More than 570 individuals qualified for federal, statewide, and legislative seats this week. Hundreds more have thrown their name in the hat for local offices. As is always the case, vacancies at the top of the ticket create an upswell. At least fifteen lawmakers have left the comforts of incumbency to seek higher office, many of them running for the open Lt. Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, or Labor Commissioner posts.
Other lawmakers have decided it’s time to call it quits and have announced they will not seek reelection. At least 17 incumbents will return to their life as full-time citizens at the end of this term. The General Assembly is losing more than 200 years of institutional knowledge and experience with these departures, highlighted by the retirement of Senator Jeff Mullis, chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, and Representative Terry England, longtime chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Calvin Smyre will not seek reelection, having been appointed ambassador to the Dominican Republic by President Joe Biden; he has served in the House since 1975.
For those seeking reelection, opponents are plentiful. Given the impact of new legislative maps, most districts are drawn to heavily favor one party or the other. The practical implication is that the critical vote happens in the Primary election; the victor will often cruise to victory in the General, if they have an opponent at all. At least 13 senators and 41 representatives will face a challenger in the May 24 Primary.
EVP, Chief of Staff, Government & Regulatory Relations