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Iowa Democrats Enjoying Historic Run in House of Representatives

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For the first time in modern Hawkeye State political history, Iowa Democrats have made gains in the State House of Representatives in four consecutive elections.

Smart Politics examined Iowa election returns for more than fifty years dating back to the mid-1950s, and neither the Democratic nor Republican parties had ever made gains in the House in four consecutive elections.

The streak began in 2002:

· Iowa Democrats won 44 seats in the 1998 and 2000 elections.
· After redistricting, in 2002, Democrats won 46 seats.
· Democrats nearly won control of the 100-seat chamber in 2004, winning 49 seats.
· Democrats then took control in 2006, by winning 54 seats.
· Democrats expanded their lead by picking up 3 more seats in 2008.

Over the course of these four election cycles, Democrats have netted 13 seats – from 44 to 57 Representatives.

To be sure, there have been wider swings in given election cycles over the course of the past 50+ years. For example, during the Republican Revolution of 1994, the GOP picked up 13 seats, expanding their two-seat majority in 1992 to 28 seats. During the Reagan recession of 1982, Democrats won 60 seats – 18 more than in 1980. After Watergate and Nixon’s resignation in 1974, Democrats won 61 seats – 17 more than in 1972.

Still, neither political party has enjoyed the kind of sustained shift in momentum that Iowa Democrats are currently experiencing in the House of Representatives. During two stretches in the past 50 years Republicans had put together gains in the House in three consecutive election cycles: from 1976 to 1980 (from 39 seats in 1974, to 41 seats in 1976, to 56 seats in 1978, to 58 seats in 1980) and from 1990 to 1994 (from 39 seats in 1988, to 45 seats in 1990, to 51 seats in 1992, to 64 seats in 1994).

Iowa Democrats, like its neighbors in Wisconsin, currently enjoy unified power in the House, Senate, and Governor’s office.

Previous post: Democratic Control in Wisconsin At Greatest Level in a Generation
Next post: MN Senate Election Analysis, Part 1: Franken Underperforms in Northern Minnesota

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Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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