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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

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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