Democrats Win Big in 2017 Elections

Public Policy Alert

By Jeremy Kudon and Scott Ward

Democrats saw big gains across the board on election night 2017 and exit polls showed voters intended the results to be a clear rebuke of the Trump administration.

Democrats will have two new “tri-fectas” where they control the Governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature in New Jersey and Washington. Moving forward Democrats will have eight tri-fectas while Republicans hold 26. Nationally Democrats will control 33 legislative chambers to 66 held by Republicans, a net gain of two chambers last night for Democrats.

Historical trends suggest this is just the first of several bad election nights for state level Republicans to come. The party in control of the White House historically loses state level elections. Under President Obama the Democratic party lost 913 state legislative seats. Republicans under George W. Bush lost 324 and Democrats under Bill Clinton lost 524. Large partisan swings are becoming more of the norm in American politics and that norm will continue under President Trump.


  • Governor Elect Ralph Northam led a sweep of the statewide offices for Democrats defeating former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie. Democrat Justin Fairfax won election as Lt. Governor and current Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring won reelection.
  • Democrats picked up 16 seats in the House of Delegates to create a tie for control at 50 seats each. There are at least three seats that will likely go to a recount. Republicans currently lead in two of those races with the Democrat up in one. A change in the result of any of those races will break the tie in the chamber. In previous years where partisan control was close, defections from one party to the other and/or strategic appointments by the Governor to create vacancies have resolved the tie and those are a strong possibility this year as well.


  • Democrats likely flipped control of the Senate and now hold a one seat majority. Going into election night the Washington Senate was controlled by Republicans with the help of one conservative Democrat. But Democrat Manka Dhingra is in line to beat Republican Jinyoung Lee England in a special election to fill a vacancy in a GOP held seat. Due to Washington’s mail-in voting system the race has not been officially called but trends suggest the Democrats will now control the Governor’s office and both branches of the legislature in Washington.

New Jersey

  • Democrat Phil Murphy took the Governor’s mansion in a widely expected victory in New Jersey. That is a flip in partisan control from Republican Governor Chris Christie.
  • In legislative races Democrats held majorities of 24-16 in the Senate and 52-28 in the House. With several races still too close to call, Democrats will pick up at least one seat in the Senate and may pick up a few in the House.


  • In the Senate, two Democrats will compete in a run-off to fill the seat left vacant by Republican Hunter Hill. The race featured five Republicans and three Democrats. The Democratic pick-up will end the Republican super-majority in the Georgia Senate.
  • In the House, Democrats won two special elections to fill vacant seats previously held by Republicans.