The NCSL Blog

06

By Tim Storey

Update 9:39 a.m. EST

After double-checking partisan composition numbers in the more than 6,000 legislative races this year, the extent of Republican success in legislative and governor’s elections is mostly clear. Suffice it to say, it was a banner election for the GOP.

Only the Alaska governor is still undecided and will not be settled until absentee ballots are collected and tabulated. And ,of course, all of the results are preliminary pending certification and recounts.

Republicans ran the table, taking the majority in 11 legislative chambers previously held by Democrats. Those chambers were:

  • Colorado Senate (conceivable that Dems could still hold on after recounts)
  • Maine Senate
  • Minnesota House
  • Nevada Assembly
  • Nevada Senate
  • New Hampshire House
  • New York Senate
  • New Mexico House
  • Washington Senate
  • West Virginia House.
  • West Virginia Senate (after Democratic Senator Daniel Hall switched his party affiliation to Republican).

For governors, Republicans netted three after switching seats in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. Democrat Tom Wolf won a governorship in Pennsylvania.

Factoring in all of those changes, here are the bottom line numbers (the Nebraska unicameral Legislature is nonpartisan):

  • Legislatures: 30 R, 11 D and 8 split
  • Chambers: 68 R, 30 D
  • Governors: 31 R, 18 D and 1 undecided (Alaska)
  • State governments: 23 R, 7 D, 18 divided and 1 undecided (Alaska)

It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 300 and 350 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. That is their highest number of legislators since 1920. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year.

Remarkably, given the Republican wave that swept across the nation, Republicans emerged from the election controlling exactly the same number of state governments as they controlled before the election. Democrats lost many chambers and governors, but most of those states now have divided state government. Alaska could still stay Republican if incumbent governor Sean Parnell pulls out a victory. He currently trails his challenger by more than 3,000 votes. The sharp increase in divided state governments could lead to gridlock. Legislators and governors, however, are more likely to seek compromise especially when it involves the budget since all states but one must pass balanced budgets every year.

Fun facts:

  • Ted Kennedy Jr., son of the late U.S. senator and a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, was elected to the Connecticut Senate on his first try for policial office. Democrats held onto their majority despite a furious push from Republicans.
  • Teenager Saira Blair was part of the Republican surge in West Virginia, so she will become the nation’s youngest legislator at the age of 18 when she takes her oath of office.

StateVote 2014 Resources

Tim Storey is NCSL's legislative elections expert.

Email Tim.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.