Republicans nationwide given an edge in redistricting


The massive gains by the GOP this election weren’t limited to congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. Republicans won more than 600 state legislative races, taking control of at least 18 chambers across the country and positioning themselves for years of electoral advantage through control of redistricting.

The GOP now holds more state legislative seats than it has since 1928, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Coupled with the strong showing by the GOP in gubernatorial races — the party claimed 11 new seats while losing two to Democrats — Republicans now hold an edge in the once-a-decade battle for power that involves redrawing congressional and state legislative districts.

This year “will go down as a defining political election that will shape the national political landscape for at least the next 10 years,” Tim Storey, elections specialist with the state legislatures conference, said in a news release. “The GOP … finds itself now in the best position for both congressional and state legislative line drawing than it has enjoyed in the modern era of redistricting.”


Even the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, charged with helping get Democrats elected to statehouses, could not put much of a positive spin on the results. “There’s not a ton of good there,” spokeswoman Carolyn Fiddler said. “It does essentially give them a leg up on the redistricting process.”

Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, noted that before Tuesday night, Democrats had controlled 60 state chambers and Republicans 36. Now, he said, Republicans control at least 54.

Gillespie said 18 states will gain or loses seats because of population shifts recorded in the 2010 census, and that “Republicans now have majorities in 10 of those 18 states.”

Republicans control the redrawing of 40 of the 70 most competitive congressional districts, Gillespie added.

Control of a handful of state chambers — including the Colorado House of Representatives and the New York and Alaska state senates — remained in doubt Wednesday. But Republicans seized chambers in states as diverse as Maine, Wisconsin and North Carolina, which elected its first GOP Legislature since Reconstruction.

Notable was the new GOP dominance in key swing states like Ohio, where former U.S. Rep. John Kasich ousted the incumbent Democratic governor and the GOP, which already controlled the state Senate, seized the lower house. The state is expected to lose a U.S. House seat due to census results, and it’s likely that Republicans will ensure it is a Democrat whose district vanishes.


Other key Rust Belt states that are now completely under GOP control include Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In all three, Republicans took over the Legislature and replaced a Democratic governor. They also won a key victory in Florida, where they gained veto-proof majorities in the Legislature and Republican businessman Rick Scott narrowly defeated Democratic state Treasurer Alex Sink for governor.

In a few states, the gubernatorial picture was still unsettled. In Minnesota, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton held a slight lead and a recount seemed inevitable. In Oregon, Democrat John Kitzhaber eked out a narrow win Wednesday night, the Associated Press said.

But the GOP was elated at its statehouse showing.

“The Republicans basically ran the table on governors’ races,” said Chris Grose, a political science professor at USC.

But Grose noted that some states do not rely solely on elected representatives to draw district lines. California voters on Tuesday approved a measure handing over congressional redistricting to an independent commission that is already set up to redraw state legislative lines.

Florida voters approved an initiative to limit the way the Legislature can redraw districts. Additionally, Grose said, new state legislators and governors cannot feel secure in a sour economy that has led to a constant reshuffling of political power during the last four years.

“As long as there is unease and the economy hasn’t totally recovered, there could be a swing in the other direction,” he said.