Legislative Race Update

by John Hood

In the New York state senate, the current tally is 29 Democrats, 29 Republicans, and four seats yet to be called. All four are currently held by Dems. In two of the races, Dems have slight leads. In the other two, Republicans lead, in one case by a sizable margin. A tied senate will still constitute another loss of a Democratic chamber, though GOP leaders still say there’s a chance one of the Democratic leads will flip when all the ballots are counted. The Syracuse Post-Standard has a good update here.

Tim Storey, the political analyst for the National Conference of State Legislators, has posted a nice summary of the 2010 results. Republicans now hold more state legislative seats than any time since 1928 and more legislative chambers than any time since 1952.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Republicans made significant gains in a number of states that already had GOP legislatures. The larger majorities will mean an easier time enacting conservative legislation. In Texas, for example, Republicans held only a two-seat margin in the state house going into Tuesday but emerged with a whopping 99 to 51 majority after the votes were counted. Similarly, the Tennessee house went from a two-seat Republican edge to a 30-seat Republican supermajority.

In total, Republicans nationwide have picked up at least 680 legislative seats, the largest gain in a single year since the Republican wave of 1966. Storey points out that the swing was even larger than in 1974, when the post-Watergate Democratic surge wiped out the Republicans in many places. In my home state of North Carolina, the ’74 wave left precisely one Republican standing in a 50-seat state senate. Today, for the first time since the 1870s, Republicans have a majority in that chamber — and the grandson of that lone ’74 survivor is now a senator serving in an historic GOP majority.

Some Republicans are obviously disappointed with some U.S. Senate candidacies that fell just short. But they need to look down the ballot. The difference between 47 and 49 U.S. Senators is mostly symbolic. The difference between an overwhelmingly Democratic set of state governments and a strongly Republican set of state governments is pivotal.

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