Election 1992

By Pipho, Chris | Phi Delta Kappan, January 1993 | Go to article overview

Election 1992


Pipho, Chris, Phi Delta Kappan


PRESIDENTIAL politics obscured what was happening in state elections last November. While the Democratic Party gained much visibility and increased its influence on the national scene with the victory of Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the Republican Party gained strength in state legislative races. Some of the highlights on the state scene follow.

State senates changed from Democratic to Republican in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, and Nevada. State houses of representatives moved to the Republican side of the ledger in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and Montana. State senates moved from Republican to Democratic control in South Dakota and Washington, and no state house of representatives changed from Republican to Democratic control.

While these switches were going on, Florida and Pennsylvania found their state senates in a "tie" position. When this happens, party control in the state is shared. Leadership and committee asignments become awkward, with both parties often alternating control daily or weekly, which brings a whole new level of political maneuvering into play.

The governorship was up for grabs in 12 states in 1992. Four Democratic incumbents won: Evan Bayh, Indiana; Bruce Sundlun, Rhode Island; Howard Dean, Vermont; and Gaston Caperton, West Virginia. The remaining eight seats were divided evenly between the two parties. Democrat James Hunt of North Carolina is back, having served as governor in the mid-1980s. Other Democrats who won were: Thomas Carper, Delaware; Mel Carnahan, Missouri; and Mike Lowry, Washington. The four new Republican governors are: Marc Racicot, Montana; Steve Merrill, New Hampshire; Edward Schafer, North Dakota; and Mike Leavitt, Utah.

MIXED MESSAGES

Ross Perot's entry into national politics may have shaken loose a new group of voters: citizens who hadn't voted before or hadn't voted recently. Perot's antigovernment position, coupled with a strong mood in favor of controlling government spending, may have had a greater impact on the state elections than it had on the national scene. Supporting education at the state level became entangled with Perot's message about the national debt. Some political observers on the state scene feel that the extra voters brought out by Perot tended to vote "no" on ballot issues related to taxation and funding. The uncertainty created by the addition of a third party may also have upset the polling process. Some random observations indicate that tax-related issues that were going one way according to preelection polls tended to reverse direction by a wide margin on Election Day.

It would be interesting to know if the large turnout for Perot in some states was made up of "closet" voters - those who may have given politically correct responses to pollsters while tending to vote against taxes and spending for any purpose when the voting booth curtain was pulled. This was probably most evident in the vote on the Colorado ballot initiatives (see the details, below). It may also have been a factor in the large vote for term limits. In each of the 14 states where this issue appeared on the ballot, it passed with little difficulty. In fact, in 11 states the vote in favor of term limits topped 60%, and in Wyoming, Missouri, Florida, and Arizona the vote in favor of term limits surpassed 70%. Maybe this was the result of a high voter turnout, but Perot's participation must have been a contributing factor in any case.

READING COLORADO

Voters in Colorado faced one of the most complex sets of choices concerning education. Three initiatives were directly aimed at education, and at least two others had political and economic implications for education. The history of each initiative idea, its supporters and foes, and the final results present a complicated picture.

Constitutional Amendment 1. A constitutional amendment to limit taxing and spending, this ballot issue passed with approximately 54% of the voters in favor. …

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