While we have the House, Senate and Governorships on our hands, there’s also the race in state legislatures. While not mentioned as much, they are just as if not more critical than the aforementioned. They are key to delivering public policy conservative, leftist or libertarian. We must start paying attention to them. If it were not for the GOP grabbing control of them like they did, their hold on the House wouldn’t have become so guaranteed since they control redistricting for the most part. Prior to 2010 Democrats controlled 27 state legislatures and Republicans 15. Today it’s 28 for Republicans and 17 for Democrats. Dems did pick up some lost ground in 2012 (thanks to partially Barack Obama on ballot), but 17 is still a small minority. Currently 5 stand split currently meaning one chamber is controlled by the other party. I should probably clarify the GOP hold 27 legislatures technically since NE is nonpartisan, but really it’s GOP controlled so I count it in.
With combination with the governorships, they hold control of half all state governments which is the largest margin a party’s held in a long time. In tradition, most state government tend to be split (D governor, R legislature or vice versa). The mindset use to be among voters that split government often means better public policy, less corruption and the parties get along fine. But it’s become clear in recent years that if you want things done then you gotta give the governor’s party full leverage to accomplish it. And it clearly shows anywhere from California to Texas full party rule works best in getting laws and legislation passed to accomplish the goals a governor was elected on. When you get down to it, the legislature holds all the real power since they pass the legislation into law regardless what that is.
Now I’ll get down to some key note races to watch next year. Minnesota: Republicans held control for 2 years having to work with leftist Democrat Mark Dayton. And then the DFL (that’s what the state democrat party is called there) wrestled control again and passed tax increases, forced unionization of child care and gay marriage into law. Only the State House will be up, but I won’t be surprised to see them lose control again based on their behavior here.
Colorado: After the CO recalls all bets are off to what could happen with the passing of tough gun control measures. The State Senate is particularly worth watching cause Dems now only hold it 18-17. The flip of one seat would give GOP control of the chamber for the first time in ten years. The State House Dems could also lose too cause while they have a fairly strong majority that didn’t stop the GOP from capturing controlling briefly in the 2010 cycle. Also the CO governorship is in play so better keep a keen eye out.
West Virginia: The only reason I conclude how Dems managed to hold control still their possessing a super-majority for the most part in the last 80 years. No so much now cause through 2010 and 2012 they’ve lost a large number of seats especially in the State House where I’d expect them to lose control next year. The State Senate they still hold a super-majority (24-10) so they may still hold on but who knows. Same thing happened also in AR where Dems possessed a super-majority in the state legislature, but lost control in just 2 election cycles. Keep an eye out on WV.
Nevada: Prior to 2009 the GOP held control of the State Senate for about 16 years. So if the climate goes in favor of the GOP (which is more than likely) and find good candidates then they’ll have a good chance of at least recapturing the State Senate. The State Assembly is less sure since Dems hold a stronger majority.
New Mexico: GOP has steadily gained over the years, but has never captured control of either chamber. But they do have a Hispanic Republican governor who has huge standing popularity with NM voters. If they can wield this advantage properly then they can put the state legislature in play.
Kentucky: Out of all the states in the south, KY is the strangest of them politically speaking. In federal office Republicans now hold both US Senate seats, 5 out of 6 congressional seats and Mitt Romney won I think 60% of the vote and all but 4 counties in the last election due to Obama’s war on coal. At the state level it’s almost opposite. At the state level all they hold is the State Senate and one statewide office which I believe is the Commissioner of Agriculture. But they’ve made striding ground over the past couple of cycles. Before 2010 they held 35 out of a 100 seats. Now they hold 45. So with that and trends going the GOP’s direction elsewhere in the South they hold a good chance to winning control of the legislature.
Iowa: GOP holds the State House while Dems hold the State Senate. Gov. Terry Branstad a Republican is likely to win reelection for what I believe is his 6th non-consecutive term (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below). The GOP were able to maintain a 6 vote majority while Obama won the state in 2012 so they should be fine in 2014. The big question is the State Senate which dems only hold by 2 seats (26-24). While they did benefit slightly from redistricting, it’s hard to determine at this point at least what’ll happen.
New Hampshire: This is the strangest out of all the aforementioned. In 2010, the GOP won a three-fourths majority in both chambers. In 2012, they lost control of the State House and had their numbers significantly reduced in the State Senate. NH can be very unpredictable, but things can always swing back in the GOP’s direction (especially in a year like 2010).
Oregon: While the state is largely Democratic at the federal level, the GOP has traditionally kept a stable base at the state level. Prior to 2007, they held control of the state legislature for a number of years. The State House in particular they controlled for about 16 straight years. In 2010, it fell briefly into a tie then went Democrat again in the 2012 elections. Right now, Dems hold the State Senate 16-14 and the State House 34-26. Who’s not to say the GOP can win back either or both?
New York: Probably the most interesting case of all, New York historically despite is strong blue tendencies has always had a split legislature. The State Assembly for the past 40 years has always been controlled by Democrats while the State Senate up until recently always controlled by Republicans. In 2008, Dems full control of the legislature for the first time since the ’60s. Then the GOP won it back in 2010 and lost again (sort of) in 2012. Now there’s a coalition between the Republican Senate Caucus and a group of more moderate Democrats who control it. Right now the legislature is ripe full of corruption which the GOP is hoping to take advantage, though it’s just way too early to say what it’ll result in.
Washington: Like New York, the state legislature is split. The State House being controlled by Democrats and the State Senate being controlled by the “Majority Coalition Caucus” which is an alliance between the GOP caucus and maverick Democrats who’ve rebelled against their party on multiple occasions. Tim Sheldon who serves as President Pro Tem was one of three Democrats who voted against same-sex marriage when it passed last year only to be approved by voters later that year on the ballot. He even voted for George W. Bush back in the 2004 election. Rodney Tom who serves as Majority Leader was once a Republican who switched Democrat later in his career. What happens in 2014 will be very interesting.
Note: I know this is very unprofessional. This is just my personal take and I know there’s other state legislative races going on. I’m just talking about the most competitive ones. If you want a full take of the state legislative races, I’d suggest going to Louis Jacobson’s blog at governing.com/blogs/politics. They’re very well worth reading. Wanna ask me a question which I can respond to, go to my twitter page twitter.com/JGcountry01.