2021 Elections to Keep on Your Radar

While the presidential race has come and gone, 2020 has proven local and state elections matter more than ever. Here, a list of important 2021 elections to pay attention to.

Florida Voters Have Cast Over 2 Million Vote-by-Mail Ballots
Florida Voters Have Cast Over 2 Million Vote-by-Mail Ballots
(Image credit: Getty Images/NurPhoto)

Twenty-twenty has proven that who we elect at every level matters—from mayors (overseeing a police force) to governors (pandemic protocols) to state attorney generals (justice for Black lives)—which means it's time to focus on the important 2021 elections happening throughout the country. While we won't be tracking every local and state race across all 50 states (head to your state's board of elections website to learn more about the elections happening in your area), we're rounding up impactful races we expect to gain national attention throughout the year. Even if you don't live in the state where the election is happening, there are still virtual ways to get involved (like writing letters to voters and donating) that could make all the difference for the candidates. Start by getting familiar with the races, below.

Primary Election Date: TBD if more than two candidates run

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is running for reelection. All eyes were on Georgia during the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections, so we can expect the same for this race.

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Primary Election Date: TBD if more than two candidates run

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: President-elect Joe Biden nominated (opens in new tab) Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Kim Janey, president of the Boston City Council, will become acting mayor once Walsh leaves office, but has yet to reveal whether or not she will seek election for a full term. Currently, Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell (opens in new tab) and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu (opens in new tab) are the two leading contenders to replace Walsh. Wu was recently endorsed (opens in new tab) by Senator Elizabeth Warren.

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Primary Election Date: May 4, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: Incumbent Democratic Mayor John Cranley is unable to run for reelection due to term limits. Cincinnati's election is considered nonpartisan, meaning the top two candidates from the primary election advance to the general election—regardless of party.

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General Election Date: May 1, 2021

What You Need to Know: Incumbent Republican Mayor Betsy Price announced (opens in new tab) she would not seek a sixth term, opening up the position to a wide pool of candidates. Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located, flipped blue (opens in new tab) in the 2020 presidential election—putting all eyes on the city to see if it will do the same in the mayoral race.

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Primary Election Date: June 8, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: Incumbent Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is unable to run for reelection due to term limits, and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (opens in new tab) is a top contender for the position. The Democratic party will select its candidate in June, and the Republican party will hold a convention. The attorney general position is also on the ballot. Incumbent Democratic AG Mark Herring (opens in new tab) plans to run for reelection and is expected to have plenty of Democratic challengers, like Del. Jay Jones (opens in new tab) who is seeking to become Virginia's first Black attorney general.

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Primary Election Date: June 8, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: Alongside the New Jersey General Assembly and the New Jersey State Senate, the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates is part of the state legislative chambers holding elections this year. Notably, Del. Danica Roem (opens in new tab), the first out trans person to serve in a state legislature, is running for reelection.

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Primary Election Date: March 20, 2021

Runoff Election Date (If Necessary): April 24, 2021

What You Need to Know: Luke Letlow, congressman-elect for Louisiana's fifth district, died from COVID-19 (opens in new tab) in December 2020 days before he was supposed to be sworn into Congress. The special election to fill his seat will coincide with the other Louisiana special elections. 

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Primary Election Date: March 20, 2021

Runoff Election Date (If Necessary): April 24, 2021

What You Need to Know: President-elect Joe Biden selected Rep. Cedric Richmond (opens in new tab) (LA-02) to become senior advisor to the president and director of the White House office of public engagement. Once Biden is sworn into office, Richmond's seat will be vacant, generating a wide candidate pool to fill his seat. On January 14, Stacey Abrams endorsed (opens in new tab) Karen Carter Peterson for the job.

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Primary Election Date: TBD if more than two candidates run

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: After the death of George Floyd (opens in new tab), Minneapolis has set a precedent for introducing legislation like shifting police budget (opens in new tab) toward programs like violence prevention. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who helped enact this with a deciding vote from the city council, is eligible for reelection. 

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Primary Election Date: June 8, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: New Jersey is one of two gubernatorial races that will occur in 2021. The current governor, Phil Murphy, is eligible for reelection (opens in new tab). Up until recently, he was running against Doug Steinhardt (opens in new tab), a pro-Trump Republican who abruptly dropped out of the race. It's expected there will still be other contenders. 

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General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: The New Jersey General Assembly is one of three state legislative chambers holding elections in 2021, alongside the state's senate and the Virginia House of Delegates. All 80 seats are up for election.

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Primary Election Date: There is no primary election. Candidates will be chosen by each party's central committee.

General Election Date: TBD

What You Need to Know: President-elect Joe Biden has nominated (opens in new tab) Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01) to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Once confirmed by the Senate, Rep. Haaland's congressional seat will be vacant and the secretary of state will call a special election. Victor Reyes (opens in new tab), a queer Latino who is the governor’s legislative director, is running to fill her seat and reported (opens in new tab) as a top contender.

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Primary Election Date: June 22, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is not eligible to run for reelection due to term limits, setting the stage for a wide pool of candidates (opens in new tab). There are also a number of LGBTQ candidates on the ballot running for city council, including Elisa Crespo (opens in new tab) and Marti Cummings (opens in new tab). Additionally, nine New American Leaders (opens in new tab) alum have declared they are running for city council positions: Alexa Avilés (opens in new tab)Amanda Farías (opens in new tab)Crystal Hudson (opens in new tab)Felicia Singh (opens in new tab)Gigi Li (opens in new tab)Jaslin Kaur (opens in new tab)Pierina Sanchez (opens in new tab)Shahana Hanif (opens in new tab), and Sheba Simpson (opens in new tab). The city will use ranked-choice voting (opens in new tab) for the first time ever in the primaries.

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Primary Election Date: TBD

General Election Date: TBD

What You Need to Know: President-elect Joe Biden has nominated (opens in new tab) Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11) as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, which means her congressional seat will be vacant. Governor Mike DeWine will set a date for a special election once Congresswoman Fudge's cabinet position is confirmed by the Senate.

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Primary Election Date: April 6, 2021

General Election Date: May 11, 2021

What You Need to Know: Omaha holds a special primary and general election every four years to elect a mayor (incumbent Republican Mayor Jean Stothert is seeking reelection (opens in new tab)) and all seven members of the city council. City of Omaha elections are nonpartisan, which means political party information is not on the ballot.

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Primary Election Date: August 24, 2021

General Election Date: November 2, 2021

What You Need to Know: Incumbent Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman is unable to run for reelection due to term limits. St. Petersburg city council member Darden Rice (opens in new tab) recently announced she is running for mayor. If elected, she would be the first out LGBTQ+ mayor of the city.

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Primary Election Date: March 2, 2021

General Election Date: April 6, 2021

What You Need to Know: Incumbent Democratic Mayor Lyda Krewson, who faced intense scrutiny (opens in new tab) last year, has chosen to retire—opening up the job to a new field of candidates. In the primary election, the city will use the approval voting system (opens in new tab), meaning the top two people with the most votes will advance to the general election.

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This post will be updated with more information on races and candidates throughout the year.

Rachel Epstein
Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.