RI House Election Strength Rankings - 2020See which State Representatives have been the most competitive in recent elections
How We Measured Election Strength
Earlier this month we released our Senate Election Strength Rankings which highlighted a very high number of uncontested races. Just 4 of 38 Senators were battle-tested enough to earn our "Very Competitive" designation. Now our House results are in, and the picture is even more dire - 76% of House incumbents in the last primary had no opponent. Seventy Six Percent. And 64% of all House elections over the past 6 years, whether primary or general election, were uncontested. In 2018, just 8 of 75 State House Reps had an opponent in both the primary and general election. Uncontested elections not only allow subpar legislators to hold their jobs, but it allows those same legislators to build up campaign war chests of hundreds of thousands of dollars. When a challenger finally does come along, the incumbent is able to grossly outspend them, tilting the scale heavily in their favor.
Our inaugural Election Strength Rankings are intended to highlight incumbents who have shown the strength to win their district, sometimes overwhelmingly, and the abundance of uncontested races over the past 3 election cycles. Several factors play a part in election results, many of which an incumbent cannot control. For example, an incumbent cannot be faulted for winning an uncontested election. On the other side of the coin, a Representative's dominant victory may have come primarily as a result of a weak or underfunded opponent. Elections are ultimately a popularity contest and not a scientific measurement of a job well done. As a result, this rankings segment should not be considered a measurement of an incumbent's job performance and will not factor into a Senator's Overall Rankings.
Uncontested elections are a problem nationwide and Rhode Island certainly holds its own in that category. Over the past 3 election cycles, 64% of all House elections went uncontested. Worse, 3 out of 4 House incumbents had no primary opponent in the last election, leaving constituents with nobody to ensure their Representative sticks to their promises. Other figures we pulled covering the last 3 election cycles:
Percent of uncontested primary election races (last 6 years):
Percent of uncontested general election races (last 6 years):
Percent of elections in the most recent primary (2018) that were uncontested:
Scoring election strength is a unique endeavor and one in which we spent considerable time evaluating. We examined each Representative's last three election cycles (primaries and general) where possible, and focused on two metrics: the margin of victory and the number of elections that went uncontested. Special elections were not counted unless it was the Representative's most recent race. The most recent election cycle is by far the most important one, and was given much higher weight. We also gave more weight to primary elections because, although seldom contested, they have been historically more competitive than general elections.
In counting the margin of victory, we took the winner's percentage of votes and subtracted the total percentage of votes of all other declared candidates. In a couple of races, the winner received a minority of votes and in these instances the margin of victory was scored as "0". We did not score these in the negative because it would have implied that incumbents who went unopposed over the 6 years we covered are more competitive, which is impossible to know.
Lastly, two deductions were applied: One accounting for uncontested races with scores dropping based on the percentage of elections in which the Representative had no declared competition. For example, if a Representative had a contested election in 3 of the 6 races measured, they kept 50% of their combined margin of victory total. The second deduction was applied to Representatives who had not yet run in 2016 or 2014. This ratio affected scores less, but worked to account for the smaller track record these Representatives had overall.
Highest Election Strength Representatives
Susan DonovanDistrict 69 (Elected 2016)
Rebecca KislakDistrict 4 (Elected 2018)
Anastasia WilliamsDistrict 9 (Elected 1992)
Carol McEnteeDistrict 33 (Elected 2014)
Swipe left to see ratings
|Rep||Dist||Score||CR%||'18 P||'18 G||'16 P||'16 G||'14 P||'14 G|
Level of Competitiveness
Very High Reasonable Very Low
Did Not Run
How We Rank
Score is the cumulative total of the Representative's election victory margins ('18 Prim/'18 Gen/'16 Prim/'16 Gen/'14 Prim/'14 Gen) multiplied by a recency factor plus deductions for uncontested races and races in which they did not participate. Recency factor gives higher weight to more recent elections and to primaries, and was applied as follows: 2018 Primary: 10, 2018 General: 8, 2016 Primary: 4, 2016 General: 3, 2014 Primary: 2, 2014 General: 1. If a Representative had contested elections in every race they participated in and ran in all 3 of the last election cycles, this would be their final score.
A deduction was applied based on the Representative's Contested Races Percentage (CR%), which is the percent of races the Representative has run in where they had at least one declared opponent. To calculate the deduction, the total cumulative victory margin was multiplied by the CR%. For example, if the total cumulative victory margin was 200 and Representative had contested races 50% of the time, their adjusted score would be 100.
A smaller deduction was applied based on the number of races, out of the 6 measured, that the Representative has run in. Deductions were applied as follows for races in which the Representative was not a candidate: 2016 Primary: 5%, 2016 General: 5%, 2014 Primary: 3%, 2014 General: 3%.
It is important to reiterate that Election Strength is not a good measure of a Representative's job performance and these scores will not count towards the Representative's overall rankings. Representatives with scores above 250 are considered "Very competitive", scores between 100 - 249 are "Reasonably competitive", and scores below 100 are considered "Not competitive". The maximum possible score in this version is 2660 (albeit a theoretical impossibility). The lowest possible score is 0.