The December issue looks at the work states face to deal with the health care needs of an aging population and new approaches to teacher evaluations.
By Morgan Cullen
Off-year elections tend to be quiet affairs, and 2013 is no exception. With just two states, New Jersey and Virginia, holding scheduled legislative elections, it is the fewest number of state level contests of the decade. Louisiana and Mississippi are the only other states that maintain off-year state legislative elections but because both House and Senate members are elected to four-year terms, elections won’t be held there until 2015.
In New Jersey, all 120 House and Senate seats are up for grabs along with the governor’s office but no big political surprises are expected to upset the Garden State's balance of power. Currently, Democrats hold safe majorities in both chambers and while Governor Chris Christie’s popularity and likely reelection may translate into a few down-ticket victories, Democrats believe they have taken the necessary precautions to maintain the status quo.
In Virginia, only the 100 seats in the House of Delegates are in play and there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for an upset there either despite a highly publicized governor’s race. Republicans currently hold a 33-seat majority in the chamber and while Democrats may capitalize a bit on the prolonged vitriol from the federal government shutdown last month, it is unlikely to put more than a dent into the Republicans' near supermajority.
While there are no seats up this year, a few different scenarios could potentially alter the current 20-20 tie in the Virginia Senate. Since the state’s Republican lieutenant governor casts the tie-breaking vote, the Senate is effectively under Republican control. Democratic Senator Ralph Northam holds a double-digit lead over Republican E.W. Jackson in the state’s race for lieutenant governor. If Northam's lead holds, he will have to vacate his seat and a special election would be announced by the new governor sometime next year.
Also Republican Senator Mark Obenshain and Democratic Senator Mark Herring are currently in a tight race for Attorney General. A recent Washington Post Poll has the race at three percentage points which is well within the margin of error. That winner will also have to vacate his current senate seat before taking office. With the senate tied at a 20-20 split this will offer both parties two opportunities to win a clear majority in the chamber.
Outside of the New Jersey and Virginia legislative races, there are also 16 special elections in eight states to fill vacated seats. The one that has received the most attention is Washington’s 26th Senate district, where Democratic Senator Nathan Schlicher is running against three-term State Representative Jan Angel. Schlicher was appointed to the seat when Derek Kilmer, the previous incumbent, won election to Congress. Whoever wins the contest will serve out the remainder of the term. The Washington Senate is currently controlled by a majority coalition consisting of 23 republicans and two democrats. One of the most competitive districts in the state, this has become the most expensive state senate race in Washington history and could decide who will controls the chamber following the 2014 midterm elections.
The other states holding special elections on November 5 are below:
House Districts 100, 104, 127 Senate District 14
State Senate 2nd Hampden and Hampshire
House District 49
House Districts 5, 55, 110
House District Hillsborough 35
Assembly Districts 53, 86
House District 50
Senate Districts 7, 8, 26
For more on the 2013 state elections check out NCSL's StateVote 2013 report.
Morgan Cullen contributes to redistricting and election analysis for NCSL.
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