Election Roundup: What Happened and Why It Matters
By Daryl Hannah
Coleman, Stefanik, Scott
Few expected the Democrats to be victorious in this year’s midterm elections, but even fewer predicted such a blood bath.
Propelled by economic frustration, fledgling voter turnout and outright disdain for President Obama, Republicans successfully seized seven Democratic U.S. Senate seats to gain control of the Senate for the first time since 2006. On top of expected victories in states such as Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas, it was upsets in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado and Georgia that pushed Republicans to the biggest political landslide since 1994.
But while Tuesday was a bad night for left-leaning politicians, it was a good night for left-leaning legislation and women.
Bonnie Watson Coleman was elected as New Jersey’s first Black Congresswoman; New York’s Elise Stefanik, barely 30 years old, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress; and Mia Love of Utah became the first Black Republican Congresswoman.
Democrat Alma Adams won an extra special election in North Carolina’s 12th Congressional district. Because it was a special election, she will be seated immediately and become the 100th woman currently serving in Congress—the first time 100 women have sat in Congress at the same time.
In South Carolina, Tim Scott’s victory in the special Senate race makes him the first Black man or woman to win a Senate election in the South since Reconstruction. Scott, a Republican, will fill the remaining two years of Senator Jim DeMint’s term before facing reelection in 2016. He was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley—who also won reelection on Tuesday, one of six women to win gubernatorial races—following DeMint’s resignation in 2012.
Four states approved measures to raise the minimum wage, with the biggest margins of victory coming in Alaska, where it garnered 69 percent of the vote, and Arkansas, where it received 65 percent. A majority of Nebraska and South Dakota voters also approved raising the minimum wage in their states. As a result, Alaska will gradually raise its minimum wage to $9.75 by 2016, Nebraska will go to $9 in 2016, South Dakota to $8.50 in 2015, and Arkansas to $8.50 by 2017.
On the issue of legalized marijuana, Washington, D.C., Oregon and Alaska all approved its legalization. In the nation’s capital, 69 percent of voters approved legalization, while the measure passed in Oregon with 55 percent support and in Alaska with 52 percent, according to The Associated Press.
The results are also an immediate blow to the Obama administration’s hopes to broaden the President’s healthcare law by expanding Medicaid in additional states.
In a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama offered the following statement:
“Obviously, Republicans had a good night and they deserve credit for running good campaigns,” he said. “What stands out to me is that the American people sent a message, one that they’ve sent for several elections—they expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do. I am eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible. I am committed to making sure I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans but by whether they are good for the American people. And that’s not to say that we won’t disagree over issues that we are passionate about. But we can surely find ways to work together on issues where there is broad agreement among the American people.”
President Obama will host the entire Congress at the White House on Friday before his trip to Asia next week.
In Colorado, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner defeated incumbent Senator Mark Udall, and in Georgia, where a runoff between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican businessman David Perdue was anticipated, Perdue pulled away with more than half the vote to take the race outright. In North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis came from behind to beat Senator Kay Hagan, and in Virginia, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, a former governor of the state once thought to be among the safest incumbents in his party, instead found himself clinging to and eventually loosing the narrowest of leads against a former Republican Party chairman, Ed Gillespie.
And as bloody as Tuesday night was for Democrats, it could get even worse. Mail-in votes were still being counted in Alaska, where Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, was trying to hold back the wave, and Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana was able to force her strongest Republican foe, Representative Bill Cassidy, into a Dec. 6 runoff. But if you tally the combined vote of the top two Republicans in the race, they easily eclipse hers. And when it’s all said and done, Republicans could control as many as 245 seats in the House—the largest Republic majority since President Truman’s administration.
Gaining control of the Senate and of the House weren’t the only victories for the GOP. Republican gubernatorial candidates claimed victories over their Democratic opponents in Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts, and appear poised to pick up an additional 15 gubernatorial seats—gains that would give the GOP the largest majority since World War II. Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, was easily reelected in Wisconsin, a state that voted twice for Obama. In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott, once considered endangered, finished the night on top.
As of Wednesday morning, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was one of few bright spots for Democrats, narrowly clinching a second term. Another Democratic high note came in New Hampshire where Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the incumbent, fended off Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts.