At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich explores the impact of Democratic gains in state governments as a result of the midterm elections, and writes:
Abortion bans, right-to-work laws, voting restrictions — for years, a lot of the major legislation coming out of state capitols has been conservative. But after Democrats’ clear victory in state-level elections last week, landmark liberal policies could be coming to a state near you.
For the first time in years, more Americans will live in a state fully controlled by Democrats than in one fully controlled by Republicans.1 Thanks to their wins in gubernatorial or state-legislative elections, Democrats2 took complete control of three new state governments in the 2022 elections: Michigan, Minnesota and Vermont. They broke the GOP monopoly on power in Arizona and, potentially, New Hampshire.3 They also kept full control of state government in four of the five states where they were in danger of losing it. And they prevented Republicans from taking full control of North Carolina, Wisconsin and maybe even Alaska.
Republicans, on the other hand, didn’t flip a single legislative chamber from blue to red. This is the first midterm election since at least 1934 that the president’s party hasn’t lost a state-legislative chamber, according to Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. And though it didn’t affect who controlled state government, Democrats flipped the Maryland and Massachusetts governorships and maybe the Pennsylvania state House.4
Democrats’ most significant win was probably Michigan. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was reelected, and Democrats took control of the state House for the first time since 2011 and the state Senate for the first time since 1984. Democrats won the popular vote for the Michigan state House in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020 but fell short of a majority each time because of state-legislative maps that favored Republicans.
The one major loss at the state level, according to Rakich was that “Democrats lost total control of just one state government this year. In Nevada, Republican Joe Lombardo defeated Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in the gubernatorial race.” But, Dems held on to “Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon after winning the governorship and state legislature in each.”
As for the strategic implications, Rakich concludes, “State governments are often called the “laboratories of democracy” because they often pass ambitious or innovative policies before the federal government does. But with control of Washington, D.C., now split between Democrats and Republicans after the midterms, they could be the only places where meaningful policies are passed for the next two years.”