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State Legislative Tracker: Incumbents continue to fall in primaries

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August 13, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a partisan update and look at how incumbents fared in last week's primaries.

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Weekly highlight

Last week was another busy one for primaries, as voters in five states went to the polls to decide who would move on to the November ballot. As noted here before, incumbents are being defeated in primaries at a higher rate than in 2010. With the primaries last week, the total number of incumbents defeated so far this year was bumped up to 140 - 92 Republicans and 48 Democrats. In 2010, only 96 incumbents lost their bid for re-election in a primary.

Here's an overview of what happened last week:

A whopping 19 sitting members of the state legislature - 9 senators and 10 representatives - were defeated on August 7. To put that figure in context, in 2010, the most incumbents defeated in a state legislative primary was in Rhode Island, where 10 incumbents lost to challengers. The 19 incumbents defeated is by far the most of any state so far during the 2012 legislative season. In 2010, only five Kansas legislators lost in a primary.
Voters in Michigan handed five state representatives - 4 Democrats and 1 Republican - defeat on August 7. The five total incumbents who lost is significantly higher than the one total incumbent defeated in a 2010 primary in Michigan.
A total of eight Missouri legislators were defeated last Tuesday. Of the 126 incumbents who filed for re-election, only 35 faced a primary. The eight total incumbents who lost is significantly higher than the three total incumbents who lost a 2010 primary in Missouri.
Of the 93 incumbents who filed for re-election, only 14 faced a primary. Because of Washington's voting by mail system, not all results were readily available. However, the early indications of results are that no incumbents are expected to lose in the primary. Washington uses a blanket primary system -- meaning the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election. In 2010, one Washington incumbent was defeated in a legislative primary.
Hawaii's primary, the only one to take place on August 11, saw five incumbents - 2 senators and 3 representatives - defeated. In 2010, only one incumbent lost in the primary.


As of today, August 13, 2012, the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and 49 state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 53.5% of all seats while Democrats hold 44.7%. All told, Republicans control 58 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 37 chambers. Three chambers are tied, while one is nonpartisan.

The totals represent a loss of 7 Republican and 6 Democratic legislators from the July 9 Tracker.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,305 44.8%
Republican state legislators 3,961 53.6%
Independent state legislators 71 0.96%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 11 0.15%
Vacancies 24 0.32%

State Houses

The partisan composition of state houses refers to which party holds the majority of seats in the state house or the lower level of each state legislature. Altogether, in the 49 state houses, there are 5,413 state representatives.

As of August 13, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 18 chambers
  • Republican Party 30 chambers
  • Purple.png 1 chamber (Oregon)
See also: Partisan composition of state senates

Cumulative numbers

As of August 13, 2012, 5,354 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,427 44.8%
Republican state representatives 2,927 54.1%
Independent state representatives 18 0.33%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 9 0.17%
Vacancies 25 0.46%


There are 22 state house vacancies in 17 different states as of August 13, 2012. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Alabama 1
Florida 1
Georgia 1
Hawaii 1
Iowa 1
Kentucky 1
Maine 2
Minnesota 1
New Hampshire 2
New York 1
North Carolina 1
Oklahoma 2
Pennsylvania 2
South Carolina 1
Texas 2
Vermont 1
Wisconsin 1


There are 25 state representatives in 13 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of August 13, 2012. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Arizona 1 (Independent)
Georgia 1 (Independent)
Louisiana 2 (Independent)
Maine 3 (2 non-voting Native American representatives, 1 Independent)
Missouri 4 (Independent)
New Hampshire 2 (Independent)
New Mexico 1 (Independent)
New York 1 (Independence Party of New York)
South Dakota 1 (Independent)
Tennessee 1 (Carter County Republican)
Vermont 8 (5 Vermont Progressive Party, 3 Independent)
Virginia 1 (Independent)
Wisconsin 1 (Independent)

State Senates

The partisan composition of state senates refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate. Altogether, in the 50 state senates, there are 1,971 state senators.

As of August 13, 2012, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of August 13, 2012, 1,899 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 872 44.2%
Republican state senators 1,027 52.1%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.10%
Vacancies 10 0.50%


There are 10 state senate vacancies in 9 states as of August 13, 2012.

State Vacancies
Kentucky 1
Massachusetts 1
Mississippi 1
Montana 1
Nevada 2
Pennsylvania 1
South Carolina 1
Virginia 1
Wisconsin 1


There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of August 13, 2012. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Alabama 1 (Independent)
Kentucky 1 (Independent)
Maine 1 (Independent)
Rhode Island 1 (Independent)
Vermont 2 (Vermont Progressive Party)

This week 2 out of 50 state legislatures - Ohio and California - are meeting in regular session, while Massachusetts is meeting in informal session, which it will continue to do throughout the rest of the year. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.

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

Current sessions capture for the week of August 13, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Although most states have concluded 2012 business, some states have already begun 2013 action. Drafting for 2013 has begun in Montana and North Dakota, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.[1]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, August 6, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,299 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,954 (53.5%)
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 30
Total Special Sessions 17

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 17 special sessions in 13 states. There is one special session currently ongoing in Maryland, with another set to begin this week in Illinois.


Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced on July 30 that he was calling a special legislative session on August 17 in order to address pension reform. Currently, Quinn said, the state has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability, which continues to grow every day.[2]

Last week Quinn found himself defending the session amid criticism from a leader of his own party. President of the Senate John Cullerton (D) urged Quinn to call off the session, in order that Cullerton could call a regular session. When legislators meet in special session, taxpayers pick up the tab for transportation costs, whereas if it is a regular session, legislators themselves have to pay their own way.

In response, the governor stated, "John didn’t want to come back, but I think everyone should be there. That’s why I called the special session. And I think it’s very important to know that.”[3]


The Maryland Legislature convened a special session on gambling on August 9.[4] The state 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.[5]

Last Thursday, a Senate committee voted 11-1 to approve a gambling bill that would allow a new casino in Price George's County.[6] The full Senate passed the bill 28-14 and the House will take it up today.[7]


In July, Governor Mark Dayton (D) announced that there will be a special session to address flood relief. Now set to begin the third week of August, the session, which has not officially been called yet, remained without a date for some time as state and local officials were waiting to hear how much the federal government would cover.[8]

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier granted federal money for damage to public infrastructure, Dayton received a shock in late July when FEMA said they would not provide any assistance to businesses and individuals whose homes were damaged in the flooding. The governor appealed the decision, but got word last week that the appeal had been denied.[9]

The session is tentatively scheduled for August 24.[10]

In recess

As of today, August 13, 6 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • Illinois - In recess from June 1, 2012 to August 16, 2012.[11]
  • New Jersey - In recess from July 3, 2012 to August 19, 2012.
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[11]
  • Michigan - In recess from July 20 to August 14, 2012.
  • Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.[11]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[11]
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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)


Currently, redistricting in Ohio is carried out by the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Apportionment Board. The board is responsible for drawing the state's 99 State House and 33 State Senate districts. Congressional boundaries are redrawn by the General Assembly. However, a constitutional amendment could change all that.

On August 6, 2012, Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) announced over 406,000 valid signatures submitted by the Ohio "Voters First" coalition had been certified, meeting the necessary requirement to put the amendment on the ballot.[12]

The measure would create a 12-person citizen commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps. According to supporters of the measure, the commission would create districts that would reflect the state's geographic, racial, ethnic and political diversity. The initiative would also bar lobbyists and elected officials from joining the commission.[13]

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 Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A total of 140 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 92 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

So far, primaries have taken place in 31 states:

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).[14]


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.[15] The Caswell campaign appears to be no longer active as well.

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.[16]

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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 30 special elections in 12 states.

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

Recent election results

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg On August 7, Pennsylvania's special election was decided:

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • September 4: Virginia Senate District 5, Virginia House of Delegates District 45
  • November 6: Kentucky Senate District 19
  • November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68
  • November 6: Texas House of Representatives District 41
  • December 11: Alabama House of Representatives District 30

See also