You knew there was one, right? While the national party was crying in its beer, Wisconsin Republicans held the State Assembly and took back the State Senate, undoing the results of last year’s recalls and regaining complete control of the legislative process. After a December special election to fill the seat left open by Rich Zipperer (best political name of 2012?) the Republicans are expected to hold a Dale Schultz-proof 18-15 majority in the upper chamber.
That’s not such a surprise; a GOP-friendly redistricting generated a slight majority of Republican State Senate districts in this purple state. More impressive is that Republicans may not have lost any of the healthy majority they hold in the Assembly, an advantage obtained in 2010 when the GOP gained 15 seats out of 96 in play. That means there are a lot of new Assembly members who are well to the right of their districts. With the 2012 electorate back to a more normal partisan distribution, how did all these people keep their seats?
My guess is that people just don’t pay much attention to Assembly races, and that the incumbency advantage there is even bigger than it is for federal positions. After all, it’s reasonably safe to vote for the US Senate candidate nominated by your preferred party; that person’s been vetted at a high level and the chance that they’re an incompetent or a loon can reasonably be considered pretty small. But a State Assembly candidate? If the first time you see their name is on Election Day, it’s not totally nuts to go with the incumbent.
My guess is that the Assembly won’t switch control again, or even move close to 50-50, until there’s another Democratic wave election. Despite the many reasons Democrats have to be happy today, this election wasn’t it.