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Will the GOP Make Gains in the Minnesota House?

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When the DFL swept its way into control of the Minnesota House in the 2006 election, some Republican officeholders and officials partially attributed the DFL 19-seat net gain to having all the cards fall just right for the DFL – that they won all the close races. House Minority Leader Marty Seifert stated earlier this month that he is therefore, "Very confident we can take the majority. We lost the majority in one cycle, we can take it back in one cycle."

Seifert’s ambitions about taking back the House were originally premised on the DFL nominating Hillary Clinton for President. In a Smart Politics interview with Seifert a little over a year ago, the Minority Leader stated, “I believe firmly that the Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton for President and Al Franken for U.S. Senate. This will be one of the worst top of the tickets for the Democrats in Minnesota for years.?

Seifert’s hopes were, in fact, some DFL-ers' fears. In fact, one freshman DFL House member in a purple district told Smart Politics last summer that Clinton would be such a liability for the DFL that this Representative might not even run for re-election (with Barack Obama now the nominee, that individual is indeed running for a 2nd term).

It is true that in November 2006, the DFL won a majority of competitive races – those decided by 10 points or less – but far from all of them. The DFL won 27 of these races (61 percent), compared to 17 for the GOP (39 percent).

Still, Seifert and the Republicans face a mighty battle to gain even 5 or 10 seats, let alone take back control of the House.

First, Republicans will have to defend twice as many open districts (10) as the DFL (5). Two of these districts were competitive in 2006 (21B and 49B).

Secondly, as a result, the DFL will have more than twice as many incumbents on the ballot (80) as the GOP (39) – presuming that neither side experiences casualties in the September primaries. Thirteen percent of Republican incumbents (5 districts) are facing primary challengers (Districts 25A, 35B, 36A, 41B, 48B), compared to ten percent (8 districts) for the DFL (Districts 05B, 27A, 42A, 55A, 56A, 58A, 58B, 59B).

Thirdly, since the 1964 election the DFL has gained seats on the GOP in 7 presidential election years (1964, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, 2000, 2004), held serve once (1976), and lost seats to Republicans just 3 times (1984, 1988, 1996).

With Democratic enthusiasm riding higher than that for the Republicans by most metrics so far in Campaign 2008, Seifert’s characteristically bold prediction seems difficult to foresee. In fact, the DFL might just eke out the three net seats needed to give the Party its largest advantage in the House since 1976.

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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 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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