Fairly Stable State Legislative Map

It occurred to me that I haven’t written in a good long while about what’s going on in the battle for control of state legislatures. But fortunately, Governing‘s Louis Jacobsen had an update of his unique race ratings just last week. The landscape is a lot like that of the U.S. House, and for a lot of the same reasons: Republicans will benefit from turnout patterns and redistricting, but their gains will be limited by Democratic under-exposure (when you’ve recently lost a lot of seats, there are far fewer marginal seats to lose).

Jacobsen shows a total of 18 chambers at some risk of changing party control, 11 from D to R and 7 from R to D. The biggest disruption could occur in Colorado, where Democrats control the governorship and both legislative chambers; all three are up in the air at the moment, with a shift to all-mail voting creating a lot of uncertainty. Republicans could gain total control in Arkansas by winning the governorship and hanging onto the House. Democrats hope finally to gain control of the New York Senate. And there will be some states where big shifts short of a change of control could be significant: e.g., in California, where Democrats are in danger of losing a supermajority in the Senate, and in North Carolina, where the backlash against a GOP legislature could give Democrats significant gains in both chambers.

As always on and after election night, beware of assessments of shifts in total state legislative seats, since those are wildly overinfluenced by the 400-seat New Hampshire House, where Republicans are very likely to make significant gains. And keep in mind that closely divided legislative chambers are often subject to party-switching and coalition-making, which means that what happens on November 4 may not “stick.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.