18 November 2016

Republicans Made State Office Gains In The 2016 Election

Results of the 2016 Election Continued

* Republicans lost two U.S. Senate seats (in the 100 member chamber) with one more to be decided later this year in Louisiana (and the gain of the Vice Presidential swing vote as well), but retained control (which is more meaningful now that the nuclear options has reduced the relevance of the filibuster). Republicans lost six U.S. House seats with four seats still too close to call, in the 435 voting member chamber, but again, retained control. 

These minor setbacks are overshadowed by the fact that Republican will control both houses of Congress, the Presidency and will soon secure a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. The fact that Trump won the Presidency by razor thin margins in three states for a non-landslide electoral college win (with a very close 16 electoral vote Michigan result still not final but leaning towards Trump) while losing the popular vote is basically irrelevant.

* At the state level, however, Republicans made modest gains. 

Republicans picked up three Governorships from Democrats brining the tally at 33-15 (with two sitting Governors who do not are not major party political officials). Republicans held 22 Governorships and Democrats held 28 immediately before President Obama was elected. Over eight years, Republicans have picked up 11 state governorships, while Democrats have lost 13.

Republicans picked up 46 state legislative seats from Democrats (out of a total of 7,370 seats nationally, including 49 in Nebraska's unicameral legislature where all state legislators are nominally non-partisan) bringing the tally to 4,170 Republicans, 3,129 Democrats and 22 independents and members of minor parties in the 49 states with partisan bicameral legislative chambers (with about a dozen state legislative races left that are still too close to call).
Republicans gained more than 700 [state legislative] seats in the 2010 midterm elections and nearly 300 in the 2014 midterms as Obama’s approval ratings suffered. Democrats clawed back more than 100 seats in 2012, when Obama won reelection. In total, Republicans control nearly 1,000 more legislative seats than they did when Obama took office. The Republican share of state legislative seats has grown from just under 44 percent in 2009 to 56 percent after Tuesday’s election. After the latest losses, Democrats will hold just 42 percent of [combined state and federal] legislative seats in the nation. . . . The GOP now controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party. 
Via The Hill.

They will now control 67 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers (they gained three and lost three this year), and also have de facto control over Nebraska's unicameral "non-partisan" legislative chamber, "after winning new majorities in the Kentucky House, the Iowa Senate and the Minnesota Senate. Democrats picked up control of both the state Assembly and Senate in Nevada, and the New Mexico state House. . . . Since Obama took office, Republicans have captured control of 27 state legislative chambers Democrats held after the 2008 elections."
Simply controlling more seats in a legislative chamber does not necessarily guarantee a majority. A coalition of Democrats, independents and a handful of Republicans will give Democrats control of the Alaska state House. Though they are in the minority in both states, Republican-led coalitions control the Washington and New York Senates.
Via The Hill.

Colorado Results

Colorado supported Hillary Clinton in the Presidential race (Colorado had been the marginal state for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012), and the Congressional delegation in Colorado (One Senator and four Representatives were Republicans, one Senator and three Representatives were Democrats) was unchanged in 2016. Democrat Morgan Carroll was defeated soundly by incumbent Mike Coffman in the nationally watched 6th Congressional District race (the only really competitive race in the state), just as he soundly defeated Andrew Romanoff in 2014, despite the fact that the district is seemly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats as voter registration data and this year's state school board race demonstrated.

In state races in Colorado in 2016, Democrats picked up 3 seats in the 65 member state house giving Democrats a 37-28 majority, up from the 34-31 majority they previously held (restoring them to the majority they held following the 2012 election), while Republicans held onto their 1 seat majority (18-17) in the state senate. (Colorado's Governor Hickenlooper is a term limited Democrat, so that race will be an open seat in 2018.) Democrats did pick up a majority on the state school board by flipping the 6th Congressional District seat on the board by a very slim margin.

Many states have a dominant political party. Colorado is not one of them. Since 1990, the Democratic tides in state elections have been mixed.  Years in which a single party had control of the legislative process in Colorado are highlighted in the summary below. In the 28 years from 1991-2018, Republicans will have controlled the process in four of those years and Democrats will have controlled the process in six of those years. In the other eighteen years, there has been divided control of the legislative process in Colorado.

Election 1990          State Senate  Republicans  State House Republicans (R control) Gov D
Election 1992          State Senate  Republicans  State House Republicans (R control) Gov D
Election 1994          State Senate  Republicans  State House Republicans (R control) Gov D
Election 1996          State Senate  Republicans  State House Republicans (R control) Gov  D
Election 1998          State Senate  Republicans  State House Republicans (R control) Gov R
Election 2000          State Senate  Democrats     State House Republicans (Split control) Gov R
Election 2002          State Senate  Republicans   State House Republicans (R control) Gov R
Election 2004          State Senate  Democrats   State House  Democrats (D control) Gov R
Election 2006          State Senate  Democrats   State House  Democrats (D control) Gov D
Election 2008          State Senate  Democrats   State House  Democrats (D control) Gov D
Election 2010          State Senate  20 D-15 R     State House  32 D-33 R  (Split control) Gov
Election 2012          State Senate  20 D-15 R     State House  37 D-28 R  (D control) Gov D
After 2013 Recalls  State Senate   18 D-17 R     State House  37 D-28 R  (D control) Gov D
Election 2014          State Senate  17 D-18 R     State House  34 D-31 R  (Split control) Gov D
Election 2016          State Senate  17 D-18 R     State House  37 D-32 R  (Split control) Gov D


Land And People Are Not The Same

First, keep in mind that the figures above do not make clear how many people are subject to Republican, Democratic, or mixed partisan control at the state level.


Second, some of these results are simply the result of an ongoing process of "realignment" as conservative Democrats have either switched to the Republican party or have been replaced by conservative Republicans, while moderate Republicans have been replaced by either Democrats or conservative Republicans. In other words, partisan labels have become more descriptive while the actual liberal-conservative shift in the ranks of the nation's elected officials have been less extreme than it appears superficially looking only at party labels.

But, the difference between conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans who used to be more common, and liberal to moderate Democrats and conservative Republicans, who have almost completely replaced legislators of all other party/ideology combinations, are not trivial or irrelevant.

The deeper ideological divisions between the two major political parties has made compromise much more difficult, particularly from the Republican side which has moved much more sharply to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left.

Conservative Democrats, historically, were fairly aligned with other Democrats on neo-New Deal type economic policies, while parting ways on issues of social issues, civil rights and national security. Moderate Republicans tended to be center-left on social issues and center-right on economic issues. There used to be a few federal legislators in each party who overlapped with some members of the other party on an overall liberal-conservative scale. Now there are none.

The lack of any ideological overlap, the hard right ideological shift of the Republican party, and much of the Republican party's abandonment of many traditions of political civility and comity, has left a scorched earth of the demilitarized zone between the two parties has made 21st century American politics decidedly more ugly than it has been for a long time.

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