If you lived at the seashore, a wave hitting your house would be a pretty significant event. But if you lived further away from the seashore, one wave wouldn’t be all that significant.

Flipped Chambers Post-Election

Chamber Pre Post
NH-Senate R D
CO-Senate R D
CT-Senate T D
MN-House R D
NH-House R D
ME-Senate R D
NY-Senate* R D
* In New York, a minority-led coalition controlled the Senate before the election

To really tell what happened with the wave, you might want to go down in the basement so you could compare this recent wave to the last time a true tsunami hit. For our purposes, “going down in the basement,” means checking to see what the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures has come up with.

It’s the nonpartisan NCSL that keeps tabs on the foundation of American politics–all those secondary elective positions found at every state capitol.   While TV’s talking heads were all focused on what the mid-term elections mean in Washington D.C., NCSL analysts were busy tracking what it means to America’s true political foundations.

In addition to all the Senators, Representatives and Governors chosen last Tuesday, voters in 46 states picked over 6,000 state legislators. And there was just a bit of a wave.

After the election, it looks like there will be about 72 more State Senators with a “Ds” after their name, and about 252 additional Democratic House members. But Republicans still far outnumber Democratic State Senators, 1,060 to 859. And post-election, House Republicans surpass House Democrats, 2,795 to 2,575.

Individual legislative races become important when there are enough of them to give one party or the other control over an entire legislative body.

Republicans Democrats
Pre/post Election Pre/post Election Pre/post Election
Chambers (98 total) 65 / 61 31 / 37 tied: 2 / 0
Legislatures (49 total) 31 / 30 14 / 18


4 / 1

State Control

(46 total, 1 undecided)

25 / 21 8 / 14


16 / 13

Democrats managed to flip just five legislative chambers from being controlled by the Republicans to Democrats, plus they gained control of the previously tied Connecticut Senate and gained functional control of the New York Senate.

But it was not much when compared with that last tsunami that hit in 2010, and mid-terms since then. NCSL says the gains in 2018 by the D’s “were modest with Republicans maintaining a robust position in state legislatures.”

“These changes are minor compared to the 2010 election when Democrats lost 24 chambers,” NCSL reports. “Notably, the shift of only six chambers is well below the average chambers changes. On average, 12 chambers change party hands in every two-year election cycle back to 1900.”

Going into the election, Republicans controlled 65 of the nation’s 98 legislative chambers and after the votes were counted they were left with 61. Nebraska’ nonpartisan unicameral is not included.

Democrats started out in control of 31 chambers and ended up with 37. Democrats also increased to 18, up from 14, the number of states where they control both legislative chambers. The Democrats also increased to 14 states, up from 8, the number of states where they control both legislative bodies and the governor’s office.

The GOP went from having control of both chambers in 31 states, to 30 states, and in four states of 25 no longer control both the governor’s office and both legislative chambers.

Tuesday’s election left Minnesota as the only state in the nation with a divided legislature. Democrats will control the Minnesota House but fell short in the Senate. Not since 1914 has there only been one divided legislature.

And perhaps most important, Democrats also picked up 7 governors to reach a total of 23 to the GOP’s 26.

So, there was nothing near matching 2010’s tsunami, but a bit of a wave favoring the Democrats in a handful of states.  But the states overall are still dominated by the GOP.

What does it mean for food safety?  Local health departments are responsible for surveillance of foodborne illness in the United States.  Many of these 2,700 local jurisdictions are dependent upon the decisions made at the statehouse level.  State legislators make important decisions impacting these departments.

And while the statehouses are the AAA league of American politics, one never knows how quickly some can move up.   They still talk about how a backbench state representative in Illinois became President of the United States in about the time it took for him to pay off a car loan.

We’d be at considerable risk if we did not pay attention to what’s going on in these state capitols.

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