By Tim Storey
The races have been called (mostly). The parties are over, and the tears are dried. It’s now time to take stock of what happened yesterday, legislatively speaking.
The big news is that Democrats made modest gains while Republicans held their robust lead in terms of legislative control. Democrats gained control of six chambers, although Republicans still have a sizable overall advantage in total legislative chambers: R: 61, D: 37. That tallies to 98 chambers because Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature is technically nonpartisan.
In terms of overall legislative control (both House and Senate), Dems gained control of four on Tuesday. Republicans will control 30 versus the Democrats’ 18 when sessions convene in January. Minnesota is now the only state where legislative control is divided. It’s the lowest number of divided legislatures in more than 100 years, matching 1914 when Montana was the only state with a split legislature.
As for state control, which includes the governor along with the legislature, Democrats went from controlling eight to 14.
That’s not all, folks. More fun facts:
- No surprise. The party of the president lost seats (and chambers) in this midterm as usual. That’s par for the course—in 28 of the midterm elections held since 1900, that’s been true.
- More than 330 seats nationwide shifted from Republican to Democrat. That is short of the typical losses suffered by the party in the White House. The average loss to the president’s party in midterms since 1902 is 424 legislative seats.
- Among the six chambers won by Ds were the New Hampshire House, the Maine Senate and the Minnesota House. Those three chambers have been very volatile in recent years. They have all switched party control in four of the last five elections.
- The Connecticut Senate went from tied to Democratic control. Since 1900, the Connecticut Senate has changed hands 23 times—more than any other state legislative body in the United States.
- No chambers will be tied going into next year’s sessions. At least one legislative chamber was tied from 1966 until 2011, and then Connecticut wound up tied in 2016.
- Two top legislative leaders lost their elections, North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson and New Hampshire House Speaker Gene Chandler.
- The Republican caucus in the Hawaii Senate took a huge leap forward, from zero members to one.
- It is very likely that more women will serve in state legislatures come January than at any point in American history. The numbers are still being crunched.
- In the Nevada Assembly, women will hold a majority of all seats—22 out of 42.
- As occasionally happens, a legislative candidate passed away shortly before Election Day, but the name remained on the ballot. Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof, who died Oct. 15, won his race on Tuesday, getting more than 17,000 votes.
For a map of partisan control, see NCSL’s StateVote 2018 page.
Tim Storey is NCSL’s director of state services.