Democrats are sweeping statehouse seats, and it's making the GOP nervous

  • Democrats have flipped 39 state legislative seats since President Donald Trump took office, many of them in deeply red districts Trump swept by large margins in 2016.
  • Republicans, by comparison, have flipped just four seats from blue to red. 

Democrats have flipped 39 statehouse seats since President Donald Trump took office, many of them in deeply red districts Trump swept by large margins in 2016. 

Last year, Democrats flipped 33 state legislative seats, including 15 in the Virginia statehouse, and took the New Jersey governor's mansion and a US Senate seat in ruby red Alabama. So far in 2018, the party has made unexpected gains in conservative states, including Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky.

Last week, Democrat Philip Spagnuolo beat Republican Les Cartier by eight points in a district Trump won by 13. And in Connecticut, Democrat Phil Young flipped a seat that had been under GOP control for the last 44 years. 

Republicans, by comparison, have flipped just four seats from blue to red.

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Danica Roem, first openly trans legislator in the United States
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Danica Roem, first openly trans legislator in the United States
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, twirls her umbrella in the rain as she campaigns at Spring Hill Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, rejoices the end of a 10-month campaign when polls closed at Tyler Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Gainesville, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, chats with poll workers after casting her own vote at Buckhall Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - November, 7: Bob Marshall, GOP incumbent who runs for his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, smiles while voting at Signal Hill Elementary School in Manassas, VA, on election day November 7, 2017. Marshalls opponent, Danica Roem, would be the states first elected official who is openly transgender. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, campaigns as voters take to the ballot boxes at Gainesville Middle School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Gainesville, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - JUNE 2: Democratic primary candidate Danica Roem makes her pitch to voters at the Bull Run Swim & Raquet Club while debating three fellow Democrats vying to unseat Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall in Manassas, Virginia Friday June 2, 2017. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - JUNE 2: Democratic primary candidate Danica Roem makes her pitch to voters at the Bull Run Swim & Raquet Club while debating three fellow Democrats vying to unseat Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall in Manassas, Virginia Friday June 2, 2017. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Democrats and Republicans alike are chalking up the Democratic wins to widespread anti-Trump sentiment that Democrats hope will power them to a blue wave in the midterm elections this year. 

And prominent Republicans are voicing increasing concern about the phenomenon. 

"The Democrats are highly motivated," Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, warned at a rally for the Republican candidate for a Florida statehouse seat Democrats flipped this week. "They're winning elections in places where they shouldn't be. We've seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We've seen them win big mayor's races in New Hampshire. ... Make no mistake — the Democrats are unified."

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the Democratic win in his state "a wake-up call for Republicans in Wisconsin."

And even in special election races that Democrats have lost, they've been much more competitive in the deeply red districts than they were in 2016.

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Democrats who won in "anti-Trump" 2017 election
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Democrats who won in "anti-Trump" 2017 election
Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam poses with his wife Pam, daughter Aubrey and son Wes (R) after his election night victory at the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Phil Murphy, the Democratic Party nominee for Governor of New Jersey, reacts to a cheer after voting in Middletown, New Jersey, U.S., November 7, 2017.

He will serve in the position Chris Christie will be leaving.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, twirls her umbrella in the rain as she campaigns at Spring Hill Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Andrea Jenkins won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender person of color ever elected to public office in the U.S.

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UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 10: Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker, a reporter for WDBJ-TV reporter, was killed on air last month, greets Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., during a rally on the East Front lawn of the Capitol to demand that Congress take action on gun control legislation, September 10, 2015. The event, titled #Whateverittakes Day of Action, was hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and featured speeches by political leaders and families of gun violence victims. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
BLACKSBURG, VA - JULY : Chris Hurst, Democratic candidate for the VA House of Delegates, speaks with Sue Elliott, left, while canvassing a neighborhood in his district on Tuesday, July18, 2017 in Blacksburg, Va. (Jay Westcott/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The Democratic focus on statehouse seats is in part a reaction to their loss of nearly 1,000 state legislative seats during former President Barack Obama's tenure. (At the start of Obama's time in office, Democrats controlled 59% of state legislatures, and by the end they controlled just 31% — the lowest portion in a century.)

In an effort to revive the party after the splintering of the 2016 primary and the blow of the general election, party leaders are putting renewed focus on local and state-wide elections.

"Our motto of the new DNC is every zip code counts," Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said in November. "We can win everywhere."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the national group dedicated to supporting state legislative campaigns, is doubling its spending on strategic investments to $35 million this cycle

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SEE ALSO: Democrats just flipped a statehouse seat in Missouri where Trump blew out Clinton by 28 points

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