What the elections tell us about state governments and their constituents

President Obama said in his post-election press conference, “I hear you,” referring to the results of the Nov. 4 Republican sweep. But what the president might be missing is the rising tide of limited government ideas that are taking hold of the country.

Up for election on Nov. 4 were 82 percent of the country’s state legislators, and the results flipped 11 chambers in favor of Republicans. Republicans now control both chambers in 31 states, including unicameral nonpartisan Nebraska (which tends to vote along the Republican Party lines), while Democrats control both chambers in just 11 states. The gubernatorial elections also increased Republican control, and now there are 23 states in which Republicans control the governor’s mansion, the house and senate, while Democrats control the gubernatorial and legislative parties in 13 states.

True to their form of being “laboratories of democracy,” state governing styles often reflect one of two philosophies: more government or less government. Since the recession in 2008, the results of these governing styles have never been more apparent. States that embrace limited government policies, including right to work legislation, no or low income taxes and less burdensome regulations on businesses and individuals, are more likely to foster a pro-growth economy that creates stability and encourages innovation. The simple idea of inspiring growth, rather than taxing and regulating it, has earned support on both sides of the aisle, which was vindicated at the ballot box on Nov. 4.

The elections revealed that Republicans are no longer the only ones in support of tax cuts; Democrats have jumped on the bandwagon and have reaped the positive results. Democrats who cut taxes and moved to create pro-growth policies were more likely to be re-elected, or elected for the first time, than their big-tax counterparts. Governor Andrew Cuomo and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson are just two examples of Democrats who enacted tax reforms and were re-elected. And while the New York state senate flipped from Democrat to Republican, the Democrats who were re-elected campaigned on cutting taxes for the middle class, passing balanced budgets and creating “Empire Zones” to incentivize businesses to move to the state. The argument that candidates are “safe” in their respective blue or red states no longer works; voters are making decisions based on limited government policies as was evidenced by the dethroning of Governors Quinn and O’Malley.

Taxes were not the only major issue in the races. Federal overreach into private health insurance played a prominent role in numerous elections. The Colorado Legislature flipped both chambers after 500,000 Coloradans lost their private health coverage and Denver experienced a 26 percent increase in health insurance rates—the country’s fourth highest rates. Las Vegas came in at fifth highest for health insurance rate hikes, with 22 percent increases, prompting [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ]’s home state of Nevada to also change power in both state legislative chambers. And [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B001265′ ]’s (AK) loss marked the 26th (living) senator who voted for the Affordable Care Act to no longer hold their Senate seat.

Limited government policies were the top issue in this election, and Americans made it clear they want a functioning government that empowers its people and protects them from government overreach. The rising tide of limited government ideas is one that will not wash out like a wave; it will continue to rise as more people realize the value of economic stability and opportunity creation.

The clear winners of the 2014 elections are the American people and principles on which our country was founded. In campaign after campaign, from city council to the U.S. Senate, the overwhelming majority of votes were cast for candidates who promised to advance limited government, free markets and federalism. The American people want limited government, and said so loud and clear on Nov. 4.


Lisa B. Nelson is CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council