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Election preview: More than 400 state legislative seats up for election tomorrow

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November 7, 2011

By Geoff Pallay

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MADISON, Wisconsin: There are three states holding state legislative elections tomorrow. A total of 434 seats will be won in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.

Expectations are that the two chambers that could switch parties are the Mississippi House and Virginia State Senate.

Polls will be open in each state during the following times (times reflect local time zones):

  • Mississippi: 7am-7pm
  • New Jersey: 6am-8pm
  • Virginia: 6am-7pm

Ballotpedia will have results and analysis tomorrow night once polls close and figures are released.

Despite the fact that all three states are holding general elections for all legislative seats, a high number of seats feature only one major party candidate. A Ballotpedia analysis looked at the competitiveness in state legislative elections this year. In Mississippi and Virginia, more than half of the seats up for election feature only one major party candidate on the ballot.

Below are brief breakdowns of what to expect in each state with general elections tomorrow.

Mississippi

See also: Mississippi State Senate elections, 2011 and Mississippi House of Representatives elections, 2011
Mississippi

The state legislature did not complete redistricting this year. Thus, candidates are running for election under the same districts that were drawn with 2000 Census data. The State Senate is controlled by Republicans while Democrats are the majority in the House. The two chambers could not agree on maps and the stalemate led to court decisions that kept old maps in place for this year's election.

Republicans are expected to retain control of the Senate and possibly increase their advantage. If the GOP wins control of the House, then it paves the way for a GOP-controlled redistricting process. Democrats are looking to hold onto the House to maintain split government in Mississippi.

The Mississippi TEA Party targeted six specific incumbents and four open seats. Those 10 districts are:

Although there are 122 House races to be decided, 60 candidates are virtually winners already because they are major party candidates that do not face major party opposition on Tuesday. Meanwhile, 19 Senate candidates are major party candidates without major party opposition.

Mississippi State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 24 21
     Republican Party 27 31
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 52 52
Mississippi House of Representatives
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 68 59
     Republican Party 54 63
Total 122 122

New Jersey

See also: New Jersey State Senate elections, 2011 and New Jersey General Assembly elections, 2011
New Jersey

As a result of the redistricting process, consensus in New Jersey is that there are only a handful of competitive districts out of 40. Thus, with the Democratic Party controlling both chambers heading into the election, expectations are that there will be no change in partisan control. Of the possible competitive seats, the most heavily watched appears to be in District 38, where Democratic incumbents Robert Gordon (State Senator), Connie Wagner and Timothy Eustace (Assembly members) defend their seats in races that have combined to raise the most campaign contributions in history for a single district -- $3.6 million. The final figure is expected to be above $4 million.

In 2007, the last time both chambers were up for election in New Jersey, Democrats held a partisan advantage of 23-17 in the Senate and 48-32 in the General Assembly.

However, when the votes were totaled, Democratic candidates for Senate received 731,911 votes while Republicans received 691,922 -- a difference of only 39,989 votes. Of the 1,423,833 votes cast for a Democrat or Republican in 2007, Democrats received 51.4% while Republicans received 49.6%. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates ran unopposed in four seats, garnering 62,577 votes in those unopposed races. Thus, in the 36 races where a Democrat and a Republican both ran, Republicans actually garnered more votes.

In the General Assembly, Democratic candidates received 1,421,830 votes while Republicans garnered 1,314,032 -- a difference of 107,798 votes. Meaning, between votes cast for Democrats or Republicans, Democrats received 52% while Republicans had 48%. However, the partisan breakdown of the chamber -- 48-32 -- reveals that Democrats held 60% of the seats in the General Assembly.

Because redistricting produced essentially the same map as before -- one that placed a higher emphasis on incumbency protection than competitive districts -- election analysts will be watching to see if the vote totals paint a different picture from the post-election partisan breakdown of the chambers.

New Jersey State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 24 24
     Republican Party 16 16
Total 40 40
New Jersey General Assembly
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 47 48
     Republican Party 33 32
Total 80 80

Virginia

See also: Virginia State Senate elections, 2011 and Virginia House of Delegates elections, 2011
Virginia

While the Republicans maintain comfortable control of the House of Delegates, Democrats have a slim 22-18 margin in the State Senate. The GOP is making a large push to take control of the Senate.

Virginia has been the subject of large amounts of campaign spending and some high profile appearances -- including by former President Bill Clinton. While Virginia did complete its state legislative redistricting -- which relocated six incumbents -- the new Congressional map was not finalized. If Republicans win control of the Senate tomorrow, they will have a trifecta in state government and effectively have free reign over the new U.S. House map.

Some of the key races that will likely determine partisan control in the Senate are:

Virginia State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 22 20
     Republican Party 18 20
Total 40 40
Virginia House of Delegates
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 39 32
     Republican Party 58 67
     Independent 2 1
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 100 100

See also