The 2020 votes are (mostly) tallied, and the topline is that not much changed in terms of control of legislatures or states.
With 5,876 regularly scheduled legislative races in 44 states, the big surprise is that, so far, only two chambers—the New Hampshire House and Senate—changed hands. The GOP won both. New Hampshire is perhaps the nation’s swingiest state, with one or both chambers flipping in six of the last eight elections.
On average, 12 chambers change party in each general election cycle. This time? It’s four—including 2019’s shift for the Virginia House and Senate (from R to D) and this year’s New Hampshire news. (If either the Arizona House or Senate flips from R to D, the numbers change—and the counting isn’t over yet.) That means over the two-year cycle, the parties came to a draw.
The results could domino through politics in America, helping the GOP draw favorable congressional and state legislative maps by ensuring Democrats remain the minority party in key state legislatures. Ultimately, it could mean more Republicans in Washington — and in state capitals.
By Wednesday night, Democrats had not flipped a single statehouse chamber in its favor. And it remained completely blocked from the map-making process in several key states — including Texas, North Carolina and Florida, which could have a combined 82 congressional seats by 2022 — where the GOP retained control of the state legislatures.
After months of record-breaking fundraising by their candidates and a constellation of outside groups, Democrats fell far short of their goals and failed to build upon their 2018 successes to capture state chambers they had been targeting for years. And they may have President Donald Trump to blame.
“It’s clear that Trump isn’t an anchor for the Republican legislative candidates. He’s a buoy,” said Christina Polizzi, a spokesperson for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, on Wednesday. “He overperformed media expectations, Democratic and Republican expectations, and lifted legislative candidates with him.”
In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson defeated Democrat Nicole Galloway, 57%-40%. Though Galloway, the state auditor, had been considered a prime Democratic recruit for the race, the state's Republican lean proved too much for her to overcome. Galloway's percentage of the vote almost exactly mirrored President Donald Trump's in the state, and she won only traditional Democratic strongholds around St. Louis, Kansas City, and the university town of Columbia.
In Montana, Republicans broke a 16-year hold on the governorship by Democrats, as Rep. Greg Gianforte defeated Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. Gianforte won, 53%-43%, only slightly underperforming Trump.
With just the Montana race producing a party shift, the national breakdown of governors stands at 27 states held by Republicans and 23 held by Democrats.
The only other contest we had considered competitive going into Election Day was in North Carolina. There, Democratic incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper held on despite Trump's narrow lead in the state, defeating Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 52%-47%. Cooper seems to have extended his margin by his high-profile role in fighting the coronavirus.