During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 election cycles, Republicans made historic gains in state and local government. In some states, they won majorities in their state legislatures for the first time since the 19th century. In others, they elected GOP governors and legislatures simultaneously for the first time in decades.
As candidates begin to announce their 2012 intentions, it looks as if Democrats will be playing offense in legislative races and Republicans will be playing offense in gubernatorial and other statewide contests. Right now, the GOP has more power in state capitals than at any time since the 1920s. There are 29 Republican governors, 20 Democratic ones, and an independent. There are 27 Republican legislatures, 15 Democratic ones, seven splits, and one nonpartisan (Nebraska). Republicans hold 53 percent of state-senate seats and 54 percent of state-house seats.
Redistricting, demographic shifts, and local political and economic dynamics make it difficult to know right now which states will feature the most significant contests. But it is likely that we’ll see competitive races for governor in Washington, Montana, North Carolina, and New Hampshire (all currently Democratic) and competitive races for legislative chambers in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, among others.