In addition to an array of wins in Virginia, New York, Florida, and elsewhere on Tuesday, Democrats took full advantage of limited opportunities to begin to reverse lopsided Republican control of state governments. Going into this off-year election, Republicans had “trifecta” control of the executive branch and both legislative chambers in 26 states, while Democrats had just six. Now Democrats have two more.
With Democrat Phil Murphy elected to succeed Republican Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey, that state is now completely controlled by the Donkey Party. And in Washington State, a special election appears to have elevated Democrat Manka Dhingra to a state Senate seat previously occupied by a Republican who died earlier this year, reversing a one-seat majority in the chamber that Republicans enjoyed via a coalition with a conservative Democrat. (Thanks to Washington’s allowance of mail ballots postmarked by Election Day and received later, Dhingra’s victory won’t be official for a few more days, but her double-digit lead seems secure.) Democrat Jay Inslee was reelected to a second term as governor last year, and his party also has a narrow margin of control in the Washington House.
Republicans hoped to add a trifecta in Virginia with gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie and a seemingly unassailable hold on the state legislature’s lower chamber, whose 100 seats were all up for grabs today. Instead, they lost the governor’s race decisively and could lose control of the state House of Delegates if Democrats win a few remaining dead-even races where provisional ballots or even recounts may make the difference. Now Virginia Republicans have to fear Democrats building a trifecta in 2019 when the House is again up and the GOP’s two-seat margin of control in the state Senate is at risk.
It’s all encouraging news for Democrats heading into 2018, when 36 governors and the vast majority of state legislators face voters again.