Republicans Close to Taking Over More State Legislatures

Monday, 05 May 2014 07:56 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Republicans are close to gaining more state legislative majorities this year, which will likely affect social issues and energy laws, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Most of the key issues are taking place at the state level, and you'll continue to see a clear course of action on the Republican side," Bill McCollum, chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and a former Florida congressman and attorney general, told the Journal.

The GOP only needs to gain a handful of seats to take control of five state senates, the Journal reported, and four more state legislative chambers are also being targeted. Republicans already control legislatures in 26 states and hold the governor's office in 29 states as this year's elections near.

"Republicans are at something of a high-water mark," said Tim Storey, of the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, according to the Journal. "However, there are still a number of states where Republicans could flip chambers and come out even stronger than they came in."

New faces could change some of the states' most contested laws. In Colorado, Republicans are only one seat away from controlling the state Senate, and if the GOP takes over, planned limits on hydraulic fracturing could be cut back. In Nevada, GOP control of one Senate seat could stop a repeal of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

In Iowa, Republicans stand to gain control of the Senate if they can take two seats, which means income and corporate tax cuts will be pushed.

Colorado's races are expected to be especially contentious this year, after voters last year recalled two state senators after they backed gun control legislation.

Republican Bernie Herpin, who replaced recalled state Senate President John Morse, is being faced by Democrat Michael Merrifield, a former state legislator who worked for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun-control organization.

The GOP is also targeting Oregon, where it needs two seats to take the Senate, and Maine, where it needs three seats.

In addition, Storey told the Journal, "Democrats are absolutely on the defensive in West Virginia," where President Barack Obama's low approval ratings are hurting his party and could affect the Democratic majorities in both of the state's legislative chambers.

But in state senates in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, Democrats need a gain of no more than three states to take control, and Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said the party is competing for control of the Iowa House.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, leader of the Democratic Governors Association said redistricting in 2010 helped Republicans take control.

"Democrats didn't pay enough attention to investing in electing legislators, so that when reapportionment came up, [Republicans] did it, and they did it pretty well," Shumlin said. "That's why we're in the mess we're in."

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