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State legislative gains give Republicans unprecedented clout to remake districts

The GOP gained at least 680 state legislature seats, giving the party unilateral control to remake the boundaries of 190 congressional districts, an analysis finds. The result is devastating for Democrats.

November 03, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — In New Hampshire's state Senate, Democrats held a four-seat majority heading into Tuesday's elections. When the chamber meets again in January, Democrats will have just five seats total.

The Republicans' 60-seat pickup in Congress – the most by any party in a half-century – appears insignificant when you consider that in the New Hampshire state House, Republicans appear to have gained at least 120 seats.

All told, Republicans gained at least 680 state legislative seats nationwide on Tuesday night, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures, an outcome that could have far-reaching implications for both parties.

Preliminary results indicate that the GOP gained control of at least 19 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers, while holding others where they were already in the majority. Heading into the election, Democrats controlled both houses of 27 state legislatures, while Republicans held both in 14, and eight were evenly divided.

The result is devastating for Democrats in this respect: Many state legislatures control the decennial process of redrawing state legislative and congressional district boundaries. The NCSL now says Republicans have unilateral control of the boundaries of 190 congressional districts.

"2010 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 NCSL, 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."

At a minimum, 54 legislative chambers will be under GOP control when they reorganize, the highest number for Republicans since 1952. They will hold 53% of the total number of seats, nearly 3,900 – the most since 1928.

Other historic firsts include the North Carolina Senate going Republican for the first time since 1870, and both chambers of the Alabama Legislature being held by the party for the first time since Reconstruction.

Individual races for the Senate in Colorado and New York, and for the House in Oregon, could add to the GOP's gains.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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