Ten states Identified as Legislative Battlegrounds
By Kathleen Hunter, Staff Writer
Political control of legislative bodies in 10 states could change in the November election, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in an analysis that identified the battleground states as Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
With nearly 80 percent of the 7,382 seats in state legislatures up for grabs in the election, 2004 could be a watershed for Republicans, who steadily have made gains since the early 1980s. The GOP could be poised to secure a clear balance of power in state legislatures, the NCSL said.
In 2002, Republicans gained a razor-thin advantage in state legislative seats, topping Democrats for the first time since 1952. Republicans now hold a majority in 21 state legislatures. Democrats control 17, and 11 are split, with a different party controlling each of the state's two chambers.
"The big question for 2004 is this: Will the Democrats reverse a trend that has seen seats drop away for 30 years or will the GOP solidify its status as the majority party in legislatures?" Tim Storey, an NCSL senior fellow who tracks elections and redistricting issues, said at a news conference.
All but six states (Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia) will hold state legislative elections this year.
A shift of only three seats could alter party control in 25 legislative chambers.
Here's NCSL's list of the top 10 state legislative battlegrounds, in alphabetical order:
- Colorado Senate. Democrats need just one seat to take power of the chamber from the Republican Party.
- Georgia House of Representatives. A new redistricting plan gives Republicans the best chance they've had in decades to make gains.
- Indiana House of Representatives. Democrats hold a one-seat advantage in a chamber that has gone back and forth in recent years.
- Maine Senate. Only one seat separates the parties in this chamber in a state expected to be a presidential battleground.
- Montana House of Representatives. A new redistricting plan gives Democrats their best hope in years to seize control of the House.
- North Carolina House of Representatives. Following the 2002 election, a party switch left the chamber tied and legislative power shared by both parties.
- Oklahoma House of Representatives. Republicans, who have had steady gains in recent elections, only need three seats to take control of this chamber.
- Oregon Senate. Tied 15 to 15, both parties are determined to seize control.
- Vermont House of Representatives. With more third-party members than any other state, a coalition leadership might not be out of the question.
- Washington Senate and House of Representatives. This has been the most competitive legislature in the past decade. Both chambers are tossups.
The presidential election also might affect the outcome of state legislative races if Republican George Bush or Democrat John Kerry has long enough political coattails.
The NCSL analysis was released in conjunction with the organization's annual meeting, which began July 19 in Salt Lake City and runs through July 23. NCSL is a bipartisan organization that provides state legislators and staffs with research, technical assistance and opportunities to exchange policy ideas.