GOP seizes control of several state legislatures

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans seized control of several state legislative chambers Tuesday night, delivering a major blow to Democrats in the Midwest, South and elsewhere, and picking up key redistricting powers along the way.

The GOP scored decisive wins in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. In all three states, they knocked Democrats from the majority in the state House chambers — putting the split legislative bodies into full Republican control.

In Ohio, former Rep. John Kasich also ousted Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, and Pennsylvania’s governorship went to Republican Tom Corbett over to Democrat Dan Onorato, putting the GOP in the driver’s seat for the upcoming redistricting. Ohio could lose two congressional seats and Pennsylvania may lose one.

In North Carolina, Republicans pulled off a double upset, wresting control of the state Senate and House from Democrats. The GOP hasn’t been the majority in both chambers for more than a century.

Republicans were also leading in New York, where the state Senate could flip back to GOP hands.

In all, well over a dozen chambers could turn to Republican control in these midterm elections.

“I’m expecting by the end of the night somewhere between 425-to-450 legislative seats to change hands, which should mean a switch of about 14 to 15 chambers,” said Republican pollster and strategist Ed Goeas. “It’s about what we normally see with this kind of a wave.”

Overall, more than 6,100 state legislative seats were up for grabs in 46 states.

While state legislative races draw scant attention on the national level, the party that controls the legislature plays a powerful role, crafting domestic policy and having an oversized role in the redistricting process.

Based on 2010 Census figures on population shifts, the legislatures in most states will draw political district boundaries for the U.S. House, often subject to a veto from the governor. The party in control has a huge advantage and can draw district lines in its favor, helping Republicans or Democrats dominate a state’s congressional delegation for an entire decade, and possibly even influencing control of the U.S. House.

While party control of redistricting is crucial, it may be not be a smooth process in states such as Ohio, says Michael McDonald, who teaches government and politics at George Mason University.

“The Republicans are still going to be able to create a map that’s favorable to them, but they may have to sacrifice one of their own because they won so handily in the state.”

Republicans now hold an eight-seat edge in the congressional delegation. The legislators must draw the new boundaries based on equal population districts, so they may not be able to draw enough safe 2012 seats for Republicans.

Heading into Election Day, Democrats had their strongest majority in over a decade, holding 55 percent of all legislative seats and control of the legislature in 27 states. Republicans dominated in 14 states. Eight states were split and Nebraska is nonpartisan.

There was little to cheer Democrats.

In Texas, where they had been hoping to turn a slim GOP majority in the House to their favor, Democrats instead faced a potential rout. Republicans in the state were poised to pick up about two dozen seats in the state House.

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AP Writers Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, Mark Scolforo in Philadelphia, Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis and April Castro and Jay Root in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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