Last year, we saw a record number of new state legislators. This year the trend is even more profound in the four states that held odd-year legislative elections.
In three out of the four legislatures up for election in 2023, nearly a third of lawmakers will be new to the chamber this year.
It is worth noting that 2024 is a much smaller sample size when compared to the 2023 numbers (state legislative elections in four states in 2023 versus 46 states in 2022). However, the four states this year combined saw a 28% turnover rate, compared to 20% combined in the 46 states last year.
This time last year, we reported how first-year lawmakers made up about a fifth of legislative seats as state legislatures gaveled in their legislative sessions following the elections of 2022. Now, there were many fewer state legislative elections in 2023, but the trend we’re observing is even more profound in the four states that held odd-year legislative elections than we saw the previous year.
In three out of the four legislatures up for election in 2023, nearly a third of lawmakers will be new to the chamber this year. Virginia will welcome 33 new lawmakers to the House this session and 12 newcomers to the Senate (a total of 32% turnover from the last session). Similarly, Louisiana will see a freshman class of 32% of the total seats this year with 34 new lawmakers in the House and 12 in the Senate. New Jersey is a notch below those numbers with a 31% total turnover (27 newcomers in the House and 10 in the Senate). And in the fourth state, Mississippi will see a turnover of 25 seats in the House and 7 seats in the Senate for 18% newcomers total.
2024 is a much smaller sample size when compared to the 2023 numbers (state legislative elections in four states in 2023 versus 46 states in 2022). And the around-a-third turnover numbers we see in Virginia, New Jersey, and Louisiana this year are similar to several states last year. Wyoming, Colorado, California, and Oregon all saw at least 30% new faces in the legislature last year. But the four states this year combined saw a 28% turnover rate, compared to 20% combined in the 46 states last year. Again, small sample size, but it does emphasize that the high number of first-year lawmakers in state legislatures is consistent for at least another year, if not on the rise.
Some caveats: many of the 2022 elections and the 2023 elections were using new district maps for the first time following the 2020 Census and redistricting process, forcing some incumbent lawmakers to either go head-to-head in combined districts or choose to retire or pursue another office on an earlier timeline than they otherwise would. So redistricting is a factor. Another factor, although not unique to these election years, is members of the lower house winning seats in the upper house. For example, six members of the House in New Jersey won election to the Senate in 2023. So while they arrive in the Senate as newcomers to that chamber, they’ll be familiar to lobbyists and their Senate colleagues.
Last year saw only a 15% turnover rate in Congress after a major election, so these state legislative numbers are still much higher than we’re seeing in the national legislature. New legislators present fresh opportunities and new challenges for state government affairs professionals as they have likely not heard directly from your industry before.
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This article appeared in our Morning MultiState newsletter on January 9, 2023. For more timely insights like this, be sure to sign up for ourMorning MultiState weekly morning tipsheet. We created Morning MultiState with state government affairs professionals in mind — sign up to receive the latest from our experts in your inbox every Tuesday morning.Click here to read past issues and sign up.