HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut is one of 10 states in 2018 that are being considered a “battleground” when it comes to which party may control the state House and Senate.
Ballotpedia, an online encyclopedia of elections, is tracking the races and found Connecticut’s House and Senate races have the potential to result in a shift in power from Democratic to Republican control.
There are 99 state legislative chambers throughout the United States, and 87 of them are holding general elections in 2018. Heading into the 2018 elections, Republicans control 32 of the country’s 50 state legislatures, Democrats control 13, and five legislatures are split between the parties.
The last time Republicans controlled the Senate in Connecticut was from 1994 to 1996 and the last time they controlled the House was 1986.
In the Senate, the Democrats have seen their majority slip from 24-12 after the 2008 election to an 18-18 tie. House Democrats, meanwhile, held a 114-37 margin after the 2008 election, and have seen it dwindle to 79-72.
In the last several elections, Republicans have made gains in both chambers, including drawing even in the state Senate in 2016.
Ballotpedia said the Senate chamber is a battleground because in 2016 Republicans gained three seats.
Both parties need to gain one seat to take outright control of the chamber. At the moment, Democrats have a small advantage because Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, presides over the chamber and can cast a tie-breaking vote.
According to Ballotpedia, both parties have opportunities to pick up seats. In 2016, there were four seats with a margin of victory of less than 5 percent. Three were won by Republicans and one was won by a Democrat. There are nine Republican-controlled seats in districts that were won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
In 2016, Republicans gained eight seats in the House, decreasing the Democrats’ advantage in the chamber from 86-64 to 79-72. To take control of the chamber in 2018, Republicans need a net gain of four more seats.
Ballotpedia said Connecticut has one “Pivot County” that includes eight House districts — Windham. The reason it’s considered a Pivot County is because voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012 they voted for Republican President Donald Trump.
In 2016, 40 of Connecticut’s state House districts — 26.5 percent of all districts — voted for a presidential candidate of one party and a state House candidate from the other party. A total of 33 districts voted for Clinton and a Republican for state House, and seven districts voted for Trump and a Democrat for state House.
Ballotpedia said they chose the Connecticut House as a chamber to watch because 16 seats won by Democrats in 2016 had a margin of victory that was less than 10 percent. Twelve seats won by Republicans had a margin of victory less than 10 percent.
They said the other reason is the Democrats’ narrow margin of control in the House — 79 of the 151 seats, or 52.3 percent of the total.
While Connecticut has a landmark clean elections program, Ballotopedia said it expects an influx of outside money from independent expenditure groups to be involved in trying to influence the balance of power.
Rob Oldham, a writer for Ballotpedia’s state legislative project, said last week that they’re tracking outside spending by independent expenditure groups participating in these elections.
At the moment he said the only one they’re aware of is a Democratic Super PAC called Forward Majority Action, which is targeting targeting 12 state legislatures in the 2017 and 2018 elections. Connecticut is not one of the states the group is targeting.
Political lines will be redrawn after the 2020 census, which could increase the amount of outside money flowing into these competitive states, according to Oldham.
He said often it takes more than one election cycle to flip party control of a chamber, so they expect to see an increase in outside spending in 2020 as well.