Thursday, October 23, 2014

LES Is More edition

Or, everything you ever wanted to know about 2014 statehouse elections but were afraid to ask.

It's that time of year again... Stupid elections. 

So we're all a little short on time and a little long on things demanding our attention. And maybe after Senate and House and governors, oh my!, you don't quite have enough bandwidth left for the thousands of state legislative races happening across the country. 

But that's okay, because most of them don't matter. You can ignore at least 90% of them. You don't even have to keep track of all 98 partisan legislative chambers, or even just all 50 states. Nope. Not even close.

Because you don't have time for stuff that's not important, I present the List of Essential of Statehouses 2014LES. (See? Now the subject line makes sense. You're welcome.

  • Essential Statehouses, with majorities ripe for flippage:
    • Arkansas House (48 D/51 R/1 G*): Lean R
    • Colorado Senate (18 D/17 R): Tossup
    • Iowa House (47 D/53 R): Lean R
    • Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R): Tossup/Tilt D
    • Kentucky House (54 D/46 R): Lean D
    • Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I): Lean R
    • Nevada Senate (11 D/10 R): Tossup/Tilt D
    • New Hampshire House (212 D/174 R/13 vacancies): Tossup/who the hell knows?
    • New Hampshire Senate (11 D/13 R): Tossup
    • New Mexico House (37 D/33 R): Lean D
    • New York Senate (26 D/30 R/5 IDC/2 vacancies): Tossup
    • Washington Senate (23 D/24 R/2 MCC): Tossup
    • West Virginia House (53 D/47 R): Lean D
  • Outliers, or chambers that could flip if Democrats have a ridiculous night (but don't hold your breath):
    • Arizona Senate (13 D/17 R)
    • Pennsylvania Senate (23 D/27 R)
    • Wisconsin Senate (15 D/18 R)
  • Pipe dreams, or HOLY SHIT IT'S 2010 ALL OVER AGAIN:
    • Maine Senate (19 D/15 R)
    • Minnesota House (73 D/61 R)
    • Oregon Senate (16 D/14 R)

Clip 'n' save!

But what does it all mean? Why does it even matter if these chambers change hands?

I've got you.
  • Arkansas House flipping R to D would prevent a GOP trifecta, should Ross lose the gubernatorial race. 
    • Extra fun: If Ross wins but both chambers retain GOP majorities, he'll be continually stymied by the fact that his vetoes can be overridden by a simple majority vote in both chambers.

  • Colorado Senate flipping D to R won't be a big deal if Hickenlooper wins, but if Democrats don't keep the governor's mansion, the state House would be the only remaining Democratic aspect of that trifecta. Expect more guns, less weed.
    • Hot races to watch here are 
      • SD-3 and SD-11 (where the recall winners are running in an election where turnout will be above the 21% that plunked them into office last year); 
      • SD-19 and SD-22, where Sens. Rachel Zenziger and Andy Kerr  face Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (read: probably too extreme for these swing districts) Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez, respectively; and 
      • SD-16, which was redrawn to be less hospitable towards its Democratic incumbent than it was four years ago.
  • Recent polling is giving Democrats legit indigestion about this chamber; PPP had Democrats down 40-48% on the generic legislative ballot last week.

  • Iowa House flipping R to D means that the state Senate would almost certainly retain its Democratic majority, leaving Republican Gov. Branstad lonely at the top.
  • Iowa Senate flipping D to R would almost certainly correlate with Republicans keeping their House majority, giving the GOP full trifecta control of state government. The conservative agenda kept at bay by the Democratic Senate majority since 2010 would come home to roost -- expect attacks on women's healthcare and choice, a "right to work"** constitutional amendment, voter suppression... you know the drill by now. 
    • And will the Butter Cow become the official state idol? We just can't rule it out. 
    • If you want to seriously geek out, keep an eye on SDs-5, 7, 39 (a Republican named Michael Moore would have been much funnier 10 years ago), 41, and 47
      • Network TV ad spending in Iowa state Senate races is estimated at $131,200. In SD-39 alone, 244 spots have aired so far.

  • Kentucky House flipping D to R would leave Gov. Beshear the lonely Democrat at the top. If the next governor is also a Democrat, he'll need good bourbon to dull the pain of his stalled agenda. If a Republican replaces him in 2015, the GOP will have the governing trifecta. Expect "right to work," anti-choice, and other fun bits of the conservative agenda to quickly become law.

  • Michigan House flipping R to D would give Democrats a seat at the policy table; they'd either be a check on Gov. Snyder or a valuable ally of Gov. Schauer.  
    • Picking up this chamber is a long shot for Democrats in a non-presidential year, but even a pickup of one or two seats would put them in a great spot to flip the House in 2016. 
    • The state is awash in House campaign money and spending. 

  • Nevada Senate flipping D to R would make Gov. Sandoval's life a lot better (and Harry Reid's life a little harder. #2016).
    • If you're going to keep an eye on one district here, make it SD-09. Flipping it gives Republicans the majority control they crave, and both parties are all over it.
    • Recent polling shows tight races in at least two of those three seats. The dearth of a strong gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket won't help Dems, but neither will lack of excitement about a shoo-in Republican reelect motivate Republicans. I suspect I'll be chewing my nails over this chamber late into the night on November 4.

  • New Hampshire House flipping D to R would make this chamber your prime source of entertaining/crazy/just plain wrong legislation. I mean, even more than it is already.
  • New Hampshire Senate flipping R to D would help keep the House crazies in check (and would be a valuable ally of Gov. Hassan).
    • Rand Paul alert! He's not just trying to win state legislative seats in Kentucky; just this week, Paul dropped $16,500 on various candidates for state Senate and Executive Council. #2016

  • New Mexico House flipping from D to R would be a major coup for Gov. Martinez (she tried really hard to make that happen two years ago), but the GOP majority would be slim, and Democrats still control the Senate (it's not up this year).
    • Both parties are dropping MAD CASH to control the chamber. Much of the money is funneling through two super PACs: GOP-backing Advance New Mexico Now (COH: $485,779) and Democrat-supporting Patriot Majority New Mexico (COH: $897,836).

  • New York Senate flipping (effective) R to (actual, outright) D might not be a game change in terms of state policy, but paying back the Dem turncoats of 2012 would be delicious.

  • Washington Senate... ditto. But with pot. 
    • Also zombies: In SD-06, Democratic challenger Rich Cowan runs the company that brought production of SyFy's Z Nation to the district (largely thanks to a tax credit Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner voted for, but now opposes), resulting in jobs and other great things, like a city full of extras in zombie makeup. 
    • Climate activist and super-rich guy Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action Committee is dropping $1 million to unseat two other Republicans: Sens. Steve O'Ban (SD-25) and Andy Hill (SD-45).

  • West Virginia House flipping D to R would mean first time since argle bargle Republicans control something something Democrats' historical derp tiddely-pom.
    • But really, both parties are taking this chamber seriously. Eight different outside groups are spending heavily in state races. An estimated $63,500 has been spent on network TV ads across four House races (exactly the number the GOP needs to flip to win a majority).

So there you have it... except it's worth noting that when the head of the DLCC is saying that anything short of a pickup of six legislative chambers is a FAIL for the GOP (he's not wrong -- these are their perfect maps in their perfect year; they could run the table), I think I'm going to leave my champagne at home on Nov. 4. 
I'll sip it the next week, as I'm laying out all the sweet pickup opportunities for Democrats in 2016.

For the Week of October 23, 2014 

The following 4 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY and PENNSYLVANIA.


The Autonomous Vehicle Technology Study Committee met October 22 to hear testimony regarding the current status of autonomous vehicle infrastructure and advantages and future possibilities for autonomous infrastructure. 

The Senate Education Committee met October 22 to meet the Teachers of the Year and discuss their perspectives on education. 

The Environment and Agriculture Committee held an executive session October 21 to discuss interim study bills H.B. 1382, regarding the definition of "farm sand" and H.B. 1464, regarding the exemption from the Food and Drug Administration Safety Modernization Act of agricultural products produced, sold and consumed in the state. 

The Public Works and Highways Committee met October 21 for an executive session to discuss revenue alternatives to the gas tax and make recommendations for future legislation. 
The Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee met for an executive session October 23 to discuss limited partnerships between alcoholic beverage manufacturers and wholesale distributors and make recommendations for future legislation. 
The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee met October 20-22 to discuss mental and behavioral health programs and services available to Native Americans, a basic health program update and the Health Insurance Exchange. 
The Workers' Compensation Review Committee met October 21 to discuss a bill draft relating to posttraumatic stress disorder coverage for first responders. 
The House Higher Education Committee met October 22 to discuss student loan debt and the transition between K-12 education to Higher Education. 
The Senate Jurisprudence Committee met October 23 to discuss expunction of criminal records. 
The Health Care Reform Task Force met October 23 to receive updates concerning Governor Gary R. Herbert's (R) negotiations with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding the Governor's Healthy Utah proposal. The Task Force will also discuss alternative options for expanding health care coverage. 
via Stateside AssociatesProject Vote.
* Updated 10/24/14 to correct Arkansas House partisan breakdown
** Updated 10/24/14 to clarify potential "right to work" policy changes in Iowa.