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What the 2014 Elections Mean for State Legislatures

The Republicans will end up increasing the number of state chambers they control by nine.

Wikimedia Commons/ Muhammad Mahdi Karim
The national Republican wave on Election Day 2014 also resulted in notable GOP gains in the state legislatures.

As of Thursday morning, the GOP had flipped nine Democratic-held chambers outright: the Colorado Senate, the Maine Senate, the Minnesota House, the Nevada Assembly and Senate, the New Hampshire House, the New Mexico House, and the West Virginia House and Senate (the Senate due to a post-election party switch).

The GOP also appeared to clarify its hold on the Washington state Senate, where it had been governing in a coalition, and the New York Senate, which had been run with a crazy quilt of partisan affiliations.

Republicans still have hopes of flipping up one additional Democratic-held chamber once all the races are sorted out: the Colorado House.

A gain of nine chambers is on the upper end of Governing’s pre-election projection. The GOP was poised to pick up three to four chambers, with a possible Republican gain of eight or nine if everything broke their way.

Going into Election Night, the partisan breakdown was 58 Republican-held chambers and 40 Democratic-held chambers. These results suggest that Republicans will end up with either 68 or 69 chambers -- a huge asset to the GOP as federal gridlock leaves states with more running room to craft policy. Republicans also gained several gubernatorial seats last night.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Democrats were looking at reaching at their lowest point in state-legislature control in nearly a century. For the sake of comparison, as recently as the run-up to the 2010 election, the Democrats held a 62 to 36 advantage in legislative chambers.

The GOP also held all of seven of its vulnerable chambers. Republicans held on to the Arkansas House, the Iowa House, the Michigan House, the New Hampshire Senate and the Wisconsin Senate, and appear to have held control in the Washington state Senate. Governing had rated all of those chambers lean Republican prior to the election. The GOP also appeared to clarify its hold on the New York Senate, which had been run with a crazy quilt of partisan affiliations.

The few bright spots for the Democrats were their ability to hold four vulnerable chambers. Two tossup chambers -- the Iowa Senate and the Kentucky House -- remained in Democratic hands, as did the lean Democratic Oregon Senate and, apparently, the lean Democratic Colorado House.

After an increasing trend toward unified state governments, there will now be a modest shift toward divided government, thanks to gubernatorial flips in such states as Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Louis Jacobson is a GOVERNING contributor.
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