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By Jim Tharpe December 3, 2010

The GOP made historic gains at the state level this year

Just hours after the November election ended, the conservative journal National Review boasted online that the GOP had enjoyed a historic win. Not in Congress, but in state houses across the nation.

That’s not a new story in Georgia, which elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction in 2002. A few years later, both chambers of the state Legislature had GOP majorities. Those majorities increased in the 2010 election cycle, and a half-dozen lawmakers elected as Democrats on Nov. 2 have fled to the GOP in the election's aftermath.


But nationally, did Republicans actually pick up historic ground in state legislatures in last month’s election as the National Review stated?

PolitiFact Georgia checked with Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures and a guy who knows about as much about political shifts at the state level as anyone around.

"It’s a much different landscape than it was prior to the election," Storey said.

The Colorado-based Storey said Republicans gained 691 state legislative seats in the November election. Nationwide, they now hold 3,928 seats to 3,366 for Democrats.

"It was definitely historic gains," he said in a telephone interview. "It’s the most GOP [state] legislators since 1928."

Republicans had the momentum going into the election, he said, but some questioned whether the GOP could surpass its 1994 performance, when the GOP picked up 525 seats at the state level. They easily surpassed that number and saw the biggest party shift in legislative seats since 1966, Storey said.

Some of the state pickups surprised even the experts. Minnesota, the same state that made Democrat Al Franken a U.S. senator in 2008, saw its Legislature taken over by the GOP. And the Michigan House of Representatives went Republican.

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The GOP tilt was even greater in the South, where state-level offices had been trending Republican for two decades. Still, when the election began, 14 legislative chambers in the South were controlled by Democrats and 14 by Republicans. When the dust cleared, 19 of the region’s 28 chambers were controlled by Republicans.

The 2010 election cycle in the South represents a "historic tipping point," Storey said. For the first time since Reconstruction, the GOP holds a majority of chambers and seats.

The online journal Politico recently ran the headline "Democratic South finally falls."

The change has been going on for some time, writer Jonathan Martin noted in the article.

"But what this year’s elections, and the subsequent party switching, have made unambiguously clear is that the last ramparts have fallen and political realignment has finally taken hold in the South’s last citadels of Democratic strength: the state houses," Martin wrote.

Democrats lost both chambers of the legislatures in Alabama and North Carolina. Democrats now control both legislative chambers in just two Southern states, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The realignment of power in the state legislatures can have enormous consequences. State lawmakers soon will begin the process of redrawing political boundaries, a process known as redistricting that occurs every 10 years.

The party in power will obviously try to draw those lines to benefit itself, so the GOP romp of 2010 could have some real staying power.

We rate the National Review claim of historic GOP gains as True.

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The GOP made historic gains at the state level this year

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