GOP makes big gains at the state level

Days ago, even some Republican strategists were predicting a civil war that would tear apart their party for years to come. By Wednesday morning, it became clear that the GOP holds nearly unprecedented control not only in Washington, but also in state capitals across the country.

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Republicans expanded their ranks of governors, winning Democratic-held seats in Vermont, New Hampshire and Missouri. The party also made gains in state executive offices and in legislatures across the country.  

By Wednesday morning, Republicans had won control of the Iowa state Senate, the Kentucky House and the Minnesota state Senate. 

Democrats gained enough seats to pick up control of both chambers in Nevada’s state legislature, as well as the New Mexico state House. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) leads Gov. Pat McCrory (R) by just 5,000 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast; the Associated Press has not called that race.

The results mean Republicans appear likely to have added to their already considerable power in the states, riding a wave of populism headed by President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE

“The movement that Trump has brought to Washington is one that has been roiling for several cycles within the states,” said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee. “We’ve seen that in ’10, ’12, ’14, that momentum and energy building from the states up, from the ground up. It’s been happening for years, and it’s now come to Washington, D.C.”

If current results hold, Republicans will control 69 of 99 legislative chambers across the country. Democrats will control only 30, the same breakdown as before voters went to the polls.

Republicans defended virtually every state legislature where their narrow majorities were in peril. The party appears to have preserved narrow one-seat majorities in the New York and Washington state Senates, both chambers in which a Democrat caucuses with Republicans to give them control. Republicans also defended slender majorities in state Senate chambers in Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire and West Virginia. 

In two of the three states where Republicans won new majorities — Kentucky and Iowa — GOP victories mean the party will control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) now faces a Republican legislature for the final two years of his term. 

Adding insult to Democratic injury, Republicans won control in Iowa and Kentucky in part by ousting Democratic leaders. Iowa state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D), who heads the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, lost his bid for reelection in western Pottawattamie County by eight percentage points. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) conceded defeat in his eastern Floyd and Pike County district.  

Even in states where Democrats hold an edge, Republicans made important gains. In Illinois, Republicans won enough seats in the state Senate to sustain Gov. Bruce Rauner’s (D) vetoes, though Democrats maintain the majority. 

In Connecticut’s Senate, Republicans picked up three seats, enough to create a tie. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) would break tie votes, giving Democrats control of the chamber. It is the closest Connecticut Republicans have come to winning control since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide win carried the party to power in what is otherwise a deep blue state.

“While we didn’t flip all the chambers we’d hope to, we picked up seats in a number of states like Kansas, Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire,” said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director at the DLCC. 

Fiddler pointed to narrow tallies in New York: One Republican candidate on Long Island leads by just 33 votes, while another leads by 2,425 votes. Both races are likely headed to recounts.

Nevada represented one of the few Democratic bright spots on Tuesday. Democrats won majorities in both the state Assembly and the Senate, held retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees GOP has always been aggressive in trying to weaponize the system of judicial nominations Republicans come full circle with Supreme Court battle to the end MORE’s (D) seat and won back two suburban Las Vegas House seats held by Reps. Joe Heck (R) and Cresent Hardy (R).

Elsewhere on the ballot, Republicans were celebrating significant inroads in state executive offices around the country. 

In Missouri, Republicans held only one of four executive offices before Election Day. On Tuesday, Republicans won all four seats. 

In Montana, former state Sen. Corey Stapleton (R) ousted incumbent Secretary of State Monica Lindeen (D) by an 18-point margin. Oregon elected state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R) as its new Secretary of State over Brad Avakian, the incumbent Commissioner of Labor and Industries. And West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) lost her bid for reelection to Republican Mac Warner.

Republicans also won the state Treasurer’s seat in Washington, where two Republican candidates advanced to the general in this year’s all-party primary. Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson (R) will replace Treasurer Jim McIntire (D), who retired. And Mike Casey, a Republican, leads North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin by a margin of 39,000 votes out of nearly 2.5 million cast.