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Democrats gain state legislative wins on Obama's coattails

(Reuters) - Democrats were on track to capture more state legislative seats than Republicans in Tuesday's election, as President Barack Obama's re-election spilled into local races, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported on Wednesday.

"Democrats will almost certainly net more seats than the GOP, continuing a strong 'coattails' trend," the bipartisan organization said in a statement. "Including this year, the party winning the White House has gained seats in legislatures in 21 of the past 29 presidential-cycle elections."

Democrats wrested the Colorado House and New York Senate from Republicans and gained control of the Oregon House, which had been tied, the NCSL reported.

The president's party also took back both chambers of the Minnesota legislature that went to Republican control in 2010's midterm election. While the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said the party won control of Maine's chambers, which Republicans also captured in the 2010 wave, the NCSL said it could not confirm the takeover.

Meanwhile, Republicans took over the Wisconsin Senate, where Democrats held a short-lived majority as a result of a June recall election touched off by a Republican-led effort to limit the power of public sector unions in that state.

Republicans also gained control of the House and Senate in Arkansas, the last southern state where Democrats were the majority in both chambers, the NCSL reported. Alaska's tied Senate also swung to Republicans.

Heading into the election, Republicans filled almost 55 percent of all partisan legislative seats and controlled 59 legislative chambers, while Democrats controlled 36 chambers and three were tied, according to the NCSL. Nebraska's single-chamber legislature is nonpartisan.

Republicans were able to defend most of the chambers they won in 2010, according to Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

"One thing remains clear - Republicans are the dominant party in the states holding a majority of state legislatures, governorships, lieutenant governorships, secretaries of state and half of the nation's attorneys general," he said in a statement.

There were more than 6,000 races for state lawmaker on ballots nationwide, accounting for 82 percent of legislative seats. On average, 13 chambers switch party control every two years, the NCSL said.

Four years ago, the battle for state legislative seats ended in somewhat of a stalemate between the parties. Then in 2010, Republicans made big gains, riding on a political wave that gave the party control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

(Reporting By Karen Pierog; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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