Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hundreds of seats: GOP sweeps statehouses, too

image Winning at least six seats in the Senate and sending a host of bona fide conservatives to the upper chamber was big. Winning an outright majority and at least 60 seats in the US House of Representatives was a bomb. But maybe the best impact in last night’s forty trillion megaton Republican victory will keep radiating for at least the next ten years.

The GOP’s power reached way down the ballot, sweeping Democrats out of state legislatures across the country. In some states, like Alabama, Republicans took control of both houses of the legislature and won the Governor’s Mansion.  And the Attorney General’s office. AND every seat up for election on the State Supreme Court.  Why are such down-ballot victories so important? This story tells us why:

The GOP picked up at least 19 chambers and hundreds of seats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures -- though the tally is not final and Republican recruitment arm GOPAC pegs the party's chamber pickups at about 23. In several states, Republicans took control of both chambers and the governor's seat.

Though the taking of the U.S. House of Representatives overshadowed the victories for the Republican Party on the state level, the state legislatures take on outsized importance ahead of the 2012 cycle. State governments are responsible for redrawing the congressional districts in accordance with the results of the 2010 Census, and the GOP now has a much stronger voice in that process. 

"It is truly historic that we could flip that many legislative chambers in one off-year election," GOPAC Chairman Frank Donatelli told "It's broad, it's deep and it's across the entire country."

The state-level GOP wave could help their congressional counterparts build a bigger majority in the next cycle. Donatelli noted that it also gives Republicans an immediate chance to push their agenda while the U.S. Congress potentially falls prey to political deadlock.

"We can now begin the reform process in a lot of these states right now. We don't have to wait for 2012 to happen," he said.

For generations, Democrats have used statehouse majorities to carve Congressional District boundaries in ways that protect their incumbency, such as the Texas 18th, the North Carolina 12th, the California 38th and dozens of others. With so many states having new Republican majorities in the legislatures, a lot of those boundaries can be redrawn to blunt the Democrats’ built in advantage and make it easier to consolidate the House majority. With the 2012 Senate election shaping up to be difficult battleground for Democrats, the GOP could have solid majorities in both houses.

That’s why the 2010 election has to be viewed as nothing more than a very important first step.  Tuesday was a big victory, but it’s part of a long process that the left—and the media it uses to maintain its relevance—will battle every step of the way.