Major party candidates with major party competition in the November 2009 state legislative elections

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By Geoff Pallay with Kevin Diana, Tyler King and Justin Haas

3Competitive 2009.jpg

There were 180 state legislative districts, in 2 states, with a seat up for election on November 3, 2009. We took a look at each of the 2 states to see how many state legislative districts had only one major party candidate running in the general election.

Our main findings:

  • There were 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.
  • There was only one major party candidate in 48 (26.7%) of the 180 districts holding state legislative elections in 2009. Roughly 1 in 4 districts holding elections this November fielded only one major party candidate.
  • 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.

Comparing states:

  • Virginia had the most major party candidates without major party opposition -- in other words, it had the least amount of competitiveness at the primary level.
  • The state with the most competitive general elections in terms of major party candidates was New Jersey.

The score that states received based on their ratio of major party competition is one of 3 factors used in evaluating which states have the highest, and which the lowest, overall competitiveness in the 2009 state legislative elections.

States compared by major party competition

The state that is least competitive as defined by the percentage of its seats where there is only one major party candidate in 2009 is defined as #2, while the state that is most competitive as defined by the percentage of its seats where there are Democratic and Republican candidates is defined as #1; that is, 1 = "most competitive", 2 = "least competitive".


State House at stake No Major Party Opposition  % without Major Party Opposition Major party competitive rank Overall competitive rank
New Jersey 80 4 5% 1 1
Virginia 100 44 44% 2 2

See also