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State Legislative Incumbents Face Primary Challenges

Seven incumbents, including five Democrats, have lost in primaries so far this year.

So far this year, seven state legislative incumbents—five Democrats and two Republicans—have lost to primary challengers. As of June 21, there were two incumbents in uncalled races.

Across the two states that have held primaries, 3.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, slightly fewer than in 2021 (3.9%).

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These totals include data from both legislative chambers in New Jersey and Virginia. New Jersey’s primary election was held on June 6, while Virginia’s was held on June 20.

  • In New Jersey, one Democrat lost (state Senate).
  • In Virginia, four Democrats (state Senate) and two Republicans lost (one in the state House and the other in the state Senate).

Democratic incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Republicans. Of the 102 Democratic incumbents who filed for re-election, five (4.9%) have lost to primary challengers. For Republicans, two of the 88 who filed for re-election (2.3%) have lost.

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Three of these seven incumbent losses (43%) were guaranteed due to redistricting. When states redraw legislative lines, incumbents can end up in a new district with other incumbents, leading to incumbent v. incumbent primaries or general elections. In these races, at least one incumbent must lose.

Of the two states that have held primaries so far, one has a Democratic trifecta (New Jersey), while the other is a divided government (Virginia). Across the four states holding legislative elections in 2023, there are 578 seats up for election, 7.8% of the nationwide total. This is the most seats up for election in an odd-numbered year since 2011.

The figures for 2023 are subject to change. There are currently two uncalled primaries featuring incumbents in Virginia. Primaries in Mississippi and Louisiana are being held on Aug. 8 and Oct. 14, respectively.

Produced in association with Ballotpedia

Edited by Jessi Rexroad Shull and Kyana Jeanin Rubinfeld

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