The Democrats’ midterm elections in Michigan and other state legislatures, explained
Contests for control of state legislatures were even bigger than usual this midterm cycle, with abortion rights and election security policy on the line. Although Republicans still control a majority of legislatures of states, as they have long done, Democrats managed to overthrow control of at least one legislature in a critical battleground, with more victories to come.
By Friday afternoon, the Democrats had succeeded in overthrowing both houses of the Michigan legislature. Minnesota also looks likely to see a House flip, with Democrats closing in on a majority in that state’s Senate (Democrats already control the House there). They didn’t overthrow either chamber in North Carolina, but at least avoided a GOP supermajority in the state’s General Assembly, meaning Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto will continue to be a bulwark against the Republican agenda there.
Other legislatures targeted by Democrats — like the Arizona House and Senate, the Pennsylvania House and the New Hampshire House and Senate — remain too close to call. Republicans have so far failed to overthrow Democratic-controlled state legislatures.
Here’s where Democrats have either successfully unseated state legislative chambers or are most likely to do so:
It’s hard to overstate how significant the Democrats’ victory in the state legislature is. They have not controlled either chamber since 1984 and have essentially avoided the doomsday scenarios for abortion rights and election security they warned of before Election Day.
Democrats feared that Republicans in the state, including those who had campaigned on the idea that they would have tried to overturn the 2020 election, were in a good position to try to overturn the results in 2024. And they had feared that Republicans might be able to impose an ultra-restrictive ban on abortion in 1931 or adopt other restrictions, making it much harder to get an abortion in Michigan.
Democrats essentially neutralized those threats, in part because Michigan residents voted to enshrine abortion rights protections in the state constitution. And given that they also seem on course to take control of the state house, according to the Associated Press results, and that Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been re-elected, they now face the prospect of a trifecta control.
Michigan Democrats are already beginning to present their platform, now that it has a real chance of becoming law. They talked about repealing the 1931 abortion ban and the state’s “right to work” law, expanding the state’s civil rights law to cover LGBTQ rights, advancing environmental protection and eliminating taxes on retirement income.
The Minnesota Senate appears likely to turn to Democrats, but has yet to be called by The Associated Press. Democrats have already taken control of the House and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz was easily re-elected, meaning Minnesota could also be a new Democratic trio.
That would allow Walz and State House Democrats to reach an agreement on how to spend a $9.25 billion budget surplus. The divided legislature failed to do so before adjourning earlier this year, but funding for schools, nursing homes, roads and bridges, and major tax cuts were on the table . Bonus checks for frontline workers during the pandemic were approved, but they weren’t as big as Democrats wanted. Minnesota Democrats have also proposed new environmental regulations and abortion access policies that could be passed.
Pennsylvania Democrats have previously claimed a majority in the State House, but The Associated Press has yet to call. If true, it would be a game-changer; the redistricting had made the electoral map more competitive for Democrats, but the Pennsylvania House was rated “lean Republican” before Election Day by Sabato’s Crystal Ball and has not been held by Democrats since 2010.
If they win, Democrats can vote against new abortion restrictions and funds for health care centers that perform abortions proposed by Republicans. And they will be able to reject a measure that could have been passed in 2023 to amend the state constitution to declare that there is “no constitutional, taxpayer-funded right to abortion or any other human rights.” ‘abortion”.
Regardless of the outcome, however, Pennsylvania will have a divided government: Democrat Josh Shapiro won the gubernatorial race and Republicans retained control of the state Senate. This could limit the realm of what is politically possible.
It will probably take a little longer before knowing the results in Arizona. The Arizona Senate was tossed and House ‘skinny Republican’ by Sabato’s Crystal Ball ahead of Election Day, and the up-and-down ticket races were too close to be called across the state .
But the outcome could determine the future of elections and abortion rights in the state, which will likely continue to be a major battleground. With contests involving Holocaust deniers yet to be determined — including races for governor, secretary of state and attorney general — it’s even more essential for Democrats to gain control of at least one legislative chamber. As in Michigan, Democrats feared Republicans would try to overturn the election result in 2024 if they had unified control of government in Arizona.
The GOP-controlled Arizona state legislature earlier this year passed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. But the state also has a 121-year total abortion ban on the books, which only has one exception when the pregnant person’s life is in danger. Both of these bans are currently being challenged in court, and even if they don’t survive, Republicans could enact further abortion restrictions if they maintain control of the state legislature. A Democratic governor could veto such legislation, given that the GOP will be far from having a supermajority in the legislature.
The New Hampshire House was rated “lean Republican” and looked a little more like a litter for Democrats on Friday afternoon. With Republican Gov. Chris Sununu re-elected, the Democrats’ role would be to control the authority of the GOP if they win the State House, as Republicans would also have to control the state Senate. But it’s also possible that the House will also be divided, ushering in a new era of partisanship in the chamber, with far-left and right-wing factions gaining greater sway over legislation.
Democrats have already outlined their platform to address voter concerns about abortion rights, energy costs, property tax hikes and public education. However, they may not be lucky enough to adopt it.
Update, Nov. 11, 1:40 p.m. ET: This story, originally published on November 9, has been updated with the latest results.