Democrats Seize Control in State Legislatures

November 8, 2006

The two major parties are no longer locked in parity in state legislatures. Wresting control from the GOP in all the chambers that changed hands outright, the Democrats now control the legislatures in more states than they have since 1994.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 7:30 a.m. MT, Democrats control both houses of the legislature in 23 states; Republicans in 15 and nine are split. Final counts aren’t available for three chambers in two states: the Montana House and Senate and the Pennsylvania House. This adds up to 49 states because Nebraska’s legislature is nonpartisan.

Before the election, Republicans controlled 20 state legislatures; Democrats 19 and 10 were split. Complete pre- and post-election control is at
NCSL reports that Democrats won approximately 275 more state legislative seats, adding up to new majorities in nine chambers across the nation: the Iowa House and Senate, the Indiana House, the Minnesota House, the Michigan House, the New Hampshire House and Senate, the Oregon House and the Wisconsin Senate. (The Iowa Senate was previously tied.)

Republicans gained a few seats in the Oklahoma Senate to tie that chamber, but Democrats will likely control it because the lieutenant governor, who casts deciding votes, is a Democrat.

“The voters expressed a real desire for change, and all in one direction,” said NCSL’s elections expert Tim Storey. “The Democrats have put some light between the two parties. This isn’t parity anymore.”

Both parties have been at or near even in terms of the number of states controlled since ’94.

Storey said the news could have been worse for the GOP this year. The party of the president has lost seats in every midterm election but one since 1938. George W. Bush bucked the trend in in 2002. He didn’t pull that off again, but his party lost a below-average number of seats. In an average midterm election, Storey said, the party of the president loses around 360 seats.

Storey compared this election to that of 1994 in terms of the magnitude of the takeover. In 1994, Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” catapulted the Republicans back into play after decades of Democrat power in states. Before that election, the GOP held both chambers in 8 states. Afterward, that number jumped to 19, as Republicans won 472 additional state legislative seats. Democrats didn’t win that many this year.

Prior to the election, NCSL identified 10 states where one or both chambers would be battlegrounds: the Colorado House and Senate, the Indiana House, the Iowa House and Senate, the Maine House and Senate, the Minnesota House, the Montana House, the North Carolina House, the Oklahoma Senate, the Oregon House, and the Tennessee Senate. Five of those chambers switched.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staff of the states, commonwealths and territories.

Topics Iowa Politics

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.