As the results of the midterm election continue to come in, the extent of the Democratic wave is becoming larger than it seemed on Tuesday night. Not all House races have been called, but it appears that, when the dust settles, Democrats will have gained at least 35 seats. In the Senate, Republicans seem to have gained three seats (with Arizona and Florida still not settled) due to a very friendly map.
But beyond these headline congressional matchups, the blue wave extended to the state level. Democrats won full control of state governments in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Nevada. At the same time, Republicans lost control of four states, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, as voters decided to divide the branches of government. The only state that moved from divided government to Republican control was Alaska.
As the nation moves toward redistricting after the 2020 census, increased control of state governments gives Democrats an edge in many states where drawing congressional districts is a partisan process. The Republican wave of 2010 and its influence on the redistricting that followed helped to blunt Republican losses this year, which was still the largest Democratic wave since the Watergate era.
In gubernatorial races, Democrats flipped seven states from red to blue. Even though Democrats lost high profile races in Florida and Georgia, the party quietly took control of governor’s mansions in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. The only state where Republicans added a governorship was Alaska, where Republican Mike Dunleavy succeeded independent Bill Walker.
Democrats took full control of the state legislatures in Colorado, Maine, and New York, all of which had been formerly split with Democrats in control of one house and Republicans the other. In Minnesota, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, making the state the only divided legislature in the country. Per the National Conference of State Legislatures, next year, Republicans will control 30 legislatures and 21 state governments and Democrats will control of 18 legislatures and 14 states.
Before the election, Republicans held a narrow advantage in the share of state legislators. Republicans had 52 percent of state legislators compared with 47 percent for Democrats. Those numbers have not been updated since the election due to many races still being undecided.
Judgeships are often overlooked in elections since judges are appointed in some states and nonpartisan in others. There was, however, at least one smashing victory for Democratic judicial candidates. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke lost but his surge of Democrat voters increased Democrat control of state appeals courts to seven of 14, including the influential courts in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. Before the election, Democrats controlled only three of these courts.
As more election results trickle in, it is more and more apparent that there was a blue wave. The fact that Republicans extended their hold on the Senate and won highly publicized gubernatorial races in Florida and Georgia masked many of the gains made by Democrats this week. It would be a mistake for Republicans to laugh off the Democrat wave based on winning red state Senate seats and governorships by narrow margins. Unless Republicans can reverse the voter anger at President Trump and their party, they may be in for more devastating election in the years to come.
A hidden result of Barack Obama’s Administration was that, even though Democrats retained the presidency for eight years, they lost more than a thousand legislative seats in Congress and around the country. As Republican unpopularity mounts, Democrats are on track to regain many of these lost seats.