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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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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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