Close Contests Shape Up For State Houses

Making your way past relentless campaign ads for high-profile House and Senate races, you might not notice another battle shaping up for more than 6,000 state legislative seats in 46 states up for grabs on November 7.

State Legislatures determine many important working family issues such as utility regulation, college tuition and other education funding, insurance regulation and supporting good-paying jobs. And, the party that controls the state legislatures after the 2006 election will have a distinct advantage in the election cycle going into the 2010 census. After the census, all states must redraw their voting districts which determines the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives. The party in power in each state has a big influence on that process. Former GOP House Majority leader used a special redistricting scheme in Texas to erase four Democratic House seats in the last election.

Today, control of state legislatures is almost evenly split. Out of 7,382 state legislative seats in the U.S., Democrats hold 21 more than Republicans, a margin of less than one half of one percent, according to a report in the New York Times. Republicans control both the House and Senate chambers in 20 states, the Democrats in 19. Nebraska has a nonpartisan legislature and the parties split control in the remaining 10 states. Some legislatures are so narrowly divided that in 17 states, a shift in just three state Senate races and a shift of five or fewer seat in 12 state House races would shift party control.