The DFL scored a major, although not an unexpected, victory last month by wrestling control of the State House from the GOP after four consecutive terms of Republican control. The size of the DFL’s victory—a 19-seat pickup—did surprise many political observers.
However, large electoral gains are not uncommon in recent political history of the state’s 134-member chamber. In fact, nearly half of the House elections over the past 45 years have involved double-digit pickups: since 1962, 11 of 23 elections have resulted in pickups of at least 12 seats by the GOP or DFL.
The DFL’s 19-seat pickup in 2006 is actually only the fourth largest pickup since 1962:
* In 1978 the GOP picked up 37 seats from the previous election to tie the DFL at 67-67.
* In 1974 the DFL added 27 seats from the previous election to take a commanding 104-30 lead over the Republicans.
* In 1962 the Republican gained 22 seats from the previous election to take control of the House.
As was the case in 2006, in 8 of these 11 elections with significant turnover, it was the minority party that achieved the big victory—often riding the wave launched by the national political climate.
For example, in 1974, the DFL rode the anti-Nixon wave to a 27-seat pickup and control of the House control just a few months after the Republican president resigned. In 1994, state republican House candidates benefited from the national momentum generated by the GOP’s Contract with America in US House races—picking up 16 seats from the previous election cycle to reduce the DFL’s advantage to less than 10 seats. In 1986 the DFL picked up nearly 20 seats in an election held a few days after the Iran-Contra story broke.
In sum, the DFL’s large victory is not without precedent, and, considering the anti-Republican surge that was sweeping the country, the GOP could have sustained even worse losses.