- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Democrats gained a decisive edge in state legislatures across the country, riding voter discontent with national Republican leadership to take control of several chambers and solidify their hold on others.

From New Hampshire to Michigan and, if early results hold, Oregon, Democratic candidates scored victories that positioned them to take the legislative helm. The results, although not complete, will give Democratic lawmakers the gains needed to shape state policy agendas and play a key role in drawing congressional districts.

Such gains have taken on added importance since the Supreme Court ruled in June that states are free to redraw districts at any time, without waiting until after each decade’s national census.

Before Election Day, the balance of power in legislatures was almost evenly split. Of the nearly 7,400 seats in statehouses nationwide, Democrats held an advantage of just 21 seats. Republicans controlled both chambers in 20 states, with Democrats leading both houses in 19 others.

That is about to change.

“It appears that all the momentum is behind the Democrats in just about every state,” said Tim Storey, analyst for the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s little doubt that the energy of the Democrats and the national climate really benefited Democrats in legislative races.”

In Indiana, House Democrats regained control of the chamber they lost two years ago. Republicans control the Senate.

In Minnesota, Democrats brushed aside the Republican House majority and then some, claiming nearly veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Democrats gained control of the Michigan state House for the first time in eight years, while Republicans claimed control of the Senate, though two races were still close yesterday.

In Iowa, Democrats also gained seats, allowing them to break a tie in the Senate and take control of the House.

In New Hampshire, Democrats won control of both the Senate and the House, despite the fact that in the latter chamber, they came into the election down by a wide margin. The Senate in Wisconsin also went to the Democrats.

In Oregon, if early election returns hold, Democrats would gain control of the House, which would put them in charge of both chambers for the first time since 1990.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats picked up at least six Republican House seats while losing two, but it was not clear whether they would win enough to gain a majority. In North Carolina and Illinois, Democrats tightened their grip on both chambers of the legislature.

There were some bright spots for Republicans. In Tennessee, for example, they held their state Senate majority, prevailing in closely watched races. In the Oklahoma Senate, Republicans gained enough seats to tie the Democrats, but the tie-breaking vote will still rest with a Democrat — Jari Askins, who was elected lieutenant governor.

Those appeared to be the exceptions.

“I think what’s clear is there are a lot of states where Democrats now have a seat at the table,” said Michael Davies, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which coordinated the national party’s efforts in legislative races.

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