For all the heartbreak Republicans have seen this election, there are some bright spots in late breaking contests. In prior years, wave elections or not, Republicans have seen late breaking contests go against them from California to NY State. But this year, with so many states changing their election laws to allow for mail ballots, Ranked Choice Voting and more, it seems Republicans might finally have benefited and it seems to have saved and garnered them a new legislative majority.
Three particular cases stand out at the legislative level with numerous examples in NY State and California at the Congressional level. At least Republicans can be thankful for this this Thanksgiving.
- Alaska: While Alaska is nominally a Republican state despite Mary Petolta’s Congressional win, at the legislative level Republicans have not held unified control for close to a decade. The reason why would be because while Republicans hold the Senate, a power sharing agreement in the state house between moderate Republicans, Independents and Democrats has given them the gavel. Well, after RCV, that arrangement may come to an end. In a closely fought battle in District 15, an incumbent Democrat lost by a mere 4 votes, seeming to give the GOP 21 solid votes for speaker and unified control of government. Ironically, this would give the GOP their lone legislative pick – up of the cycle (though as written prior, they expanded their majorities in many states where they already had control – OH, NC, FL, IA, etc.).
- New Hampshire: In New Hampshire, two recounts took a seat away from the GOP and then returned it back to the fold. The saga saw the GOP state rep lead by 26 votes on election night. When a mandatory recount was conducted he lost by a single vote but a lawsuit to add ballots to the recount was approved and he ended up winning. In the end the seat may be the difference between the GOP holding an ever so slim majority in the state house. Note: New Hampshire has a wonky legislative system of 400 house seats (some SMD geographically and some floterial districts) while the Senate has a mere 20 seats.
- Arizona: Republicans likely will retain control of the state house by a single seat but could see it grow by one or two seats once all votes are counted. While it is true Democrats did take the Governorship, Sec of State and likely AG’s office, they will confront a GOP controlled state legislature as well as a Republican Superintendent of Education. For Democrats arguing how Arizona is rejecting Republicans, it sure is not looking that way.
Most of the late breaking races were in two blue states; New York and California. Both have very liberal mail in ballot laws as well as allowing ballot harvesting and dropboxes. Unlike our former President and other Republicans in red states, the state GOP in both states embraced these methods of voting and utilized them to turn out their voters as Democrats have theirs.
The results speak for themselves. The GOP built on their three seat gain in 2020 and added another seat, turning the Congressional delegation from 42 – 11 to 40 – 12 (CA lost a seat in redistricting). This as incumbents like Mike Garcia (Biden + 12) and David Valadao (Biden +14) won their dark blue, redrawn districts by impressive margins. Mike Duarte sealed the deal for the GOP by winning the Biden + 11 13th.
In NY State, the GOP’s gains literally gave them their cushion in the House and Democratic infighting over their tactics is absolutely brutal. What has become known as the Hochulmander, where legislative Democrats and the Governor deliberately let the state bipartisan redistricting commission fail and then draw a 22D – 4R gerrymander, was struck down by the 100% Democratic nominated state supreme court. The court appointed a special master to draw the lines and they were hardly a GOP dream. That said, they were far better than a likely 22D – 4R map.
To put this into perspective, per 538, only seven of 26 districts had a GOP lean (relative to 2020) and only six were carried by President Trump. Better than the Hochulmander but still. Though the GOP only enjoyed modest success in 2022, they excelled in NY State, to a record high 11 seats (something not seen since the dawn of the 21st century). The scope of the gains was most surprising honestly. A quick rundown of GOP won seats is below. Note: This does not include dark blue seats where Democrats won but substantially underperformed.
NY 1: Trump + 1 seat where Republicans garnered 56% of the vote.
NY 2: Trump + 2 seat where GOP won 61% of the vote.
NY 3: Biden + 8 seat where Republican garnered 54%.
NY 4: Biden + 14 where a non – incumbent Republican won 52% of the vote. Perhaps the upset of the state minus NY 17.
NY 11: Trump + 7 district where GOP incumbent took 62% of the vote.
NY: 17: Upset of the race where DCCC Chair Sean Maloney lost a Biden + 11 district by a point.
NY 19: Biden +3 seat where Republican won by a point.
NY 22: Biden + 6 district non incumbent Republican won by a point.
NY 21, 23, 24: Trump plus districts where Republicans overperformed.
A fair number of these races were not called until after Election night but the GOP owes their majority to these members and to the voters who did not follow the former President’s advice and mailed in their ballots and voted late. Republicans should learn from these experiences and plan accordingly for 2024.