The wave of enthusiasm for Barack Obama and Democrats reshaped control of state legislatures, leaving Democrats in control across nearly the entire Northeast and deepening the partisan divide across the country.
Democrats expanded their one-party control from 23 states to 27 states, while Republicans held steady at 14 states, according to preliminary results.
It was the third election cycle in a row that showed benefits for Democrats. But even with the shift of control, the National Conference of State Legislatures estimated Democrats would not pick up many legislative seats overall.
"We’re as polarized as we’ve been in 25 years at the legislative level. After really an era of parity, now we’re seeing more polarization,” said Tim Storey, elections expert at the NCSL. "There will be some Obama coattails, but they will not be substantial in terms of seats.”
Republicans gained in states where Obama fared poorly. In Oklahoma and Tennessee, the GOP won historic control in both legislatures. In Montana, Republicans appeared to take control of one chamber and hoped for at least a tie in the other.
The number of split states fell to 7.
The outcome of elections in 44 states for legislatures will help craft the domestic policy closest to voters and set the stage for the redrawing of congressional districts.
Democrats took the New York Senate, giving them control of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since 1935. They also now dominate in Delaware, and appear to have held off GOP efforts in Maine and Pennsylvania.