- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002


Reflecting the national picture, Republicans racked up victories in statehouses across the country, taking control of Democratic-dominated chambers and likely giving the Republican Party a majority of seats for the first time in half a century.

"It was a banner night for the GOP," said Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, who said Republicans will have a net gain of about 200 seats and control of 21 statehouses.

That contrasts with a traditional midterm election, he said, in which the party in the White House typically loses about 350 seats.

Preliminary returns showed Democrats with control of 18 legislatures and nine others split between the two parties. Oregon's contests were undecided. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature that is nonpartisan.

"You may say the country's balanced, but I think it tipped over a little last night," said Tom Hofeller, who coordinated redistricting for the Republican National Committee.

Before Tuesday's vote, Democrats had a slight edge controlling legislatures in 18 states, compared with 17 for the Republicans.

Though state legislators lack the high profile of governors or congressmen, political analysts say they have enormous influence on everyday concerns, tackling such issues as schools, crime and health care.

After the 2000 census, redistricting and term limits reshaped the political landscape in legislative contests, ending the careers of hundreds of lawmakers and forcing others to run in politically hostile territory.

Texas Republicans reaped the benefits of a favorable redistricting, which gave them control of the state House for the first time in 130 years.

"This is a historic victory for Republicans and the people of Texas," said Susan Weddington, chairman of the state Republican Party.

A Republican sweep in statewide offices also affected the Texas Senate, where the Republican Party picked up a 19-12 majority going into the next legislative session.

One of the few bright spots for Democrats was Illinois, where they swept at the state level, thanks to redistricting: They recaptured the Senate for the first time in a decade, increased their ranks in the House and won the governor's race, ending 25 years of Republican rule.

Democrats also could take comfort in fending off Republicans in the Oklahoma House, extending their majority to 53-48. The Republican Party had been so confident there that it had prepared a leadership manual called "Eighty Long Years" to guide them after the election a reference to the fact Republicans had not had a House majority since 1922.

Democrats also held the North Carolina Senate.

But those successes were overshadowed by a string of Republican wins that spanned the country. Among them were:

• Missouri's House, where Republicans had been in the minority for nearly a half century.

• Arizona's Senate, which had been tied.

• Senates in Colorado and Wisconsin.

Unofficial results also show Republicans picked up numerous state legislative seats elsewhere, including Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

"The Republicans did a far better job of targeting the chambers they felt they could get," said Constance Campanella, president of Stateside Associates, a consulting firm that tracks legislation in states for businesses across the country. "It's good old-fashioned mano a mano politics."

Mr. Storey said Democrats controlled 51 percent of the seats nationwide going into Tuesday's election, but Republicans should now surpass that a first since 1952.

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