UPDATE 2-Republican election surge hits U.S. state houses

Wed Nov 3, 2010 6:19pm EDT

Related Topics

* Republicans win at least 18 state legislative chambers

* Republicans now control 54 state legislative chambers

* Gains may help Republicans pick up more U.S. House seats (Updates Republican gains, comments, redistricting measures)

By Karen Pierog

CHICAGO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The surge that gave Republicans control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday also shook up state legislatures, giving Republicans the power to potentially cement their hold in Congress for the next decade.

In most states, legislatures will be redrawing electoral districts for the U.S. House -- an adjustment of boundaries every 10 years that tends to favor the party in charge in each state.

The big Republican Party wins at the state level give it the edge in reinforcing its strength in the U.S. House.

Republicans took control of at least 18 state chambers from Democrats, according to Tim Storey, an elections analyst at the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The Republicans really swamped the Democrats," he said, noting that Republicans will be in the best position to control congressional redistricting since modern remapping began in the 1970s.

Republicans' heavy presence on the state level could allow the party to preserve, or add, between 15 and 25 U.S. House seats through redistricting, said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which poured millions of dollars into state legislative races.

But Alan Abramowitz, political science professor at Emory University, said redistricting may make a marginal difference.

The 2012 elections could swing back to favor Democrats and will likely turn on factors such as the state of the economy and voters' perception of President Barack Obama, he said.

The party in control of the White House almost always loses congressional and state legislative seats in midterm elections and 2010 was no exception.

Republicans saw a net gain of at least 680 seats in state legislatures, giving them control of chambers in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the NCSL reported.

Storey said four chambers remain in play, including the New York Senate.

Election results so far have Republicans in charge of 54 legislative chambers, with Democrats controlling 38 and two chambers with a partisan split -- the Alaska Senate and the Oregon House. Control of four chambers remains undecided.

Republicans will fill more state legislative seats than they have since 1928, Storey said.

Heading into Tuesday's election to fill more than 80 percent of the nation's 7,382 state legislative seats, Democrats controlled 60 chambers, while Republicans had 36 and two were tied.

Nebraska's single-chamber legislature is nonpartisan.

Meanwhile, voters in California removed congressional redistricting from the legislature, giving the power to a citizen-run commission. Florida voters approved a plan requiring compact districts, reducing the chance of oddly-shaped districts favoring one party over another. (Additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco; editing by Chris Wilson)

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