Tomorrow’s election will touch every American as citizens elect a President, US Senators, Members of Congress, Governors, Attorneys General and more than 6,000 state legislators. The state ballots will also include more than 150 questions–initiatives and referenda–addressing a vast array of public policy issues.
Stateside Associates will be reporting about all state election results beginning Election Night. Our Top News memo will highlight the major races and outcomes. Maps and Charts will bring the new line-ups into focus and the State Election Guides will present results for all the races on a state-by-state basis.
Clients of our firm are welcome to contact us for additional information and updates. And, we are still taking reservations for post-election presentations.
Down Ballot Trends
Today, we thought we would highlight down ballot races that are important to state government relations professionals. Trends are poised to be sustained or arrested in contests for legislative majorities, Governor and Attorney General, while ballot questions put many of America’s thorniest issues in the hands of the voters.
State Legislative Majorities
In 2010, 22 state legislative chambers changed majority control–a high water mark. All were lost by Democrats whose majorities succumbed on Election Day and afterwards with party switches.
Contributing to the historic nature of 2010, 1,765 new legislators took office–the most ever for any election prior to decennial re-districting. With 2012 being the post-redistricting election year, that record number could be matched or topped, yielding the least experienced cohort of state lawmakers in US history. Some have projected that almost half of all state lawmakers may have two or fewer years of experience as the 2013 sessions convene. Opportunity? Threat? You decide.
Thirteen (13) Chambers Close Enough to Switch in 2012
There are thirteen state legislative chambers in play in 2012 in which the majority is five seats or fewer. For those chambers a switch of three seats would change the balance of power. There are also several other chambers with slightly larger spreads in which each political party thinks they have a chance to take control.
In the South, Republicans are making a strong push to take control of the Arkansas House and Senate. Arkansas is the last state in the region still to have Democratic control of either chamber. Republicans are looking for a southern sweep while Democrats hope Arkansas will prove that they can still compete in the South.
In Wisconsin, Democrats took back control of the state Senate over the summer as a result of several recall elections. However, the control was on paper only as the Legislature had adjourned until 2013 before the last round of recall elections that caused the change. Odds are in favor of Republicans regaining control of that chamber tomorrow.
The Alaska Senate and the Oregon House are tied currently, so both parties are looking for that decisive last seat in order to gain control. Republicans have a one seat majority in the Colorado House and Democrats have single seat majorities in the Nevada Senate and Iowa Senate.
While New York State is dominated by Democrats with a 2:1 party registration advantage, Republicans have controlled the State Senate for most of the last four decades. And, while many had predicted that Republicans will hang on again this year, will Hurricane Sandy–which devastated New York City and Long Island–affect the outcome?
Other states where a change in party control is possible include: Minnesota (both chambers), Maine (both chambers), New Mexico (House), Washington (Senate) and Colorado (Senate).
From a low point of just 14 a decade ago, Republicans have made capturing these offices a major priority and it has paid off. Excluding the non-partisan AG’s, Republicans and Democrats each hold 24 Attorney General offices. Watch the open seats in Washington, Pennsylvania and Montana to learn if the Republican march to the majority will be sustained or stalled.
Coincidentally, two nail-biter Governor races feature state Attorneys General. Montana’s Steve Bullock (D) and Washington’s Rob McKenna (R) are in open seat races that are too close to call. And, while very popular as AG’s–both are poised to be succeeded by candidates of the opposite party in races also too close to call.
There are 29 Republican Governors and 20 Democratic Governors. Rhode Island Governor Chafee is an Independent. Eleven races dot the map in 2012 with three of those too close to call.
In addition to the aforementioned Washington and Montana races, the third nail biter is in New Hampshire, where Presidential candidate ground-games may pull a gubernatorial candidate to victory.
Ballot Questions: Taxes
New Hampshire CACR 13, Michigan Proposal 5 and Washington Initiative 1185 (links to full text below) are ballot questions designed to limit the legislature’s ability to raise taxes. New Hampshire’s prohibits the General Court from enacting any tax on a person’s income. New Hampshire does not have an income tax right now and there are no plans to implement one. Washington’s would require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue, which includes repealing tax exemptions and any tax increase. Michigan’s ballot proposal requires a two-thirds vote for any bill imposing additional taxes or increasing the taxation base and also allows statewide initiatives to approve tax increases (similar to California).
While we cannot call this next proposal a potential trend-setter (after all, NO state looks to California for fiscal guidance), California Proposition 30 is Governor Jerry Brown’s (D) plan to raise revenue and stem the fiscal hemorrhage that has defined California for more than a decade. The plan calls for raising the top rate income tax from the current 9.3% to a maximum of 13.2%. The measure also imposes a “temporary” state sales tax increase of 3.45% for four years. And, there are many other tax-raising provisions with the funds dedicated to education and local public safety services.
Ballot Questions: Unions
California Proposition 32 prohibits both labor unions and corporations from donating to candidates and candidate-controlled committees. It also prohibits using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes.
Two Michigan questions are drawing national interest as both would represent boosts for labor unions.
Michigan Home Health Care Amendment: Would give home health care providers limited collective bargaining rights.
Michigan “Protect Our Jobs” Amendment: Would make collective bargaining a right for public and private workers.
For a free, complete list and links to state ballot questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope you enjoy Election Day 2012. With some help from Starbucks, pizza and aspirin, we’ll see you on the other side.