Pa., N.C. Results Solidify Dems' Control
By Eric Kelderman, Staff Writer
The resolution of a Pennsylvania state House race on Tuesday (Nov. 28) has given Democrats control of that chamber for the first time in 12 years. And in North Carolina, embattled House Speaker Jim Black (D) was also certified as the winner in his bid for an 11 th term.
On top of that, a recount on Tuesday for a Montana statehouse race, which had been tied, puts that chamber in GOP hands.
The razor-thin margins of all three races - just three votes in Montana, 23 votes in Pennsylvania and 30 votes in North Carolina - underscore how close some of these contests have been. The Pennsylvania numbers remain unofficial tallies until they are certified by the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, but the Democrats have claimed victory.
But several recounts are still pending in Indiana where the outcome could shift the partisan control of that state House.
The Pennsylvania results cap a strong mid-term showing by Democrats who gained new majorities in legislative chambers in nine states on Election Day and netted more than 300 seats. They will control both legislative chambers in at least 23 states — more than they have held since 1994. Before the election Democrats had majorities in both chambers in 19 states.
Republicans will control both chambers in 15 state legislatures, down from 20 before the election.
Eleven statehouses will be split between the parties, including a dead-even tie in the Oklahoma Senate. Nebraska has the nation's only unicameral, non-partisan legislature.
Before the election, the GOP held a 109-94 majority in the Pennsylvania House. But Democrats whittled that lead to one seat on Election Day. Yesterday, a tally of uncounted absentee ballots gave Chester County Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith a victory and her party a 102-101 majority. The GOP will maintain a 29-21 majority in the state Senate.
In North Carolina, Black's victory only widens the Democratic majority — the party gained five seats in the North Carolina House on Election Day, giving them a 68-52 majority in a chamber that the GOP had hoped to recapture this year. Democrats also gained two seats in the North Carolina Senate.
Black's re-election effort was dogged by an ongoing federal investigation into his political activities and he survived Election Day with an initial margin of just seven votes out of a total of 10,500 ballots cast.
After adding in provisional ballots and a recount, Black's lead was 30 votes. Then election officials discovered that 446 voters in one precinct should have cast ballots for a different state House race. Since most of the improper votes went to the Republican challenger, the Board of Elections ruled Black the winner.
In Montana , the resolution of one contested race has tilted the balance of power in the House, where Democrats and Republicans each held 50 seats since the 2004 elections.
After Nov. 7, Republicans held at least 49 seats and had the support of one Constitution Party lawmaker. Democrats also had 49 seats. But one undecided Yellowstone County race, where initial results gave each candidate 1,971 votes, threatened the GOP majority — Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer has the authority to choose the winner in a tie.
Yesterday's new tally awarded the GOP candidate, Krayton Kerns, three more votes and gave Republicans control of the House with a 50-49 edge. One other recount is scheduled for today (Nov. 29) in a race where the Republican incumbent has an unofficial lead of 24 votes.
Democrats controlled the Montana Senate since 2004. On Election Day, however, the GOP won two seats and thought they had moved that chamber to a tie. With the help of a party-switching Republican, Democrats prevailed, gaining a 26-24 majority.
In Indiana Democrats and Republicans are still closely monitoring a handful of races.
In the Hoosier state, the Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the House. But four recounts are pending and Republican candidates are leading in three of these contests. If the Democrats lose the fourth recount, the chamber would realign to a 50-50 tie. The Republican challenger in this race would have to overcome a margin of more than 1,600 votes.
The Indiana Recount Commission is slated to meet today to set a schedule for the recounts, which must be finalized by Dec. 20, said Jen Fanger, spokeswoman for the Indiana Secretary of State.