Oops! Actually There Is a More of a Link Between National and State Results than I First ThoughtApril 21st, 2010 by Steven Gardner
Boy am I embarrassed. I’m wrong, and I picked the wrong day to come in late to the office. I’ve had one call and a couple of e-mails to remind me that I was off by a long shot in this post. In 1994 especially the state House did make a dramatic shift from Democrat to Republican control, similar to what happened in D.C. One caller assumed that I read state Legislature information incorrectly, reading 1994 instead of 1995, when the actual members of the Legislature would have changed. He’s probably right, but I compiled this information about a week ago, so I don’t remember for sure. I got it wrong. Below is a corrected version of what I wrote.
That Republicans will pick up seats in Congress and that their
counterparts in the state House will benefit has almost been
discussed as a done deal. If you look at the last six times a
president had his first mid-term election, though, you’ll see that
the national trends don’t necessarily mean the makeup in Olympia
changes at all.
in the last three instances there was no change in the Washington
House of Representatives. In the 1994 election the shift in
state numbers was proportionately larger than what happened
nationally. In 2002 and 1990, though, there was no link between
what happened nationally and what took place here in state.
If you look at each House individually, though, the data from the last six elections does suggest Democrats are likely to lose seats in each. In each case since 1970 there was one exception to that rule, but you know what they say about exceptions.
One of the questions I tried to ask legislators last week was what kind of impact will the 2010 legislative session have in November when the most obvious evidence of what legislators did will be a rise in taxes on things you buy at 7-Eleven. State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said Democrats could pay a price. “People have to make up their minds whether we did the right thing or not,” she said. Appleton said many more people would have noticed had programs such as adult day health care would have remained cut. “I went down there not to raise to taxes. I went down there to do what was right,” she said. “I think I did that.”
With the other four legislators I spoke with we didn’t seem to get into that question as directly.
Jerry Cornfield at the Herald in Everett wrote about Republican hopes that the GOP will have more power after the 2010 elections. In 2006 and 2008 a lot of people figured that Democrats did so well locally because Democrats did so well in the national races.
But I checked the numbers from the last six times a president
was in his first term and in
only two four mid-term elections
did the state House numbers go in the same direction the Congress’
numbers did. I didn’t include Senate numbers. Those might tell a
George W. Bush’s first mid-term was an exception. It was the
only one of the last six in which the president actually picked up
seats in the House. In Washington
there was no change in the House in
Olympia Democrats picked up two seats.
In 1994 Bill Clinton saw 52 House seats lost,
but in Olympia there was again no
change and in Olympia 29 seats switch from Democrat to
In 1990 George H.W. Bush lost eight seats,
and there was no change in
Olympia, but Republicans in this state gained five seats.
In 1982 Ronald Reagan lost 26 seats in the House and the
Democrats picked up seven nine seats in Olympia.
In 1978 Jimmy Carter lost 15 seats and in Washington Democrats lost 13.
In 1970 Richard Nixon lost 12 House positions and Washington Republicans lost nine.
When I had the wrong information up I was quite surprised by it. I took it as logical that the national mood certainly influenced more Democrats to vote in 2006 and 2008 and more Republican leaners to leave their ballots unchecked. I wondered if the shift depended completely on Democrats. Growing up I was told that Republicans vote in more elections than Democrats. I don’t have the data to back that up, but it got me wondering if election results depend on how excited the Democrats are. The surprise I felt should have spurred me to take a second and third look at the numbers.