Republican wave expected in statehouses

Who will control statehouses in 2011 is one of the big questions that voters in 46 states will answer on November 2, when they cast ballots for more than 6,000 legislative seats. Other state chambers that insiders say could flip to Republican control include the Senate in New Hampshire and New York; the House in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania; both chambers in Wisconsin; and the Montana House and Alaska Senate, both currently tied in terms of party control.

The outcome on Election Day will be particularly important because the legislatures will draw new congressional and state district lines in 2011. If one party or the other controls that process, members can draw maps that help their electoral chances — both at the state level and in the U.S. House of Representatives — for the next decade.

That’s why both parties are paying close attention to races such as one in the Cincinnati suburbs, where Democrats hope state Representative Connie Pillich can hold off a strong challenge from Republican Mike Wilson. Republicans need to gain only four seats to take control of the Ohio House. If Republicans hold their majority in the state Senate — and if Republican John Kasich defeats incumbent Governor Ted Strickland — the GOP could “carve the districts the way they like them,” says James Broussard, professor of history at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania.

These districts are among 55 that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has deemed “essential.” The group has committed to spending $20 million on races that will have the greatest impact on redistricting.

Republicans are pouring money into key statehouse races, as well. The Republican State Leadership Committee is running a $20 million initiative called REDMAP — it stands for Redistricting Majority Project. “To control the process — or at least have a seat at the table — winning, defending and increasing state legislative majorities must be a priority,” its Web site says.

Another factor that will weigh on the outcome is term limits. As Stateline has reported, term limits are forcing at least 380 state lawmakers to retire this year.

Source: Stateline October 15, 2010.

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