Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

States Made History on November 4, Too

by Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org Staff Writer

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Barack Obama wasn’t the only one to make history Nov. 4 when he was elected the first black U.S. president. Statehouses also broke ground on several fronts.

New Hampshire became the first state in U.S. history to give women the majority in a legislative chamber, said Tim Storey, a state elections expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Women will hold 13 of 24 seats in the state Senate.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina Senate went in the opposite direction and will become the only state legislative chamber in the country without any female members. The last all-male legislative body was the Louisiana Senate, which had no women from 1980 until mid-1991, NCSL said.

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In gubernatorial races, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) will become North Carolina’s first female governor.

Other benchmarks in statehouse history from the 2008 election, according to NCSL:

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  • Republicans for the first time in history will control both houses in Tennessee and Oklahoma, after both chambers in Tennessee and the lower house in Oklahoma moved into the GOP column. Both states, though, have Democratic governors.
  • Colorado is poised to become the first state to have black lawmakers leading both legislative chambers.
  • The Alabama Legislature, in Democratic hands since 1872, continues its streak as the legislature held the longest by either party in any state. Close behind, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi have been under Democratic control for more than a century.
  • Every legislative chamber north of Virginia will be in Democratic hands except for the Pennsylvania Senate, making the Northeast a sea of blue.
  • The Delaware House went Democratic after 24 years in GOP hands, burnishing its record as one of the most volatile lower chambers in the country. Like the Indiana House, the Delaware House has flipped hands 19 times in 100 years.
  • Seven, or possibly eight, legislatures will be under divided control next year — with one party in the majority in each house or locked in a tie — the smallest number of divided legislatures since 1982, Storey said. The question mark is Montana, where the GOP has the Senate but control of the House is up in the air pending recounts in a couple of elections.
  • Democrats picked up roughly 100 more seats nationwide out of the 5,824 seats on the ballot Nov. 4, 79% of all the legislative seats in the country. Democrats now account for 55% of all state lawmakers, the highest percentage since 1994.

The election by the numbers:

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  • Democrats made a net gain of one gubernatorial seat out of 11 on the ballot and will control 29 governor’s offices to 21 for Republicans.
  • Democrats will control both legislative chambers in 27 states, up from 23 currently. Republicans will control both chambers in 14 states, the same number they now hold, according to NCSL tallies.
  • Following the 2008 elections, Democrats will control the governor’s office plus both legislative chambers in 17 states, up from 14, while Republicans will control eight, down from 10.

Find other election-related stories at stateline.org.

– Stateline.org staff writer Daniel C. Vock contributed to this article.

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