Republicans Likely to Make Big Gains
By Heather Perkins, CSG Membership Data Manager
In less than a week, voters will head to the polls to determine who will lead their states into 2011 and beyond. In contrast to the huge Democratic successes of 2008, the upcoming election appears to be less than promising for the party. Republicans are looking to make significant gains in both the state houses and governor’s mansions. The question on Nov. 2 will not be if Democrats will lose control of states, but rather, how big those losses will be.
Democrats hold 28 governorships (including American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands), while Republicans hold 26 (including Guam and Puerto Rico). With 39 of the 55 state and territorial gubernatorial seats up for election, all signs point to Republicans picking up wins in several states currently led by Democrats.
As many as seven states with current Democratic governors could be taken over by Republicans after next week’s elections, according to the most recent polls by the Rasmussen Reports. The Republican candidates in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming are all polling ahead of their Democratic opponents.
Incumbents in all but two of these states aren’t running due to term limits. Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson did not seek re-election, and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is losing in the polls to Republican challenger Terry Branstad.
In addition to these potential switches, a handful of states are leaning toward a party switch. Governor’s mansions in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin all have the possibility of switching parties. With the exception of California, all of these states are headed by Democratic governors. Polling indicates that the Republican candidates are ahead in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is slightly ahead in California, and Independent Lincoln Chafee has a slim lead in the Rhode Island governor’s race.
At least eight states have races that are too close to call at this point. Four of those states—Colorado Colorado, Maine, Ohio and Oregon—are currently led by Democrats. The other four—Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont—are Republican-led.
After next week’s elections, Republicans likely will have a firm hold on the gubernatorial majority over Democrats, with gains ranging from five to 10 governor’s mansions.
The current makeup of state legislatures is decidedly Democratic. Democrats control both chambers in 27 states, while Republicans hold both in 14. In eight states—Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—legislative party control is split. As is the case with the gubernatorial races, Republicans stand to make big gains in state legislatures.
Some states such as Georgia and Wyoming (Republican controlled) and Massachusetts and Minnesota (Democratic controlled) seem to be safe from party switches, but dozens of chambers are potential tossups or possible control switches. Democratic chambers could be in danger of losing their majorities in a number of states. The Council of State Governments has identified possible party control switches:
Indiana House – Democrats hold a slim 52 to 48 advantage over Republicans in the Indiana House. In a state with a Republican-controlled Senate coupled with the national and state momentum of the GOP, Republicans could be headed toward taking control of this chamber in 2011.
Montana House – Currently evenly split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the Montana House is likely to become Republican-controlled after Tuesday’s election. With a less than 50 percent approval rating for President Obama and a Tea Party following in the state, it seems very probable Republicans could tip the balance in their favor.
Ohio House – Democrats took control of the Ohio House after the 2008 elections and it looks like their reign will have been short-lived. With only a six-seat advantage, 53 to 46, Democrats will most likely relinquish control to Republicans. Like Indiana, Ohio already has a Republican-controlled Senate. Additionally, the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate have slight leads in the latest polls, which would suggest the Republicans have a good chance of taking over.
Pennsylvania House – Democrats control the Pennsylvania House with a 104 to 98 margin (and one vacant seat). With only a six seat difference in a 203 seat chamber, Republicans have a shot at gaining control of the House. Pennsylvania is another state with a Republican-controlled Senate, and it wouldn’t take much to swing the House in the GOP’s favor, especially with the close U.S. Senate and governor’s races where Republicans hold slight leads for seats currently held by Democrats.
For coverage of the Nov. 2 elections, outcomes and potential policy implications, check out the CSG Elections Center. CSG will be providing information and analysis leading up to and immediately following next week’s contests.