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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Update on Democratic ‘Trifectas’ in State Politics

Among the most regrettable developments for Democrats in recent years, the Republican  takeover of a majority of state legislatures and governorships has done a lot of damage. At the same time, the GOP-friendly American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was able to spearhead enactment of hundreds of regressive laws in state legislatures each year. ALEC and the Republicans have enacted state  laws that: undermine environmental protection; privatize corrections facilities for profit; change rules to benefit big tobacco; and weaken consumer safety protection, to name a few.

Democrats reversed the trend in the 2018 midterm elections and picked up six “trifecta” states, in which one party has a majority of both houses of the state’s legislature plus the governorship. Dems added another trifecta in 2019. At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik reports that “Republicans retain a narrow 26-24 edge in governorships…But that’s a big shift from mid-2017, when Democrats held just 15.”

According to Ballotpedia, “There are currently 36 trifectas: 15 Democratic and 21 Republican. Democrats would have to pick up trifecta control in three states in 2020 to match the Republican total. Click here for an inter-active map depicting trifecta control by state.

Ballottpedia reports also that, “As of December 31, 2019, Republicans controlled 52.1 percent of all state legislative seats nationally, while Democrats held 46.6 percent. Republicans held a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats held the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska House) was sharing power between two parties.”

The 16 states with “divided government” include: AK; DE; KS; KY; LA; MA; MI; MN; MT; MD; NJ; NC; NH; PA; VT; and WI. Dems now hope the edge provided by a presidential election will provide a pivotal boost to their candidates for Governor and state legislative seats in November. In a ‘blue wave’ election, it’s not hard to see how Dems could get a net trifecta pick-up of 3 or 4 states.

Democrats now hold the Secretary of State offices, which count the votes in elections, in 22 states. Three states, Alaska, Hawaii and Utah have no such office, and assign vote counting duties to the Lieutenant Governor’s office. Since 2018, Democrats have held the SOS offices in swing states AZ; CO; MI; NJ; PA; WI.

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