Despite having handed Republicans a highly coveted super majority status in the General Assembly, Democrats heralded Tuesday as a victory.
Losing six state House seats over last legislative session's total is actually a win for Democrats, top party leaders said Wednesday.
“Our numbers are down, we know that,” said Craig Fitzhugh, the leading House Democrat. “But the fact that we were able to retain all of our incumbents and pick up four new seats clearly shows the reversal of a trend. We are in the process of clawing our way back, ladies and gentlemen.”
While the minority party had ownership of 34 seats on the last day of the legislative session, they say they really only had 24 after the retirements of seven members and Republicans drawing them out of three more.
Walking away from Tuesday’s election with anything more than 24 seats is a victory, House Democratic Caucus Leader Mike Turner said.
“That’s our story and I think that we won,” he said. “We are tickled to be here.”
One of the Democrats’ electoral wins this election cycle was picking off Republican Rep. Jim Gotto and replacing him with Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan in House District 60, which stretches through the east side of Davidson County.
Republicans ran "probably the most competitive races that we have ever run" in Davidson County, said House Speaker Beth Harwell, adding the GOP will always struggle there. But clearly, she said, Republicans are the victors this election cycle, despite losing one House seat to the Democrats.
"I commend them on well-fought races. All I can say is we have 18 new Republican freshmen," Harwell told reporters Wednesday. "That's, I think, quite a victory for the Republican Party."
Republicans now make up 70 of the 99 seats in the state House of Representatives, leaving 28 Democrats and one independent. The last time one party held a super majority in that chamber was 1977.
Senate Republicans also earned a super majority in Tuesday night’s election by gaining six seats. The GOP to Democrat ratio there now sits at 26-7.
By having control of more than two-thirds of the legislature, the party has the power to conduct business without needing Democrats present.