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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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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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