Exactly How Many Legislative Seats Are Contested This Year?

It started with a tweet from Johnny Kauffman, political reporter for WABE news:

Statehouse ChallengesThat began a bit of friendly banter between several of us who regularly hang out at #gapol, wondering, first of all, whether the 20% estimate was credible, and second even if it was, how many truly competitive seats there were under the Gold Dome, given that most incumbents had successfully fought off their primary challengers. The discussion went on for a bit, reaching no firm conclusion, partially because Donald Trump once again stole the news cycle for the day.

Was he right? It depends on how you define the issue. Of the 105 contested seats in the legislature out of a total of 232, 60 of them will be settled in the primary or July runoff. Only 45 will be contested in November. If your goal is to measure dissatisfaction with incumbents, you should include the primary numbers. If your goal is to measure party challenges, you should measure November. Then you have the question of open seats in the legislature. There are 22 open seats this year. 10 have only Republicans running and 8 only have Democrats, so these will be settled in the primary. 4 seats will be decided in the general, since there are candidates from both parties.

IF you take Kauffman’s tweet literally, and ignore the primaries, he’s pretty much on the money. The winner of 19.1% of the seats will be decided in November. If you take a broader view and include seats that were won in the primaries, including open seats, the percentage goes way up to 44.1%.

Of course, the raw number of challenged seats doesn’t indicate the chances of the incumbent actually losing his or her seat. Our little Twitter discussion group only came up with three candidates where the outcome might be in doubt: Taylor Bennett’s seat in Brookhaven, Joyce Chandler’s seat in Lawrenceville, and Mike Cheokas’s seat in Americus. There are probably more. I can think of JaNice Van Ness’s seat in Rockdale County, for example. Let us know in the comments if you can think of any others.

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Dave Bearseaugusta52Will DurantJon RichardsCeejTheRINO Recent comment authors
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CeejTheRINO
CeejTheRINO

Thanks for this post, Jon. It’s a pretty good guide/starting point for state legislative election analysis.

I do have one quick question: does the 44% mean those seats were contested in both primary and general or just one or the other?

Will Durant
Will Durant

Or looking at this from the half empty side only 1.4% of the incumbents are facing an effective challenge.

We need open primaries and top two going to the general. It isn’t a panacea to business as usual but it would at least be a start and would be better than the alternative of artificial term limits.

augusta52
augusta52

The Augusta area (Columbia and Richmond Counties) was mostly decided in last month’s primary, with one incumbent losing (Ernie Smith of Richmond’s House District 125) and Mark Newton winning the GOP nomination to replace retiring Rep. Barbara Sims in House District 123. There is a GOP runoff for the seat of retiring Senator Bill Jackson, in Senate District 24, between Lee Anderson and Greg Gryzbowski, with the winner facing Democrat Brenda Jordan. But with heavily Republican Columbia County dominating this district, a Democrat would be a long shot here. Columbia County being heavily Republican and Richmond County almost as heavily… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

A very few have lost seats in the initial primary. A very few more will lose seats in the runoff. A very will lose seats in the general. All in all my speculative guess is 95+% of officeholders stay in office if they want to. It’s more secure than working for a regulated utility.

Will Durant
Will Durant

To my knowledge, no one lost their seat in the primary. To my recollection only 2 face a primary runoff and both of those only missed the majority by a point. It may have only been 2 Republicans. Whatever. Per Jon’s numbers above, out of 214 incumbents only 3, possibly 4, are actually in any danger of losing their seat. It’s more secure than working for Southern Company as the owner of the regulated utilities.