By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer
Democrats gained a decisive edge in state legislatures around the country, riding voter discontent with national Republican leadership to take control of a number of chambers and solidify their hold on others.
From New Hampshire to Michigan and, if early results hold, Oregon, Democratic candidates scored victories that positioned them to take the legislative helm. The results, while not complete, will give Democratic lawmakers the gains needed to shape state policy agendas and play a key role in drawing Congressional districts.
Such gains have taken on added importance since the Supreme Court ruled in June that states are free to redraw districts at any time, without waiting until after each decade’s national census.
Prior to Election Day, the balance of power in legislatures was almost evenly split. Of the nearly 7,400 seats in statehouses nationwide, Democrats held an advantage of just 21 seats. Republicans controlled both chambers in 20 states, with Democrats leading both houses in 19 others.
But that is about to change.
“It appears that all the momentum is behind the Democrats in just about every state,” said Tim Storey, analyst for the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s little doubt that the energy of the Democrats and the national climate really benefited Democrats in legislative races.”
In Indiana, House Democrats regained control of the chamber they lost two years ago. The GOP controls the Senate.
In Minnesota, Democrats brushed aside the Republican House majority and then some, claiming nearly veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Democrats gained control of the Michigan state House for the first time in eight years, while the Senate race was still undecided as Republicans claimed victory in a Saginaw-area race that Democrats weren’t ready to concede.
In Iowa, Democrats also gained seats — allowing them to break a tie in the Senate and take control of the House.
“It looks like we got caught in a wave,” House Speaker Christopher Rants said of Republican losses.
“Things were outside of our control,” Michigan House Speaker Craig DeRoche said, citing factors including the national mood against Republicans for his party’s losses.
In New Hampshire, Democrats won control of both the Senate and the House, despite the fact that in the latter chamber, they came into the election down by a wide margin. The Senate in Wisconsin also went to the Democrats.
In Oregon, if early election returns hold, Democrats would gain control of the House, which would put them in charge of both chambers for the first time since 1990.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats picked up at least six Republican House seats, while losing two. But it was unclear if they would win enough to gain a majority. In North Carolina and Illinois, Democrats tightened their grip on both chambers of the legislature.
There were some bright spots for the GOP. In Tennessee, for example, Republicans held their state Senate majority, prevailing in closely watched races. In the Oklahoma Senate, Republicans gained seats to break Democratic control, with the chamber headed to a tie — and Democratic Lt. Gov.-elect Jari Askins will hold the tie-breaking vote.
But those appeared to be the exceptions.
“I think what’s clear is there are a lot of states where Democrats now have a seat at the table,” said Michael Davies, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which coordinated the national party’s efforts in legislative races.
History and recent polls said Democrats were likely to pick up seats. In midterm elections, the party that does not control the White House has averaged a net gain of more than 300 seats in statehouses nationwide, according to the nonpartisan NCSL.
The trend does not always hold, however. In the 2002 midterm elections, the Republicans gained 177 seats, though that came as President Bush’s popularity soared following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The national parties have become more involved in legislative campaigns, bringing considerable money to statehouse races. The Republican State Leadership Committee said it would raise and spend $4 million to $6 million on state legislative races, double the amount spent in 2004.
Its rival, the DLCC, said it would spend $9 million to $10 million for the two-year cycle, about two-thirds of that this year. That is up from the $6 million to $7 million it gathered and spent in the past two election cycles.
(source: Yahoo News)