(CNN) -Democrats made massive gains in statehouses in Tuesday's midterm elections, reversing an imbalance that had grown under former President Barack Obama's tenure and given Republicans much more power at the state level.
Though ballots are still being counted in some states and recounts are possible in close races, Democrats appear on track for a net gain of about 300 state legislative seats.
The party also claimed seven governors' offices that had been in Republican hands, winning races in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.
The victories got little national attention but have major implications for 2020's presidential election and for the next decade in Congress. Most state legislatures draw district lines, an authority Republicans used to cement their House majority for the last eight years.
The wins mean Democrats now control the governorships of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- the three "blue wall" states that delivered Donald Trump the presidency in 2016.
"Not only does this have huge implications for the people of the Midwest, but it also is a major game-changer looking ahead to 2020's presidential race," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association who oversaw the party's gubernatorial campaign efforts this year.
Inslee's DGA had launched an "Unrig the Map" project aimed at giving Democrats a voice -- or at least a veto -- in the redistricting process. It targeted seven states, three with sitting Democratic governors (Virginia, Colorado and Pennsylvania) and four with GOP governors (Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Maine), where the GOP has an 18-seat advantage in congressional representation. Democrats won all seven.
Democrats also cut deeply into Republicans' more than three-to-one lead in "trifectas" -- states where one party controls the governor's office and both branches of the legislature.
Before the election, Republicans had 25 trifectas and Democrats had just eight, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
But after Tuesday's election, Democrats are projected to add six more: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. That brings their total to 14.
Republicans, meanwhile, gained a trifecta in Alaska but saw theirs broken up in Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
Democrats also took control of a total of seven legislative bodies -- New Hampshire's House and Senate, Colorado's Senate, Connecticut's Senate, Maine's Senate, New York's Senate and Minnesota's House.
Democratic strategists and activists spent two years urging the party's donors and supporters to pay more attention to statehouses. Democrats had watched as Republicans used their state-level influence to weaken labor unions, impose strict voting laws and draw district maps that protected their majorities. The culmination of that years-long project came into view after Democrats realized that, without the White House, they'd lost their grips on levers of power at the federal and state level.
The party's base paid much more attention to state races over the last two years, said Jessica Post, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. She said the party raised and spent $35 million in the 2018 election cycle on statehouse races -- more than double its $16 million raised and spent in the 2016 cycle.
Post said the DLCC is setting a budget goal of $50 million in the 2020 election cycle. She identified Pennsylvania's House and Senate as top Democratic targets in 2020, as well as Michigan's House, Minnesota's Senate, Iowa's House and North Carolina's House. Arizona's legislature could be a target, too, but midterm ballots are still being counted there, so the legislature's makeup is not yet fully clear.
A strategic goal in 2020, Post said, is improving the staffing for state legislative campaigns -- including deploying field organizers earlier. Virginia's House, where the GOP holds a one-seat majority, will be an early test in 2019, she said.
"Having strong campaign staff around these candidates is something we need to strengthen," she said.
Catherine Vaughan, the CEO and co-founder of Flippable, a political action committee launched after the 2016 election to help Democrats take control of closely divided state legislative chambers, said her group raised $2.1 million over the 2018 cycle -- but that donors still need to shift their eyes from congressional races to statehouses.
"I still don't think we're spending money in a smart way. I think that people get that states are important now, but they're not really putting their money where their mouth is," she said of Democrats broadly.
"I think donors need to have a better investment strategy going forward. They need to think about, what are the greatest points of leverage where their dollars can go further?"
From New York to New Mexico, residents in a number of states can expect a leftward push for expanded health care coverage, gun control, education funding and legalized recreational marijuana as Democrats who gained new or stronger powers in the midterm elections seek to put their stamp on public policy.
While Republicans remain in charge in more states, Democrats nearly doubled the number of places where they will wield a trifecta of power over the governor's office and both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats also broke up several Republican strongholds, forcing GOP lawmakers who have been cutting taxes and curbing union powers to deal with a new reality of a Democratic governor.
All told, Democrats gained seats in 62 of the 99 partisan state legislative chambers, according to data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures (Nebraska is the lone state with a single, nonpartisan chamber). Democrats also added seven new governorships.
In New York, where a new Democratic-run Senate will provide the missing link in liberals' political power, the expansive agenda could go beyond guns, pot and health care to also include more protections for abortions rights and higher taxes on millionaires.
"We will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding," said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who stands to lead the Senate when the new session begins in January.
The U.S. is a deeply divided nation politically, a fact reflected in a midterm vote that gave Democrats the U.S. House while adding to the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. But within states, the overall outcome of the 2018 elections was a continued trend of one-party control β Democrats in some places, Republicans in others.
For the first time since 1914, there will be only one state β Minnesota β with its two legislative chambers led by different parties.
If Republican gubernatorial candidates maintain their slim leads in Florida and Georgia, Republicans will hold full control over the governor's office and legislative chambers in 22 states compared with 14 for Democrats. Just 13 states will have a split partisan control between the governor's office and legislature, nearly matching the 60-year low point set in 2012.
There also has been a decrease in ticket-splitting between governors and state attorneys general, with the number of such divisions expected to decline from 12 to 10 as a result of Tuesday's elections.
"This is the most hyper-polarized, hyper-partisan time we've see in generations, and nobody can deny that," said Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat who is president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Illinois is one of a half-dozen states where Tuesday's election put Democrats in control of the governor's office and legislature.
Democrat J.B. Pritzker, who ousted Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, wants to legalize and tax recreational marijuana. He also has promised to push for a constitutional amendment to replace Illinois' flat income tax system with a progressive one that requires the wealthy to pay a greater share.
Democrats also are planning aggressive agendas in other states where they expanded their political power:
β Nevada is expected to pass a ban on bump stocks on guns as the state Legislature meets for the first time since the October 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. Democrats also will be pushing to spend more on education, expand Medicaid coverage, raise the minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave.
β In New Mexico, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said minimum wage and teacher pay increases will be at the top of the agenda. Democrats also could overhaul the state's approach to climate change, gun control and marijuana.
β In Colorado, Democrats are planning a renewed push to expand health coverage, adopt gun controls, boost public education funding and enhance environmental protections.
β In Maine, new Democratic Gov.-elect and Attorney General Janet Mills has vowed to finally expand Medicaid as voters demanded in a 2017 referendum but which has been slowed by her Republican predecessor.
The states shifting to Democratic dominance can look to New Jersey, which held its governor's election in 2017 and replaced a Republican with a Democrat. With the Legislature already controlled by Democrats, the state promptly tightened gun regulations, passed a paid sick-leave requirement and restored funding to Planned Parenthood.
But it hasn't been like Christmas every day for liberals. It took a last-day deal before the budget expired over the summer to avoid a state government shutdown as Democrats disagreed over which taxes to raise. Lawmakers have missed their own deadlines on legalizing marijuana for adults, and some advocates are upset the state has not moved faster to boost the minimum wage.
New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who's been in the legislature since 1992, said there's a big difference in legislative debates when there's one-party control.
"It is more about details than the broader principles," she said.
Some states that became accustomed to Republican control over the past decade also will be making adjustments.
In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers have been privately discussing ways they could limit the rule-making powers of Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said they are looking at reconstituting boards to make sure they have equal representation.
North Carolina's Republican-led Legislature did something similar after Democrat Roy Cooper won the governor's race in 2016. But Cooper successfully sued over a law weakening his influence over the state elections board.
In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly's election as governor immediately recasts the debate over several big fiscal issues.
She supports expanding the state's Medicaid health coverage as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act. While bipartisan backing for that has grown, supporters had not achieved the legislative supermajorities that would have been needed to overcome the opposition of Republican Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.
Kelly also is pledging to reinstate an executive order barring anti-LGBT bias in state hiring and employment decisions, something Brownback rescinded in 2015.
In Michigan, Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer broke a Republican trifecta while campaigning to "fix the damn roads" and replace aging water pipes with a multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan. But tax increases or increased borrowing could be a tough sell in the Legislature, which remains under Republican control.
The next Senate majority leader, Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey, signaled that he would oppose raising Michigan's corporate income tax and said he would fight any attempt to repeal Michigan's right-to-work laws "with every ounce of my body."
Republicans who control the Minnesota state Senate said they will fight Democratic Gov.-elect Tim Walz if he follows through with a proposal to raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements. A number of states have taken that step in recent years to fund road repairs. That includes states where Republicans control the legislature and governor's office, including Indiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Split power at the Minnesota Legislature also could lead to gridlock on the top issue from the election β health care. Walz campaigned on expanding one of the state's low-income health care programs to offer a public option, but Senate Republicans have shot that down as an unworkable government takeover of health care.