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State legislatures: why Republican wave of 2010 is here to stay

Election 2012 is not expected to be a repeat of the historic 2010 Republican sweep, but recent redistricting might have helped the GOP cement its ascendancy for a few more years.

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The New York state Senate, currently controlled by Republicans, is one chamber that could flip on Nov. 6, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Hans Pennink/AP/File

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Tuesday voting will not likely match the historic Republican sweep of state legislatures two years ago, but Republicans are expected remain on top as they take advantage of the redistricting changes made since 2010 on their watch.

Twenty chambers are forecast to switch parties – higher than the average of 13 that typically switch every two-year election cycle. But unlike 2010, when all 22 chambers that flipped control turned Republican, both Democrats and Republicans could make gains on Nov. 6, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a research organization in Washington. 

"Right now, some races are so close, it does not appear to be a big wave for either party,” says Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the NCSL.

Thanks to 2010, Republicans have majority control of 59 of the 98 state chambers. Democrats currently control 36 chambers, and three are tied. “Republicans are at their highest point of control of legislating since the 1920s, in not just winning seats, but winning chambers across the country," says Mr. Storey. The midterm vote "was a sweep in every state of the word.” 

But the tea party surge that fueled the Republican gains does not appear to be playing as much of a role this year.

The state legislature election “is very localized, it is not a wave cycle. This is the first time since 2004 we are seeing the election turn out in a way where one party does not run the table on all close contests,” says Louis Jacobson, who is forecasting the election at PolitiFact, a fact-checking project operated by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. “It’s going to matter on candidate quality, not weaker candidates riding on the coattails of a strong party wave.”

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