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WI State Legislative Shakeup in 2006 At Near Historic Levels

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The reclaiming of the Wisconsin state Senate by the Democratic Party received some fanfare last month in the Badger State, but the extent of Democratic pickups in the state Senate and state Assembly is nearly unprecedented over the past half-century of Wisconsin state politics.

Democrats had controlled the 33-seat state Senate for 12 of the last 16 legislative sessions dating back to 1974, although Republicans had been the majority party since 2002. The 4-seat pick-up by the Democrats in 2006 (shifting a 19-14 deficit to an 18-15 advantage) was the second largest gain achieved by either party in the chamber dating back to 1960.

In the 99-seat state Assembly, the Democrats picked up 8 seats, reducing the GOP's 59-39 advantage (1 seat was vacant) to 52-47. This marked the second largest pickup in seats by either party in Assembly elections in nearly 50 years (in 1970 the Democrats gained 19 seats in a tidal wave election).

While virtually no one gave the Democrats a chance to win the Assembly, Republicans are indeed fortunate to have retained control: Democrats lost 3 districts by just 0.7 (District 47), and 1.1 (Districts 80 and 87) percentage points. A change in a few hundred votes in each of those districts would have meant the Republicans—who have controlled the Assembly since 1994—would have been on the short end of a 50-49 margin.

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No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


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