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A Long Political Half-Life: Abortion Politics in South Dakota

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South Dakota's House of Representatives appears likely to take up the issue of abortion once again in its new 2007 legislative session. The GOP-led state legislature already passed a ban in its last session, which was signed by Republican Governor Mike Rounds. The referred law was defeated 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent in last November's election, however, largely because the law did not permit exceptions for rape and incest. Still, a majority backed the ban in 23 of the state's 66 counties, and came within 37,000 votes of passing out of nearly 335,000 votes cast.

Polls conducted in 2006 indicate this newly proposed ban would reflect the state's dominant viewpoint on abortion—a July 2006 poll found 59 percent of voters would vote 'Yes' on the bill if it allowed for an exception for cases of rape and incest (KELO-TV / Argus Leader). Only 29 percent were still in opposition.

This overwhelming support for a strict—but not absolute—abortion ban is interesting considering polls find South Dakotans more narrowly self-identifying as 'pro-choice' than 'pro-life.' A study of 18 SurveyUSA polls conducted between June 2005 and November 2006 found 'pro-choice' in the majority or plurality in 11 polls, 'pro-life' in the majority or plurality in five polls, and the two viewpoints evenly represented in two additional polls.

It is conceivable those individuals who are only tilting towards the pro-life end of the spectrum, may defect or become agnostic on the issue this time around—as South Dakota received a lot of national attention for its controversial referred law in 2006.

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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