How Bad Was the West, Really?

Conventional wisdom right now is that the West was excluded from the Republicans’ big gains in the rest of the country.  And by a certain standard, that’s true.  Not too many people would have guessed that the state legislatures in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan would go Republican, with the latter two also electing Republican governors.  The West didn’t see any such seismic shift (apologies to those living in rift valleys and on fault lines).  But the Republican gains, outside of California, were still pretty substantial.

Consider that in the 10 non-California western states (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona), the count in the US Congress went from 27-15 Democrat to 23-19 Republican, a net gain of 8 seats out of 42.  The Republicans also picked up two governorships (Wyoming and New Mexico).

The gains in state legislatures were also significant, although in some cases, merely amounted to pushing the Democrats closer to extinction:

  • In Washington, the state Senate went from 31-18 Democrat to 24-22 Democrat, with 3 seats undecided
  • In Oregon, the House went from 36-24 Democrat to 30-30, and the Senate went from 18-12 Democrat to 15-13 with 2 undecided.  Imagine a state legislature not merely split, but with both houses evenly divided.
  • David Sirota, phone home.  Montana went from 50-50 to 68-32 Republican, although the State Senate saw only modest gains, from 27-23 Republican to 28-22.
  • In Arizona, the State House went from 35-25 to 40-20 and the State Senate from 18-11 to 21-9
  • In Colorado, as we know, the Republicans recaptured the State House
  • In New Mexico, the Republicans cut into the Democrats’ lead, moving it from 45-25 to 37-33, and putting pressure on the Democrat majority to negotiate with the newly-elected Republican governor.  The State Senate remains firmly in Democrat hands, 27-15.
  • And in Idaho, where Labrador retrieved CD-1 for the Republicans, the State House went from a lopsided 52-18 to an even-more lopsided 57-13; the State Senate stands at 28-7

This is hardly the stuff of Democrat strangleholds, or even strongholds.

And a look at the ballot initiatives gives even more hope.

  • In Nevada, a proposal to weaken eminent domain protections went down by better than 2-1
  • In Washington, the initiative losses of 2009 were redeemed, as voters rejected a state income tax (34.6% in favor), repealed a series of state sales tax increases (62.4%), and restated existing law (suspended by the state legislature) requiring 2/3 legislative majorities or voter approval for tax increases
  • Both Utah and Arizona passed laws requiring secret ballots for union elections
  • Arizona passed a law similar to one that it had narrowly rejected two years ago, and similar to our own Amendment 63 (55-45)
  • Arizona also eliminated affirmative action in public hiring or contracting (60-40)

California, as always, with its 46% Democrat registration, remains problematic.  But unless you expect it to become a net exporter of political ideas, along with jobs and population, the biggest threat from California isn’t contamination so much as default.

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