Electoralism/Democratism

One-Party Control Opens States to Partisan Rush

The framework for pan-secession continues to develop.

New York Times

CHICAGO — Come January, more than two-thirds of the states will be under single-party control, raising the prospect that bold partisan agendas — on both ends of the political spectrum — will flourish over the next couple of years.

Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune, via Associated Press

State Senator Thomas M. Bakk of Minnesota, right, a Democrat who will be majority leader. Voters have “come to realize that compromise is getting awfully hard to accomplish,” Mr. Bakk said.

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Jim Mone/Associated Press

Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, also a Democrat.

Though the Nov. 6 election maintained divided government in Washington, the picture is starkly different in capitals from California to Florida: one party will hold the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers in at least 37 states, the largest number in 60 years and a significant jump from even two years ago.

“For quite a period of time, people were voting for divided government because they wanted compromise, middle ground,” said State Senator Thomas M. Bakk, the minority leader — and soon to be majority leader — in Minnesota. Democrats there seized control of both legislative chambers, creating single-party rule in St. Paul for the first time in more than two decades. “But they’ve come to realize that compromise is getting awfully hard to accomplish. The parties have gotten too rigid. Maybe this whole experiment with voting for divided government is starting to wane. I think that’s what happened here.”

Twenty-four states will be controlled by Republicans, including Alaska and Wisconsin, where the party took the State Senate, and North Carolina, where the governorship changed hands. At least 13 states will be Democratic, including Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon, where control of the legislatures shifted, and California, where the already dominant Democrats gained a supermajority in both chambers. (The situation in New York, where the potential for single-party control by the Democrats rests on the makeup of the Senate, is still uncertain.)

Power will be split in, at most, 12 capitals — the fewest, said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, since 1952.

So while President Obama and Republican leaders in Washington have made postelection hints of an openness to compromise, many in the states may see no such need.

“The fact is, they can do whatever they want now,” Chris Larson, the Democrats’ newly chosen Senate minority leader in Wisconsin, said of the Republicans in his state. He noted, glumly, that they have been holding planning meetings behind closed doors since the election.

Robin Vos, a Republican selected last week as the speaker of Wisconsin’s Assembly, voiced a willingness to work with Democrats, but also quickly ticked off plans to press for an income-tax cut, education changes and a “top-to-bottom review” of state regulations.

In Minnesota, where a budget fight last year between a Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, led to a shutdown of state government for two weeks, the governor seemed buoyed.

“We’ll trade gridlock for progress,” said Mr. Dayton, who added that his plans included increasing taxes on the richest Minnesotans and devoting more money to education. Still, Mr. Dayton, whose term is up in two years, sounded a note of caution even as he huddled with aides to strategize after the election results were in.

“I said to my staff, ‘The easier two years are over, and the harder two years are now beginning, because we have the added responsibility to lead,’ ” Mr. Dayton said. “And this is a responsibility I welcome, but given the challenges the state faces and our country faces these days, it’ll be a lot of hard work.”

Some politicians are mindful that one-party control carries with it one-party blame — and a risk that a particularly partisan agenda will eventually irk voters and lead to a reversal in the next election. In Maine, where the Republicans swept into sole control of the capital two years ago, the Democrats this month took back both chambers of the Legislature. Some viewed the outcome as an indication of overreaching by Republicans, including Gov. Paul R. LePage, who has sharply opposed the new health care law and has moved to cut the number of residents eligible for Medicaid.

Representative Mark Waller, newly elected as the Republican minority leader in Colorado, said: “The Democrats absolutely have the votes to do anything they want to do, but that’s a pretty tricky proposition. They’ve got to be very careful about how they do what they do.” Democrats in the state have already pledged to bring back a proposal to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, which was blocked during a special session this year.

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