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Quiet Takeover? GOP Poised for State Gains

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REPUBLICANS in Washington State smell a revolt. The party that currently controls barely one-third of the seats in the capital, Olympia, may be on the verge of taking over both houses of the state legislature - for the first time in more than a decade.

The potential shift here is emblematic of a quiet revolution brewing in statehouses across the country.

While much attention has been focused on changes likely in Congress and governorships this year, substantial turnover is also expected among lawmakers in some of the nation's largest states.

From Pennsylvania to California, Florida to Michigan, Republicans appear poised to make substantial gains - capturing either one or both houses of the state legislature.

Such a shift would be important. It could change spending priorities and affect issues ranging from taxes to transportation that impact people most directly. State legislatures are often the ``hothouses'' for ideas that end up shaping the national agenda. They are a talent pool for leaders who go on to serve at higher levels.

``In American politics, the ultimate long-term political control isn't here in Washington but out in the state legislatures,'' Republican pollster Richard Wirthlin recently told a Monitor breakfast.

In some states, the momentum is with the Democrats. Colorado's popular Democratic Governor Roy Romer may cost Republicans their narrow control of both houses. But the overall trend is Republican.

Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin could move from split control to having both houses under GOP sway. A senate takeover is possible in California, which would break the Democrats' longtime hold on the overall legislature.

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