WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans seemed on their way to significant gains in state legislatures after winning the Senate and adding to their House majority in Congress.
In West Virginia, voters drove Democrats from the majority and entrusted Republicans with most of the lawmaking power. The GOP seized control of the House of Delegates and tied up the Senate, ending eight decades of losing streaks.
In Nevada, Republicans defied expectations and earned a majority in a state Assembly considered safely Democratic only days earlier. They had hoped for a slim majority in the Nevada Senate, and pulled it off easily.
Colorado Democrats tried to retain their majorities in the state House and Senate but faced strong challenges from Republicans, especially in Denver's western suburbs.
Republicans picked up two state Senate seats in New York, paving the way for a Republican ruling majority again next year, despite a statewide 2-to-1 disadvantage in party enrollment.
"The state picture is dramatically more Republican than it was going into the election," said Tim Storey, of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While many races were too close to call, "Democrats are going to be in their weakest position in legislatures in decades, since well before World War II," he said.
In one consolation, Democrats kept the Kentucky House, one of the last Democratic strongholds in the South.
On average, the president's party loses over 400 state legislative seats during midterm races, Storey said. In the 2010 midterm election, for instance, Republicans swept state races, gained around 720 legislative seats and taking over 21 state legislative chambers, according to figures compiled by the group.
Democrats acknowledged the difficult political climate this year and already are looking to 2016.
"This has been a record-breaking year for us. We had our best fundraising year to date, recruited some of the best candidates we've ever seen, knocked on more doors than ever before, but it just wasn't enough," said Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in a statement.
But Republicans did not appear to have made as dramatic gains as they had hoped. Their goal had been to pick up six chambers.
California Republicans were hoping to block Democrats from regaining two-thirds control of both houses of the Legislature.
In Illinois, it was unclear whether the new Republican governor would face a veto-proof Democratic majority in the state House.