It was a GOP tsunami at the state level where Republicans gained the largest number of legislative seats since the Great Depression, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Republicans added at least 680 legislative seats, the biggest advance by either party since 1966, exceeding the Democratic gains in 1974 after the Watergate debacle and Republican President Richard Nixon’s downfall.
In this year’s midterm elections, Republicans emerged with 3,890 legislative seats, or 53 percent of the total in the entire country, highest number for the GOP since 1928, NCSL reports. As a result, Republicans will control at least 54 of the total 99 legislative chambers, most since 1952.
Consider these historic turns: In North Carolina, the state senate swung to Republican control for the first time since 1870. In Alabama, both houses of the legislature went a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction.
The 2010 election will be a defining event “that will shape the national political landscape for at least the next 10 years,” said Tim Storey, NCSL elections specialist, on the organization’s website.
It comes down to who does the redrawing of lines for congressional and state legislative districts. Storey said the GOP will have unilateral control of about 190 of the 435 U.S. House districts, placing the party in the best position since the 1962 landmark Supreme Court decision laying down the one-person, one-vote rule.
Republicans will now control the redistricting in some of key states including Texas and Florida which will gain congressional seats and Ohio which will lose seats.
The election culminated two decades of growth in Republican strength in the South. Contrasting 1990 when the GOP controlled no legislative chambers and only a quarter of the seats in the region, Tuesday’s results give Republicans control of 18 legislative chambers and more than half the seats. In the Midwest where Democrats long held sway, that party now holds only 38 percent of the legislative seats, lowest point since 1956.
Democrats lost from the outset because of an “enthusiasm gap,” Storey said. They failed to recruit and field anywhere near the number of Republican candidates. With about 11,000 candidates for 6,115 legislative seats in this election, there were 822 more Republicans in the running than two years ago — contrasting 50 fewer candidates put up by the Democrats compared to 2008.
The reversal of political party fortunes is graphically shown in the turnover of state House speakers: From the current 32 Democrats and 17 Republicans holding speakerships, when the new legislatures convene next year there will be 30 Republicans and 15 Democrats wielding the speaker’s gavel.
Here in Georgia, the Republican sweep was complete, leaving Democrats without a single statewide office for the first time since Reconstruction.
Now comes the hard part: governing in a time of deficits and tight budgets.