2012: The GOP's Southern hold deepens


Two years ago, the GOP sweep of the South was stunning. All but one GOP candidate seeking a statewide office in the South won and the GOP swept into control of many of the remaining Democratic-held legislative chambers. Adding several chambers which tipped since then, the Democrats held just two legislative chambers: the House and Senate in Arkansas, which dangled by slender threads, along with a handful of Congressional seats held by white Democrats.

On Tuesday, they added to their southern political chokehold, taking the last remaining Democratic U.S. House seats in Arkansas and Oklahoma, ousting four of the six white Democrats holding majority-white Congressional districts in the South (three in NC and one in KY) and seizing control of the Arkansas General Assembly, giving them majority control of every state legislative chamber in the South.

Clearly Republicans in the South have come a long way from 1994, when they took their first majorities in Southern legislative chambers.

On top of securing a "clean sweep" of Southern state capitals, the GOP won legislative super-majorities in both chambers in Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee, as well as the Virginia House and Florida Senate, adding to their existing super-majority in Alabama, which it gained in 2010.

North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, the first Republican to hold the office since 1992, will find his path much smoother going than Democrat Bev Purdue, who lost many veto overrides after the GOP took control of the North Carolina legislature two years ago.

Here's a look at the total legislative changes in the South:

  • Alabama: No legislative elections
  • Arkansas: House: GOP + 5, Senate: GOP +6
  • Florida: House: Dem + 7, Senate: Dem +2
  • Georgia: House: GOP +6, Senate: GOP +3
  • Kentucky: House: GOP +4, Senate: No change
  • Mississippi: No legislative elections
  • North Carolina: House: GOP +9, Senate: GOP +1
  • South Carolina: House: GOP +2, GOP +1
  • Tennessee: House: +6, Senate: GOP +6
  • Texas: House: Dem +7, Senate: No change
  • Virginia: No legislative elections

The net legislative holdings in the South show how far the region has changed since the GOP won it's first southern legislative majorities in 1994:
  • House: GOP 934, DEM 583, with a net GOP gain of 24 seats
  • Senate: GOP 345, DEM 193, with a net GOP gain of 19 seats.
While these changes are a lot smaller than the gains made in the 2010 wave, there weren't many more seats for Republicans to gain in most Southern states and most legislative redistricting plans passed last year were more focused on maintaining the status quo, in effect locking in GOP gains from the 2010 and 2011 elections, rather than trying to extend GOP gains in marginal areas.

While other regions are either competitive or tough going for Republicans, the South is increasingly becoming a GOP bastion and Democrats are increasingly marginalized and will struggle to have any relevance in the near future in a region in which they held a political monopoly two generations ago.

Expect these strong GOP holdings to do much to deter Democratic gubernatorial candidate recruitment in the South for the 2014 election cycle, when most Southern governors' offices are up for election.

Nationally, the GOP held majorities in fifty-six of ninety-eight legislative chambers after votes were counted, losing control of four to Democrats. The GOP won back control of the Wisconsin Senate, which was lost in recall special elections in the spring.

1 Response to "2012: The GOP's Southern hold deepens"

  1. Ted A. 8/11/12 09:23
    The growing population of legal latinos in the South is the Republicans biggest challenge in the region. These votes vote about 90% Democrat and if current demographic trends remain, they could turn Texas purple by 2016 or 2020. It could become the ultimate swing state.

    If Texas went blue, the road to the White House becomes all the more difficulty for the Republicans.

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