Republicans Make Historic Gains in State Legislatures, Pick Up Hundreds of Seats

Republicans matched their historic victories in Congress with a sweep of state legislative chambers across the country Tuesday, a feat which will have considerable bearing on the next election.

The GOP picked up at least 19 chambers and hundreds of seats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures -- though the tally is not final and Republican recruitment arm GOPAC pegs the party's chamber pickups at about 23. In several states, Republicans took control of both chambers and the governor's seat.

Though the taking of the U.S. House of Representatives overshadowed the victories for the Republican Party on the state level, the state legislatures take on outsized importance ahead of the 2012 cycle. State governments are responsible for redrawing the congressional districts in accordance with the results of the 2010 Census, and the GOP now has a much stronger voice in that process.

"It is truly historic that we could flip that many legislative chambers in one off-year election," GOPAC Chairman Frank Donatelli told "It's broad, it's deep and it's across the entire country."

The party picked up 20 chambers in the 1994 election and with the balance of power still unclear in several states, the GOP could surpass that performance in 2010.

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The state-level GOP wave could help their congressional counterparts build a bigger majority in the next cycle. Donatelli noted that it also gives Republicans an immediate chance to push their agenda while the U.S. Congress potentially falls prey to political deadlock.

"We can now begin the reform process in a lot of these states right now. We don't have to wait for 2012 to happen," he said.

Overall, more than 6,100 state legislative seats were up for grabs in 46 states. Republican state legislative candidates made a net gain of more than 500 seats on Tuesday, giving them more seats than at any time since 1928, according to the NCSL.

In several states, the party took total control of one or two branches of government.

The GOP took back both chambers in Alabama, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. They also took control of the state legislatures in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio by winning the House -- they already held the Senate in those states.

To boot, former GOP Rep. John Kasich ousted Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio. Republican Tom Corbett also took the Pennsylvania gubernatorial seat back from the Democrats, as did Republican Rick Snyder in Michigan. Republican governors will be in place in Alabama, Maine and Wisconsin as well.

Since redistricting is often subject to a veto by the governor, single-party control of government is ideal for Republicans trying to shape the districts to their liking.

In New York, Republicans were seeking to take back the state Senate, but it was still too close to call.

More chambers were expected to fall from the Democrats, as voters registered their disenchantment with an anemic economy, high unemployment and an overall gloomy national mood leading up to the midterm elections.

Michael Sargeant, director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said Democratic state candidates should be proud of the "hard-fought campaigns" they waged in a year when the tide was surging against them.

"During a national recession, Democratic legislative majorities have worked hard to reverse the damage their states have suffered from national Republican policies. Democrats didn't back away from tough decisions, and their efforts to create and save jobs while balancing state budgets rarely received support from their Republican colleagues," he said in a statement. "In tough times Democratic legislators provided the steady leadership and made the wise investments needed to move their states forward."

A bright spot for Democrats was in Illinois, President Obama's home state. The GOP had the Illinois House on its target list, but Democrats were able to fend off Republicans to retain control of both the House and Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.