The Party Line
1:02 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

Republicans Hold Edge In State Government Power

While the national electorate returned a divided govern­ment to Washington, D.C., state capitals reflect a new norm in unified political party control, with North Carolina being a prime example. 


Blue = Democratic Unified Party Control; Red = Republican Unified Party Control; Purple = Divided Party Control (Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is non-partisan)

In 15 states, Democrats control both the legislature and the chief executive, while in 23 states, the GOP controls both branches of state government.

Hawaii could be considered the most Democratic state government when it comes to the legislature and the governor: 85 percent of its lower chamber seats and 96 percent of the upper chamber seats are held by Democrats.

On the Republican side, Wyoming could be considered the most GOP state government, with 87 percnet of both the lower chamber and upper chamber seats, along with the governorship, held in Republican hands. 

North Carolina ranks 12th in the nation as the most Republican state government. The GOP controls 64 percent of both chambers’ seats. South Carolina ranks 17th with 59 percent of its House seats and 61 percent of the state Senate controlled by the GOP. 

As noted by an official with the National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013 will see the fewest number of states where there is divided government between the two parties.

Granted, unified control of the legislative and executive branches of government does allow the party in power to pursue their specific policy agenda. 

In a recent appearance before the Wake County Young Professional Republicans, House Speaker Thom Tillis indicated some possible legislative agenda items for 2013: “bill number 1 … needs to be voter ID,” along with creating a “uniform early voting system across” the state. 

Tillis went on to say that “passing fracking was a 5-yard gain on a 100 yard field,” and that the GOP needed to do more on the issue. 

All of these items would have been rejected by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, but since the new occupant of the governor’s mansion will be a fellow Republican, Tillis’ agenda will most likely meet a favorable signature from the chief executive.

Of course, unified party control isn’t always the ideal utopia that most believe it to be.  No one political party is ideologically uniform, and with the state GOP composed of a variety of social and fiscal conservatives, these different factions within the dominant party will be jockeying for control of the agenda and policies passed. 

Take, for example, one of the clearest dividing lines between just the state House and Senate last year regarded compensation for victims of the state’s eugenics program. While sponsored in a bipartisan manner with Speaker Tillis leading the cause, the measure failed in the state Senate due to lack of support by the GOP caucus. 

One of the most talked about questions across the state is where will the incoming governor fall on the party-unity line? Will Governor-Elect McCrory uphold his promise of bipartisan effort, recognizing (in his own words) the past mistakes “both parties have made in the past” when they became “arrogant with … power or majorities”?

Or will the lure of having complete political control over the state be just too tempting for the GOP to release the pent-up frustration of finally having unified control, the first time since the late 1890s?

The danger lies in the old political adage “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But most come to realize that when it’s too late.