The NCSL Blog


By Dan Diorio

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This election year has been full of surprises and Election Day itself didn’t disappoint. While things were certainly memorable at the top of the ticket, state legislative races also made their mark on Tuesday night. Here are some highlights from NCSL StateVote 2016:

  • Republicans claimed an historic victory in the Kentucky House taking a whopping 17 seats from Democrats to gain control of the chamber for the first time since 1922 and only the third time in the history of the state. The Bluegrass state is the last domino to fall for Democrats in the South.  Republicans now control all 30 legislative chambers in the south.
  • Republicans also took control of the Iowa Senate and in the process ousted Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who had been in the legislature since 1983.
  • Republicans managed to tie the Senate in Connecticut a reliably blue state over the past decade. The Delaware Senate is currently 11 Democrats to 10 Republicans but will be tied when Senator Bethany Hall-Long resigns her seat in January to become Lieutenant Governor.
  • In a surprising turn of events, Republicans also took control of the Minnesota Senate 34 to 33. At least two races appear headed for recounts, so this will be a chamber to keep watching.
  • Democrats notched some victories of their own by retaking both chambers of the legislature in Nevada.
  • Democrats also won back the New Mexico House of Representatives.
  • Democrats managed only a symbolic victory in the Washington Senate by achieving a one seat majority 25 D – 24 R because Democratic Senator Tim Sheldon will continue to caucus with Republicans giving them functional control of the chamber.  
  • On the flip side for Democrats—a coalition of Democrats, Independents and several Republicans have put Democrats in charge in the Alaska House despite a GOP numerical majority.
  • Last but not least—Democrats now control every seat in the Hawaii Senate, the first time one party has completely controlled a chamber since 1980.
  • Only the New York Senate remains undecided, with both parties having 31 members and one seat left undecided.

In short, Republicans bested expectations. Having already reached the peak of control in party history, Republicans will maintain a similar level of control, in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.

The count of the partisan 98 chambers currently stands at Republicans 66, Democrats 30, one tie and one undecided.

Dan Diorio is a policy specialist in NCSL's Elections Program.

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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.