Report: Democrats Continue Takeover of State Governments

A new report published this morning by ABC News shows that the Democratic Party is continuing to gain power in state legislatures. Last November’s elections saw big gains by Democrats throughout the country, but those gains didn’t stop when the elections were finished.

According to ABC, in the months since the midterm elections, Republicans in California, Kansas and New Jersey switched their party affiliations to become Democrats.

The party-switchers all gave different reasons for becoming Democrats, but they also said there was one overriding factor in their decisions: the Republican Party under President Donald Trump has become too extreme for them, and they no longer are comfortable being in it.

Kansas State Senator Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, one of the party switchers, said:

“The Republican Party, for all of its statements of having a big tent, continues to limit the tent. Those of us who were moderates are clearly not welcome.”

Bollier was one of four moderate Republicans in red-state Kansas — all from the Kansas City suburbs — to switch their party affiliation.

This past week saw another party change in New Jersey by Republican State Senator Dawn Marie Addiego. She has represented a southern New Jersey district near Philadelphia for a decade. She said she changed because she wanted to “be a part of the discussion” in the Democratic majority. She also said that the national Republican Party is no longer recognizable.

“My core values that originally drew me to the Republican Party have not changed, but the party which once echoed the vision of Ronald Reagan no longer exists,” she said in a statement announcing her party change.

Her announcement means the GOP is now the minority party in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature. And since a Democrat also won the governor’s race, the Garden State is now completely under Democratic control.

Recently California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein from San Diego also switched from Republican to Democrat. In explaining the change, he said that he no longer agrees with the GOP on such important issues as immigration, health care, gun control, abortion and gay rights.

These new Republican defections come after the midterm elections which saw Democrats picking up seats in 62 state legislative chambers, according to data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It is no coincidence that the party switching is also occurring at a time when Donald Trump’s — and the Republican Party’s — approval ratings have dropped to historic lows. And increasingly the GOP has abandoned its principles and become the Party of Trump.

“Party switching now is largely a product of the Trump phenomenon,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “President Trump has blown the lid off of the Republican Party. It starts to look like a personality cult.”

In California and New Jersey the GOP has been in a long downward slide, and the latest losses will make it even harder to gain influence and relevance.

Jack Ciattarelli, a former New Jersey Republican legislator, said Republicans will have to focus on state issues to regain votes. In New Jersey, that means focusing on underfunded public pensions and affordability.

“In this era, there will always be those whose intense disdain for Donald Trump will determine their vote,” Ciattarelli said. “But I still believe there are a majority of New Jersey independent-unaffiliated voters and even some soft Democratic voters that will vote for the party that’s going to solve the various crises.”

Ciattarelli said he will run for governor in 2021 as a Republican.

Many of  the party-switchers have long held seats in suburban districts where the demographics and the politics have been changing for many years, and this helps explain the shifts. The suburbs are turning blue, as was evidenced in November’s congressional elections. And many of the party-switchers are women.

In suburban Philadelphia, Addiego beat her Democratic opponent with 63 percent of the vote in 2013. But by 2017 her winning percentage was cut to 52 percent. And last November, Democratic Rep. Andy Kim defeated then-incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur in the 3rd U.S. House district, which includes all the towns Addiego represents in the state Senate.

This new report from ABC News shows that the Republican Party has lost the suburbs, and this trend will continue in the future. Not only will Democrats continue to control the U.S. House, they will also continue to pick up control of more state legislatures in states where there are significant suburban populations.

The GOP may be the party of Trump, but the Democratic Party is the party of the future.