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Ballotpedia

The latest numbers on state legislative primaries

Welcome to the Tuesday, May 24, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Number of contested state legislative primaries up 38% compared to 2020
  2. It’s primary day in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia
  3. Initiative to increase medical malpractice lawsuit caps in California withdrawn following legislative compromise

Number of contested state legislative primaries up 38% compared to 2020

There are 38% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 77% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/top-four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 7%.

We’ve been providing regular updates about the elevated number of contested state legislative primaries this year throughout this election cycle.  Last week, our update included 16 states. This week, these figures include chambers holding elections in 20 states that account for 2,476 (40%) of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year.

A primary is contested when there are more candidates running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update on May 18, we have added post-filing deadline data from Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and New Mexico. Overall, five states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 12 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 20 states in this analysis, 18 are holding partisan primaries. Two states—California and Nebraska—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in nine states, decreased in seven, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 17 states and decreased in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for increased primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting might create new districts, which can create more primary opportunities.

Use the link below to view these topline figures as well as additional state-specific statistics.

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It’s primary day in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia

Today is the fifth statewide primary election day of the 2022 cycle. Voters in three states—Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia—are selecting their general election nominees. Here’s a quick look at some of the races on the ballot:

U.S. Senate

All three states are holding U.S. Senate primaries. Incumbents face contested primaries in Arkansas and Georgia. In Alabama, incumbent Sen. Richard Shelby (R) is retiring, opening the door to a six-candidate field in the state’s Republican primary.

U.S. House

This is the first post-redistricting House election in these three states, all of which kept the same number of congressional districts after the 2020 census: seven in Alabama, four in Arkansas, and 14 in Georgia

There is one incumbent v. incumbent primary in Georgia between Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) and Lucy McBath (D). McBath currently represents the 6th Congressional District but chose to run in the 7th District, represented by Bourdeaux, after redistricting altered lines in the Atlanta suburbs. At least one incumbent is guaranteed to lose here.

McBath’s move also leaves Georgia’s 6th District open, one of three open districts across these three states. The other two openings came from Republican incumbents running for other offices: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) for U.S. Senate and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) for secretary of state.

State executive offices

All three states are also holding primaries for state executive offices like the governorship. In Alabama and Georgia, incumbent Republican governors face several primary challengers. And in all three states, including Arkansas, we are following Republican primaries for secretary of state, where issues including voting policies and the 2020 presidential election have played central roles.

State legislature

All three states are holding state legislative primaries. Every legislative district in these states is up for election: 140 in Alabama, 135 in Arkansas, and 236 in Georgia. Republicans hold majorities in all three states.

We’ve taken a look at the state legislative primaries in Alabama and Arkansas in past editions of the Brew, but here’s the lay of the land in Georgia.

Sixty-three of the 188 Georgia state legislators running for re-election this year—27 Democrats and 36 Republicans—face contested primaries. That’s 34% of incumbents seeking re-election, the most since 2014. The remaining 66% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

The total number of contested primaries—including those without incumbents—also reached its highest point since 2014. With 236 districts, there are 472 possible primaries every election cycle.

This year, there are 104 contested primaries—51 Democratic primaries and 53 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 49 in 2020, a 4% increase. For Republicans, that number increased 71% from 31 in 2020 to 53 this year.

Primary runoffs

Texas is also holding several primary runoffs today in races where no candidate received more than 50% of the vote on March 3. The top two finishers in each race advanced to today’s runoffs. Offices up include U.S. House, attorney general, and the state legislature. Battlegrounds include the Democratic primary in Texas’ 28th Congressional District and both major party primaries for Attorney General. Click here to view the Texas runoffs within our coverage scope.

And use the link below to view every May 24 race we’re covering. Be sure to check back tomorrow for some unofficial results! And subscribe to our Heart of the Primaries newsletter for even deeper dives into party primaries throughout the cycle.

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Initiative to increase medical malpractice lawsuit caps in California withdrawn following legislative compromise

On May 19, the sponsors of an initiative to increase California’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits withdrew the measure from the November ballot after reaching a compromise with state legislators.

In medical malpractice lawsuits, economic damages cover the cost of a patient’s procedure and any procedures needed to address injuries caused by malpractice. Non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering awards, go beyond those costs to account for other outcomes of malpractice, like physical impairments or disabilities.

In 1975, lawmakers set the non-economic damages cap at $250,000. The ballot initiative would have adjusted the cap for inflation each year. The initiative would also have allowed judges and juries to award damages above the cap for catastrophic injuries, including permanent physical impairment, disfigurement, or disability, and death.

On April 27, the initiative’s sponsors announced a legislative compromise that will raise the cap on pain and suffering awards to $350,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The cap will rise to $750,000 over the following 10 years. For cases involving a patient’s death, the cap will increase to $500,000 at the start of next year, rising to $1 million over the following 10 years. After that, the cap will be annually adjusted by 2%.

On May 5, the California Senate voted 37-1 in favor of the compromise. The Assembly voted 66-0 on May 12 in favor. The bill is currently awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature.

The initiative qualified for the ballot in July 2020 after filing 910,667 signatures, of which 688,142 were valid. In California, proponents of a ballot initiative can withdraw their proposal after signatures are verified, as long as the proposal is withdrawn at least 131 days before the general election. California adopted this withdrawal process in 2014. Since then, proponents of seven citizen-initiated ballot measures have withdrawn their proposals after qualifying for the ballot.

Ninety-four statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in 33 states so far this year, including three in California.

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