Democrats or Republicans controlled both offices in just 28 states following the 2014 election

Following up on a recent Smart Politics report that found a historic low in split-party U.S. Senate delegations, this report folds in the office of governor to highlight how an increasing number of states also control all three of these key seats.

There were no surprises in the 2020 gubernatorial elections save, perhaps, the particularly large margin (12+ points) by which Montana’s open seat was flipped by Republican U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte over Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney. This was the only state to change partisan control.

With Democrat Jon Tester still serving n the U.S. Senate, however, Montana is one of 15 states in which a single party will not control the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats come 2021 (with Georgia still pending).

Democrats will control the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate seats in 16 states while Republicans will do so in 18 states (or 19 with a sweep in the January runoffs).

Of the 15 states in which one of the major parties will not control the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats:

  • Four states have Democratic governors and two Republican U.S. Senators: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina
  • Two states have Democratic governors and one U.S. Senator from each major party: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
  • One state has a Democratic governor with Republican and independent U.S. Senators: Maine
  • Four states have Republican governors and two Democratic U.S. Senators: Arizona, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire
  • Three states have Republican governors and one U.S. Senator from each major party: Montana, Ohio, West Virginia
  • One state has a Republican governor with Democratic and independent U.S. Senators: Vermont

Democrats in particular have enjoyed a good run in recent cycles of unifying their control across both elected offices.

Following the 2014 election, Democrats held the governorship and both U.S. Senate seats in just 10 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

After the 2017 gubernatorial elections, Democrats added New Jersey to that list with the victory by Phil Murphy.

By January 2019, that number had increased to 15 – the aforementioned 11 states plus Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, and New Mexico where Democrats flipped all four gubernatorial seats to complement their already full slate of U.S. Senators.

After the 2020 cycle, one more state was added to the Democratic column after former Governor John Hickenlooper (pictured at top) unseated Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado.

Republicans, meanwhile, will control the governor’s office and both U.S. Senate seats in 18 states come January: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. [With Alabama new to this list following Tommy Tuberville’s overwhelming defeat last month of Democratic incumbent Doug Jones].

Following the 2014 cycle, the GOP also had 18 states in their column – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The 2015 election added Kentucky to that list with GOPer Matt Bevin winning the governorship but Louisiana was subtracted following the election of Democrat John Bel Edwards to governor.

The 2016 election also saw North Carolina fall off the list with Roy Cooper victorious in the governor’s race with Alabama doing the same after a 2017 special U.S. Senate election win by Doug Jones.

In 2018, however, the GOP solidified control in five states with U.S. Senate pick-ups in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota and a gubernatorial pick-up in Alaska.

But the party lost the open seat governorship in Kansas to Laura Kelly and an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona to Kyrsten Sinema.

Finally, Kentucky Republicans lost hold of the governorship in 2019 with Andy Beshear narrowly knocking Matt Bevin out of office.

All told, the number of states in which one party controls all three seats in both offices has increased from 28 in January 2015 to 34 (and possibly 35) in January 2021.

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1 Comment

  1. Mac Hall on December 28, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    Dear Dr. Ostermeier,
    Have you read the recent lawsuit filed by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas and interested parties from Arizona ?
    https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.txed.203073/gov.uscourts.txed.203073.1.0_1.pdf

    Without getting into the merits of the case, it seems that they want the House of Representatives to decide who the next President will be — with each State getting one vote. Obviously, that would be an interesting situation for the Minnesota delegation with the delegation split 4 GOP and 4 DFL. It is possible that IA, PA and MI could be in the same situation. And not sure, how they would handle Washington DC which does not have a voting Member but does have three Electoral College votes.

    And it seems kinda silly that Arizona is leading the case, since the next Congress should give them 5 Dems and 4 GOP, they would most likely go to Biden.

    Just curious, have you reviewed the 117th Congress for how many states would have delegations that are dominated by Republicans, Democrats and split. I could see that Trump could win 25 States (even though he did not win that many States) leaving the split States to pick the next President. And the Senate has no role in picking the President.

    Would appreciate hearing your thoughts.

    Best regards,
    Mac