State Politics’ Strange Bedfellows

California's state Capitol
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
June 5, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

A single party con­trols the le­gis­lature and the gov­ernor’s man­sion in 37 states, many of which are so lib­er­al or con­ser­vat­ive that either Demo­crats or Re­pub­lic­ans hold per­man­ent ma­jor­it­ies. And that pushes some parties and ad­vocacy groups that have little to do with each oth­er in Wash­ing­ton to­geth­er at the state level.

— The res­ults have shown in re­cent primar­ies. The League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters and its Idaho state league cel­eb­rated big vic­tor­ies in last month’s Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies, fund­ing in­de­pend­ent cam­paigns to boost two state le­gis­lat­ive can­did­ates against a state rep. and state sen. who were among loc­al en­viros’ biggest op­pon­ents.

— LCV has only en­dorsed a few fed­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans in the last six years — only Reps. Dave Reich­ert (R-WA) and Frank Lo­Bi­ondo (R-NJ) in 2012, plus de­feated ex-Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT)  — but it’s still work­ing with GOP­ers at a state and loc­al level. In Alabama, the state teach­ers’ uni­on helped push three Re­pub­lic­ans through state House primar­ies — though it spent about $7 mil­lion to do it and got shut out in state Sen­ate primar­ies.

— Typ­ic­ally Re­pub­lic­an-aligned groups work the same angles in Demo­crat­ic-dom­in­ated states. The Cali­for­nia Cham­ber of Com­merce, for ex­ample, picked sides (and won) in sev­er­al 2012 state As­sembly gen­er­al elec­tions pit­ting two Demo­crats against each oth­er, but it had been in­volved boost­ing mod­er­ate Demo­crats in primar­ies long be­fore the state’s top-two primary.

Polit­ic­al al­li­ances between parties and some of the big ad­vocacy groups may seem cut and dry in Wash­ing­ton, but there’s an­oth­er level of com­plex­ity in the states — es­pe­cially where one-party rule nat­ur­ally lim­its who you can work with.
— Scott Bland

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