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What Is the Democratic Ceiling Across Upper Midwestern State Legislatures?

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The 2006 election saw Democratic takeovers of 3 of the 6 Upper Midwestern legislative chambers previously controlled by the Republicans. Democrats now control 5 chambers (the Iowa House and Senate, the Minnesota House and Senate, and the Wisconsin Senate) with the Republicans controlling 3 (the South Dakota House and Senate and the Wisconsin Assembly).

The Democratic gains in 2006 were unprecedented. Since the total number of seats in these 8 chambers settled at 588 after redistricting in 1972, the largest net Democratic pick-up prior to 2006 was 52 seats, from 1972 to 1974. The DFL in the Minnesota House led the way that year – adding 27 seats to their column. Democrats also picked up 17 seats in the Iowa House.

But the gains in 2006 were even larger: Democrats netted 56 seats, picking up seats in all 8 legislative bodies.

During these 18 election cycles since 1972, Republicans hold the all-time record, gaining 65 seats in 1978 (in 1994, during the Republican Revolution, the GOP only gained 47 state legislative seats in the Upper Midwest).

After the big gains in 2006, have the Democrats reached their ceiling? Not yet.

After the 2006 election, Democrats held 313 seats, compared to 275 for the Republicans. In 2008, Democrats are poised to increase their advantage across the region. Expectations are high that Democrats can launch a competitive battle for the South Dakota Senate as well as the Wisconsin Assembly. Historically, there is a bit more room for Democratic gains. For example, from 1986 through 1992, Democrats held between 325 and 331 seats in the region.

If Democrats should win one of these two chambers in 2008, they would control 6 chambers in the region for the first time since 1992. If they should pick up both, they would control 7 in the region for the first time since 1974, after Richard Nixon's resignation.

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Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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