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Forget D.C., look what Republicans won in state legislatures

November 3, 2010 |  2:52 pm

the Ohio State Capitol where newly elected Republican governor John Kasich will reside

So much of the national media's attention is focused Wednesday, shockingly, on Washington, where they live and work and where Republicans captured a half-dozen new Senate seats and five dozen new House seats. But out where most regular Americans live and work, voters also made historic changes -- to the long-lasting benefit of Republicans.

This is especially important in years ending in '00 because these newly elected governors and state legislators will (with the exception of California) be the ones redrawing legislative and congressional district lines that will stand for the next decade until the 2020 census. And occupying the governor's mansion puts that party in control of an immense statewide political apparatus to help its presidential ticket two years hence.

Come January, Republicans will now run crucial governors' offices in....

...major presidential battleground states like Florida (Rick Scott), Ohio (John Kasich), Pennsylvania (Tom Corbett) and Iowa, where former Gov. Terry Branstad returns.

New Mexico voters elected their first female governor, Republican Susana Martinez, a Latino. Sometimes-maligned South Carolina voters chose Nikki Haley, who is not only the state's first female governor but only the nation's second of Indian American descent (Louisiana's Bobby Jindal being the other.) Oklahoma also picked its first female governor, Republican Mary Fallin.

According to the authoritative Stateline.org, the country's contests for governor and lieutenant governor cost $850 million. Heading into 2012, the GOP will control at least 29 of the 50 governor's suites.

Perhaps more importantly, the Republican wave at the national level was also felt at the grass-roots level, where Republicans gained control of at least 19 more state legislative chambers, possibly two dozen as vote-counting continues.

The GOP will have a majority in at least 54 of the 99 state legislative chambers, including a minimum of 53% of state legislature seats (about 3,900). That's the most the party has controlled in 82 years -- and up about 700 seats from Monday.

Not only does this help with redistricting, it is also the minor league political training ground for future office-seekers, such as Haley and South Dakota's new U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem. She's a 38-year-old rancher, marked as a rising star by national party leaders, who upset an incumbent Democrat and is coming out of four years at the state level in Pierre.

Not to overlook Marco Rubio, Florida's new Republican U.S. senator, who's a former state House speaker.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Ohio state Capitol building; Credit: Associated Press

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