Political Hay

It Could Have Been Worse

At least for Great Lakes Republicans, who post-election remain a firewall against Democrats in state government.

By 11.27.06

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It is easy for the media to still focus on the national Democratic tsunami that swept away the Republican majorities in the U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate, leadership elections, and recriminations about failed national and state GOP strategies. In several states, for instance, referenda on gay marriage, capital punishment, and other issues that were intended to bring Republican voters to the polls passed by wide margins. But in so doing they brought socially conservative voters to the polls who also voted for Democrats.

In putatively Blue States around the Great Lakes, it could have been even worse for Republicans. Here Republicans held on to at least one legislative majority or key statewide office. If one or more state legislative majority or state official doesn't seem like much of a victory, they do serve as a firewall against Democrat excesses.

In New York, for example, mainstream media attention has been on the landslide victories of Democratic Governor candidate Eliot Spitzer and other statewide Democrats. The New York assembly already had a Democratic majority, but Republicans still control the state senate by 33-29. Longtime senate majority leader Joseph Bruno is now also effectively the leader of the Empire State GOP.

Pennsylvania Republicans held both chambers of the state legislature even as Democrats Ed Rendell and Bob Casey Jr. were winning surprisingly easily. Pennsylvania elects its Attorney General in 2008. The current A.G. is Republican Tom Corbett.

Consider Ohio, where scandals surrounding former Republican Governor Robert Taft swept a number of Democrats into office, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Strickland and U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown. Both chambers of the state legislature stayed Republican, however.

In Michigan, the majority of the Michigan house of representatives swung to the Democrats. The Michigan senate majority was narrowed to two seats, 20-18, but senate Republicans will still be a check on a Democrat governor and house. Michigan voters also returned two statewide Republicans: Attorney General Mike Cox and Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land.

In Indiana, three incumbent Republican Congressional incumbents were toppled and the majority in the Indiana assembly changed to Democrat control. However, state government is still dominated by Republicans. Indiana elects its Governor and Attorney General in 2008 so Indiana Republicans such as Governor Mitch Daniels and Attorney General Steve Carter still serve and the state Senate is still controlled by Republicans. Voters re-elected Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita and elected Republicans Richard Mourdock State Treasurer and Tim Berry as State Auditor.

With every statewide office and legislative chamber controlled by Democrats, Illinois Republicans were swimming upstream. Of the two state legislative chambers, Republicans are closer to the majority in the state senate. The consolation prize is that newly re-elected Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich's administration and family seems to set daily standards for ethical challenges.

In Wisconsin, voters threw out enough incumbent GOP state senators to swing the majority to Democrats. The Republican majority in the Wisconsin Assembly was narrowed but will now be the brake on a re-elected Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and the new Democratic senate majority. Although voters apparently (pending a possible recount) chose a Democrat retail clerk over the Republican incumbent State Treasurer, voters also chose Republican J.B. Van Hollen as Attorney General.

Even voters in Democrat stronghold Minnesota retained GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty while they gave control of both chambers in the state legislature to Democrats. Here, though, voters toppled two incumbent Republican Congressmen and the Republican Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor.

Pundits in the mainstream media have been saying the GOP's "Firewall Strategy" against Democrats failed, especially in the Great Lakes region. Nevertheless, Republicans are a firewall in state governments, which usually has a more immediate impact on the lives of people than what happens in Washington.

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About the Author

Mark G. Michaelsen writes frequently about public affairs.