Your Guide to the 15 Elections to Watch in August

Ohio voters will determine the future of referendums, the Justins make a comeback in Tennessee, Mississippi chooses prosecutors, Washington considers recalls, and more.
July 29, 2023
Tennessee Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, here pictured in April after they were expelled from the House for protesting, are on the ballot in legislative special elections on Aug. 3. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

There was supposed to be no election in Ohio this summer: Republicans had ended summer special elections in the state. But faced with the prospect of an abortion rights referendum in November, they have rushed a referendum on Aug. 8 to ask voters to change the rules of future ballot initiatives. 

And there are many other elections to watch throughout August. Washingtonians on Aug. 1 will vote for their city leaders and decide the fate of conservative school boards. One week later, Mississippians will vote for the most powerful offices in state government, from the governor to sheriffs and prosecutors. 

The month is bookended by elections in Tennessee, including mayoral primaries in Nashville and Knoxville on Aug. 3 and Aug. 29, respectively. State lawmakers Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Black Democrats who were expelled from the state House by the GOP in April, are seeking full terms in special elections. 

Here’s your guide to the 15 elections that Bolts is watching throughout August, and more races may be added to our cheat sheet throughout the month. Check back on these Election Nights as we fill in each result.


Ohio | Issue 1

This referendum is on Aug. 8.
Republicans called a summertime election for a constitutional amendment that would raise the threshold for future ballot initiatives from 50 to 60 percent.

One reason for their rush: If passed, Issue 1 would make it harder for a separate measure codifying abortion rights to pass in November. Bolts previewed the election.

Statewide officials

Mississippi | Lieutenant Governor (GOP)

This GOP primary is on Aug. 8. A runoff may be held on Aug. 29.
Republicans are deciding their nominee for lieutenant governor in an ugly primary that features Chris McDaniel, a far-right candidate with secretive financing who came close to winning a U.S. Senate race in 2014. He is challenging incumbent Delbert Hosemann.Hosemann

Note: The state of Mississippi is also electing many other statewide officials later this year, including the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, but both parties have uncompetitive primaries. A record number of residents will be barred from voting due to harsh disenfranchisement rules.

Mayors and City Councils

Tennessee | Knoxville mayor

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 29.
Mayor Indya Kincannon, who in December drew attacks from Fox News and conservatives for promoting a drag show, is running for re-election against three challengers. The race, which may go to a runoff if no candidate tops 50 percent, is ostensibly nonpartisan, but Kincannon is affiliated with Democrats; rival Jeff Talman has criticized her for weakening the police and drawn endorsements from the right.Kincannon wins
Tennessee | Nashville mayor

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 3.
A crowded primary features Democratic Senators Heidi Campbell and Jeff Yarbo, Metro Council member Freddie O’Connell, former city executive Mike Wiltshire, who has business support, alongside Republican Alice Rolli. The race is likely to go to a runoff. 

Note: Republican state lawmakers considered legislation earlier this year that would have upended the election system in Nashville, opening the door to a Republican win, but the bill faltered.
Runoff: O’Connell & Rolli
Washington | Seattle city council

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 1.
Kshama Sawant, dubbed America’s highest profile socialist” by The Independent, is not seeking re-election to the Seattle city council. Now eight candidates are seeking to replace her, and the primary will decide who makes the Top 2 general election.

Also keep an eye on the first, fourth, and fifth districts, all of whom have incumbents retiring, to see who makes it to the general election and how that might affect the balance between left-wing and centrist politicians in this city.
Runoff: Alex Hudson & Joy Hollingsworth
Washington | Spokane mayor.

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 1.
Three candidates are challenging Nadine Woodward, Spokane’s conservative mayor, including Lisa Brown, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader. Progressives already control city council but their seats are up for grabs as well, with well-funded conservative challengers running on tough-on-crime personas to try to flip the council.

The primary will decide who makes the Top 2 general election.
Runoff: Brown & Woodward

An abortion rights protest outside the Ohio statehouse (Flickr/Paul Becker)

Legislative Elections

Tennessee | House Districts 52 & 86

Both general elections are on Aug. 3.
GOP lawmakers in April provoked a national furor when they expelled Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Black Democratic lawmakers, from the state House. Jones and Pearson were both reinstated into their seats on an interim basis by local governments in Memphis and Nashville, respectively.

Now, Jones and Pearson are running in special elections in each of their districts to win back their seat for good. These are safely blue districts, though Jones faces a Republican challenger and Pearson faces an independent. Note the GOP is defending a reliably red seat on the same day in HD 3.

New Hampshire | Grafton 16

This general election is on Aug. 22.
Democrats are defending this seat in a district that President Biden handily carried in 2020. Still, low-turnout special elections are worth watching because, in this extraordinarily tight chamber, every seat counts: should Democrats keep this seat, they’ll have a shot to tie the full state House in another special in September.Dem
See also: The City and NY1 partnered to publish an interactive page that introduces the geographic  boundaries and policies of each of New York City’s new 51 districts. 

And the Gotham Gazette and City & State have previews of the council primaries they are watching.

Criminal Justice Elections

Mississippi | 5th Judicial District DA

This GOP primary is on Aug. 8.
Doug Evans, a DA best known for trying a Black Mississippian named Curtis Flowers six times for the same crime, retired last month. He ran the office with little oversight, and set the stage for one of his deputies to take up his mantle: Both of the candidates to replace him are assistant DAs, and neither has shown appetite for change, Bolts reports.Adam Hopper
Mississippi | 11th Judicial District DA

This Democratic primary is on Aug. 8.
This rural district in northwest Mississippi hosts a rare contested DA primary in the state. Michael Carr, a defense attorney challenging incumbent Brenda Mitchell, is promising not to prosecute abortion cases and to reduce pretrial detention.Mitchell
Mississippi | DeSoto County sheriff

This GOP primary is on Aug. 8.
In one of Mississippi’s most populous counties, a GOP primary has seen an escalation in both candidates’ rhetoric on crime; one candidate, Thomas Tuggle, sent voters a mailer featuring the picture of a SWAT team overlayed with the words, “If you commit a crime in DeSoto County, we don’t believe in doorbells.”Tuggle

Election Administration


Washington | Snohomish County auditor

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 1.
Robert Sutherland, a former Republican lawmaker who has backed false conspiracy theorists about election results, is running to take over election administration in Snohomish County, Washington’s third most populous county. Bolts reports that the Aug. 1 primary will decide whether he is one of the top two candidates, out of a three-way that includes incumbent Garth Fell and Cindy Gobel, to move on to the general election.Runoff: Fell & Gobel

School Boards

Washington | South Kitsap School Board

This nonpartisan primary is on Aug. 1
The right’s battle against gender-inclusive policies and against teaching about race has reached Kitsap County, just west of Seattle, in part through school board member John Berg, who is running for re-election. The primary will decide who of the many people running for this seat will move to a general election. Berg loses

Washington | Richland School Board

This recall effort is on Aug. 1.
Three members of the Richland school board violated state rules and threatened the district’s funding when they abruptly decided to make masks optional, the state supreme court ruled. Now, all three are facing a recall vote that could remove them from office.

One of the three members, Semi Bird, happens to be one of the leading Republican candidates in the 2024 governor’s race.
All recalls

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