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Iowa Democrats ride White House victory wave

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

CEDAR RAPIDS — In 21 of the past 29 presidential elections years, the party winning the White House has gained seats in state legislatures.

This year was no exception — thanks in large part to Democrats picking up more than 100 seats in the 390-seat New Hampshire Legislature.

Although it is not always the case, Iowa Democrats followed the trend, picking up seats in the Nov. 6 election as President Barack Obama was handily re-elected. Obama carried Iowa 52 percent to 46 percent.

Democrats did not win enough seats to take control of the Iowa House, but narrowed the GOP majority, from 60-40 to 53-47.

In the Senate, Democrats still have 26 seats. Republicans have 23, and a special election in a suburban Des Moines district will fill a seat previously held by the late Sen. Pat Ward, a Republican.

In the first state legislative election since redistricting, voters cast ballots in 44 states for candidates for 6,034 state legislative seats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said Democrats gained 170 seats in legislative chambers across the country. There are 7,383 state legislative seats in the United States.

With those pickups, Democrats appear to have regained control of seven chambers they had lost in 2010, but Republicans claimed four chambers previously controlled by the Democrats.

That leaves Iowa as one of four states with divided legislatures. That’s the lowest number in more than 30 years, NCSL said. Kentucky, New Hampshire and Virginia also have divided legislatures, but in Virginia, the lieutenant governor casts the tiebreaking vote, so it is effectively a unified Republican legislature. The last time there were fewer divided legislatures was in 1928, when there were two.

Just as it did this year, Iowa Democrats followed the trend of the party winning the White House picking up legislative seats in 2008.

With Obama winning his first term that year, Senate Democrats picked up two seats, giving the party its greatest number of senators — 32 — in history. In the House, Democrats expanded their margin from 53-47 to 56-44.

Four years earlier, when President George W. Bush was re-elected, House Republicans held on to a 51-49 majority despite losing three seats. In the Senate, Republican numbers fell from 29 to 25, creating a tie.


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