DemDaily: Status of State Control: Governors & Legislatures

November 12, 2020


While the results of the presidential marked a number of historic shifts in voter performance, the status of control of the state houses and mansions remains relatively unchanged.

Of the 11 governors races up November 3rd, Republicans flipped control in Montana to increase their share of the nation's governorships by one, and of the 86 legislative chambers up, only two switched party control.

Regardless, the key lies not in the numbers but which party holds state control going into 2021 redistricting.

Although Democrats failed to secure the anticipated blue wave of victories, they can be grateful for the blue wall of Democratic Governors who are the last line of defense in fending off Trump's challenges to the count in Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Governors
Going into November's elections, Republicans held 26 Governors' seats to Democrats' 24. Eleven states held gubernatorial elections in 2020, with Republicans defending seven seats compared to Democrats' four.

Democrats made great gains in 2018, when thirty-six states held gubernatorial elections. They flipped seven Republican-held gubernatorial seats in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin, while Republicans picked up the open gubernatorial seat in Alaska, which had previously been held by an independent.

(Image: NYT)

Of the three contests in 2019, Republicans held Mississippi's governorship, Democrats held Louisiana's, and Kentucky switched party hands from Republican to Democratic.

In 2020, Republicans were defending seven seats compared to Democrats' four. Going into the election just one race, the open seat in Montana being vacated by term-limited incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock, was considered a toss up.

The state's at-large Republican Congressman, Greg Gianforte, defeated Bullock's lieutenant governor, Mike Cooney, to flip the seat and increase the GOP's share of the nation's governorships by one to 27, with Democrats controlling 23.

Elections also took place in two US territories. In American Somoa's officially non-partisan race, current Democratic-affiliated Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Palepoi Mauga won the general election, and in Puerto Rico, former Resident Commissioner and New Progressive Party candidate Pedro Pierluisi, was victorious.

State Legislatures
Going into the elections, Republicans held a majority in 59 of 99 state chambers and Democrats controlled 39. One more, the Alaska House, has a power-sharing agreement between the parties as part of a coalition.

Although the GOP leads substantially in overall chamber control, the margin narrows significantly when calculating the actual seats held, with Democrats occupying approximately 47% to Republican's 52%. Those numbers boosted Democratic hopes of either flipping the balance of power, or increasing their share of it, in a dozen close chambers where the legislature will determine their state's new congressional district maps.

(Image: NCSL)

Of the 86 chambers in 44 states that held legislative elections on November 3rd, however, just two legislative chambers switched party control. The New Hampshire Senate and House moved back to Republican control, after both were flipped by Democrats in 2018.

This means 2020 will see the least party control changes on Election Day since at least 1944 when only four chambers changed hands.

State Control
With the GOP gubernatorial win in Montana, and the New Hampshire chamber victories, Republicans now have full control over both state governments, meaning they hold the governor's mansion and both state legislatures.

The end result means Republicans now control 23 states, Democrats control 15, and In 11 states, one power position is held by a different party than the other two. On to redistricting!

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Kimberly Scott

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Resources: New York Times, AP, Ballotpedia, NCSL

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