Speed Reads

88 years

Democrats did unexpectedly well in state legislatures, losing zero chambers in a historical anomaly

The party that controls the White House typically loses ground in midterm elections ... and sometimes a lot of ground. This year, President Biden's Democratic Party is slightly favored to retain or even expand its narrow control of the Senate and keep House losses low enough that Republicans will have the barest of majorities. Democrats did even better in state legislatures, which will decide issues like abortion rights, voting rules, school policies, and other themes prominently debated during the 2022 campaign.

Democrats flipped Michigan's House and Senate, Minnesota's Senate, and likely Pennsylvania's House this year. They also defended their legislative majorities from concerted Republican turnover campaigns in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon, and assuming Democrats hang on to both houses in Nevada — as expected — "this will be the first time since at least 1934 that the party in power hasn't ceded a single state legislative chamber during a midterm election year," the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said

"Republicans have controlled more state legislative seats than Democrats for more than a decade straight, thanks in large part to a deliberate strategy the GOP hatched in 2010 to dominate the redistricting process," Axios reports, and that won't change even with the Democratic pickups. But outside Democratic groups learned from the GOP's 2010 sweep and poured millions into state races this year. They have also been promoting independent redistrict commissions in gerrymandered states and other structural changes. 

"We're clawing our way back to power after 50 years of investment for Republicans and so much neglect for so long by the Democratic Party," Forward Majority president Vicky Hausman told Axios. "We started the redistricting process with the theory of the case that if maps are fair and if Democrats can compete, then Democrats can win," added National Democratic Redistricting Committee president Kelly Burton. "That played out" in Michigan and elsewhere on Election Day. 

Republicans made gains, too, securing supermajorities in Florida, the South Carolina House, and the state Senates in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Iowa, Republican State Leadership Committee spokesman Andrew Romeo told Axios.