By Jim Ellis
Nov. 14, 2016 — While there were no significant weekend changes in the uncalled federal races — Michigan remains outstanding in the presidential race (Trump ahead 47.6 – 47.3 percent there), and and we still have two undecided California congressional campaigns (Rep. Ami Bera, D-CA-7, leads Sheriff Scott Jones 50.6 – 49.4 percent; Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA-49, has a 51.0 – 49.0 percent advantage over retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate) — we do have virtually complete state race results.
The legislatures and governors are an important influence at the federal level because in most instances these bodies and officials determine congressional redistricting. With live challenges in Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a possible re-draw of central Texas this coming year, it is not too early to monitor party strength in the newly elected state legislatures.
As we covered in the post-election report series, Republicans earned at least a net gain of two gubernatorial chairs. They converted governors’ mansions in Missouri (Eric Greitens), New Hampshire (Chris Sununu), and Vermont (Phil Scott), while potentially losing North Carolina (Attorney General Roy Cooper-D leading Gov. Pat McCrory-R, but the race is not officially called).
The results change the national gubernatorial count to 33 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and 1 Independent (former Republican Bill Walker of Alaska), assuming Cooper holds his lead in the Tar Heel State. The counting of North Carolina absentee and overseas ballots continue. The party division among the aforementioned statewide officials sets a modern era Republican record.
Eight legislative chambers switched party control or lapsed into a tied situation. Four went from Republican to Democrat (New Mexico House, Nevada Assembly, Nevada Senate, and the Washington Senate). Three converted from Democrat to Republican (Kentucky House, Iowa Senate, and the Minnesota Senate). One legislative chamber, surprisingly the Connecticut Senate, changed from Democratic control to an 18-18 tie.
Though the Democrats now have a one-vote advantage in the Washington Senate, they still may not gain control of the chamber. One Democrat caucuses with the Republicans. If he continues to do so in the next legislative session, the GOP will maintain a working majority.
Overall, Republicans now control 66 legislative chambers to the Democrats’ 30. The unicameral Nebraska legislature (unicameral is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house) is elected on a non-partisan basis, the New York Senate is currently still uncalled, and we have the tie in the Connecticut Senate. The 66 legislative chambers is also an all-time high Republican benchmark.
Republicans gained 136 seats in the various legislative campaigns, while the Democrats switched 91 to their camp. This gives the Republicans a national net gain of 45 state legislative seats. The GOP has full control now in 24 states (governor, both legislative chambers) as compared to just six for Democrats, pending the final outcome in New York.
Early next year certain federal judicial panels, including the US Supreme Court, will be hearing redistricting cases regarding congressional districts in North Carolina and state legislative seats in Alabama and Virginia. The focal point of the lawsuits is once again the process for drawing minority districts. If there are court-mandated changes, it is conceivable that re-draws and possibly even special elections could be ordered.
One place where special elections may well occur is Texas. Part of the central Texas region was declared unconstitutional in 2013, and has yet to be re-drawn. The special three-judge San Antonio federal panel that issued the ruling at that time still has yet to produce a remedy. Such a decision may well come in 2017, and it is possible that the eventual decision could result in special elections being called under a map with new central Texas boundaries.