- - Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Perhaps the second most important story in the 2020 elections has been the dominant performance of Republicans at the state level.

In this cycle, Republicans successfully defended all 22 state legislative chambers they flipped in 2018, increased the number of chambers they control to 62 by taking three more (two in New Hampshire and one in Alaska), and captured a governor’s seat (Montana) and two lieutenant governors’ seats (Montana and North Carolina).

They did all this despite being outspent by the Democrats and their affiliates by about $150 million.

So, where things stand right now is that, in addition to the 29 full state legislatures and 62 state legislative houses with a Republican majority, 27 governors, 25 (of 45) lieutenant governors, 28 (of 49) secretaries of state, and 26 attorneys general are Republicans.

This superiority in state elections is crucial for a number of reasons.



First, and most importantly, it ensures that the 186 million Americans who live in states in which the government is entirely or partly controlled by the Republicans will enjoy competent, elected leadership that understands the importance of minimum government and maximum freedom.

Unfortunately, that means that 120 million of us (including this columnist) remain stranded in Democratic-controlled social experiments.

Second, state-level elected offices are often training grounds for federal elected offices. The better the states are, the better the federal team can be. Third, as we careen toward the decennial re-apportionment, it is worth remembering that states construct the first and often definitive efforts at redistricting. In 2021, that will be especially important in a number of states.

Based on this year’s census, 10 states — Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia — probably will lose one seat. Other states — Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon — are likely to pick up one seat. Florida probably will pick up two seats. Texas probably will pick up three.

The crystal ball is usually murky with respect to who may be helped or hurt by redistricting, but it always helps to have control of state legislatures to start the process and governors to watch over it.

The Democrats understand this as well. To win back state legislatures in North Carolina, Florida and Texas, they created the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and placed President Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, in charge of it. They could have saved themselves time and money — they failed to flip any of the six legislative bodies in those states or any state legislatures anywhere.

Part of the reason why the Republicans have been so dominant at the state level for so long is because of the outstanding work of the Republican State Leadership Committee. The team there — Austin Chambers and David Abrams (who have left to work on the Senate runoff elections in Georgia), Dee Duncan (the new incoming president), Stami Williams, and former RSLC President Matt Walter — is not just a little better than its competitors. They are a lot better.

The RSLC has consistently outperformed both its competitors and the expectations of its supporters for more than a decade. They have been the workers who have made much of the Republican gains at both the state and federal levels in the last decade possible.

In short, the work of the RSLC is essential to Republican electoral and policy success writ large. If the party were smart (always an open question), it would make sure that this crew has the resources it needs in the 2022 cycle.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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