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Republicans Have Gained Strength in State Legislatures and Governorships

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, front right, and Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, front left, both Republicans, discuss the state budget, June 26, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio is resuming executions using a three-drug combination.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, front right, and Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, front left, both Republicans, discuss the state budget, June 26, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio is resuming executions using a three-drug combination.
During Obama Presidency, Republicans Have Sharply Increased Their Control of State Legislatures and Governorships
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Republicans in the United States have not won a presidential election since 2004, but they are much stronger on the state government level than the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party has sharply increased its control of state legislatures and governorships during the presidency of Barack Obama. Obama, a Democrat, will leave office in January 2017 after serving eight years as president.

Democrats control 919 fewer seats in state legislatures than they did in 2009 -- when Obama first took office. That information comes from the Pew Research Center and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republicans control 67 of 98 state house and senate chambers. That is more than at any time in the history of the Republican Party. Democrats control 31.

Fifty-five percent of the country’s more than 1,900 state senators are Republican. Fifty-six percent of the more than 5,350 state representatives are Republican.

There are about 4,040 Republican state legislators and about 3,100 Democratic legislators nationwide. That is the largest number of Republican state lawmakers since 1920.

The Republican Party has controlled a majority of the state legislatures since the 2010 elections, when the Democrats lost control of 24 legislatures.

This year, the U.S. elections take place on November 8th. Voters will fill a total of 5,917 legislative seats in 44 states. That is more than 80 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide.

Currently, Republicans control both legislative chambers in 30 states, the highest number since 1978. Democrats control 12, the lowest number since 1978.

Republicans control the state house, state senate and governor’s office in 23 states. Democrats have that level of control in just seven states. There are 31 Republican governors, 18 Democrats and one Independent. The mayor of Washington, DC is a Democrat.

Political experts say the increase in Republican control of state governments has happened for many reasons.

One reason is that the Republicans have outspent and outworked Democrats at the local and state levels. Another is that white voters have been leaving the Democratic Party -- especially in the “Deep South.” That is an area that includes Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. It also includes parts of five other states -- Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas.

In 1964, Democrats held or controlled almost all of the political offices in the Deep South. That is the year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The measure gave legal protection to minorities.

Some observers believe the Civil Rights Act is the main reason many whites have left the Democratic Party.

Tim Storey is an expert on the U.S. elections at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He notes that Republicans have been slowly gaining control of the South for the past 25 years.

“By 2008, Republicans had gained 46 percent of all seats in Southern legislatures, and today they hold 63 percent of the seats” and every governorship, he added.

Republicans control both of the legislative chambers of every Southern state except for Kentucky, which has a small Democratic majority. Every U.S. Senator in the Deep South is a Republican and a large majority of House members from the Deep South are Republicans. There are no white Democrats serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from the South.

In a report, the Democratic National Committee noted the increase in the Republican Party’s control of state governments. It said the party worked for more than 30 years “organizing, fostering talent and [making] significant financial investments at the state and local level.”

Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza called the report “largely useless” because it did not have specific plans to take back control of state legislatures and governorships from Republicans.

“The reality -- and this is one of the least-appreciated stories in politics these days -- is that Democrats have been badly beaten by Republicans at the state and legislative level over the past decade,” he wrote.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA’s Christopher Jones-Cruise reported this story and wrote it in Special English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

legislator – n. a person who makes laws; a member of a legislature

chamber – n. a group of people who form part of a government

outspent – v. to spend more money than someone or something

outworked – v. to work harder or better than

foster – v. to help (something) grow or develop

specific – adj. special; clearly and exactly stated

decade – n. a period of ten years


Here are some other facts about Republican control of state legislatures and governorships:

*Since 1900, an average of 12 legislative chambers have passed from one party to the other every two years.

*In the 2012 elections, the Democratic Party took back control of eight chambers, but lost five to the Republicans. Two years later, the Republicans took control of 11 more chambers from the Democrats. And Republicans won a majority of seats in the West Virginia house and senate for the first time in 83 years!

*Democrats controlled both the house and senate in 27 states as recently as 2010.

*Thirty years ago, almost every House district in the Deep South was represented by white Democrats. Now, none are.

*For the first time since 2008, Republicans have more support in public opinion surveys in more states -- 20 -- than Democrats, who lead in 14. In 2008, Democrats had a majority of support in 35 states and Republicans had a majority in just five states.