Democrats have whittled away at the edge Republicans held in the Iowa House. Heading into this year’s election, Republicans held 60 of the 100 seats in the Iowa House. Two races are still too close to call, but House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy says Democrats will hold 47 seats in January — and perhaps as many as 49 when the counting’s done.

“There are two additional races right now where we’re waiting for ballots to come in that have not been called,” McCarthy says.

One of those races is in the Windsor Heights area of metro Des Moines and the Republican candidate leads the Democrat by just 29 votes. McCarthy says about 200 absentee ballots requested in that district had not been turned in by Tuesday, but could be delivered in today’s mail. Another Democratic incumbent from Estherville trails his Republican challenger by 56 votes, but absentee ballots may be a factor in that race as well.

According to McCarthy, Republicans spent about a million dollars more than Democrats did on campaign advertising.

“So our operation was really more of a shoe-leather operation,” McCarthy says. “It really focused on absentee ballots and hand-written postcards — old-school, if you will, to run our house campaigns this time.”

Iowans are often “ticket-splitters” and McCarthy says that was evident in many legislative races.

“There was neither coat-tails nor drag from the top of the ticket,” McCarthy says. “Voters were really deciding the presidential race in a separate paradigm than they were doing in legislative races and because of that we had districts last night where the president lost and we won and races where the president won and we lost.”

McCarthy has called House Speaker Kraig Paulsen to congratulate Republicans on retaining the majority in the House. McCarthy says the new make-up of the House in 2013 — with less Republican dominance — will force the two parties to work together more.

“And that’s a good thing,” McCarthy says. “I think we have a chance to have a lot of bipartisan success this year.”

Democrats appear to have secured 26 of the 50 seats in the Iowa Senate, meaning Democrats will control the debate agenda in the senate while Republicans will control the House.