Democratic majorities in state senates at greater risk than Republican majorities, analyst says

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July 16, 2010

Chambers of the Wisconsin State Senate. Analyst Louis Jacobson says that the Democratic Party's majority control of the chamber is vulnerable on November 2, 2010

By Geoff Pallay and Leslie Graves

While much of the country has been focusing on whether Congress will change hands, the importance of the state level elections is beginning to draw attention.

Across the country, there are 1,971 senate seats in the 50 states. Forty-three states are holding state senate elections this fall -- with a grand total of 1,167 seats up for grabs. Translation: 59 percent of all state senate seats are up for election.

According to Louis Jacobson, a staff writer for PolitiFact, partisan dominance will be at stake in 12 of the 43 states.[1]

When looking at states with elections this fall, the percentage of seats up for election jumps even higher. Nearly 70 percent of all seats in senates with elections this fall are up for election.

Meanwhile, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that whichever party resides in the White House typically performs poorly during midterm elections for state level offices. In fact, only twice in the last 110 years -- 1934 and 2002 -- has the party that controlled the White House outperformed its opposition in state elections.[2]

Majorities at stake

As of July 2010, the Democratic Party holds the majority in 28 state senates. 24 of those state senates have state senate elections in 2010. The Republican Party holds the majority in 20 senates, and 18 of those senates have elections in November.

Analyst Jacobson says that while in 31 states, the party that currently holds majority control of the state's senate is very likely to still hold that majority after the November election, in 12 states, majorities could shift:

State Current majority party Jacobson's analysis
Alabama Democratic Party Toss-up
Alaska Constitution_Party#Independent_American_Party_of_Nevada Toss-up
Colorado Democratic Party Leans Democratic Party
Iowa Democratic Party Leans Democratic Party
Maine Democratic Party Leans Democratic Party
Montana Republican Party Leans Republican Party
Nevada Democratic Party Leans Democratic Party
North Carolina Democratic Party Leans Democratic Party
New Hampshire Democratic Party Toss-up
New York Democratic Party Toss-up
Tennessee Republican Party Leans Republican Party
Wisconsin Democratic Party Toss-up

The gist of Jacobson's analysis is that while 2 states currently held by Republicans are vulnerable to a shift in partisan control, 9 states held by Democrats are vulnerable to a shift and one state with party parity (Alaska) could go either way. This means that the Democratic Party is in a position of heightened vulnerability when it comes to retaining control of partisan dominance in state legislatures, compared to the degree of vulnerability of the GOP.

While Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Nevada and North Carolina's state senates are rated as "leans Democratic" (but where those majorities are considered somewhat vulnerable), the Democratic majorities in Alabama, New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin are considered at greater risk, with Republicans having a decent shot at becoming the majority party.

By the numbers

This year's state senate elections by the numbers:

  • 43: Number of states with state senate elections in November 2010
  • 16: Number of states with all Senate seats up for re-election
  • 23: Number of state senates with a Democratic majority with senate elections in November.
  • 18: Number of state senates with Republican majority with senate elections in November.
  • 1: Officially nonpartisan senate (Nebraska Senate)
  • 1: Number of state senates with equal number of Democrats/Republicans

See also

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References