Dems Make Modest Gains at State Level, GOP Still Controls Most Legislatures

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November 7, 2018

Democrats took control of five state legislative chambers from Republicans as a result of Tuesday's midterm elections, a modest shift compared to past midterms.

Overall, the Republican Party retained control of 30 state legislatures, losing only one, while the Democratic Party now controls 18 legislatures, an increase of four–three were previously divided. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted that the number of chambers that shifted control is below average.

"These changes are minor compared to the 2010 election, when Democrats lost 24 chambers. Notably, the shift of only six chambers is well below the average chamber changes: On average, 12 chambers change party hands in every two-year election cycle back to 1900," according to the NCSL.

The Democrats won a majority in the Colorado and Maine Senates, and the Minnesota House. Both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature flipped to the Democratic Party. The party also took control of the tied Connecticut Senate and gained functional control of the New York State Senate, which had previously been controlled by a minority-led coalition.

The Alaska House, which had been under the control of a minority-led coalition, moved to the Republicans.

Republicans won key victories in the crucial swing states of Iowa, Florida, and Ohio, retaining control of both the states' governorships and legislatures. Kim Reynolds, Ron DeSantis, and Mike DeWine defeated Democratic opponents in closely contested governors' races in each of those states, respectively.

The Democrats fared better in Colorado, an important presidential election state, where they took control of the state's legislature and Jared Polis defeated Republican Walker Stapleton in that state's gubernatorial election.

Elsewhere, the result was mixed. Democratic gubernatorial candidates won in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but Republicans held those states' legislatures. Despite losing the New Hampshire legislature, the Republican Party retained that state's governorship, with incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu beating his Democratic challenger.

Minnesota is now the only state in which the state legislature is divided between Democratic- and Republican-controlled chambers. NCSL notes the last time there was only a single divided state legislature was in 1914.