Southern Parties and Elections: Studies in Regional Political Change

By Robert P. Steed; Laurence W. Moreland et al. | Go to book overview

3
The Impact of Election Timing on Republican Trickle-Down in the South

Jay Barth

While the Republican gains at all levels in the southern states in 1994 were impressive, they should not be overstated, particularly in races for statewide executive office. The GOP does now hold governorships in six of the eleven southern states, but the majority of subgubernatorial offices are held by Democrats in almost all of the southern states.1 This composition contrasts dramatically with the GOP dominance at the presidential level.

Why does Republican electoral success in the eleven southern states in subpresidential, and particularly subgubernatorial, races remain so inconsistent, when GOP success at the presidential level has become quite steady over the past two decades? Four decades after Dwight Eisenhower made the first lasting Republican inroads into the South at the presidential level, and more than twenty years after Richard Nixon swept the region, the top-to- bottom realignment of the region's politics predicted at the time by observers such as Kevin Phillips, has not occurred.2 This chapter examines one of the potential barriers to the trickle-down theory of Republicanism from the presidential level to lower levels of southern state politics: the scheduling of almost all state elections in the South in nonpresidential years, a decoupling of presidential and state elections that has been part of a national trend over the past several decades.'3

While some southern states began holding state elections outside of presidential years as early as the turn of the century, such separation has occurred in almost all of the southern states over the years, with a number of southern states moving state races out of presidential years since the GOP began to make significant inroads into the region at the presidential level. Some of these separations have come about as states ( Tennessee in the early 1950s, Texas in the early 1970s, and finally Arkansas in the 1980s) shifted from two-year to four-year terms for state officials. In all three cases these new four-year terms were placed in a nonpresidential election cycle.

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