After a tumultuous and bitter presidential campaign, with two of the most disliked candidates in recent history, voters sent a powerful message to politicians: Major change must come to Washington. And, they were willing to give Donald Trump, who often declared it was time to "drain the swamp," the chance to do just that. Their message to state legislatures, however, was more like: Stay the course!
Clearly, many voters were fed up with politics, mad at politicians and disgusted with the campaign, which one focus group described as "garbage," says Amy Walter, national editor for The Cook Political Report and frequent panelist for Fox, PBS and NBC.
But how wide and how deep that anger goes is unclear. Voters left the overall partisan landscape in state legislatures relatively unchanged. Only eight chambers shifted party control--well below the average flip of 12 per election cycle. And the turnover rate of legislative seats was just about average, at 25 percent. Furthermore, party control of states, legislatures, chambers and seats hardly moved.
In sum, it was a low-change, almost average election in the states.
That was undoubtedly a relief for GOP legislative leaders who only weeks before Election Day feared major losses. States have been under historically high GOP dominance for the past two years and, despite playing mostly defense throughout the long campaign season, the party will remain in the driver's seat of state policymaking for at least two more years. Republicans even nudged up the tally of legislatures under their complete control from 30 to 32--the most in party history. And now they have a completely Republican government in Washington to work with as well.
The Numbers, Please
Even though Trump claimed a solid win in the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton appears to have narrowly edged him in the popular vote tally. It was a very, very close election at the top of the ticket. Reflecting that, Trump had meager coattails in legislative races. Republicans netted about 40 seats nationwide, marking the second smallest gain in legislatures by a winning president's party since 1900. It should be noted that on eight occasions, presidential candidates had no proverbial coattails and lost legislative seats despite winning the White House.
At press time, the partisan control of the New York Senate was undetermined, because the race between John Brooks (D) and incumbent Michael Venditto (R) was too close to call and a recount looked inevitable. Excluding that district, Democrats and Republicans each won 31 seats in the chamber. The partisan tallies below do not reflect the Empire State Senate, though most observers of Albany politics expect that the chamber will continue to be led by a coalition of Republicans and a splinter group of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic...