CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Republican wave that hit the U.S. Congress in Tuesday’s midterm election also boosted the party in state races, where it gained control of 10 chambers and could be on track to holding the largest number of legislative seats since before the Great Depression.
Democrats lost their majorities in the West Virginia House, Nevada Assembly and Senate, New Hampshire House, Minnesota House, New York Senate, Maine Senate, Colorado Senate, Washington Senate, and New Mexico House to Republicans, who also won enough seats to tie control of the West Virginia Senate, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reported on Wednesday.“Everyone knew it was a Republican year, but they really blew away expectations at the state legislative level,” said Tim Storey, the bipartisan group’s election analyst.
With Tuesday’s vote, Republicans took over the U.S. Senate, beefed up their majority in the U.S. House and won the governor’s office in several key states. The vote also increased the number of state legislative chambers with Republican majorities to 67 from 57. Party control of the Colorado House and Washington House was still up in the air.
The number of states with Republicans in control of both legislative chambers came to 27 ahead of the election and has now edged closer to the high mark of 30 in 1920, according to Storey. By contrast, Democrats will control the lowest number of state legislatures since 1860, he said.
Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter said the party appeared to be on track to eclipse 1928’s record high of 4,001 Republican state legislative seats.
Heading into Tuesday’s vote, Republicans held 3,836 seats, Democrats held 3,448, and 26 belonged to third-party lawmakers. Republicans controlled 57 chambers, while Democrats were the majority in 41. Nebraska’s single-chamber legislature is nonpartisan.
Riding on President Barack Obama’s re-election coattails two years ago, Democrats picked up 150 seats and took back control of eight legislative chambers they lost to Republicans in 2010.
But midterm elections have traditionally not favored the president’s political party, with that party losing state legislative seats 26 out of the last 28 times since 1902, according to the NCSL.
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Michael Sargeant pointed to “a difficult political environment” for his party’s showing on Tuesday in state legislative races.
“Since 2010, Democrats have faced an unfriendly map on both national and state levels, but our successful voter turnout efforts produced important gains in the North Carolina House and defended the Iowa Senate and Kentucky House,” he said in a statement.
“The fight for 2016 is under way,” he added.
Voters on Tuesday were deciding 6,049 legislative races in 46 states, or nearly 82 percent of all state legislative seats.
Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by W Simon and Lisa Von Ahn