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Incumbents with no primary challenger in the 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 incumbents who chose to run for re-election in 2009 faced a primary challenger.

Our main findings:

  • The incumbent chose to run for re-election in 161 (89.4%) of the 180 districts holding state legislative elections in 2009.
  • In 131 (81.3%) of those 161 districts, the incumbent faced no challenger in the primary.
  • Thus, only 30 (18.6%) of 161 incumbents faced a primary opponent.
  • Of those 30 incumbents who faced a primary, only 1 was defeated.

Comparing states:

  • Virginia had the fewest incumbents facing primary opposition -- in other words, it had the least amount of competitiveness at the primary level.
  • The state with the most competitive primaries in terms of incumbents facing primary challengers was New Jersey.

The score that states received based on their ratio of incumbents facing a primary challenger is one of 3 factors used in evaluating which states have the highest, and which states have the lowest, overall competitiveness in the 2009 state legislative elections.

Additionally, we have tracked incumbents that face no primary or general election opposition in the 2009 election. This data was not a primary component of the competitiveness index but is still compelling information regarding the elections.

There were 45 total incumbents (28.0%) who were guaranteed to win the race from the moment they registered for re-election -- because no major party opponent filed to run in the primary or general election.

States compared by primary competition

The state that is least competitive as defined by the percentage of its seats where the incumbent did not have a primary challenger in 2009 is defined as #2, while the state that is most competitive as defined by the percentage of its seats where the incumbent did have a primary challenger is defined as #1; that is, 1 = "most competitive", 2 = "least competitive".

State House at stake Incumbents w/o primary  % w/o primary Primary challenger rank Overall competitive rank
New Jersey 80 45 63.4 % 1 1
Virginia 100 86 95.6% 2 2

See also