Linda Belcher won the special election last night in Kentucky’s 49th House of Representatives district over her Republican opponent Rebecca Johnson, the widow of former state Rep. Dan Johnson, who committed suicide in December.
Timothy D. Easley/APDemocratic candidate Linda Belcher thanks her supporters following her victory in the special election for the Kentucky House of Representatives 49th District, Feb. 20, 2018, in Shepherdsville, Ky.
The victory for Belcher, who lost her seat in 2016 by less than one percentage point, is the 37th flip from Republican to Democratic control of a state legislative seat since the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017.
Democratic gains in state legislatures fuel Republican 2018 anxieties
Which lawmakers got the most NRA money?
New Pennsylvania congressional map could impact balance of power in the US House
However even after last night’s loss, Republicans still hold a wide 62 to 37 seat majority in the 100 seat Kentucky House, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.
That did not stop national Democrats from hailing Belcher’s win as a sign of the growing discontent with President Trump and the Republican Party ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, where control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are at stake for the GOP.
“Congratulations to Representative-elect Linda Belcher on her victory in today’s special election, which flipped yet another Republican-held seat from red to blue in a district that Trump won easily in 2016,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Democrats are organizing, investing, and winning elections in red districts across the country as voters reject Donald Trump and the Republican agenda.”
Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images, FILEDNC Chair Tom Perez speaks at teh Women’s March on Washington alongside his daughter Amalia Perez, Jan. 20, 2018.
Democrats have now flipped state legislative seats in 11 different states since Trump’s inauguration: Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, Virginia, Missouri and now Kentucky.
But despite the Democratic victory lap, Republicans in Kentucky and nationally are urging perspective on their losses, saying that special elections are not a reliable barometer of the broader political landscape.
“Tonight’s special election has been anything but normal from the beginning and offers little resemblance to what we should expect in November. Turnout was low, even by special election standards, and the impact of recent events hung over the race, clouding the outcome,” Tres Watson, a spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party, wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Republicans still enjoy a dominance of state legislatures across the country, a trend that began towards the beginning of President Barack Obama’s presidency.
Timothy D. Easley/APCampaign signs for both candidates for Kentucky’s 49th District, Republican Rebecca Johnson and Democrat Linda Belcher, share space on a road in Shepherdsville, Ky., Feb. 20, 2018.
The GOP currently controls 32 out of the country’s 50 state legislatures in the United States. Thirteen are controlled by Democrats, four are divided between the two parties, and the state of Nebraska operates under a unicameral state legislative system.
According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Republicans make up 56 percent of all state legislatures across the country.
Republicans like Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), caution that while these victories are obviously frustrating, it is too early to say that Democrats are poised to fundamentally alter control of state legislatures.
“You’re naturally going to have in the first-term election with a new president, you’re going to have a regression to the mean from those all-time historic highs,” Walter told ABC News last month after a state senate seat in Wisconsin flipped from red to blue, “The question then becomes how much of that is going to be executed in a way that has an impact on the overall environment. Is that going to lead to flipping chambers, is that going to lead to a change in the overall environment?”