82%

Winning percentage of runoff candidates who finished 10% or more ahead of their challenger in the primary election since 2002.

There have been 175 “open” primary runoff elections for state, legislative and federal offices since 2002, and the candidate who finished first in the primary election has won exactly 60% of them. “Open” runoffs do not have an incumbent on the ballot.

As we did in 2018, we looked at the winning percentages of first-place candidates based on whether they received more or less than 40% of the vote in their respective primaries and whether they finished more or less than 10% ahead of their rival. The 2018 results tracked very closely with the historical averages. Since 2002, first-place candidates won:

  • 80% of runoffs after receiving at least 40% of the vote with a margin of at least 10%
  • 89% of runoffs after receiving less than 40% of the vote with a margin of at least 10%
  • 52% of runoffs after receiving at least 40% of the vote with a margin of less than 10%; and
  • 43% of runoffs after receiving less than 40% of the vote with a margin of less than 10%.

There’s something particularly interesting about this final category. Democrats won 67% of their runoffs after receiving a plurality under 40% and a margin below 10 points, and similarly situated Republicans won only 32% of the time.

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