Midterm results from the governor and state legislation that could affect your life: NPR

Supporters react during an election night event for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers at The Orpheum Theater on Nov. 8 in Madison, Wisc. Evers defeated Republican challenger Tim Michels on Tuesday.

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Supporters react during an election night event for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers at The Orpheum Theater on Nov. 8 in Madison, Wisc. Evers defeated Republican challenger Tim Michels on Tuesday.

Jim Wondruska/Getty Images

Who runs your state government shapes everyday life in the United States. These governors and legislatures make policy on guns, abortion, education and the environment.

Combined with gridlock at the federal level, “where you live now increasingly determines what policies you live under,” said Tad Kusser, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

In the 2022 midterm elections, Democratic candidates outperformed expectations in state leadership races, winning gubernatorial races and flipping state legislatures. But the Republicans cruised to victory in their strongholds.

Here’s how the mid-term exams rocked the state-level management.

Democrats picked up at least 2 more governorships

In close races, Democratic governors were usually the ones defending. Biden’s low approval rating and inflation woes fueled fears of a “red wave.”

But many Democrats in tighter competition won re-election: Gov. Janet Mills in Maine, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico.

In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers also won a second term. He will continue to work with a Republican-led state legislature. Gov. Laura Kelly retained the governorship of Kansas, a state former President Donald Trump won twice.

The party also consolidated its hold in two states where registered Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans: Maryland and Massachusetts. In both cases, the Democratic candidate won an open governorship that the Republicans had vacated. Democrats are now in full control of state government in both states. (When a single party controls the state House, state Senate, and governor’s office, it’s called the “trifecta.”) While state legislatures in both already managed to override vetoes from outgoing Republicans, it will now be even easier to pass the agenda of the Democratic Party subjects with the trifecta.

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There will also be a Democratic trifecta in Oregon, where Democrat Tina Kotek emerged victorious Thursday night after a close race with Republican Christine Drazan.

“We’ve had the best midterms for governors since 1986,” President Biden told reporters at a news conference this week.

Entering the election, Republicans held 28 state governorships and Democrats held 22. That number will change, though final results in several states are pending.

Regardless, the majority of Americans “will live in states where Democrats are governors” in 2023 because of their victories in states with large populations, Ben Williams of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said during at a press conference.

Democrats also took control of some state legislatures

The Republican Party has controlled the majority of state legislatures in the country since 2010.

This cycle, two Democratic-affiliated outside spending groups poured in $80 million to begin changing that, on top of about $50 million spent by the party itself. Part of the mission was to ensure that state legislatures did not work to overturn the results of the next presidential election, as many GOP lawmakers did in 2020.

The Democrats succeeded beyond their expectations.

The party flipped the Michigan House of Representatives and the state Senate, a chamber it had not controlled for four decades. This would give Democrats a clear path to implementing the agenda items. In his victory speech, Democratic Gov. Whitmer said that would include growing the economy, improving public education and continuing the “devil’s fight” to protect basic rights.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats also claimed to have flipped the state House of Representatives, holding a news conference to announce their victory. In that chamber, state representative Joanna McClinton could be the first black woman to become speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

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The Associated Press has not yet announced all of those races, and the state Republican Party has not acknowledged. “We believe Democrats are arguing that the majority right now is premature, and we continue to closely monitor a number of races where votes are still being counted,” Pennsylvania House GOP spokesman Jason Gottsman told NPR.

Some of the Democratic gains in Michigan and Pennsylvania can likely be attributed to new district maps drawn after the 2020 census.

Democrats also took supermajorities in both houses of the Vermont state legislature, meaning the party can now unseat the GOP governor.

On the night he won re-election, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis takes the stage during a night-watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8.

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On the night he won re-election, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis takes the stage during a night-watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8.

Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images

The current Republican governors were cruising to victory

Republican governors have fended off challengers even in races that were considered close. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams for the second time by a larger margin. In Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis narrowly defeated his 2018 opponent, he defeated his 2022 opponent Charlie Crist, winning by double digits. Governor Greg Abbott also defeated Beto O’Rourke in Texas, winning a third term.

In a much tighter race, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma overcame a challenge from state education official Joy Hoffmeister.

The GOP could still pull off an upset in Nevada, a state that voted for President Joe Biden in 2020. Gov. Steve Sisolak is trailing Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a Republican, in his bid for re-election. The Associated Press has not yet announced the race.

But in Arizona, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is term-limited, the race is too close to call. As of Friday, former local Fox anchor Carrie Lake and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs were still in a tight race. Lake, who has made false claims about the fairness of the 2020 election, initially declined to say whether she would accept the outcome of her race if she lost.

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Republicans still control most state legislatures

Republicans held on to or increased their trifecta, picking up seats in Florida, the Iowa Senate and the South Carolina House of Representatives. The party already has veto-power majorities in Florida and Ohio. In these states, many conservative policy priorities have already been enacted or proposed, such as gun bans and restrictions on teaching gender or sexuality in schools.

Increasing those majorities, even under Republican gubernatorial leadership, could lead to infighting.

“Just because you wear the same jersey doesn’t mean you’re always playing for the same goals,” NCSL’s Williams said.

But the GOP failed to win an overwhelming majority in some split-government states, meaning Democratic governors will still be able to exercise their veto power. Republicans won a supermajority in the Wisconsin Senate, but not in the Wisconsin House of Representatives.

That’s significant because the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, survived a contested battle to win a second term. During his first term, he vetoed more than 140 bills and will continue to be able to veto legislation passed by Republicans.

The same thing happened in North Carolina. Republicans won a supermajority in the state Senate. But Democrats said they retained enough state House seats to prevent the GOP from overtaking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Divided governments like these are becoming increasingly rare. “Starting in 2010 and in almost every election since then, red states have gotten redder and blue states have gotten bluer,” said Kusser, the political scientist.

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