State Level Tsunami

As impressive as Republican gains in this week's elections were at the national level, they were even more so in state legislative races. Which means Republicans are in position to consolidate and expand upon their recent gains.

Bruce Walker notes that, as impressive as Republican gains in this week’s elections were at the national level, they were even more so in state legislative races.   He points to this map from the National Conference of State Legislatures:

On November 2, 2010, Republicans and Democrats vied for seats in 87 state legislative chambers. (Nebraska has a nonpartisan legislature; Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Jersey did not have state legislative elections this year; and Kansas, New Mexico, and South Carolina did not hold elections for seats in the upper chamber of their state legislatures.) There were about 6,115 state legislative elections this November in those 87 chambers.

In those 6,115 state legislative elections, Republicans picked a net gain of 998 seats from Democrats. Republicans captured seats held by Democrats in a mind-boggling 16% of these races. A post-election map from Tim Storey at the National Conference of State Legislatures gives an eye-popping idea of the geographical spread of Republican control in state legislatures. Look at that map. Consider that there were no state legislative elections in Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, or New Jersey and that there was no election in the New Mexico Senate. If there had been races in those states, nearly all of America, except for the Northeast and the West Coast, would be red.

Republicans now hold 3,735 state legislative seats to 3,119 state legislative seats held by Democrats, a stunning reversal of power from 2006 and 2008. Republicans have more seats in state legislatures than at any time since Reconstruction.

He’s got a lot more data at the link and Storey’s map is interactive, allowing you to burrow down into the state numbers.  But even the top level control of state legislatures by Republicans is rather impressive.

The reason it matters, of course, is that aside from being a feeder for future national level politicians, state legislatures are in charge of drawing and/or approving Congressional Districts after each decennial Census.  And we’ve just had one of those, so the legislatures that are about to take office will have a huge impact on who wins House races over the next decade.

Storey explains:

The Census Bureau will deliver data to legislatures in early February. There are many caveats when it comes to redistricting especially given the legal complexity of the task and the inevitable litigation. But Republicans are in the best shape for the decennial linedrawing that they have been in since the modern era of redistricting began in the 1970s.

All legislative chamber switches in the 2010 election are going from a Democratic majority to a new Republican majority with one going from Dem to tied. That includes an historic win in the Minnesota Senate where Republicans will be in the majority for the first time ever, although the legislature was nonpartisan until 1974. In addition, Republicans now control the Alabama Legislature for the first time since reconstruction and the North Carolina General Assembly for the first time since 1870. As of now, Republicans appear to have added at least 19 chambers and that number could grow. The GOP gained 20 chambers in the 1994 election, and it’s not out of the question they will reach that milestone again this year with control of several chambers still up in the air.

So, Republicans are in position to consolidate and expand upon their recent gains.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    Ho hum. Up today, down tomorrow. I’ll see what it looks like in four or eight years.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I suspect that the greatest lesson of the last several elections is that there are no eternal allies or permanent enemies only permanent interests. For many people political parties don’t play the roles they once did and they may only play the roles they do because of institutional rigidity.

  3. george says:

    “I suspect that the greatest lesson of the last several elections is that there are no eternal allies or permanent enemies only permanent interests. For many people political parties don’t play the roles they once did and they may only play the roles they do because of institutional rigidity.”

    I’d say its becoming clear that many or even most people don’t have any political ideology in any but a very general sense – and neither party is close to representing all of our views. So on any given election we’ll vote for whoever at the moment seems to be the best pragmatic choice … the current lesser of two evils as you will.

    In fact, in parliamentary systems like the UK, Canada and Australia many people think a minority gov’t is the best of all possible worlds because they don’t trust any of the major parties enough to want to give them complete control. Making sure none of the major parties stays in power long enough to entrench themselves is a pretty good second step in the American system … there’s never been permanent majorities for either party, and the number of independents seems to be growing rather than shrinking. Which arguably is the best of all possible conditions, as it might make the parties more responsive to what the voters want as opposed to what their ideology wants (yeah, I’m probably dreaming).

  4. just me says:

    Our state house flipped back to the GOP, but then NH is a rather independent minded state and rather conservative when it comes to spending money. I don’t think they were overly impressed with the acts of congress at the Federal or state level.

    I think what we are really seeing is that end of party loyalty. I think more and more voters (especially those in my generation and younger) want results and the avoidance of extremes more than they care about which party is in control. I think people who voted for a democrat in one election will guiltlessly vote for the GOP in the next without any real loyalty to either.

    I think what the Bush years did was cause the coming end of the yellow dog voter.

    I am fine with this, and think over the long haul the voter demending congress members actually do their jobs and take real political risk will be better for the country as a whole even if it means the end of congressional job security.

  5. Rock says:

    In the county where I live all Democrats with a Republican challenger lost their election or reelection bid. This included our State Representative of 22 years. I think it’s the first time in 30 or so years that we’ve had more than one Republican elected official holding office in this county at the same time. The night of the election, one precinct commissioner said, “Twenty years ago when I first ran for election, you had to be a Democrat to get elected in this county. Now look. It’s stunning.”

    The same thing happened in most adjoining counties. Yes indeed the wave was wide and deep. I suspect that there will be more to come two years from now. Those new Republicans should remember that their jobs aren’t safe either. The question is . . . Now what?

  6. just me says:

    “Twenty years ago when I first ran for election, you had to be a Democrat to get elected in this county. Now look. It’s stunning.”

    This is how it was in the county I grew up in in Kentucky. Most people, even if they leaned republican were registered democrats because the vast majority of local and state elections were decided in the primary and as often as not there was no republican challenger.

    I haven’t lived there for 20 years though, so I am not sure of the political landscape now, but back when I was a kid and a young voter the democrats controlled everything and there wasn’t much of a local republican presence.

  7. JKB says:

    In early October the Georgia Newspapers ran a poll that found that the bad opinion of the national Democrats was bleeding down into state and local elections. I was a bit skeptical but it must have been true since there is no Democrat in a statewide office after this election.

    A fortuitous turn of events given the redistricting that will be happening. Also, it’ll be interesting if the Republican controlled states recover faster than California and other states still run by the delusional.

    Right now, a lot of state and local level Democrats are thinking about how they can save their powerbase now that P-O-R has broken their party.

  8. Highlander says:

    Judical sanctioned,computer assisted gerrymandering is now one of the key stones of American politics both at the state and national levels.

    The Democrats by throwing Hillary under the bus in favor of “The Audacity of Hope”, have just thrown most of their entire party under the bus for the next 10 years.

    This all reinforces my belief, that the Obama presidency will be the equivalent of a one man circular firing squad for the Democrats.

    Obama is Jimmy Carter on steroids, and ironically enough, a lunatic led Iran has returned to center stage after 30 years to help play out Obama’s story.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    It certainly hasn’t taken long for some to consider last Tuesday’s election results as some kind of of bellwether of coming Republican dominance…these people would be wise to consider the election results of the whole of the first decade of the 21st century and realize that today’s “permanent” majority is tomorrow’s losing minority…as for comparisons of the president to Carter, good luck finding the new Reagan…