Democrats take six governor slots but fewer than expected
Democrats as most expected took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans retained and expanded their grip on the Senate, while Democrats gained fewer governor seats than initial expectations.
Democrats showed strength in suburban districts to win control of the House for the first time in eight years, but the Trump administration lost far fewer seats than former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama lost during their first midterm elections ‑— Obama lost 63 seats in his first midterm election and Clinton lost 54 seats in his first midterm election. Democrats needed a net gain of 23 House seats coming into the evening and appear to have netted around 35 seats.
In governor races, Democrats won in Wisconsin, Kansas, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. But they lost their bids for governor of Ohio, Florida, Connecticut, Iowa and South Dakota. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the country’s first black female governor, was trailing Brian Kemp by nearly 90,000 votes with 99% of precincts reporting early this morning; Abrams refused to concede. Before Tuesday’s elections, Republicans held 33 of the nation’s governors’ seats, and Democrats had 16; one governor is an independent.
In the Senate, Republicans appeared likely to expand their majority, with one race too close to call in Arizona. GOP candidate Martha McSally was leading Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema 49.3% to 48.5%, with 2.2% for Green Party Candidate Angela Green, with 99% of the precincts reporting. In Montana, Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester has narrowly won his re-election race against GOP candidate Matt Rosendale. If McSally wins Arizona, the final Senate tally would be 54-46.
In farm-state Senate contests, GOP picked up three Democratic seats, in North Dakota (Kevin Cramer over Heidi Heitkamp by nearly 11 points), Missouri (Josh Hawley beat Claire McCaskill by 6 points) and Indiana (Mike Braun bested Joe Donnelley by 9 points). Sen. Ted Cruz had a tight three-point victory in Texas against Beto O’Rourke. Democrats picked up just one GOP-held seat, in Nevada, where Jacky Rosen beat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller by just a few points. Of note, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) had a closer than expected race but still won against John James by a six-point margin.
In other Senate races, in Tennessee, GOP Marsha Blackburn beat former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen by around 11 points, far more than initially expected and in Florida, former GOP Governor Rick Scott beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Meanwhile, Mississippi GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was forced into a Nov. 27 runoff
with former USDA Secretary Mike Espy because a third candidate, conservative Chris
McDaniel, garnered enough votes in the special election Tuesday for force a runoff.
Hyde-Smith, a former state agriculture commissioner, was appointed to replace Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).
In some farm-state House races of note, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Ag Committee and the likely panel leader in the new Congress, narrowly beat his GOP challenger, Dave Hughes, 52.1% vs 47.9%. Current House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was defeated by Democrat Collin Allred. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) won a very close race against Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, 50.7% vs 49.3%. Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) won his contest by 3.4 percentage points against Democrat J.D. Scholten. The only sitting House Ag Committee Republican to lose was John Faso (N.Y.) who was defeated by Antonio Delgado 49.8% to 47.6%.
Republicans garnered big margins among rural voters and white men while Democrats won support from young people, suburbanites, people of color and women. Suburban voters were one of the factors that helped Democrats wrest control of House, as a poll indicated that Democrats held a 52% to 43% margin over Republicans. But the strong rural support for Trump also factored into the Republicans adding to their margin in the Senate — 56% of rural voters cast ballots for Republicans while 39% voted for Democrats. Women were another factor in the results, voting for Democrats 56% of the time versus 38% for Republicans. Men backed Republicans by a 49% to 46% margin. Democrats polled well with younger voters, capturing 61% of voters aged 18 to 29 and also won voters from ages 30 to 44 and 45 to 64.
Voters said that health care was their number one issue, with around 25% saying that was their top factor. Behind that were immigration and the economy and jobs being the third top issue.
As for the U.S. economy, the results suggested that 65% thought the economy was good or excellent, and 37% of those holding that view voted for Democrats and 59% for Republicans.
As for election impacts, Democrats are expected to launch major investigations of the Trump administration and will have leverage to impede major elements of Trump’s legislative agenda, such as cracking down on illegal immigration. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who will attempt to become the new House Speaker, said the elections would restore “checks and balances” to the Trump presidency. Pelosi listed lowering health care costs and infrastructure funding as two areas Democrats would seek to work with Republicans. Pelosi signaled Democrats won't move to impeach Trump. "I get criticized in my own party for not being in support of it," the House minority leader told PBS' Judy Woodruff. "But I'm not. If that happens, it would have to be bipartisan, and the evidence would have to be so conclusive."
Republican senators vowed to continue the president’s work of confirming conservatives across the judiciary.
Likely New Democratic House Committee Leaders in the New Congress
House Committee on Agriculture: Rep. Collin Peterson, Minnesota. One of the most moderate to conservative Democrats in the House. He initially worked closely with current House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) in writing a new farm bill but split with him and other Republicans regarding GOP proposed work requirements for food stamps. He represents a rural, agricultural district that President Trump won by more than 30 percentage points in 2016. He usually focuses on sugar beets and sugar policy, as his district is the top beet producer. Other topics of interest include dairy, animal health and ethanol policy.
House Committee on Rules: Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts. The panel decides how or if legislation can be debated or changed when it comes to the House floor. Under the direction of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, McGovern has been meeting with Democrats and Republicans to see what rules changes lawmakers want to see. Sources note McGovern may focus on allowing more members to offer amendments to legislation on the floor and have wider debates on legislation.
House Ways & Means Committee: Rep. Richard Neal, Massachusetts. The panel jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care and Social Security. He wants to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, roll back some of last year’s tax cuts and promote policies to encourage more saving in retirement accounts. He would also gain the power to obtain and analyze President Trump’s tax returns.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey. The panel overseas health-care legislation. He wants to discuss plans to lower health-care and prescription drug costs for consumers, a major goal of House Democratic lawmakers’ agenda for the next Congress. Pallone would also like to increase support for Medicaid in order to combat the opioid epidemic
House Financial Services Committee: Rep. Maxine Waters, California. She would be both the first woman and African-American to head the panel. She has said she would make housing finance a top priority. She will likely focus on big banks and the Trump administration, including the Treasury Department and other agencies her committee oversees. She has previously suggested Wells Fargo & Co. should be broken up for repeated consumer abuses, and demanded information on Deustche Bank AG’s loans to President Trump. On the Federal Reserve, she is less likely than Republicans to seek limits on the Fed’s discretion in steering the economy, and more likely to focus on other issues such as the Fed’s big-bank rules, and how Fed policies impact minorities and the poor.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: Rep. Adam Schiff, California. He has been the Democrats’ key person for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He is a former federal prosecutor. Leadership of this panel is dependent on the outcome of the speaker’s race. Unlike other panels, the membership of the intelligence committee is entirely at the direction of congressional leadership. He is a close ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who is widely expected to keep him on despite the custom. However, Pelosi may not have the support within the Democratic caucus to win the speakership. If Schiff doesn’t become chairman, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut has the most seniority.
House Budget Committee: Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky. He has used his position as the top Democrat on the budget committee to Republican proposals to reduce federal spending, particularly through cuts to safety-net programs such as Medicare. He said recently he would hold a hearing on “Medicare for All,” a single-payer system in which the government, not insurance companies, typically pays health-care providers for treating patients.
House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Nita Lowey, New York. She would be the first woman to lead the important spending panel. She has fought for women’s reproductive rights and teen-pregnancy prevention and has advocated for gun control and would seek new funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
House Foreign Affairs Committee: Rep. Eliot Engel, New York. The panel is less partisan than others, but most look for the new leadership to focus on the Trump administration’s management of the State Department, diplomatic decisions around Iran, North Korea and Israel as well as other topics.
House Armed Services Committee: Rep. Adam Smith, Washington. The panel is usually bipartisan. Smith has previously opposed a Trump administration proposal — which ultimately was dropped — to use Pentagon funds to start construction of a southern U.S. border wall.
House Judiciary Committee: Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York. Democrats on the panel want aggressive oversight of Trump’s relationship with the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office. The panel is also the front line of defense on questions of impeachment and executive wrongdoing. Nadler has said he would like to take up legislation to curb gun violence.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland. The panel will focus on many controversies in the Trump administration. The panel has a wide mandate to look for waste, fraud and abuse anywhere in the federal government. Democrats are expected to look into Trump’s possible business conflicts of interest, personnel decisions within the administration, spending decisions, guilty pleas by Trump confidants, among other issues.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon. He initially applauded President Trump’s talk of a major federal infrastructure-rebuilding effort, only to denounce the administration’s eventual proposal. DeFazio would likely take a tough line on commuter and freight railroads that have failed to meet deadlines to install anti-crash technology called “positive train control” or PTC. DeFazio has voiced frustration at the slow pace of installation, even after Congress extended it to the end of 2018.
House Committee on Homeland Security: Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi. One of his likely topics will be on the issue of election security and the integrity of U.S. elections.
House Committee on Natural Resources: Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Arizona. The panel will likely review the performance of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, investigating his alleged involvement in a Montana real-estate deal backed by oil magnate Halliburton, which he has denied. Grijalva will also push measures to enhance environmental protections and restrictions on the use of federal land.
House Committee on Education and the Workforce: Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia. His panel will likely to take up a reauthorization of the law governing higher education next year. A draft bill released by committee Democrats in July shows they would likely concentrate on college affordability, in part by making federal financial aid more generous and cracking down on for-profit colleges using unethical recruiting practices that leave students with long-term debt they can’t pay back. Scott, who opposed the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is likely to call her in for more committee hearings. He has favored raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and pushing mandatory paid family leave. His committee has introduced additional legislation that would increase labor-union protections, after a Supreme Court decision in June gutted a core pillar of public-sector union strength.