State government trifectas – Ballotpedia

State government trifectas – Ballotpedia

A state government trifecta is a term to describe single party government, when one political party holds three positions in a state’s government. The following are variations of the term:

  • Trifecta: One political party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house in a state’s government.
  • Trifecta plus: A trifecta and a working majority of the court siding with the political leaning of the party in power.[1]
  • Trifecta with supermajority: A trifecta in which both legislative bodies have a supermajority, commonly defined as either 60 percent or two-thirds of seats held by a single party. Click here to read more about states with veto-proof supermajorities.[2]
“Beyond the Headlines: Trifectas”

There are currently 36 trifectas: 15 Democratic and 21 Republican. As a result of the 2018 elections, Democrats increased their trifecta total with a net gain of six trifectas, and Republicans lost a net of four trifectas. States with divided government—no trifecta for either major party—declined by two.

Five states held elections in 2019 where trifecta status was on the line. Democrats gained one trifecta while Republicans lost a trifecta. The number of states with divided government remained the same. Click here to read more about changes in trifectas in 2019.

Ballotpedia has compiled the following resources to explain the status of trifectas before and after the 2018 elections:

Overview of state government trifectas by state

Trifecta status by state

The following table shows the status of state government—divided control, Democratic trifecta, or Republican trifecta—in each state. It also includes the year of the last change to each state’s trifecta status.

Trifecta status by state
State Trifecta status Year of last status change
Alabama Republican trifecta 2011
Alaska Divided government 2015
Arizona Republican trifecta 2009
Arkansas Republican trifecta 2015
California Democratic trifecta 2011
Colorado Democratic trifecta 2019
Connecticut Democratic trifecta 2011
Delaware Democratic trifecta 2009
Florida Republican trifecta 2011
Georgia Republican trifecta 2005
Hawaii Democratic trifecta 2011
Idaho Republican trifecta 1995
Illinois Democratic trifecta 2019
Indiana Republican trifecta 2011
Iowa Republican trifecta 2017
Kansas Divided government 2019
Kentucky Divided government 2019
Louisiana Divided government 2016
Maine Democratic trifecta 2019
Maryland Divided government 2015
Massachusetts Divided government 2015
Michigan Divided government 2019
Minnesota Divided government 2015
Mississippi Republican trifecta 2012
Missouri Republican trifecta 2017
Montana Divided government 2005
Nebraska Republican trifecta 1999
Nevada Democratic trifecta 2019
New Hampshire Divided government 2019
New Jersey Democratic trifecta 2018
New Mexico Democratic trifecta 2019
New York Democratic trifecta 2019
North Carolina Divided government 2017
North Dakota Republican trifecta 1995
Ohio Republican trifecta 2011
Oklahoma Republican trifecta 2011
Oregon Democratic trifecta 2013
Pennsylvania Divided government 2015
Rhode Island Democratic trifecta 2013
South Carolina Republican trifecta 2003
South Dakota Republican trifecta 1995
Tennessee Republican trifecta 2011
Texas Republican trifecta 2003
Utah Republican trifecta 1985
Vermont Divided government 2017
Virginia Democratic trifecta 2020
Washington Democratic trifecta 2017
West Virginia Republican trifecta 2017
Wisconsin Divided government 2019
Wyoming Republican trifecta 2011

Percentage of Americans living under trifecta government

The chart below shows the percentage of the population living under Democratic trifectas, Republican trifectas, and divided governments. The population figures come the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 estimates.[3]

Percent of Americans living under trifectas as of January 2020
Total Democratic trifectas Republican trifectas Divided governments
Population 327,533,774 [4] 120,182,161 133,860,630 73,490,983
Proportion (%) 100% 36.7% 40.9% 22.4%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Changes in trifecta status

Changes in 2019

The 2019 gubernatorial and state legislative elections led to these results:

Partisan control changes as a result of the 2019 elections
State Pre-election party in power Post-election party in power
Kentucky Republican Divided government
Virginia Divided government Democratic

Changes in 2018

The state legislative and gubernatorial elections of November 6, 2018, led to these results:

  • The Republican Party lost four trifectas (in Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin), ending up with 22 in six states. They did not gain any additional trifectas.
  • The Democratic Party added new state government trifectas in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Nevada. They did not lose any trifectas, leaving them with 14.
Partisan control changes as a result of the 2018 elections
State Pre-election party in power Post-election party in power
Colorado Divided government Democratic
Illinois Divided government Democratic
Kansas Republican Divided government
Maine Divided government Democratic
Michigan Republican Divided government
Nevada Divided government Democratic
New Hampshire Republican Divided government
New Mexico Divided government Democratic
New York Divided government Democratic
Wisconsin Republican Divided government

Changes in 2017

Gubernatorial elections were held in New Jersey and Virginia in 2017.

In the state legislatures, elections were held for New Jersey State Senate, New Jersey General Assembly, and Virginia House of Delegates. Virginia did not hold any state Senate elections in 2017.

Partisan control prior to the 2017 elections
State Senate House Governor
New Jersey Democratic Democratic Republican
Virginia Republican Republican Democratic
Washington Republican Democratic Democratic
Partisan control after the 2017 elections
State Senate House Governor
New Jersey Democratic Democratic Democratic
Virginia Republican Republican Democratic
Washington Democratic Democratic Democratic

Election impact on trifecta status

  • New Jersey: With Phil Murphy’s (D) victory in the gubernatorial election, Democrats gained a trifecta in New Jersey by also maintaining their majorities in both legislative chambers. Heading into the general election, Democrats held a 24-16 majority in the state Senate. In the General Assembly, Democrats held a 52-28 majority heading into the election. Although there were a large number of districts contested by Democrats and Republicans, both chambers remained controlled by Democrats.
  • Virginia: Virginia had the potential to become a Republican trifecta following the 2017 elections. Had Ed Gillespie (R) won the gubernatorial election, Republicans would have gained a trifecta in Virginia. Ralph Northam’s (D) victory in the election meant that the state’s trifecta status did not change. Heading into the general election, Republicans held a 66-34 majority in the state House. Democrats needed to gain 17 seats in order to take control of the chamber. Ballotpedia identified 13 races to watch in the Virginia House of Delegates elections: four Democratic seats and nine Republican seats.
  • Washington: Special elections took place in the Washington State Senate and Washington House of Representatives on November 7, 2017, in order to address eight vacated seats between the two chambers. Democrats gained a trifecta by winning control of the state Senate. The vacated seats included five seats in the state Senate and three seats in the state House. The November 7 special elections had a higher profile than most state legislative special elections in 2017 because the majority control of the state Senate was at stake. The competitive nature of the Senate District 45 race afforded Democrats the opportunity to gain control of the chamber. Democrats gained effective control of the state Senate by winning the District 45 race. Democrats already had a numerical majority in the Senate. However, because Senator Tim Sheldon (D) caucuses with the GOP, Republicans had effective control of the chamber going into the election.

Changes in 2016

The 2016 election saw the Republican Party pick up four trifectas: Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Hampshire. Two states—Nevada and North Carolina—changed from Republican trifectas to divided governments, while one state—Vermont—changed from a Democratic trifecta to divided government.

The 2017 state legislative sessions began with six Democratic trifectas, 25 Republican trifectas, and 19 states under divided government. Following the switch of Gov. Jim Justice (WV) from Democratic to Republican on August 3, 2017, those numbers became 26 Republican trifectas and 18 states under divided government.

Trifecta maps

The following maps display current state government trifectas as well as historical trifectas leading up to the 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections. Use the buttons below to select a map. A pending trifecta means that a trifecta was gained as a result of an election, but the winners have not yet been sworn in to create that trifecta.

Learn more about Ballotpedia’s analyses of trifectas and state governments


Trifectas and redistricting

See also: Redistricting

In 34 of the states conducting legislative elections in 2020, the legislatures themselves will a significant part in the subsequent redistricting process. In eight of next year’s gubernatorial elections, the winner will have veto authority over state legislative or congressional district plans approved by legislatures. A party that wins trifecta control of a state in which redistricting authority rests with the legislature will direct the process that produces the maps that will be used for the remainder of the decade. Trifecta shifts in the 2010 election cycle illustrate this point. In 2010, 12 states in which legislatures had authority over redistricting saw shifts in trifecta status. Prior to the 2010 elections, seven of these states were Democratic trifectas; the rest were divided governments. After the 2010 elections, six of these states became Republican trifectas; the remainder either remained or became divided governments. The table below details these shifts and charts trifecta status heading into the 2020 election cycle.

The 12 legislature-redistricting states that saw trifecta shifts in 2010 – subsequent trifecta status
State Primary redistricting authority Pre-2010 trifecta status Post-2010 trifecta status Post-2018 trifecta status
Alabama Legislature Divided Republican Republican
Colorado Congressional maps: legislature
State legislative maps: politician commission
Democratic Divided Democratic
Indiana Legislature Divided Republican Republican
Iowa Legislature Democratic Divided Republican
Maine Legislature Democratic Republican Democratic
Michigan Legislature Divided Republican Divided
New Hampshire Legislature Democratic Divided Divided
North Carolina Legislature Democratic Divided Divided
Ohio Congressional maps: legislature
State legislative maps: politician commission
Divided Republican Republican
Oregon Legislature Democratic Divided Democratic
Pennsylvania Congressional maps: legislature
State legislative maps: politician commission
Divided Republican Divided
Wisconsin Legislature Democratic Divided Divided

Media coverage

The following section contains quotes which are representative of media coverage of trifectas and their significance.

In more than half the states, Republican or Democratic trifectas are poised to exert outsized influence on redistricting after the 2020 census. In those states, elected officials set the critical boundaries that often determine whether the conditions are better for electing Democrats or Republicans.[5]
Pew Trusts[6]
Now that Washington-style partisanship has seeped into statehouses, a trifecta may be necessary to get much done — whether the state is controlled by Democrats or by Republicans.

“In this highly polarized partisan environment,” said Carl Klarner, a former Indiana State University political science associate professor and political consultant, “a party needs to control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office to significantly change the direction of policy.”[5]

The Gazette[7]
Democrats made real gains in state government on Tuesday. The party nearly doubled its number of trifecta governments, where one party controls the executive branch in addition to each chamber of the state legislature. They now have total control in 13 states versus 21 Republican trifectas. Three other states now have divided legislatures, where one party controls one chamber but not the other. Other states, like Wisconsin, elected Democratic governors while Republicans retained control of state legislatures.

The Democratic Party’s weaknesses in state government are legendary and have probably contributed to its weaknesses at the federal level. State government is an important pipeline to higher office, and as Stateline reported this week, Democrats lost 900 legislative seats during the Obama administration. In many states, ineffective local parties have prevented Democrats from blocking Republican bills, like those that undermine abortion rights, and from advancing their own legislation, like Medicaid expansion. But now in states with Democratic trifectas — or at least a significant number of lawmakers willing to work across the aisle — Democrats will have opportunities to implement their policies, and demonstrate their effectiveness to voters. Here are some issues they’re likely to focus on.[5]

New York Magazine[8]
It is the stuff of liberal fantasies: a vast, defiant territory, sweeping along the country’s Pacific coastline, governed by Democrats and resisting President Trump at every turn.

A single election in a wealthy Seattle suburb on Tuesday could make that scenario a reality, handing the party full control of government in Washington State — and extinguishing Republicans’ last fragile claim on power on the West Coast. The region has been a rare Democratic stronghold on an electoral map now dominated by vast swaths of red, and Republicans’ only toehold on power there has been a one-seat majority in the Washington State Senate.

The prospect of such far-reaching autonomy for Democrats, who already hold all three governors’ offices as well as both houses of the legislatures in Oregon and California, has infused extraordinary energy into what might have been a low-key special election.[5]

The New York Times[9]

See also

  • Gubernatorial and legislative party control of state government
  • Historical and potential changes in trifectas
  • Who Runs the States Project
  • State legislative elections, 2018
  • State legislative elections, 2017
  • State legislative elections, 2016
  • State legislative elections, 2015
  • State legislative elections, 2014
  • State legislative elections, 2013
  • State legislative elections, 2012
  • State legislative elections, 2010
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2018
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2017
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2016
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2015
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2014
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2013
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2012
  • Gubernatorial elections, 2010

  1. A trifecta plus for the Democratic Party is a state with a trifecta and a working majority of the state’s high court that tends to support progressive jurisprudence. A trifecta plus for the Republican Party is a state with a trifecta and a working majority of the state’s high court that tends to support conservative or libertarian jurisprudence.
  2. A trifecta with a supermajority increases the odds of a party passing new bills with only token opposition from the minority party.
  3. [https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-kits/2019/national-state-estimates.html U.S. Census Bureau, ”
    2019 National and State Population Estimates,” accessed January 8, 2020]
  4. Excludes the 693,972 inhabitants of Washington, D.C.
  5. 5.05.15.25.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributable to the original source.
  6. Pew Trusts, “So Much Changed in Statehouses This Week. Here’s What It All Means.” November 9, 2018
  7. The Gazette, “Democratic gains bring ‘trifecta’ in 14 states,” November 11, 2018
  8. New York Magazine, “What Big State-Level Wins Mean for the Democrats’ Agenda,” November 10, 2018
  9. The New York Times, “Poised for West Coast Dominance, Democrats Eye Grand Agenda,” November 4, 2017


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