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November 2008

Election Results for State Races and Ballot Initiatives

While the attention of the nation was on the election for President and the race for several contested Congressional seats, there were also local and state elections taking place around the country that will impact the shape and context of health reform at the state level over the next two years. Although there was a significant shift in power at the national level toward the Democrats in 2008, the results in state legislatures and Gubernatorial races were more balanced.

As of Wednesday morning, five state houses had switched from being controlled by Republicans to being predominantly Democrat (New York Senate, Delaware House, Ohio House, Wisconsin Assembly and Nevada Senate), while four went in the opposite direction (Tennessee House and Senate, Montana Senate, and Oklahoma Senate). The fate of the Montana House, Indiana House, Alaska Senate and Texas House all remain unknown. All except the Indiana House were previously held by Republicans. In total, Democrats held 1,014 state Senate seats before the election and 1,021 after Tuesday night, compared to a Republican change from 898 to 893. In state House chambers, Democrats improved their margin slightly with an increase from 2,964 to 3,046, while Republicans fell from 3,299 to 2,314.[1]

Coming into election night, 28 of the nation’s Governors were Democrats and 22 Republican. Of the eleven seats in contention, only one switched parties – when Democrat Jay Nixon became the next Governor of Missouri.  Democrats won seven of the eleven seats.

There were also several state ballot initiatives that will have implications for health reform. Citizens of Maine voted to repeal the beverage tax that was to provide funding for subsidizing health coverage for individuals and small businesses under the Dirigo reforms. Originally, the program was to be funded with savings captured from the health system, but this approach had been challenged in court and faced political opposition. As a piece of an alternative, the state legislature had passed a beverage tax, which would have allowed the state to lift the enrollment caps on the Dirigo programs designed to make coverage more affordable. The repeal leaves funding for this program in question.

In addition, Massachusetts voters rejected a ballot initiative to repeal the state income tax. Had it succeeded, this initiative would have reduced state revenues by 40 percent. Montana voters cast their ballots in favor of an initiative that will expand state health coverage for children. The initiative will raise income eligibility levels for the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and simplify enrollment in the program.   


[1] All the information in the preceding paragraph was taken from the National Conference of State Legislature’s State Vote 2008 web site: