By JENNIFER C. KERR
The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 3:37 PM
WASHINGTON -- From New Hampshire to Minnesota and down to Alabama, Republicans knocked Democrats out of the majority in key state legislative chambers, making historic gains and seizing critical power to redraw district maps and influence elections for a decade to come.
The sweep in midterm elections turned huge swaths of the Midwest and South to a solid Republican Red as the legislatures in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Alabama all came under full GOP control.
In Alabama and North Carolina, Republicans haven't led both chambers of the legislatures in more than a century.
Key redistricting wins for the Republicans came in Ohio, which could lose two congressional seats, and Pennsylvania, where one seat may be lost. Both states may see changes in House representation because of population shifts.
Pennsylvania voters handed control of the state House to the GOP. Republicans also held their majority in the state Senate and gained the governorship with Tom Corbett's win.
Based on 2010 Census figures, 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 influencing control of the U.S. House.
Both chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature also flipped, putting the Republicans in majorities there.
The magnitude of the Republican gains at the statehouse level was stunning, said Tim Storey, an elections expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It looks like they are close to a 700-seat pickup, far beyond what they did in 1994," Storey said in an interview on Wednesday. "It's going to be the most Republican legislators in state legislatures since 1928."
The average losses for the president's party in midterm elections are about 325 seats.
The message was clear, said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which spent $30 million this cycle on state races.
"Voters were very frustrated with Democratic policies of increasing spending and higher taxes. That was not only true in Washington, D.C., it was true in the states," he said.
Overall, more than 6,100 state legislative seats were up for grabs in 46 states in Tuesday's elections.
Democrats knew it would be a challenging night and praised their lawmakers for hard-fought battles.
"Democratic legislative majorities have worked hard to reverse the damage their states have suffered from national Republican policies," said Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. "Democrats didn't back away from tough decisions, and their efforts to create and save jobs while balancing state budgets rarely received support from their Republican colleagues."
A bright spot for Democrats came in Illinois, President Barack Obama's home state. The GOP had the Illinois House on its target list, but Democrats were able to fend off Republicans to retain control of both the House and Senate.
In New York, Republicans had their eye on taking over the state Senate majority. That was still too close to call Wednesday but Democrats easily kept control of the state Assembly.
Associated Press writers Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, Mark Scolforo in Philadelphia, Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis, Michael Gormley in New York, Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., Norma Love in Concord, N.H., Luke Meredith in Des Moines, Tim Martin in Detroit and Todd Richmond in Milwaukee contributed to this report.