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Gillespie eyes big gains for GOP at state level

Midwest races pivotal for redistricting

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2010

Republicans will pick up a minimum of 10 state legislative chambers in November, putting the party in a much stronger position for the coming battles on redistricting and the battle for control of the House, Republican State Legislative Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie predicted Thursday.

The former Republican Party chairman and counsel to President George W. Bush said the GOP will see an especially strong rebound in the Great Lakes states, the crucial electoral battlegrounds of the 1990s that have drifted away from the party in recent years.

If Mr. Gillespie is right, the shift in statehouse control would be the largest gain since the 1994 "wave" election that swept Republicans to power in Congress and that yielded the GOP a net gain of 19 state legislative chambers.

RSLC Vice Chairman Tom Reynolds said that "under a best-case scenario," the GOP would gain control of enough state legislative chambers to ensure that when the electoral map is redrawn after this year's national census, Republicans will have at least 20 - maybe 25 - additional safe congressional districts.

The RSLC has set a goal to raise at least $30 million for state candidates in the fall elections, Mr. Gillespie said. That would be about $10 million more than Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spokeswoman Carolyn Fiddler told The Washington Times her organization expects to raise for Democratic state lawmakers.

Of the more than $30 million the RSLC expects to gross in contributions, the organization hopes to net $18 million or more to be spent for selected state GOP candidates, from lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state on down to state senator and state house member, RSLC Executive Director Chris Jankowski said.

Control of the state legislature and the governorship potentially can give one party total control of redrawing House district lines for states that will gain or lose seats when the 2010 census numbers are tabulated. Individual states differ in how they deal with redistricting, with some giving governors and independent commissions a larger say in the process.

"In Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, there's a very good chance there will be Republican governors, Republican House speakers and Republican Senate majority leaders," a beaming Mr. Gillespie said over scrambled eggs and sausages with reporters on Thursday. "In Illinois, there will be a Republican governor and possibly a Republican state House, and in Wisconsin, a Republican governor and Republican state chambers as well."

"Add to that the governors races that are in play along the Great Lakes," Mr. Gillespie said at the breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

The RSLC looms large on the electoral stage across the county, providing financial help on behalf of all GOP state candidates below the level of governor, said Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and former Virginia GOP chairman.

The rival DLCC plans to raise $20 million to help Democratic state legislative candidates only, DLCC spokeswoman Fiddler said in a phone interview. She said the DLCC would spend at least $12 million on hiring operatives to run the campaigns of Democrats seeking state legislative seats.

Republicans - now in control of both legislative houses in 14 states and one house in eight other states - are concentrating efforts on big states in the Midwest-Great Lakes region that will significantly affect the makeup of a new electoral map and that the party considers as winnable.

The legislative chambers that Mr. Gillespie thinks are "pretty certain to flip from Democrat to Republican" are the state Senate in Wisconsin and the state House chambers in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He is "confident" the GOP will take at least six of the "next 12 chambers in play" - both the state House and state Senate in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina; only the state lower chamber in Michigan and Wisconsin; and only the state Senates in Oregon and New York.

In addition to the party's pickups, Mr. Gillespie predicted Republicans will hold all the state-level chambers they now have, a feat he labeled as "one of the hallmarks of a 'wave' election year."

The RSLC, a nonprofit organized in 2002, is not an arm of the national Republican Party the way that the RNC and the GOP House and Senate campaigns committees are, Mr. Jankowski said. Nor is the RSLC subject to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law's limits on contributions.

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