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Partisan balance of legislatures and 2010 competitiveness

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By Geoff Pallay and Leslie Graves

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

This includes:

There were 6,125 state legislative districts with a seat up for election on November 2, 2010, in 46 states. We took a look at each of the 46 states to see how many state legislative incumbents chose to run for re-election in 2010.

Our main findings:

Overall, the competitive analysis leaned in the Republican's favor going into the elections -- meaning Democrats had a higher likelihood of losing seats because of the following factors:

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

All of that pointed toward a greater likelihood that Republicans may have won back more seats in the election.

State partisan balance and competitiveness

Of the 10 most competitive states:

  • Democratic Party 5 were currently controlled by Democrats
  • Republican Party 2 were currently controlled by Republicans
  • Purple.png 2 were split Democrat/Republican
  • Greendot.png 1 was non-partisan.

Of the 10 least competitive states:

  • Democratic Party 4 were currently controlled by Democrats
  • Republican Party 3 were currently controlled by Republicans
  • Purple.png 3 were split Democrat/Republican
Competitiveness logo 4.jpg
2010 State senate elections
ALAKARARCACOCTDEFLGAHIIDILINIAKYMEMDMAMIMNMOMTNENVNHNYNCNDOHOKORPARISDTNTXUTVTWAWVWIWY
Parties with candidates
Impact of term limits
Successful challengers
Defeated incumbents
State house elections
State senate elections
State legislative elections

Based on our competitiveness index, the most competitive states are the ones that were more likely to see a higher percentage of incumbents lose in the general election. The least competitive states were more likely to see little change in state legislatures. Below are the rankings of the competitiveness of states along with whether it was controlled by Democrats, Republicans, or split houses.

Legend:
Democratic Party = Democratic Party hold Senate/House • Republican Party = Republican Party holds Senate/House
Purple.png = Chamber control split between Democrats/Republicans








State house elections
ALAKARARCACOCTDEFLGAHIIDILINIAKSKYMEMDMAMIMNMOMTNVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPARISCSDTNTXUTVTWAWVWIWY
Parties with candidates
Impact of term limits
Successful challengers
Defeated incumbents
State house elections
State senate elections
State legislative elections
State Competitiveness rank Party in power
Alabama 22 Democratic Party
Alaska 31 Purple.png
Arizona 3 Republican Party
Arkansas 33 Democratic Party
California 11 Democratic Party
Colorado 21 Democratic Party
Connecticut 36 Democratic Party
Delaware 44 Democratic Party
Florida 17 Republican Party
Georgia 28 Republican Party
Hawaii 6 Democratic Party
Idaho 30 Republican Party
Illinois 39 Democratic Party
Indiana 37 Purple.png
Iowa 29 Democratic Party
Kansas 34 Republican Party
Kentucky 43 Purple.png
Maine 14 Democratic Party
Maryland 5 Democratic Party
Massachusetts 40 Democratic Party
Michigan 2 Purple.png
Minnesota 24 Democratic Party
Missouri 20 Republican Party
Montana 12 Purple.png
Nebraska 7 Greendot.png
Nevada 4 Democratic Party
New Hampshire 1 Democratic Party
New Mexico 42 Democratic Party
New York 13 Democratic Party
North Carolina 19 Democratic Party
North Dakota 25 Republican Party
Ohio 8 Purple.png
Oklahoma 32 Republican Party
Oregon 27 Democratic Party
Pennsylvania 38 Purple.png
Rhode Island 15 Democratic Party
South Carolina 41 Republican Party
South Dakota 18 Republican Party
Tennessee 45 Republican Party
Texas 46 Republican Party
Utah 10 Republican Party
Vermont 35 Democratic Party
Washington 26 Democratic Party
West Virginia 9 Democratic Party
Wisconsin 16 Democratic Party
Wyoming 23 Republican Party
Totals: 1,167 23 Democratic Party 14 Republican Party

Partisan composition of chambers

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
Constitution_Party#Independent_American_Party_of_Nevada = Political parties tied for partisan control • Independent = Officially non-partisan chamber




Partisan dominance in state legislatures
heading into the 2010 state legislative elections
Nevada State LegislatureMassachusetts General CourtColorado General AssemblyNew Mexico State LegislatureWyoming State LegislatureArizona State LegislatureMontana State LegislatureCalifornia State LegislatureOregon State LegislatureWashington State LegislatureIdaho State LegislatureTexas State LegislatureOklahoma State LegislatureKansas State LegislatureNebraska State Senate (Unicameral)South Dakota State LegislatureNorth Dakota State LegislatureMinnesota State LegislatureIowa State LegislatureMissouri State LegislatureArkansas State LegislatureLouisiana State LegislatureMississippi State LegislatureAlabama State LegislatureGeorgia State LegislatureFlorida State LegislatureSouth Carolina State LegislatureIllinois State LegislatureWisconsin State LegislatureTennessee State LegislatureNorth Carolina State LegislatureIndiana State LegislatureOhio State LegislatureKentucky State LegislaturePennsylvania State LegislatureNew Jersey State LegislatureNew York State LegislatureVermont State LegislatureVermont State LegislatureNew Hampshire State LegislatureMaine State LegislatureWest Virginia State LegislatureVirginia State LegislatureMaryland State LegislatureMaryland State LegislatureConnecticut State LegislatureConnecticut State LegislatureDelaware State LegislatureDelaware State LegislatureRhode Island State LegislatureRhode Island State LegislatureMassachusetts State LegislatureNew Hampshire State LegislatureMichigan State LegislatureMichigan State LegislatureAlaska State LegislaturePartisan Breakdown State Legislatures2.jpg
Legislative chamber Democratic Party Republican Party Constitution_Party#Independent_American_Party_of_Nevada Independent
State senates 23 18 1 1
State houses 29 15 1 -
Totals: 52 33 2 1

The 2010 elections could have swung a number of chambers. Our research indicates that certain chambers might have had a greater likelihood of swinging to a different party.

While some of the most competitive chambers were already so heavily partisan in one direction (for example, Hawaii for Democrats and Utah for Republicans), it was virtually impossible that partisan control will change. However, the higher degree of competitiveness implies that while the partisan control might not shift, more sitting incumbents might lose than in uncompetitive states.

Term limits

Republicans took more of a hit from term limits in this year's election. This was both in terms of how many individual incumbent legislators the Republican Party was losing (190, versus 182 for the Democratic Party) and in terms of how many state legislative chambers lost more Republicans (13, versus 10 for the Democratic Party).

While the competitiveness index swung in the Republican's favor, when isolating the term limits states the pendulum swung in the Democrats' favor.

  • There were 13 more Republican incumbents than Democrats that vacated their seats.
  • There were 25 more Republican incumbents than Democrats that faced a primary.
  • There were 36 more Republican incumbents than Democrats that face no primary or general election competition.

Thus, in two out of the three categories in term limited states, Republicans faced a steeper climb to gaining back any legislative seats.

Term limited Senates

Below is the comparison of term-limited states and non-term-limited state senates.

Open seats Incumbents facing primary Major party candidates with no major party
Democrats Democratic Party 75 7 34
Republicans Republican Party 82 15 49
Independents Independent 3 13 0
Total 164 35 83
Percentages 48.81% 20.35% 24.7%

Non-Term limited Senates

Open seats Incumbents facing primary Major party candidates with no major party
Democrats Democratic Party 63 89 107
Republicans Republican Party 45 62 130
Total 109 151 237
Percentages 13.36% 20.42% 28.5%

Term limited Houses

Below is the comparison of term-limited states and non-term-limited state senates.

Open seats Incumbents facing primary Major party candidates with no major party opposition
Democrats Democratic Party 192 51 150
Republicans Republican Party 198 65 203
Independents Independent 2 0 0
Total 398 117 353
Percentages 31.56% 13.56% 27.99%

Non-Term limited Houses

Open seats Incumbents facing primary Major party candidates with no major party
Democrats Democratic Party 249 468 652
Republicans Republican Party 208 353 675
Independents Independent 7 0 0
Total 458 821 1,327
Percentages 12.71% 25.41% 35.9%

See also