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Democratic Control in Wisconsin At Greatest Level in a Generation

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With its takeover of the State Assembly last week, Democrats now control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in the Badger State for the first time since the 1984 election.

Wisconsin Democrats were able to accomplish in 2008 what Republicans have done only one time since the 1968 election – control all three legislative and executive power points in Madison. With the exception of the Republican Revolution of 1994, Democrats have been in control of at least one of these three prongs of state government since 1970.

Democrats emerged with a majority of seats in the Assembly in every election from 1970 through 1992, only to lose control from 1994 through 2006.

In the Senate, Democrats ended a decade-plus run of Republican control in 1974, and then held onto power for 13 of the next 14 election cycles through the 2000 election (only briefly losing control in Election 1994, by a 17-16 margin). After GOP victories in two straight election cycles in 2002 and 2004, Democrats regained control of the upper legislative chamber in 2006.

Democrats controlled the governor’s office after the 1970 election with the first of two victories by Patrick J. Lucey, until Republican Lee Dreyfus’ open-race victory in 1978. Democrats briefly won back the executive branch in 1982 behind Anthony Earl, only to lose four straight elections to Republican Tommy Thompson from 1986 through 1998.

Since 1960, Democrats had controlled all three prongs of government in Wisconsin for eight years collectively, from 1975 through 1978 and 1983 through 1986. Aside from its two-year reign during the Republican Revolution (1995-1997), the last instance of power unity by the GOP lasted from 1967 through 1970.

Election 2008 also marks the first time since 1976 that Wisconsin Democrats control the governor’s office, have a majority of seats in both legislative chambers, will send a Democratic majority-led delegation to Congress, and voted for a Democratic presidential nominee. Republicans last accomplished this feat in the 1968 election.

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