative seats in Texas up for election.
  3. Kentucky: 5.88%. In Kentucky, 7 out of 119 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 94.22 out of the 119 total legislative seats in Kentucky up for election.

Most competitive states

  1. Michigan: 54.05%. In Michigan, 80 out of 148 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 45.95% of the 148 total legislative seats in Michigan up for election.
  2. Nevada: 50.94%. In Nevada, 27 out of 53 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 49.06% of the 53 total legislative seats in Nevada up for election.
  3. Arkansas: 45.30%. In Arkansas, 53 out of 117 incumbents are not running in 2010, which means that the incumbent ran in 54.70% of the 117 total legislative seats in Arkansas up for election.

Primary challenges

Main article: Incumbents with no primary challenger in the 2010 state legislative elections

Least competitive states

Primary Challengers Map.png
  1. North Dakota: 0.00%. In North Dakota, 0 out of 56 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 100% of the 56 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election.
  2. Colorado: 1.56%. In Colorado, 1 out of 64 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 98.44% of the 64 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election.
  3. Connecticut: 2.38%. In Connecticut, 4 out of 168 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 97.62% of the 168 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election.

Most competitive states

  1. New Hampshire: 74.22%. In New Hampshire, 239 out of 322 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 25.88% of the 322 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election.
  2. Maryland: 66.87%. In Maryland, 109 out of 163 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 33.13% of the 163 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election.
  3. Nebraska: 61.90%. In Nebraska, 13 out of 24 incumbents running for election in 2010 faced a primary, which means that 39.10% of the 24 incumbents running automatically advanced to the general election. Nebraska is a unicameral legislature.

No opposition

Least competitive states

Competitiveness of states based on major party candidates with major party opposition.png
  1. South Carolina: 70.16%. In South Carolina, 87 of 124 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 29.84% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.
  2. Wyoming: 68.00%. In Wyoming, 51 of 75 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 32.00% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.
  3. Arkansas: 66.67%. In Arkansas, 78 of 117 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 33.33% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.

Most competitive states

  1. New Hampshire: 1.89%. In New Hampshire, 8 of 424 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 98.11% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.
  2. Maine: 2.69%. In Maine, 5 of 186 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 97.31% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.
  3. Michigan: 2.70%. In Michigan, 4 of 148 seats up for election contain only one major party candidate, meaning in 97.30% of the races there are Democratic and Republican candidates.

Overall ranking

Main article: State legislatures compared by extent of electoral competitiveness in 2010

We ranked the states for all three categories according to least competitive to most competitive. Then, by adding up the three rank categories, we were able to arrive at a cumulative ranking for all 46 states with elections.

State legislatures compared by electoral competitiveness.png

Most competitive

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Michigan
  3. Arizona
  4. Nevada
  5. Maryland

Least competitive

  1. Texas
  2. Tennessee
  3. Delaware
  4. Kentucky
  5. New Mexico

Based on our index, states with highly competitive elections are more likely to see candidates defeat incumbents on November 2.

Additional data not used in Competitiveness Index

Years of service

See also: State senators sorted by year first elected to senate, 1960's

State senator Fred Risser of Wisconsin has been in office longer than any other state senator, having first been elected to his current seat in 1962. His seat was not up for election in 2010. The seat of Dave Nething of North Dakota, first elected in 1966, is also not up for re-election. However, the seat of Norman Stone of Maryland, also first elected in 1966, is up for re-election in 2010, and Senator Stone is running again.

Lacey Putney of Virginia has been in office longer than any other state representative, since 1962. However, his seat was not up for re-election in 2010. Three state representatives have been in office since 1964:

See also: State representatives sorted by year first elected, 1960's

Fight for partisan dominance

Main article: Partisan balance of legislatures and 2010 competitiveness

Heading into the 2010 elections, this was the breakdown of partisan control of each chamber:

Legend:
Democratic Party = Democratic Party holds majority position • Republican Party = Republican Party holds majority position
Purple.png = Political parties tied for partisan control • Independent = Officially nonpartisan chamber




Legislative chamber Democratic Party Republican Party Purple.png Independent
State senates 23 18 1 1
State houses 29 15 1 -
Totals: 52 33 2 1

Our competitive index indicates there is a greater chance for Republicans to pick up seats in the state legislative elections.

  • There are 48 more Democratic incumbents than Republicans that have vacated their seats.
  • There are 118 more Democratic incumbents than Republicans that faced a primary.
  • There are 100 more Republican candidates than Democrats that face no major party competition in the general election.

Methodology

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
  • Incumbent faces a primary challenger
  • Incumbent faces neither a primary challenger nor a general election challenger

After the raw data were 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.

With such a large number of districts holding races -- 6,125 -- there is a high probability of consistent change in the number of candidates running. In fact, each week there is likely to be at least one candidate who either drops out of the race or is disqualified. Thus, we have done our analysis based on most of the original, official lists of candidates that were filed as of early September. It is expected that throughout October there will be some candidates that drop out which would have changed the final tallies of this report.

However, the discrepancies are an extremely small percentage of the total number of districts and are thus a statistically insignificant difference.

The data in this report is current as of October 1, 2010.

See also

References

  1. The eleven state legislative chambers that did not hold a general election on November 2 included both chambers in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia and the state senate in Kansas, New Mexico and South Carolina.