One of the most surprising results in what had initially been billed as a red wave election was how strong Democrats were in state legislative races.
By midday Wednesday, Democrats were expected to flip at least three chambers – both chambers in Michigan, plus the Minnesota Senate. In both states, the reelection of a Democratic governor on election night meant that Democrats would move into “trifecta” control, meaning they held the governorship as well as both legislative chambers.
Meanwhile, Democrats by midday Wednesday were close to flipping the New Hampshire House and the Pennsylvania House, although it was unclear whether they could pull off either shift. For good measure, the Democrats have so far defended all of their vulnerable state legislative chambers.
In the battle for the state legislatures, the 2022 midterms became a mirror image of the 2020 election.
Two years ago, the final pre-election handicapping of the nation’s state legislative chambers rated 20 chambers as competitive. In 15 of them, Republicans were defending vulnerable chambers.
Yet despite having the political winds seemingly at their backs, the Democrats didn’t pick up a single chamber in 2020. In fact, the Democrats ended up losing two chambers, both in New Hampshire.
In the 2022 cycle, the number of competitive chambers fell to 15, distributed roughly equally between the parties. With Democrats facing the historical pattern of the president’s party experiencing major electoral headwinds, there was little sign that the Democrats would flip a handful of chambers on election night.
Yet the predicted red wave fizzled, not just in congressional races but also in the battle for the legislatures.
In addition to the three apparent chamber flips and the potential seizures of chambers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Democrats appear to have kept control in four of their most vulnerable chambers: the Colorado Senate, the Maine House and Senate, and the Minnesota House.
The Democrats also appear to have kept Republicans from a supermajority in at least one chamber in North Carolina and Wisconsin, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. That will strengthen the hand of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and newly reelected Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, both Democrats.
The main question marks involve chambers where control has not yet been determined. Two particularly crucial legislative battlegrounds are western states that are key presidential states and which still have ballots to count.
In Arizona, it’s possible that Democrats could flip one or both legislative chambers. Both are currently controlled by the GOP, but only narrowly.
The situation is the opposite in Nevada, where the Democrats control both the Senate and the Assembly but are facing stiff competition from Republicans in multiple statewide and legislative contests.
Republicans may also gain some seats in Oregon’s Senate, which had been rated Lean Democratic. But it’s not clear that the GOP will run strongly enough to take the majority.
The last chamber to be decided will almost certainly be Alaska’s House, where an unusual coalition between Democrats and pragmatic Republicans has run the chamber in recent years. It’s unclear whether the bipartisan arrangement can survive into a new legislative session.