A Look at Tuesday’s Election from a National Perspective
Nov. 8, 2018
For the first time in eight years, and as forecast by countless political pundits, Democrats won the requisite number of seats to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. As of this writing, several individual congressional contests are still too close to call, but Democrats thus far have netted a gain of 31 seats, bringing their total to at least 225 members. Some news outlets are predicting that Democrats could hold as many as 232 House seats when all undecided races have been settled.
At the same time, Republicans gained significant ground in the Senate, defeating Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Despite these victories, Senate Republicans will remain far short of the 60-vote supermajority that is needed in the upper chamber to advance most legislation of consequence. Except in limited cases – such as budget reconciliation (which requires a simple majority) – Senate Republicans will need Democratic cooperation for major legislative initiatives to advance. On the other hand, GOP leaders will have an easier path to advance presidential nominations, including cabinet officials and federal judges.
Aside from their victory in the House, Democrats won several high-profile gubernatorial races in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Republicans also won several hotly contested elections in Florida and Ohio, and GOP candidate Brian Kemp currently leads his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in Georgia.
November 6 was a watershed election for female candidates, in particular, as a record number of women were elected to serve in the House. As of this writing, 96 women are projected to win their House races, including 31 newly elected women and 65 incumbents. The previous record was 85. The numbers tilt largely to the left, as 76 Democratic women were elected compared to 11 GOP candidates. Across Capitol Hill, there will be 11 women senators, which includes two newly elected members. In the gubernatorial races, three women were elected to lead their respective states, bringing the total to eight female governors.
There were other notable historic firsts on election night. For example, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor. In addition, Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Holland (D-NM) share the honor of being the first Native American women elected to Congress. ontinuing on, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) are the first Muslim women to be elected to either chamber. Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee, also becomes the first Somali-American member of Congress, while Tlaib becomes the first Palestinian-American.
Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn defeated former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to become the first female senator in the state’s history. Arizona also will send its first female senator to Capitol Hill, though as of this writing it remains unclear whether Democratic Congresswoman Kirsten Sinema or GOP Congresswoman Martha McSally will prevail in their hotly contested bid to fill the seat being vacated by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). For its part, Texas will send its first two Hispanic women to Congress as Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia won their congressional bids. Representative-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), at 29 years of age, will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Finally, Republican Kristi Noem will become South Dakota’s first female governor, knocking off Democrat Billie Sutton to win the state’s highest office.
In his post-election remarks, President Trump chose to celebrate the Republican gains in the Senate and key races for governor, rather than focus on the impending power shift in the House. From his perspective, the results were better than expected, particularly considering that his recent predecessors have had to deal with significant midterm losses.
For her part, current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pledged that the new majority would work to improve health care, lower the cost of prescription medication, invest in the nation’s infrastructure, and hold the administration accountable. Democrats also are expected to tackle a number of thorny issues in the new Congress, including trade and immigration. During her post-election remarks, Pelosi also vowed to prioritize legislation that would create a small-donor public financing system.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to devote the bulk of the chamber’s time in the new 116th Congress on regulatory reform and confirming the president’s nominees. Congressional gridlock and partisan friction is to be expected, however, as many bills that a Democratic House may pass will likely run into strong opposition in the Senate.
At least 47 members of California’s 53-member House congressional delegation will be returning to Capitol Hill in January. In addition, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) successfully fended off a challenge from the left, defeating fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon to retain her seat. The number of returning incumbents may increase in the coming days, as several races are still too close to call. However, based on current results, the state will send 42 Democrats and 11 Republicans to Washington in 2019.
Among the races that have yet to be called, Central Valley Republican Jeff Denham holds a slim lead over his Democratic challenger Josh Harder. Farther south, Orange County Republican incumbent Mimi Walters appears set to defeat Democrat Katie Porter to retain her seat in Congress. However, in a neighboring district, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher ® trails his Democratic opponent Harley Rouda by two percentage points. In another highly competitive contest, political newcomer Katie Hill knocked off GOP Congressman Steve Knight for the right to represent a northern Los Angeles County district.
While the results have not yet been finalized, it appears that Democrats and Republicans will split the state’s two open seats. In the race to replace retiring Representative Darrell Issa ®, Democrat Mike Levin currently leads Republican Diane Harkey by over 12,000 votes in a district that has long been a GOP stronghold. Republican Young Kim, a former longtime aide to Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) and current California Assemblywoman, leads her Democratic opponent by several percentage points.