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GOP Makes Record Gains At State Level

Republicans won big at the state level Tuesday, and now control a record 67 chambers across the country.

The previous all-time high was 64 chambers in 1920. In 27 states, Republicans control both chambers, and in 23 states they control both chambers and the governor’s mansion. Democrats have complete control of just seven.

Arkansas is one of those states, following incumbent Gov. Mark Pryor’s loss to Tom Cotton. Democrats lost majorities in ten chambers, including the Colorado, Maine and New York state senates, plus both houses of West Virginia.

“Voters overwhelmingly elected a new, open, innovative future for their families by electing state-level Republicans in record numbers across the nation, including in traditionally blue states,” Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter said in a statement.

Democrats have dominated state chambers for much of the past century with the help of a process of redistricting that occurs every 10 years following the national census. Democrats used that system to redraw district lines to their advantage.

But in 2000, Republicans were finally able to use it to their advantage in state and congressional races– and their strategy worked. In 2008, following two big elections for Democrats, the GOP held about the same number of chambers as they had following massive losses in the 1984 Reagan landslide. And in 2010, Republican controlled more than at any other time in modern history.

Control of state chambers doesn’t get much media attention, but it has a huge impact on national politics and policy. It allows governors to implement policies or reform that can be replicated by other states or at the national level, depending on their success.

Gov. Sam Brownback recently passed sweeping tax reform in Kansas, and his win is a victory for aggressive conservative fiscal policy around the country. Had he lost, other governors would likely have abandoned the idea of implementing similar policies in their state. (RELATED: Brownback Gets An ‘A’ For Politically Dangerous Tax Cuts)

Republicans could still pick up two more chambers in Maine and Colorado, where results are still pending.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blamed the heavy losses on an unfriendly map and hostile political environment. “This has been a record-breaking year for us,” DLCC Executive Director Michael Sargeant said in a statement. “We had our best fundraising year to date, recruited some of the best candidates we’ve ever seen, knocked on more doors than ever before– but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the difficult political environment.”

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