- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004


Republicans seemed likely to continue their advance in statehouses across the country yesterday, taking control of the Tennessee Senate and on the verge of grabbing the Indiana House in two of the most closely watched legislative contests in 44 states.

Aided by redrawn legislative districts, the GOP also battled for the Georgia House — which would give it control of state government there for the first time since Reconstruction.

Democrats lost the Georgia governorship in 2002, and lost the Senate shortly after that election when four senators switched parties.

In Tennessee, Republicans also have not enjoyed an elected majority in the state’s upper chamber since Reconstruction. They picked up two seats by beating Democratic incumbents, assuring the GOP at least a 17-16 majority.

Heading into Election Day, Republicans held both chambers in 21 states, the Democrats had both in 17, and control was divided in 11. Nebraska has just one legislative chamber and is officially nonpartisan.

In the Indiana House, Republicans looked poised to gain control for the first time since 1996 after at least four Democrat incumbents lost.

With Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.’s victory in the governor’s race, it would be the first time since 1987 that one party has held the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature.

In North Carolina, both parties were aiming for control of the House, which has been governed by a co-speakership since the 2002 election. The Oregon Senate is also tied.

Typically, about a dozen legislative chambers change hands every election cycle, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Analysts were predicting about that number this year, though they say it could be higher; in 25 of the 84 chambers with seats being contested, a shift of as few as three seats could alter the balance of power.

About 5,800 seats were being contested nationwide.

Republicans hoped to build on a 20-year trend of success in statehouse races that in 2002 gave them a majority of seats nationwide for the first time in a half-century.

But their lead coming in was slim — less than 60 nationwide — and Democrats were hoping massive voter turnout efforts tied to the presidential race would boost their local candidates.

Experts have identified about a dozen chambers as strong candidates for a switch in party control. In some states, including Georgia, Washington and North Carolina, both the House and Senate were considered competitive.

Compounding the unpredictability: Some states have large numbers of seats without incumbents because of term limits, while in others redistricting has shifted the advantage.

Ballot questions on homosexual “marriage” are on the ballot in 11 states and could affect turnout.

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