GOP’s Down Ballot Sweep
The party adds to its historic dominance at the state level. How a President Donald Trump will change the Republican party isn’t obvious, amid countless media predictions of doom. But one under-reported story of Tuesday’s election is that reform-minded Republicans continued their march in the states, and the party controls a record 69 of 99 legislative majorities across the country.
Republicans flipped three state legislative chambers, including the Iowa senate and Kentucky house, which turned for the GOP for the first time in almost 100 years. Bluegrass State Republicans defeated the house speaker, who was first elected in 1980, and the GOP controls both legislative houses and the governorship. Watch for right-to-work legislation, pension reform and school choice.
Republicans defended majorities in states such as West Virginia, Michigan and Maine, where Democrats dropped $2 million on some senate seats. The GOP held on to supermajorities in the North Carolina house and senate, and it added to majorities in the Wisconsin assembly and senate. The Ohio house supermajority reached an new high. These gains will allow for more innovative ideas from state laboratories.
The GOP also cleaned up in a few Democratic strongholds: Republicans gained four seats in the Illinois house, ending a Democratic supermajority. Great news for Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who has been held hostage on public pensions, education and even passing a budget. The party of Lincoln took the Minnesota senate, and the Connecticut senate is now an 18-18 tie, a result that may save the state from more progressive taxation and spending.
Republicans lost the house and senate in Nevada, a defeat driven by Sen. Harry Reid’s turnout machine and a poor Trump performance in the state. The latter also hurt Republican candidates for the New Mexico house, which Democrats took. Republicans now hold the governorship and both chambers in some 25 states. The number for Democrats? Four.
Republicans also picked up three governorships: Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. This brings the tally to 33 GOP governors. And that doesn’t include a likely recount in North Carolina, where controversial Pat McCrory, known for inflaming the transgender bathroom wars, is less than a point behind his Democratic challenger. Another surprise is that Republicans retained the Indiana governorship that seemed in jeopardy after Mike Pence joined the Trump ticket.
The GOP also can claim more state attorneys general than ever: 29, including one who will be appointed by New Hampshire’s incoming Republican Governor Chris Sununu. The party defended all of its incumbents, not least West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, whose Democratic challenger spent $3 million of his own money and lost by 10 points. State AGs have become more prominent amid President Obama’s executive overreaches, and these lawyers may also be important to rein in any excesses of a Trump presidency.
This Republican dominance is remarkable given that Democrats in recent years have aggressively targeted state races. George Soros and Tom Steyer this year tried but failed to flip a narrow GOP majority in the Colorado senate. A big reason for the success is the Republican State Leadership Committee, an outgrowth of the Republican National Committee chaired by former Congressman Bill McCollumthat turns out quality candidates.
Here’s another reason the sweeps are significant: Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell may work with Mr. Trump to pass legislation that devolves school funding to the states or block grants Medicaid. They’ll need allies in the states to carry out the project, and now they have more.
All of this is only part of the GOP’s success, which includes 31 lieutenant governors and 31 secretaries of state, even one in Oregon. Mr. Trump’s victory may have shocked the political system, but Tuesday’s results suggest that the troubles in the Democratic Party run deeper than a loss for Hillary Clinton.