Republican Revolution - Wave House Cleaning

- 05.13

The Republican Revolution, Revolution of '94 or Gingrich Revolution refers to the Republican Party (GOP) success in the 1994 U.S. midterm elections, which resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. The day after the election, Democratic Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama changed parties, becoming a Republican.

Rather than campaigning independently in each district, Republican candidates chose to rally behind a single national program and message fronted by Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich. They alleged Clinton was not the New Democrat he claimed he was during his 1992 campaign, but was a "tax and spend" liberal. The Republicans offered an alternative to Clinton's policies in the form of the Contract with America.

The gains in seats in the mid-term election resulted in the Republicans gaining control of both the House and the Senate in January 1995. Republicans had not held the majority in the House for forty years, since the 83rd Congress (elected in 1952).

Large Republican gains were made in state houses as well when the GOP picked up twelve gubernatorial seats and 472 legislative seats. In so doing, it took control of 20 state legislatures from the Democrats. Prior to this, Republicans had not held the majority of governorships since 1972. In addition, this was the first time in 50 years that the GOP controlled a majority of state legislatures.

Discontent against the Democrats was foreshadowed by a string of elections after 1992, including the capture of the mayoralties of New York and Los Angeles by the Republicans in 1993. In that same year, Christine Todd Whitman captured the New Jersey governorship from the Democrats and Bret Schundler became the first Republican mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey that had been held by the Democratic Party since 1917.

Republican George Allen won the 1993 Virginia Governor election. Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison took a U.S. Senate seat from the Democrats in the 1993 special election. Republicans Frank Lucas and Ron Lewis picked up two congressional seats from Democrats in Oklahoma and Kentucky in May 1994.

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When the 104th United States Congress convened in January 1995, House Republicans voted former Minority Whip Newt Gingrich - the chief author of the Contract with America - to become Speaker of the House, while the new senatorial Republican majority chose Bob Dole, previously Minority Leader, as Majority Leader. With their newfound power, Republicans pursued an ambitious agenda but were often forced to compromise with Democratic President Bill Clinton, who wielded veto power.

The 1994 election also marked the end of the Conservative Coalition, a bipartisan coalition of conservative Republicans and Democrats (often referred to as "boll weevil Democrats" for their association with the U.S. South), which had often managed to control Congressional outcomes since the New Deal era.

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Subsequent events

In the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections, Republicans lost Congressional seats but still retained control of the House and, more narrowly, the Senate. After the 2000 election, the Senate was divided evenly between the parties, with Republicans retaining the right to organize the Senate due to the election of Dick Cheney as Vice President and ex officio presiding officer of the Senate.

The Senate shifted to control by the Democrats (though they technically were the plurality party as they were one short of a majority) after GOP senator Jim Jeffords changed party registration to "Independent" in June 2001, but later returned to Republican control after the November 2002 elections. In the 2006 elections, Democrats won both the House of Representatives (233 Democrats, 202 Republicans) and the Senate (49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 2 Independents caucusing with the Democrats) as well as the majority of state governorships (28-22).

In 2010, Republicans won back control of the House in the 2010 elections. The Senate, however, remained with the Democrats (51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and 2 Independents caucusing with the Democrats). Republicans also won a majority of state governorships and state legislatures. The congressional elections of 2012 brought no change of control in either the House or Senate.

In an upheaval strongly reminiscent of the 1994 elections, the 2014 midterms increased the Republican majority in the House to its largest level since 1928, and gave them control in the Senate once again. These two new houses combined resulted in the Republicans' largest majority in Congress overall since 1928. In addition, the Republican gains in gubernatorial, state, and local elections resulted in a total of 31 Republican governors, an increase from 57 to 67 state houses under Republican control, and, overall, the largest Republican majority in the entire country since 1928, as well as the smallest amount of state houses under Democratic control since 1860.

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The 1994 elections ushered in a great number of Republican freshmen. For example, of the 230 Republican House members of the 104th Congress, almost a third were new to the House. In the Senate, 11 of 54 (20%) Republicans were freshmen.


(*) David Boren resigned to assume the presidency of the University of Oklahoma; Inhofe was elected to serve the remaining two years of the term.

§ Harlan Mathews was appointed to the seat as a caretaker following the resignation of Vice President-elect Al Gore; Thompson was elected to serve the remaining two years of the term.

House of Representatives


(*) Lowell Weicker was a member of A Connecticut Party.

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See Also

  • United States elections, 2010
  • United States elections, 2014

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