The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

The big surprise among Tuesday's legislative elections was the Democrats' larger-than-expected surge in the Virginia House of Delegates.

IKarina Smith holds her son Kyler Smith, 2, as she fills out her ballot at a polling place Tuesday in Alexandria, Va. (Alex Brandon/AP)n Virginia, only the 100 House of Delegates seats were on the ballot, since Old Dominion senators serve four-year terms and aren’t up for election again until 2019.

The Democrats are giddy this morning after exceeding their best hopes by possibly gaining a tie in the Virginia House of Delegates, and maybe even taking a 51 D to 49 R majority. It looks like the House is 49-49 with at least two races two close to call and a couple of others destined for a recount.

In New Jersey, all 80 Assemblymembers and all 40 Senators were up for election yesterday. Going into the election, Democrats in the Assembly were up 52 to 27 (with one vacancy), and Democrats in the Senate were up 24 to 16. Now, post-election, the Assembly stands 54 Democrats, 24 Republicans and two races too close to call. The Senate now stands at 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney fended off a very tough challenge in what was likely the most expensive state legislative race in U.S. history—topping $20 million in total spending.

Washington’s Senate had a single special election that caught national attention, the open race in District 45, northeast of Seattle. The Democrat, Manka Dhingra, defeated Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund. This race mattered because Democrats have held a nominal 25-24 advantage in the Senate, but they have not had functional control because one Democrat caucuses with the Republicans. With the win in the 45th, however, the Democrats are truly in charge now. Washington had seven other special elections, four in the Senate and three in the House, but these didn’t change partisan control.

In looking at legislative control, there are three statistics to watch: the number of chambers held by each party, legislative control (representing the number of legislatures where both chambers are held by one party), and state control (a measure that adds the governor’s party to chamber). Nebraska doesn’t count in these states because it is unicameral, and its legislators are elected on a nonpartisan basis.

Here’s what’s stayed the same and what has changed:


Chamber control: 31 held by Democrats, 67 held by Republicans (for a total of 98 chambers)

Legislative control: Republicans hold both chambers in 32 states, Democrats hold both in 14 states, and three states have divided control (for a total of 49 states)

State control: Republicans held all seats of power in 24 states, Democrats in seven, with 18 states with divided control (for a total of 49 states)


Chamber control: 31 held by Democrats, 66 held by Republicans, and the Virginia House is too close to call yet (for a total of 98 chambers)

Legislative control: Republicans hold both chambers in 31 states, Democrats hold both in 14 states, three states have divided control, and Virginia remains unknown (for a total of 49 states)

State control: Republicans hold all seats of power in 24 states and Democrats do so in eight, with 17 states under divided control (for a total of 49 states)

Intrigued? Check NCSL’s StateVote 2017 webpage for more information. You’ll find details on legislative races, governors races and the results of all 27 of 2017’s statewide ballot measures.

Wendy Underhill is the director of elections at NCSL.

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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.