Democratic hopes for a resounding electoral victory on Tuesday seem to be ending in disappointment and possible stalemate.
Even as Joe Biden inched closer to clinching the presidency on Thursday night, Republicans appeared poised to defend their Senate majority in runoff elections in Georgia, while House Republicans were projected to reach roughly 210 seats, significantly narrowing Democrats’ advantage.
However, Republicans’ most significant victory this year may be in the state legislatures that will redraw House districts going into the new decade.
Once the 2020 Census is completed and new population data released, state governments will be tasked with redrawing House districts based on shifts in population. While in some cases House districts will be redrawn by government committee, in others the state legislature will form new districts, giving whichever party controls the legislature greater power to influence the mapmaking process. As of Thursday, Republicans appeared poised to gain total control over the drawing of 181 districts, while Democrats would draw just 76 districts, according to Politico.
Democrats had hoped to flip state legislatures in several traditionally Republican states in the 2020 elections. Several Democratic groups poured funds into efforts to flip the Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Arizona state legislatures, including Forward Majority which spent $32 million on the effort.
That effort now appears to have failed. Republicans held on to state legislatures in every state that the party already controlled, including in crucial swing states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. On top of this, Republicans flipped both the House and Senate of the New Hampshire state legislature, and prevented Democrats from gaining control of the upper chamber of Minnesota’s state House, which will give Republicans a say in redistricting parts of the Twin Cities.
Election Day results “will put the Republican Party in a position where we’re able to secure a decade of power across the country,” Austin Chambers, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, told Politico.
The victory in New Hampshire rolled back Democratic gains from a 2018 “blue wave” in the state. Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, cruised to reelection with over 65 percent of the vote, even as the state gave its electoral votes to Joe Biden and reelected Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen.
“I am pleased that Granite State voters rejected the DC style politics that had crept into the Statehouse these last two years, and I am excited to get to work with our new Republican majorities to deliver results for the people of this state,” Sununu said in a statement during the reporting of election results.
The Republican victories in New Hampshire were likely due to Sununu’s widespread popularity, Greg Moore, the state director of conservative group Americans for Prosperity, told Valley News. State Representative Dick Hinch, a Republican, concurred, saying Sununu’s “efforts paid off superbly.” The governor distanced himself from President Trump and even from Congress before the election, at one point stating that all members of the U.S House and Senate should be fired over their inability to pass another round of economic relief for Americans affected by the pandemic.
Democrats’ failure to gain a majority in the Texas state legislature was particularly disappointing for the party. Various polls of the presidential race indicated that Joe Biden would have a chance of flipping the state blue, a possibility Democrats hoped would carry over to local elections.
However, by Wednesday it became clear that Texas would give its electoral votes to President Trump, and Republicans appeared to hold their majority in both houses of the state legislature. Democrats will likely fail to win the nine seats they needed to gain control of the state House. The wins will allow Republicans to draw maps for about 35 U.S. House districts.
“Texas has changed somewhat, but it hasn’t changed from its basic nature,” Bill Miller, an Austin-based lobbyist, told the Texas Tribune. “The more people that vote, the more it will reflect [that].”
Democrats had also hoped to gain seats in the state legislature of Florida, but were held off by Republicans despite massive advertising efforts by progressive groups. Currently Republicans are projected to hold a majority of over 70 seats in the Florida House.
“This year progressive groups and liberal billionaires targeted the Florida House with tens of millions of dollars. They showed up pushing their out of state agenda on Florida voters. And tonight Floridians sent them packing,” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican, told the Miami Herald. “Tonight we won big and received a mandate from the voters to continue to stand up for Floridians and Florida values.”
The strong results for the GOP in Florida came amid an uptick in support for President Trump among Hispanic voters. Around 45 percent of Latinos in the state voted for Trump, and Latinos in Miami-Dade County drove a victory for the president in the state’s most populous district.