Republicans will control 4,170 state legislative seats after last week’s elections, while Democrats will control 3,129 seats in the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers. Republicans picked up a net gain of 46 seats in Tuesday’s elections, while Democrats lost 46 seats, according to the latest vote counts from The Associated Press.
Independents and members of minor parties hold 71 seats, including the entire Nebraska Senate, which is nonpartisan. Nearly two weeks after Election Day, about a dozen seats remain too close to call.
“Republicans have been working for this moment for years, to have a federal government with Republican majorities and now at the state level,” said David Avella, who heads GOPAC, a group that grooms young legislative candidates. “We have to deliver on breaking down barriers to job creation, we have to deliver on putting more money in people’s pockets through tax cuts and through higher wages.”
The results cement a dubious legacy of Republican gains in state legislatures during President Obama’s tenure. Republicans gained more than 700 seats in the 2010 midterm elections and nearly 300 in the 2014 midterms as Obama’s approval ratings suffered. Democrats clawed back more than 100 seats in 2012, when Obama won reelection.
In total, Republicans control nearly 1,000 more legislative seats than they did when Obama took office. The Republican share of state legislative seats has grown from just under 44 percent in 2009 to 56 percent after Tuesday’s election.This problem will plague Democrats in years to come, as it depletes their roster of candidates for other offices.
Compare and contrast with earlier years.
In 2014, we put together an index to measure the electoral strength of the parties. Rather than focusing on the presidency, we broke partisan control into five categories: presidential, Senate, House, governorships, and state legislatures. We have updated our index using the mostly complete data for the 2016 elections and can conclude that the GOP is in the strongest position it has been since 1928. In many sub-categories, it is near an all-time high.A very big caveat:
The party that holds the presidency almost always loses strength, but the magnitude of that loss and how quickly it occurs is effectively random. Democrats should not be too discouraged by their present state of affairs. History teaches that it can be reversed, and rather quickly.