Where Democrat Gains Occurred in 2006: The West OR What Western Gains

The Democratic takeover of Congress and a majority of governorships was impressive, but it was not a national tidalwave in the traditional sense of the word. Sure Democrats gained seats in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West but unlike the GOP takeover of 1994, this wave was more regionalized in behavior. In fact, the most appropriate title of the 2006 election story might be The Revenge of the Northeast and Midwest. For it was in those areas that saw the most change from Republican to Democrat. The West and the South not so much.

The West:

Prior to the 2006 midterms, Dems controlled 53 of 98 US House Seats, 11 of 26 US Senate seats, and 6 of 13 governors. In 2006, they gained 1 Senate seat and 1 governorship (same amount as in the South) and 4 House seats- a smaller gain in the US House than any other reason of the country.

At least 3 Congressional districts which Kerry either won or split with Bush, the Dems failed to win (WA-8, NV-3, NM-1). They did gain the Colorado governorship, but given the fact that the GOP governor there was term-limited, unpopular, and the Dems controlled the governorship there from 1974-98, that isn’t surprising (though they should not ignore Colorado in 2008). Arizona maybe changing as well, but I’m not ready to call it a battleground state. But all in all, there was very little shift towards the Dems in the West.

What about Montana Nick? Sure Montana did the right thing in throwing out Burns, but Montana has a long history of voting for Dems in Senate races while voting GOP for president by big margins. Back in the 1950s-70s period, they constantly re-elected liberal Mike Mansfield, but voted GOP in almost every election. Similarly Burns was the longest serving GOP Senator in Montana history-and he only served three terms.

Except for Arizona, all Western states where gay marriage bans were on the ballot voted to ratify the amendments. Is the West as libertarian as advertised? Dems did gain 74 state legislature seats in the West, while important and more than Dem gains in the South, they pale in comparison to the rest of the country

As the NYT reported:

“The legislative gains, by contrast, were concentrated in the Midwest, where Democrats picked up about 104 seats, along with control of both chambers in Iowa, the Indiana House, the Michigan House and the Wisconsin Senate, and in the Northeast, where their net exceeded 140 lawmakers. About 67 Democratic seats were added in the West.”

So while the Dems western gains were very important, (e.g. Dems now control a majority of Western governorships,) they were not large. Only 4 of the 29 US House seats the Dems gained came from the West. Of course the West gave a virtual majority of its popular vote to John Kerry (and mroe than all post-1948 candidates save for LBJ), elects a majority of Dems to the US Congress (57 of 98 or 59.2%), a majority of it’s EVS went to Kerry (77 of 124) and a switch of just one Senate seat would give Dems a tie among Western Senate seats. Indeed, given that Dems did not win some pro-Kerry Congressional seats means there is still room for growth in House representation there but if one is looking for a great amount of change in 2006, then Don’t Go West (At least not yet). But don’t worry either, the political changes of the late 1980s and early 90s (e.g. the West Coast shifting from swing states to lean or even strong Democrat status) are solidifying. And Dems control majorities in the West at most levels of government and their majorities are expanding.

Jim Morrison is being proved right: “The West is the Best… Get here and we’ll do the rest.”

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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6 Responses to Where Democrat Gains Occurred in 2006: The West OR What Western Gains

  1. Nick

    I was looking for a link to the NYT report – do you have it?

  2. Nick

    Thanks! I added it to the post. Great post, by the way, as always your analysis is so on the money!

  3. Marjorie G says:

    You are so reliably good on this stuff.

    I still have a problem with some seats being lost to e-voting. Some, and many just had more attention and money.

    Agree, though, the heartland is still the heart of it, the Ohio governship being HUGE.

  4. Nick says:


    It sure is huge. Fortunately, the Midwest is trending Democrat. See my posts about “John Kerry the Midwesterner” and about the Northeast Midwest “blizzard.”

  5. Nick says:

    oops, should’ve said Burns werved three terms as Senator from Montana, not two.