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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

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

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.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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