RI Senate Election Strength Rankings

See which Senators have been the most competitive in recent elections

In the marketplace, the presence of competition usually results in better products. A company that holds a monopoly position has little incentive to innovate. In elections, the same rules apply. Elected officials who consistently run uncontested have little reason to listen and respond to their constituents, because they will hold onto the job regardless of their performance. Incumbents who often face contested races are incentivized to more closely represent the people they serve and be more responsive, knowing they will be competing for the job every 2 years. We found some correlation to this effect: Three of the top four Senators in our Social Media Rankings also find themselves in the top three of the Election Strength Rankings.

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 Senator'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. In fact, the number of Senate elections we counted in which the incumbent was unopposed was downright startling. For current members of the state Senate, here is a summary of what we found over the last 6 years (3 election cycles) we measured:

  • Total number of uncontested elections: 104 (55% of all elections)
  • Percent of uncontested primary races: 76%
  • Percent of uncontested general election races: 51%
  • Percent of elections in the most recent primary that were uncontested: 68%

How We Measured Election Strength

Scoring election strength is a unique endeavor and one in which we spent considerable time evaluating. We examined each Senator'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 Senator'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 they have been historically more competitive than general elections. For example, in 2018 of the 12 contested primary elections, 50% were decided by 20 points or less. While the same year, 42% of general election contests were decided by 20 points or less. An even larger disparity was found in the 2016 races. 

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 Senator had no declared competition. For example, if a Senator 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 Senators who had not yet run in 2016 or 2014. This ratio affected scores less, but worked to account for the smaller track record these Senators had overall.

Highest Election Strength Senators


Bridget Valverde

District 35 (Elected 2018)



Stephen Archambault

District 22 (Elected 2012)



Melissa Murray

District 24 (Elected 2018)



Harold Metts

District 6 (Elected 2004)


Swipe left to see ratings

SenatorDistScoreCR%'18 P'18 G'16 P'16 G'14 P'14 G
de la Cruz2391100211NNNN
Lynch Prata316733X22XXX28

Level of Competitiveness

Very High Reasonable Very Low



Did Not Run

How We Rank

Score is the cumulative total of the Senator'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 Senator 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 Senator's Contested Races Percentage (CR%), which is the percent of races the Senator 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 Senator 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 Senator has run in. Deductions were applied as follows for races in which the Senator 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 Senator's job performance and these scores will not count towards the Senator's overall rankings. Senators 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.