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A Look at State Legislatures for 2008

by: Crisitunity

Fri Jun 13, 2008 at 4:12 PM EDT

I know that it's easy here at Swing State Project to get seduced by all the glitz and glamour of U.S. House races. (That sounds hilarious when you think about how incredibly nerdy it sounds, but, well, there's a kernel of truth there.) Bear with me for a minute, though, as we drop down to the real meat and potatoes of American politics: state legislatures. I'll try to keep everyone updated in future months about developments in some of the biggest contests, but here's a primer to start with.

Here are some reasons why you should very much care. First, the states are often the crucibles for experimentation with progressive policy. That's especially been the case over the last few decades of Republican domination at the national level, although hopefully that will change once we actually have a progressive trifecta in Washington.

Consider where the movement toward civil rights and marriage or civil union rights for gays and lesbians has occurred: it's been purely at the state level. If and when truly universal health care happens, given the difficulty of getting it through Congress, it's most likely to happen in some of the states (and the some of the boldest moves in that direction have already occurred in the states, such as in Vermont and Oregon... and not coincidentally, back when they had MDs for governors).

Also, the state legislatures are our bench for federal office. The GOP may be the party of wealthy self-funders popping out of nowhere, but the Democrats are largely a meritocratic bunch and many of our best have stints in the state legislature on their resume, where they honed their skills and built their networks. Just as one example, consider what the guy who, four years ago today, was representing the 13th District of the Illinois State Senate is up to now.

Finally, in most states, the state legislatures control the redistricting process, not just for themselves but for U.S. House districts as well. The entire shape and terrain of the nationwide electoral battlefield for the entire 2010s will be determined by who has control of the legislature in key states following the 2010 election. This is partly why we were so hosed during the early 2000s: GOP-held legislatures in states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan drew remarkably GOP-favorable maps. And even when the blue wave came in 2006, the pro-GOP gerrymanders probably saved them the loss of even more seats.

Some GOP-held legislatures are ready to flip now; others have the Democrats in a somewhat deeper hole, but a sustained push over two electoral cycles can have the Democrats in control in 2010. Let's take a look at the key playing fields for this year and the next few years, starting with Republican-held legislatures that are within striking distance. (The rank order is mostly gut-level, although I did use some informal metrics involving the size of the state, how close the gap between the two parties is, and how much is at stake for that state with 2010 redistricting.)

Crisitunity :: A Look at State Legislatures for 2008
Democratic offense
1) New York Senate
30 Democrats, 32 Republicans (62 total)
1 to tie, 2 to flip (Republicans would sort-of break the tie, as Joe Bruno is both Senate Majority Leader and Acting Lt. Governor because of David Paterson having become Governor, although he still gets only one vote)
Two-year terms, no term limits
Constituents per seat: 311,000

I think most prognosticators would agree with me that this is one is currently the big enchilada. The Republican edge in the Senate, resulting from the long-term presence of GOP lifers in seats that Dem-leaning areas (seriously... 7 of the GOP senators have been in place since the 1970s), has allowed Joe Bruno to single-handedly act as a brake on implementing the progressive agenda in New York.

Moreover, the opportunity for a Democratic trifecta in Albany (Dems currently control the Governor's seat, and the Assembly by a wide margin) in 2010 would mean complete control over the redistricting process, and an opportunity to dislodge any remaining GOP Congressmen in New York. (Although it's looking likely that there won't be more than two or three left after the 2008 election!) New York is predicted to lose two house seats after the 2010 census, and the blow can be softened by making sure both are GOP-held seats.

We've edged two seats closer to takeover since the 2006 election via two special elections (in SD-7 on Long Island and SD-48 in far north Upstate). All 62 seats are up this year; unlike most other Senates, in New York, Senators serve two-year terms and are up for re-election every cycle. Robert Harding at the Albany Report has begun an ongoing series handicapping the competitive Senate races, and also started an excellent series of diaries profiling each of the Senate districts.

Of Harding's most competitive seats, 8 of the 10 are currently GOP-held; the top two are SD-15 and S-11, two seats in heavily Democratic Queens held by GOP oldsters (Serphin Maltese and Frank Padavan). While polling of individual districts hasn't begun, a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday found that, statewide, voters prefer a Democratic State Senate to a Republican one by a margin of 51 to 35.

2) Texas House
71 Democrats, 79 Republicans (150 total)
4 to tie, 5 to flip
Two-year terms, no term limits
Constituents per seat: 157,000

The Texas House has been controlled by Republicans since 2003. As you probably recall, their first order of business was to engage in the mid-decade DeLay-mander that led to the Dems' electoral wipeout in 2004 (although several victims of that wipeout have managed to claw their way back into the House). Texas is predicted to gain as many as four seats in the U.S. House through 2010 reapportionment, and given the Texas GOP's skill at creating bizarre tapeworm-shaped districts, it's possible that, if we don't have a seat at the redistricting table, all four of those seats could wind up GOP-leaning. (Given how close the House is, that seat is much likelier to come there than via the Governor or the Senate, where we're in a deeper hole at 11 D/20 R.)

In addition, in terms of implementing policy, the House Speaker (currently Tom Craddick) is basically the most powerful person in Texas politics, much more so than the Governor. Four seats may seem a little steep - and this may wind up being a two-cycle project, although given the stakes, it's critically important to follow through - but given the rapid demographic changes occurring in Texas (the same ones that are suddenly putting TX-07 and TX-10 within reach) it's doable.

3) Pennsylvania Senate
21 Democrats, 29 Republicans (50 total)
4 to tie, 5 to flip (Lt. Governor, currently Dem, breaks tie)
Four-year terms, limit of two terms, half elected each election
Constituents per seat: 249,000

The Pennsylvania Senate is definitely a two-cycle project, as only half of the 50 seats are up for election in 2008, and it'll be hard to turn more than one or two this year. I'm listing this as high as #3 because Pennsylvania is, after New York, the largest blue state where one of the legislative bodies is Republican-controlled. Like New York, this is because of old-school Republicans hanging on in areas that have long since gone Democratic, at least at the presidential level (Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties in particular). A prominent example is Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, who represents part of Delaware County.

In addition, Pennsylvania is projected to lose another seat in the U.S. House in 2010, so control of the redistricting process will be key. (Hellish redistricting in 2000 managed to turn their U.S. House delegation from 11 R-10 D in 2000 to 12 R-7 D in 2002. Of course, spreading the seats as thin as they did wasn't that wise, as we got the last laugh in 2006, flipping four seats.)

4) Nevada Senate
10 Democrats, 11 Republicans (21 total)
1 to flip
Four-year terms, limit of three terms, half elected each election
Constituents per seat: 119,000 (except for two multi-member seats)

Nevada is a smallish state, but it ranks high on this list because it's so closely divided (only one seat needs to change hands to flip control to the Democrats). The Democrats already control the state Assembly by a safe 27-15 margin, and given Jim Gibbons' problems, may well take back the Governor's seat in 2010, in which case flipping the Senate would give them the trifecta.

Nevada is also important from a redistricting standpoint, as it will be gaining a seat in 2010. We have a good shot to create three Dem-leaning seats in Clark County, each of which contain part Las Vegas and part suburbs, so, again, control of the redistricting process is key.

5) Tennessee Senate
16 Democrats, 16 Republicans, 1 Independent (Speaker is R)
1 to flip
Four-year terms, half elected every election
Constituents per seat: 183,000

Tennessee's Senate is one of two tied legislative bodies right now (Oklahoma's Senate is the other one), but the Republicans currently control the Speaker's seat (Ron Ramsey won the Speaker vote 18-15, including the support of one Dem). This is on the list because a shift of one seat would give the Democrats control (assuming that Rosalind Kurita, the Dem who flipped would vote for a Democratic speaker in the event of a clear Democratic majority). Democrats already control the House and the Governorship.

This is a bit lower on the list because Tennessee is expected to retain nine House seats in 2010. Changes around the margins, however, could either work toward making existing Democratic seats safer, or else trying to make TN-07 competitive.

Others to watch
The Michigan Senate would be near the top of the list, as we're down 17 D-21 R and only need to pick up two seats to tie it (where the Dem Lt. Gov. would break the tie). Michigan has one of the most pro-GOP gerrymanders in the nation, which will need to be undone in 2010. However, we can't do anything about it yet because no Senators are up for election in 2008; all 38 stand in 2010.

The Virginia House of Delegates is a ripe target, especially in view of having just taken over the Virginia Senate. We're down 45 D-53 R-2 I (the Independents both caucus GOP), so a swing of six would give us the trifecta. This election, however, won't happen until 2009.

As I mentioned, the Oklahoma Senate is also tied, split 24-24. We maintain functional control over the Senate because of the Democratic Lt. Governor, however (although a power-sharing agreement gives the Republicans control during the month of July, believe it or not).

Wisconsin's Assembly is within reach, with Dems down 47 D-52 R. And both chambers in Arizona are close (13 D-17 R in the Senate, and 27 D-33 R in the House); Arizona is set to gain two seats in 2010, but redistricting control isn't at issue as the decisions are up to a nonpartisan commission.

Democratic defense

Now let's take a look at legislatures where we're going to have to play defense. I don't foresee this being a cause for alarm, given broader Democratic strengths this cycle, but the fact that we currently control 57 legislatures to the GOP's 39 means that we do need to watch our backs.

1) Pennsylvania House
102 Democrats, 101 Republicans (203 total)
1 to flip
Two-year terms
Constituents per seat: 61,000

A strong gust could tip the Pennsylvania House back to Republican control (especially considering that, although the Democrats control the chamber, they elected a Republican as speaker in a compromise). Looking at the sheer numbers of Republicans left in the Dem-leaning Philly burbs, the general trends point in our direction, but at only 61,000 constituents per seat, local-level dynamics can make all the difference.

2) Michigan House
58 Democrats, 52 Republicans (110 total)
3 to tie, 4 to flip
Two-year terms, limit of three terms
Constituents per seat: 92,000

In Michigan, the Dems hold the House and the Governorship, although both somewhat tenuously. Controlling the trifecta in 2010 is extremely important, as the pro-GOP gerrymander in the U.S. House seats needs to be undone (the split went from 9 D-7 R in 2000 to 9 R-6 D in 2002, where it persists today). Michigan is predicted to lose one more seat in 2010.

3) Indiana House
51 Democrats, 49 Republicans (100 total)
1 to tie, 2 to flip
Two-year terms
Constituents per seat: 63,000

The Democratic margin is Indiana is very narrow, and the only thing keeping the GOP from controlling the trifecta (the GOP has solid control over the Senate, at 33 R-17 D). Indiana is not predicted to lose a U.S. House seat in 2010, but a GOP gerrymander could make life much more difficult for the three Dem House members representing red districts in Indiana.

4) Oregon House
31 Democrats, 29 Republicans (60 total)
1 to tie, 2 to flip
Two-year terms
Constituents per seat: 62,000

Democrats in Oregon finally took back the House in 2006, giving them the trifecta (they have solid control over the Senate, at 19 D-11 R). This is on the list mostly by virtue of how close it is on paper, but the disparity wasn't much of an impediment on Speaker Jeff Merkley's ability to push through progressive legislation. With strong Obama coattails and the Republicans defending several suburban open seats, look for the Democrats to gain a few seats (as Skywaker9 at Daily Kos has thoroughly detailed). However, Oregon is set to gain a House seat in 2010, with the possibility of a 5-1 delegation if the Dems divvy up Portland correctly, so holding the trifecta through 2010 is important.

5) Illinois House
67 Democrats, 51 Republicans (118 total)
8 to tie, 9 to flip
Two-year terms
Constituents per seat: 109,000

Illinois doesn't actually seem in that much danger this year, with a decent-sized cushion and major Obama coattails. The main reason this is on the list as opposed to a chamber with smaller margins is that Illinois is set to lose a U.S. House seat in 2010, and although we currently control the trifecta, we don't want the GOP anywhere near the redistricting table.

A few other bodies are worth mentioning: the Virginia Senate (21 D-19 R), Louisiana House (53 D-49 R-1 I-2 V), and Mississippi Senate (27 D-25 R) are all very close, but these are all off-year elections and won't be an issue until 2009.

(You might be wondering what our safest chamber is. I'd say it's the Hawaii Senate, which we control 22 D-3 R.)

"Moneyball" opportunities

Finally, I wanted to turn my attention to several more pickup possibilities, which I'm calling the "moneyball" states. These tend to be the smallest states, where redistricting isn't an issue because each one only gets one U.S. House seat, so they aren't high priorities for us. On the other hand, these are the chambers that can be flipped for the smallest possible investment. I calculated this simply by multiplying the number of seats needed to flip by the number of constituents per seat (and thus the presumed expense of flipping a seat). Two of these cases (Delaware and Montana) would actually give the Dems the trifecta in those states.

1) Montana House
49 Democrats, 50 Republicans, 1 Constitution Party (100 total)
1 to tie, 2 to flip
Constituents per seat: 9,000
Moneyball number: 18,000

2) Delaware House
19 Democrats, 22 Republicans (41 total)
2 to flip
Constituents per seat: 21,000
Moneyball number: 42,000

3) North Dakota Senate
21 Democrats, 26 Republicans (47 total)
3 to flip
Constituents per seat: 14,000
Moneyball number: 42,000

4) South Dakota Senate
15 Democrats, 20 Republicans (35 total)
3 to flip
Constituents per seat: 22,000
Moneyball number: 66,000

5) Alaska House
17 Democrats, 23 Republicans (40 total)
3 to tie, 4 to flip
Constituents per seat: 17,000
Moneyball number: 68,000

There's a real shortage of information out there at the national level about individual state legislature races, so if anyone of you out there know of any blogs or individual diarists that excel at handicapping state legislature races, please let us know in the comments and we'll be sure and keep up with them as we approach November.

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Info is very hard to come by for local races like state legislatures
I have a feeling that 2008 will be a lot like 2008 on the state and local level - almost entirely pro-dem.  In 2006 we flipped a lot of chambers which noone even considered in play such as the tsunami wins in the NH state House and Senate.  I believe we had a net pickup of around a 10-12 chambers out of the 100 or so nationwide.  

The big state chambers you mentioned are obviously the most important for redistricting purposes.  The NY Senate, TX House, PA House and Senate, MI House and Senate are especially important.

Florida is still, well... Florida.  Repubs here basically have a majority in both chambers running unopposed.  We should show some more modest gains as we did in 2006 (3-7 seats) in the state House and a 1-2 seat gain in the state Senate, but that's about it.  A dead cat bounce barring a major repub statewide scandal.

I would have liked to give some attention to the chambers in Florida, especially given how big an impact we could have on redistricting there (Florida will be gaining 2 more House seats probably). But the hole is just too deep (43 D-77 R in the House, 14 D-26 R in the Senate). I suspect flipping Florida will be more of a 10-year project, dependent largely on demographic changes (generational change in the Cuban-Americans, and more non-Cuban Latinos in the middle of the state).

[ Parent ]
Two notes on FL redistricting
1. The Governor has no veto power over redistricting.  So even if by some miracle we got a Dem elected FL Gov in 2010 it wouldn't make any difference.

2. Florida DOES have term-limits for state legislators.  This could be a big plus for us as republicans cannot entrench themselves in Tallahassee the way repubs do in other states like NY.

[ Parent ]
Safest chamber?
I'd give it a tie between the Massachusetts House and Senate.  We have about an 88% majority in both chambers.  The state house is something ridiculous, like 141-19.

Massachusetts House is 11.875% Republican. Hawai'i Senate is 12% Republican. Seems perfectly clear to me. :)

[ Parent ]
Actually I picked MA as more safe...
Because HI is actually trending a bit more repub these days.  Look any exit polls and you'll see that HI is the opposite of nearly every other state in the U.S in that young people are more republican than older people are.  Both are 100% safe for Dems for a decade or so, but I can see HI flipping well before MA ever does.

[ Parent ]
not only is the Republican % that low, its the Republicans that always have to fend off challenges.  The last challenger to my Rep was a 22 year old kid.  

Of course, my rep was a dickhead so I was hoping for a primary(glad I moved)  

Check out http://electioninspection.word... for the latest news, election results, poll analysis, and predictions

[ Parent ]
Great post; Texas, others can be very critical
Thanks for the post.  This is important stuff.  There is definitely a vacuum with the reporting of this kind of information because I do not think it is as sexy as covering congressional or Senate races.  

The way I look at these races is through the lenses of 2012 and redistricting.  One state that will be particularly important is Texas.  In the Almanac of American Politics, I believe they estimated that Texas can get as many as four new House seats.  If we could somehow retake the State House (and maybe the governorship which comes up in 2010), we could have a lot more power in shaping the districts than we did a few years ago.  

There is definitely a lot at stake in some of others, including Ohio which could lose two seats.  We will need Strickland to stay in office, and win again in 2010 over John Kasich or Rob Portman to protect our potential advantage there as well.  

Texas, ¡Sí se Puede!
A quick note to everyone out of state, the seats are there and there are enough in play. This is extremely possible.

There are three seats that if we do not pick up, things have gone horribly wrong. HD-52 (Dem Diana Moldanaro, Williamson county) HD-78 (Dem Joe Moody, El Paso) and HD-96 (Dem Chris Turner, Tarrant County).

So there's our top three. Then there are plenty more. Texas Observer has an EXCELLENT race by race summary for the state house.

On defense, I say we only have two in serious danger. HD-17 is open and reaches into the college station area, this one will be the hardest. The other is in Fort Worth and is HD-97's Dan Barrett who won a special last December. Dan has the same opponent this fall and it will be close.

BTW, while we have no chance of getting the state senate, we got a serious chance at gaining three. Wendy Davis is going for District 10 in Fort Worth (and personally, I think she's favored to win). Joe Jaworski (grandson of Leon Jaworski) is going for district 11 and should make it close. And finally Republican Kyle Janek resigned in 17 creating a special election. This district is about 50/50 and our rumored candidate is 2006 candidate for Governor, Chris Bell. If Bell jumps in, he's got a great shot for the fall.

Watch Texas, we're ready to move and we will move fast. James Carville did say he felt we were the next Virginia, time to prove him right.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

Excellent link
Just the kind of thing I was looking for. I hope Texas Observer keeps up with regular updates as we get closer to November.

[ Parent ]
Just wanted to say that I'm in HD-97.  The district has had a Republican rep for about 20-30 years.  It was Republican when Texas was still strongly Democratic.  So, it was a big win for us in December.  I think we had a lot more enthusiasm on our side for the special election and that's always a big plus when the turnout is low.  The election in November will be difficult.  The Republicans had a contested primary and chose the most conservative candidate whose big campaign theme was anti-immigration.  I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll hold.

[ Parent ]
I'm from UNT
We came down and block walked for Dan on two different weekends to help with the district. We are very very proud to have helped him win.

I just graduated and my new job is . . . well, I'll see you on the campaign trail in HD-97. ;-)

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
Thanks for your hard work in my district.  If you knock on my door in November, I'll have cold Shiners for everyone!

[ Parent ]
TN Legislature

Bit o' handicapping going on for Tennessee Legislature. I doubt we'll take the senate back. Sometimes, from my little studio apartment in the heart of Nashville's liberal midtown, I wonder why this state won't turn blue. Then I realize rural Tennessee controls the state.

If you've ever been to Tennessee you can see the frustration that the two major cities of the state (Nashville and Memphis) whom trend Democratic have with the red state feel of the countryside.

Personally I rarely leave Nashville-Davidson unless I'm going to class in Murfreesboro.

Sigh oh Tennessee you will be blue one day.


Thanks for the link
That's a good amendment to what I have... it makes it look like the Dems are going to be playing defense in the Tennessee Senate rather than picking up that extra seat. At a glance, it looks like the Dems have more open or threatened seats to worry about, and some of them are in the whiter rural parts of the state where Obama coattails aren't going to be very deep.

[ Parent ]
So. Pol.
That is how it seems but it probably won't change at all. My guess is it will be the exact same makeup next year as this year. That legislature is the most antiquated, non-term limited, house of crazy I've ever seen. Honestly they'll spend the entire year arguing over whether or not to let people buy wine in the grocery store, try to ban gay adoption, and save the unborn babies. I've heard that they write the budget, but if you're a state employee, your job isn't very safe, but it's okay because they prevented the sell of wine in grocery stores . But you can still have an abortion, and be gay and adopt a kid, because some local democrat got a backbone and killed both of those bills in committee.

Ever want a real lesson in southern politics, watch the Tennessee legislature in action. They'll smile real kind like while they rip your rights away quicker than Bush can condemn an activist judge.


[ Parent ]
Not quite
something that fits into redistricting as far as I know but in Minnesota Democrats are 4 House seats away from gaining a veto proof majority in both chambers over our Republican governor (likely McCain VP pick Tim Pawlenty). Pawlenty has turned into a total extremist obstructionist.

MnBlue is running a great series "Better Know a Challenger"


how likely is retaining the veto-proof senate majority?
Just curious about the other half of that approach to governing...

[ Parent ]
extremely likely
the senate isnt up for re-election this cycle.  and many of the areas that saw gains in the state house are also areas that are demographically Obama (white and college educated are a big draw for him) and we have a number of good opportunities to making Pawlenty irrelevant.

[ Parent ]
it's 5 seats.  Remember for the transportation bill we needed 5 GOP'ers to vote with us and we got 6?

[ Parent ]
Oh yeah

Well we can get there. Whatever the number is.

[ Parent ]
efforts to help
I have worked pretty diligently to find some competitive challenger races to contribute to in anticipation of reapportionment.  Many legislative candidates have websites.  You can also find information about many by just looking at contributor information on ActBlue or at the respective Secretary of States' websites.  Here is what I came up with:

1) Pennsylvania Senate  (Need 5 seats)

John Linder (contribute throught ActBlue)

Judy Hirsh (contribute through ActBlue)

Peter PJ Symons, Jr.  (write a check and mail it)
(Peter Symons for Senator, PO Box 424
Lavelle Pa 17943)

Tony Bompiani  (write a check and mail it)    
(Friends of Bompiani, 304 Alicia Court,
Greensburg, PA 15601)

Cindy Purvis (contribute through ActBlue)

2) New York Senate (Need 2 seats)

Jimmy Dahroug  (somehow I contributed online)

Jim Gennaro   (somehow I contributed online)

Wisconsin Assembly  (need 3 seats)

Penny Bernard-Schaber (ActBlue)

Dale Klemme (ActBlue)

Lou Ann Weix   (ActBlue)
Here is what I came up with:

Other states (but far too few), like Montana, Iowa, and Ohio have party or legislative leadership controlled legislative campaign funds that can be found at ActBlue.  

Some just make it tough to find ways to help.  

You may want to take a look at...
my diary on all the state legislatures from last June.

Does anyone have a map or some sort of study on redistricting by state?
I'd like to know how each state redistricts.  I know some states have independent redistricting, others have the legislature draw it with governor approval, others have the legislature solely responsible, and some have some sort of panel draw the districts.  

had, until very recently, a pdf about that on their site, but it's temporarily missing while they're doing some site construction.

There's a table in the back of the Almanac of American Politics on this subject, if you have one of those lying around. There are commissions in Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington, for starters.

[ Parent ]
Redistricting procedures by state
This link, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, has redistricting procedures for all 50 states:


[ Parent ]
One state that has changed since that wwbpage was posted...
Is Arizona.  They now have independent redistricting.

[ Parent ]
In Indiana we have to have to the Governorship
In 2002 Republicans still controlled the State Senate and they refused to pass the insanely pro-Democratic map drawing. It was this redistricting that allowed us to pick up three seats in 2006. What happened was gridlock, a panel had to be appointed, the Governor and the two houses of the state legislature each had to appoint an equal amount, and the Democrats controlled the panel with two/thirds. Now, if Daniels could maybe be persauded to back a bipartisan redistrcting plan in order for the State House to back his legislative plans, maybe. I know we're going to pick up Jason Elrod's State House seat, since he's running for Congress. It leans Democratic and we were already running strong for it. So, that means we basically have to hold on elsewhere.  

Call no man happy until he is dead-Aeschylus

Unfortunately, it doesn't look likely that we can pick up six seats in Virginia in 2009. 2007 was about the best climate possible for local Democrats, and we only gained a net four seats.

When a Party is on its way out and the other is ascendant, voters tend to give the ascendant Party one chamber at a time and the governor office takes another.  So three consecutive elections in all.  It makes for a safety margin for voters- this way they have only one of the three run by newbies at a time.

Small states are a bit flaky, with politician talent pools that are often shallow and electorates that are quirky, and so will flip nothing one election and flip two of three another.  Large states are a bit more predictable.

Apparently there is a Republican-held House seat opening in Virginia that is pretty much a Democratic cinch.  So the special election may well reduce the number needed to five.  :-)

[ Parent ]
Jeff Frederick
who was just elected chair of the Republican Party of Virginia? He probably won't resign, he just won't run in 2009. Not Larry Sabato is a hysterical drama queen, but his analysis of general elections in Virginia is always solid, and he only puts two Republican seats (and three Democratic seats) as tossups right now. Granted, it's a year and a half out, but still...

The problem with 2009 is the Republicans currently have a big advantage for the statewide offices. Frustratingly, the Republican ticket will be three right-wingers, but they're an inexplicably-strong ticket of right-wingers: McDonnell has cloaked himself in a center-right veil, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling is running for re-election, and Attorney General candidate State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli is a total theocrat, but for some reason keeps getting elected in a Democratic-leaning district in Northern Virginia.

For Governor, we've got Brian Moran, who's a nice guy, I'm sure, but I don't think a liberal from Alexandria has a big chance of being elected statewide. Or there's Creigh Deeds, who is from rural Bath County in the Shenandoah Valley, but acts like a Republican on a lot of issues. Our downticket people are pretty much unknown (a businessman for Lt. Governor and a State Delegate for Attorney General).

Anyway, our off-off-year elections tend to turn on local and state issues (as they did in 2007, with the transportation debacle), not the national trend. Although, Republicans in Virginia never lose a chance to shoot themselves in the foot -- take 2007, when anti-tax wingnuts primaried several state Senators, giving Democrats one of the four seats (that would have been completely safe otherwise) they needed to take the State Senate.

[ Parent ]
My Wish Came True...
Last week I asked about the NY State Senate races to overtake that chamber and let NY become the progressive state it is at heart! Unfortunately Former Governor Spitzer made it more difficult by one seat to take over the Senate given that it appears Bruno's vote is the tie-breaker in a 31-31 situation. So with that, we need to take 2 seats and then NY can become the first legislature in the nation to pass marriage equality and have it signed by the Governor.  


I think Spitzer's downfall ended up being a blessing in disguise.  Spitzer's approval was in the 30's and his first term mostly a failure.  Paterson has an approval near 60% and has already given us more effective progressive leadership than Spitzer.  Having Paterson as Governor rather than Spitzer will probably help us this fall.

[ Parent ]
maybe not
There are rumors in Albany that Bruno may resign late in the summer or during the fall.  Not because he's said so, but because it's going to be the only rational thing to do.  He's in a no-win position, really, between the voters and the feds and his caucus.

Bruno has lost 6 or 7 Republican state Senate seats to Democrats in the past 4 years- to zero gains.  If he loses the majority in November his own state Party has to string him up.  The voters of the state think he's the major obstacle to good government in Albany.  The feds are raiding one 'business associate' of his after another.

I think three Republican state Senate seats will go Democratic with a good bit of confidence.  Those are Maltese's (Queens), Padavan's (Queens and bit of Bronx), and Robach's (west side of Rochester).  All three have strong enough challengers this time, the districts go Democratic in federal elections, and the state Senate majority is considered the major problem in Albany.

I'm willing to bet that Democrats gain about twice that, maybe five or six seats in all, and miss on some others by a hair.  Bruno's district leans slightly Democratic, btw.

State Senate Democrats will probably need more than a bare majority to pass SSM legalization.  There may be one or two incumbent Republicans in favor, but it's not likely.  There are sadly several incumbent Democrats that are not- generally from districts north and west of Albany or representing minority majority districts in NYC.  Some incumbents will probably have to be talked into support and more freshmen from districts in favor will be at a premium.

[ Parent ]
NY population
New York State has usually been divided into three parts: the city, the suburbs (Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester) and upstate (sometimes called "rest of state").  Using the most recent county data (2004 per Census Bureau) the City has 8,104,000 people (42.15%), the suburbs have 3,757,000 (19.54%) and Upstate, including some exurbs, has 7,366,000 (38.3%).

Even though the state is losing House seats it is continuing to grow, albeit at a much slower rate than the country as a whole.  In the six years between the Census and 2006, the state has added a little over 300,000 people, roughly the poulation of one state senate district.

County by county census data is only available through 2004 and that was a bit inconclusive.  The only area of the state that is growing faster than the state as a whole are the classic suburban counties (Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk) and the exurbs (Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess).  They are spread out and the net effect will be a complex re-drawing of linesthat will marginally improve Democratic prospects.

Populous Upstate counties like Erie (which includes Buffalo), Monroe (Rochester) and Onondaga (Syracuse) have kept their population but not grown at all (well, Erie dropped 14,000 but compared to the recent past that's stability).  Outside the exurbs only one Upstate county managed to add as many as 10,000 people: Saratoga (+12 K).

This will probably mean that Democrats after the 2010 Census will have a slightly stronger hand to play with than under the current 2000 results.  If we win the state senate, we are likely to keep hold of it for quite some time.


[ Parent ]

There are a whole bunch of marginal districts held by Republicans, many of them over 65.  I wouldn't be surprised if there's a wave of retirements after losing the majority.  

Democrats can probably get to 40 or 45 seats in the two or three elections that follow.  There are probably 5 swing or Democratic leaning seats to pick up in the Hudson Valley and about the same on Long Island.  And 3 or 4 around Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.

[ Parent ]
I live in Trunzo's district
I will most likely go volunteer for the winner of the Dahroung v Foley primary. (I like them both so I don't want to get involved in the primary)

This district has part of Islip township that just voted in a majority democratic town board for the first time, in a long time in 2007. This coupled with Brookhaven township which is usually democratic leaning should help prospects for a successful candidacy. Good ground game for democrats in this district, although Obama will be a mix bag here, although will probably win the area.

Maltese district is where my family is from before we moved out to Trunzo's, this area is heavy heavy Democrat but votes out of loyalty it seems to Maltese since he's been their forever. This seat will flip with a legit challenger which I think we have this year. Obama will massacre McCain here.

It would be funny if the two seats where my family hails from would be the seats that flip the state senate in our favor.

[ Parent ]
join us!
for those interested in the NY state senate, i've created a new facebook group, Let's Take Back The New York State Senate.

hope you'll join us.

"joke about the rapture here"

it's time:the albany project

[ Parent ]
Wisconsin State Assembly
Sad you only gave us one paragraph.  Wisconsin's state assembly is rated the most likely state legislature in the nation to switch hands.  We need three seats to take the majority, and in 2006 we picked up eight seats.  

Blog on WI state assembly:

- 3 GOP Incumbents have opted to retire.
- Dem Recruitment is up big.  

Republicans have turned our state budget into a national joke, they almost stopped us from passing "Compassionate Care for Rape Victims", they have stopped us from banning smoking statewide in public facilities, and they have stopped us from passing civil unions to amend the amendment.  This is a big cake.  Doyle saved us in 2002, and it's time to give him a working majority.  

Didn't the WI State Senate swing our way in 2006...
In good part due to the anti-gay marriage ballot measure?  I know I read it somewhere that the measure likely drove up liberal turnout and led to an unlikely takeover of that chamber in 2006.

[ Parent ]
Actually almost the opposite
the anti-gay marriage ballot measure, in addition to bringing out liberals in college towns, managed to bring out conservative democrats who in addition to voting for the anti-gay marriage ballot, they also voted for the democratic candidate running for the legislature. Though many newspapers and analysts said this is what happened, i'm not completely convinced myself, but it is an interesting theory nonetheless.

[ Parent ]
it's interesting to ponder
Yes, the state senate swung to Democrats in 2006.  I don't remember how many seats we won, I want to say four though.  

The anti-gay marriage ballot's most notable effect was college turnout.  The people fighting against it, "A Fair Wisconsin" brought big college turnout to try and stop it.  All eight assembly freshmen were elected from college towns.  Green Bay, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, etc.  

The reason it was on the ballot, like in all states was to drive up the turnout among conservatives.  Did it work?  Maybe.  Maybe the damage could have been worse had it not been on the ballot, we will never know.  But Democrats hold 8 of 9 statewide offices, (Attorney General = Self funding Republican), 5 of 8 US House seats (Up from 4 of 8), we picked up the state senate, and made huge gains in the state assembly.  I say their ultimate goal failed, although they passed the amendment.  

I think I'm going to make a diary pimping some of Wisconsin's finest candidates for the state legislature soon, and the bills that are at stake for the 2008 election.  

[ Parent ]
I think given
the links that people have shared with me, if I had it to do over again, I'd probably put Wisconsin on the list at #5 and take off the Tennessee Senate; it does look more do-able despite the bigger gap right now (just because we're defending a lot of tricky seats in TN).

As you can see, I front-loaded the list with states where controlling redistricting in 2010 was going to be a priority. Wisconsin isn't set to lose a seat (looks like it might be Minnesota's turn this time instead). Anyway, thanks for the link; I'm learning a lot here.

[ Parent ]
The consensus seems to be that Nevada state Senate control turns on two seats, both in Las Vegas.

Clark 7 is the seat Dina Titus has vacated to run for the US House seat in central LV- a district on and east of the Strip.  It's something like 60-70% Democratic voting but needs to be held- and help Titus get as much margin as possible upticket.

Clark 6 is the northwestern LV district in which the state Senate majority is probably going to be decided.  It's held by old, long time incumbent, insider, and Republican in all ways Bob Beers.  After much effort it now has a slight Democratic registration edge.  The Democratic challenger is a newcomer to Nevada politics who looks competent and attractive on paper, Allison Copening.  It's a gamble.  The district also overlaps pretty extensively with US House District 3- so Titus will also be organizing there.

Democrats are challenging two other incumbent Republican state Senators, but chances of ousting them are considered very small.  A newcomer is taking on Joe Heck in Clark 5, mostly Henderson, which has slight Democratic lean, after everyone else passed on the contest.  Heck is apparently an impressive guy who served in Iraq.  (Clark 5 also extensively overlaps with US House District 3, so there might be some synergy of Democratic organization and voters.)  And far away, there's also a challenge considered unlikely to the head honcho, state Senate majority leader Bob Raggio, in his district (Washoe 3) that runs from the western side of Reno to the California border, straddling I-80.

Basically, if you're in Southern California, knocking off David Dreier would be great but districts and campaigns in Clark County are probably where to send money and election volunteers to greatest effect- Nevada state Senate majority, a US House seat, and electoral votes for President are all decided by a few thousand votes of margin cast within a 10-15 mile radius of the Strip.

Nevada has some pretty miserable state government- its judicial system is a particular horror- that needs some serious reforms and upgrades.  The gambling and mining companies are a fact of life, the Nevada electorate is heavily retirees.  But there are a lot of quality of life issues and financial problems and mismanagement to deal with, various bad outdated laws to repeal.  (There's an ex-felon disenfranchisement law that bars a lot of people from voting, the state has a disproportionately high number of people on death row, etc.)   At the moment there's a festering disaster of a Republican governor with a multitude of scandals and corruption investigations to put an exclamation point on it.

I dont think
our trifecta in Oregon helps with redistricting. IIRC, OR has a fair redistricting law, the new maps are drawn by an independant commission.  

33, living in Germany  

I think
you might be thinking of Washington, which is a nonpartisan commission state (and has some very competitively drawn districts as a result, although Dems still tend to dominate them).

Unless something changed very recently, Oregon is done by legislature. (I tried to find the cite, but for some odd reason their legislature's web site is down right now. I guess those solar-powered servers might not have been such a good idea.)

[ Parent ]
Montana state legislature
The fun thing about Montana races is that they have what is, I believe, the nation's lowest maximum contribution limit, $160, so people can get the unusual experience of "maxing out" on a political contribution. I haven't researched any Montana races this year, but last cycle (2006) I identified half a dozen great candidates to support out there. Some of 'em won, too.  

Half the population believes our electoral system is broken. The other half believes it is fixed.  

Wasn't the Teexas State House drawn...
in 2004 by Tom DeLay to give Repubs somewhere in the range of 90-100 seats?  Guess Delay's state House map is going up in smoke just like his U.S. House map.

The state house should be 102 R-48 R.

It is currently 79 R - 71 D.

Yeah, it's up in smoke.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
*48 D n/t

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
Quick analysis
I decided to do a quick analysis of the legislative chambers.  My main source was where there is a good deal of info on state races if you click around enough.  

This is my take.  I put stars by the chambers that seem most likely to flip.  As far as Alaska State Senate goes, it is technically split control now despite republicans having a majority.

Rep chambers in danger in 2008 (13)
AK-Sen *
DE-Hou *
MT-Hou *
NV-Sen *
NY-Sen *
OH-Hou *
WI-Hou *

Dem Chambers in danger in 2008 (7)
IN-Hou *
MT-Sen *
PA-Hou *

IL House
I have a college friend running for a seat in the IL house.  She's in the 14th Congressional District which just flipped.

Check her out here:

Donate here:

Here is the 2006 result for that seat

St. Rep. Timothy L. Schmitz (R)  23,274 (59.52%)
Christine M. Adelman (D)  15,827 (40.48%)

It was not a complete blowout, so looks like she'd have a chance there.

[ Parent ]
The money difference was big, if I remember
correctly.  I looked it up for her a few months ago.

She's got a good group of people working with/for her (myself included :-) ).  It's a toughie, but she's committed!!

[ Parent ]
I'm not huge on the cottails argument
But I'll guarantee that it will be a BIG factor in Illinois this year for Dems.  Obama's landslide IL win should trickle down to local races and give us quite a few upsets in state rep and senate races.

[ Parent ]
That's one of the factors that lead her
to run.

[ Parent ]
My notes
1. I feel pretty good that we're going to flip the NY Senate.
2. We SHOULD pick up seats in the Ohio and Texas House chambers.
3. The Michigan and Pennsylvania House chambers worry me.
4. There is talk that we may finish with 2/3 in the CA Senate.
5. I am not very bullish on the Nevada Assembly.

The CA state Senate has remained 25-15
From 2002 to 2008 with no change at all.  In 2006 only 2 races were decided by less than a 10% margin.  What makes you think we'll pick up 2 seat this year?

[ Parent ]
We are feeling good about two of this year's races.
In SD-19, an open district next to L.A., the Republicans have only a slight advantage in registration and we have a great candidate in Hannah-Beth Jackson.

SD-15 on the Central Coast is held by a Republican but the Democrats have a small registration advantage. Abel Maldonado was going to be unopposed, but Democrat Dennis Morris, got on the ballot as a write-in in the primary. I haven't seen much in the way of updates after the primary, but I think Morris got enough write-in votes to qualify for the November ballot and hopefully beat Maldonado.

My blog
28, New Democrat, Female, TX-03 (hometown CA-26)

[ Parent ]
In California's Assembly
we also have a chance of getting close to 2/3 there. I wrote a diary on Calitics about the open districts and found that it is possible for us to pick up five of the six seats we need to get to 2/3 there.

My blog
28, New Democrat, Female, TX-03 (hometown CA-26)

[ Parent ]
Veto proof majorities would be nice in CA
But even if we don't get them do the repubs in CA have anyone credible to even run for Governor on their side in 2010?  With Arnold term-limited it would seem we would be heavily favored for that race.  I think Repubs currently have only 1 person even elected statewide.

[ Parent ]
2/3 required to pass budget in California
This has led to many stalemates over the years.  So, while it might not be needed for redistricting, getting to 2/3 has other benefits.

[ Parent ]
CT-House; CT-Sen
We currently hold a rediculous margin in the House (107 D-44R) and the Senate is currently 23D and 13R. Still, Connecticut Dems need to pad these majorities in order to make them veto-proof in all circumstances, and to pressure our Republican Governor Rell.

Rell hasn't been all bad (she did sign the civil unions bill) but tends to do anything to hold her popularity. Being able to outgun her on all fronts is crucial because I think Mr. Joementum will probably resign once the Dem Senate leadership strips his committee assignments. She'll have to pick a new Senator, but the threat of a rocky relationship with a very Dem. General Assembly will compel her to either pick a Dem or a Republican who will not run for a full term. She is very protective of her popularity; she knows she doesn't want a Democratic Assembly with real teeth that can make her life a living hell.  

Won't matter with redistricting
They have an independent panel.  Then again we'll probably have a 5-0 delegation going into 2012 anyway.

[ Parent ]
Not independent...
It's made up of sitting state reps and state senators.

[ Parent ]
Donate to the DLCC!
I love this diary! The state legislatures are firstly important. So a donation to the DLCC might, in the long run, be just as wise as a donation to the DCCC.


North Carolina Senate
Don't let the numbers fool you here, we are in danger.  We have held the State Senate since the Civil War but I feel like we are potentially in for some trouble this year.  The state house is 68-52 Democratic, and we should keep it and possibly increase.

The Senate, while at 31-19, is precariously held by good Dems holding GOP districts.  However with it being a presidential year and a not-so-great-for-rural-white-areas candidate (I'm sorry, it's true) and some retirements, we could be in trouble.

1.  District 8, RC Soles.  Three counties (Brunswick, Columbus, Pender) surrounding Wilmington.  RC is the dean of the legislature, having served over 40 years.  When they had to redraw to fit the constitutional requirement to not split counties, they included areas he hadn't represented before over in Pender County.  Pender and Brunswick have lots of GOP newcomers from the North.  Columbus is more inland and old-school Democratic.  He had a tight race in 2006 and this year could be tough also.

2.  District 9, Julia Boseman.  This is all of New Hanover County (Wilmington).  She's openly gay and that wasn't an issue...until now.  She's had a rocky period of bad news including a bad breakup from her partner with who she had a child.  She foreclosed in a million-dollar home and secretly removed her name from the deed without telling the ex-partner.  There's also some shadiness in the court records regarding drug use and assets.  We shouldn't have to fight for this one, having won every box in the county but I'm nervous.

3.  District 24, Tony Foriest.  He lost to the incumbent in this two-county district in 2004 but beat him in 2006 (that guy is running for Congress in NC-13).  He's African-American, and yes, I'm a little worried that could hurt him in a big turnout year.  It's the area around Burlington, Alamance and Caswell Counties.  Alamance always has and always will be the tougher county here.

4.  District 5, open.  John Kerr is retiring.  This district includes parts of Goldsboro, Greenville and all of tiny Greene County in between.  The primary runoff is a younger black man vs. a middle-aged white lady (where have we seen that before?).  We could keep this, but they have a decent candidate waiting.  Lots of older white Democrats here that could easily crossover.

5.  District 45, Steve Goss.  The miracle of all miracles in 2006 in this district (mine).  Steve should easily win Ashe and Watauga Counties and hopefully will shore up his margins in Alexander County.  The most trouble will always be Wilkes County, which is inherently GOP.  Fortunately, they have a very bad candidate who has had ethical troubles in the past.

6.  District 46, open, Cleveland and Rutherford Counties.  This is going to be a geographic fight of some local titans.  We have Rutherford County Clerk of Court Keith Melton running and they have State Rep. Debbie Clary of Cleveland County.  He's somewhat older so theres no telling how hard he'll campaign.  This seat is being vacated by Walter Dalton, our nominee for LTG.

7.  District 47, Joe Sam Queen.  This, along with the 9th, is our most politically divided district in the state.  Joe Sam won it in 02, lost it in 04, won it again in 06.  He is a great guy but tends to have some personality issues with regards to the local issues he gets involved with.  They are running their same candidate from 04 and 06 again and it is sure to be a nasty race.  The district is six counties that border Tennessee and surround Asheville.  Two, Haywood and Madison, will most like go Democratic.  Two, Mitchell and Avery, have been GOP since the Civil War and could produce tough margins.  Two, McDowell and Yancey, are somewhat swing.

So as you can see, if enough of these flip, we could easily be in trouble.  There's even more districts like them, but we should be safe - Districts 50 and 43, but we have good, solid (conservative) Democrats in them.  

We have to realize sometimes that once we gain great seats, we then have to defend them!  But we've got good candidates in all of these districts (and some other possibly interesting ones) and the NCDP knows how to run these races.

28, male, NC-13 formerly NC-01, 04, 05, 07, 11

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