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Will the DFL Reach 90 Seats in the Minnesota House?

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As detailed in a report released today that I co-authored with Larry Jacobs at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, the DFL is fighting to reach a veto-proof 90 seat supermajority in this November’s election.

Gaining a net five seats would mean the DFL (which already has a veto-proof majority in the Senate) could neutralize Governor Pawlenty’s veto pen. The Governor has effectively battled the Democratic majorities by making 70 vetoes in his 6 years in office and 54 of them since 2007, when the DFL assumed control of both chambers. (Only Arne Carlson issued more total vetoes since 1939 and no Minnesota governor used the veto as often in one year as Pawlenty did in 2008 [34].

From the report:

In 2008, 22 percent of House districts that had been controlled by Republicans will have no incumbent running for re-election (11 of 49). By contrast, only 7 percent of DFL-controlled seats are open (6 of 85). Put another way, Republicans have nearly twice as many open seats to defend even though the DFL has far more total House seats to protect.

Although the open GOP seats may present opportunities for the DFL, the Democrats face their own challenge in reelecting its members who won in districts that lean Republican. In particular, Democrats won 32 seats in 2006 that were carried by Governor Pawlenty; 16 of these seats are held by first-term Representatives, and 12 of those are in districts that were won by both the Governor in 2006 and President Bush in 2004.

Nine DFL seats seem especially vulnerable because they are being defended by first-term members who may not yet have served long enough to develop the kind of strong personal bond that is necessary to win over constituents in districts that historically vote Republican.

Democrats Al Doty (12B) and Jeremy Kalin (17B) face particularly daunting odds as they are running in districts that gave double-digit winning margins to Governor Pawlenty in 2006 and President Bush in 2004. Moreover, five first term Democrats are defending seats that Pawlenty won convincingly in 2006 and that the President also carried in 2004 (53A, 56B, 56A, 29B, and 37A). Another DFL seat (12A) is being defended by a first-termer in a district that broke for Bush by double digits and that the Governor also won. In addition, the decision of a first-term Democrat to step down created an open seat in a district (51A) where majorities voted for Bush in 2004 and for Pawlenty in 2006.

Overall, the DFL will have its hands full and may well lose some seats that it currently controls. It will be defending 27 districts that were decided by less than 10 points in 2006 compared to just 17 districts for the GOP.

The history of Minnesota House elections has been quite dynamic; large majorities can be short-lived. Large Democratic majorities through the late 1980s were followed by a Republican surge that narrowed DFL majorities after the 1994 and 1996 elections and produced Republican majorities from 1998 through 2004. The DFL regained the majority in 2006.

Previous post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District (2008)
Next post: Election Profile: Minnesota's 4th Congressional District (2008)

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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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