a Quick look at State House races
Joshua and I collaborated on a piece in December of 2005 here on k/o called Starting with the Districts. That piece has held up, imo.
Given that, I'd like to share with another aspect of the occasional conversations Joshua and I have about the state of US politics: a quick look at the races for State Legislatures.
For anyone concerned about the bedrock health of our democracy, it's hard to underemphasize the importance of the battle for state legislatures. State legislatures represent both a "laboratory" for new domestic policy ideas, and critically, as we approach the 2010 census, the bodies that will determine redistricting and the make up of the House of Representatives for the upcoming decade. (Given the way different states stage and cycle their elections, paying attention to this in 2010 will be too late. This is something we need to pay attention to every year for the next five years.) State legislatures are also where progressives have some of our best chances to advance candidates and causes we hold dear.
In sum, the battle for State House control is a real measure of the health of the local Democratic Party and broad trends in US politics as a whole.
State legislative races, however, are rarely polled and tend to be "micro" enough that few pay attention until election night or afterwards. This diary represents a quick "cheat sheet" for what to look out for.
A visit to NCSL.org, the website for the National Conference of State Legislatures, is a great place to familiarize oneself with the balance and make up of the State Legislatures that interest you.
For someone like Joshua, who follows these races as a part of his profession, there are a couple "short cuts" that we can use to highlight States to focus on election night.
States with Fluid State Houses
The following ten states have, in general, the most fluid State Houses. In a year that sees big moves on the US national political scene, these states will likely reflect that and show big moves in their State Houses. These are the states to watch for national and regional trends on election night:
States with Closely-Contested State Houses
These states, which include some of those listed above, have State Houses where the battle for partisan control will be an issue in the 2006 election. In some of them a swing of a few seats could either change the control of one or both houses...or lay the groundwork for a trend within State Party control. (ie. vetoes, super-majorities, future swings in control.) These are State House "races to watch" for partisan control on election night:
New Hampshire (Sen)
New York (Sen)
Pennsylvania (Chance to move closer)
Ohio (Dem gains might give Strickland veto protection)
Iowa (Both Houses)
Washington (Democratic gains likely)
Texas (Defense operation)
This just a rough sketch of the states and State Houses Joshua and I covered in our conversation. Clearly, the upper Midwest and the industrial Midwest are going to be zones of focus on Tuesday. Given that, it is unfortunate that the Michigan state Democratic Party is not experiencing the resurgence we've seen in the Democratic Party in Ohio.
Clearly, what happens in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana and Ohio will serve as bellwethers for trends in regional party control and the 2008 presidential election. Elsewhere, Colorado and Nevada will remain focal points in the battle for partisan control in Mountain West. (Nevada is another under-performing zone for a state Democratic Party, unfortunately.)
Please feel free to add any state specific information or ideas you might have below. State House races are not the most "sexy" of stories on election night.
That does not mean they aren't significant.