Is the tea party movement impacting state legislative elections? Study announced

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August 18, 2010

Ballotpedia Tea Party Logo.jpg

By Leslie Graves

MADISON, Wisconsin: Ballotpedia's state legislative staff is asking state and local tea party leaders around the country to participate in a survey to identify the extent to which local tea party organizations are engaging in 2010's state legislative elections.

Nationally, the media has a keen interest in identifying and analyzing the extent to which the Tea Party movement might be a factor in November's elections for U.S. Congress. Ballotpedia's survey will develop information about whether and where Tea Party activists are getting involved electorally at the more local level of state legislative elections. Over 6,100 state senate and state house seats are up for grabs on November 2 in 46 states.

While the Tea Party movement is for the most part officially nonpartisan, when it comes to electoral politics, those engaged in the Tea Party movement tend to favor Republicans over Democrats.

Heading into the November 2 elections, the Democratic Party holds a commanding lead in state houses in the 88 legislative chambers that hold elections in 2010. 52 of the 88 chambers, or nearly 60% of them, currently have a Democratic majority, while 33 of them have a Republican majority. Two chambers have an exactly equal number of Democrats and Republicans and one is officially nonpartisan.

Majority party: Democratic Party Republican Party Constitution_Party#Independent_American_Party_of_Nevada Independent
State senate partisan control: 23 18 1 1
State house partisan control: 29 15 1 -
Totals: 52 33 2 1

Tim Storey, an elections analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said in July that when it comes to 2010's state legislative elections, "This is going to be an extremely challenging year for Democrats for a variety of reasons...History is not on their side. Since 1900, the party in the White House loses seats in the legislature in every midterm except for 1934 and 2002. That's a 2-25 losing streak for the party in the White House -- a tough trend to break. Add to that the fact that Democrats are riding high right now at over 55 percent of all seats, and it shapes up to be possibly the worst election for Democrats since 1994."[1]

If Democratic Party seats in state legislatures are threatened on November 2 for the reasons given by Storey, it may be difficult to tease apart the extent to which a seat that changed from the Democratic column to the Republican column did so for purely local reasons, because of an anti-incumbent tide in the country, because of the general trend for the party in control of the White House to lose state legislative seats in mid-term elections or because of reasons tied to tea party activism and engagement in the election. It will partly be hard to tease these reasons apart because some of them overlap. Ballotpedia's study will focus on discovering state and local tea party groups that are explicitly taking an activist position with regard to this year's state legislative elections.

Survey for state and local tea party leaders

See also


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