Divided Congress: GOP maintains control over Senate, Democrats take House

Posted: 5:32 AM, Nov 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-07 11:32:29Z
Divided Congress: GOP maintains control over Senate, Democrats take House

(RNN) – In divisive midterm elections that led to surprisingly high voter turnout, the split in American politics was writ large with the Democrats taking the House of Representatives, though the Republicans retained control of the Senate.

While some races remain too close to call, it’s clear that both parties were energized leading up to Election Day. The Democrats predicted a blue wave – and in some respects, received one – but it was by no means a tsunami.

Democrats took control of the House by flipping at least 23 seats but lost several Senate races, most notably the high-profile contest in Texas between Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

Still, Rep. Nancy Pelosi expressed excitement over the election results, saying the newly Democratic House will be able to place a check on President Donald Trump’s power. During Trump’s first two years, Republicans dominated Congress.

Looking beyond politics, the makeup of Congress is changing. There will be more women in the House than ever before.

More than 90 female candidates won their races by early Wednesday morning, including New York’s 29-year-old Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn, who scored a major upset against her incumbent challenger.

Two Muslim women, Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and two Native American women, Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, made history by winning their respective races.

Elsewhere, hopes for history-making black candidates were doused.

Republican Ron DeSantis won the Florida governor race over Democrat Andrew Gillum, and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp held a distinct advantage early Wednesday, though Democrat Stacey Abrams refused to concede.

Several Senate seats remain undecided in tight races.

No winner was declared in the Arizona contest between Republican Rep. Martha McSally and Democrat Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott declared victory in Florida, but the Associated Press has not called the race and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has not publicly conceded.

In Montana, Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Matt Rosendale face a too-close-to-call contest.

In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, Republican Rep. Will Hurd and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones face a race that’s too close to call.

Though the AP initially called the contest in favor of Hurd, the margin between the candidates later narrowed, prompting the AP to withdraw its statement early Wednesday.

The race to become the next Connecticut governor, between Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, was too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

How the midterms results will affect the Trump administration remain unclear.

On Twitter, Trump declared the night a “tremendous success.” He said Monday he expects to make Cabinet changes following the elections but described them as customary.

Senate races

  • In Texas, incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz defeated Democrat Beto O’Rourke.
  • In Missouri, Republican Josh Hawley defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
  • In Indiana, Republican Mike Braun defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
  • In North Dakota, Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
  • In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first female senator by defeating former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
  • In Utah, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, won a Senate seat on the Republican ticket.

Stalwart liberal incumbents - such as Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Tim Kaine, D-VA, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Chris Murphy, D-CT, Ben Cardin, D-MD, Bob Casey, D-PA, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA - won re-election.

Democratic incumbents Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey also managed to hold on to their seats.

The Mississippi special Senate race between Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith will go to a runoff on Nov. 27 after no candidate got 50 percent of the vote. Hyde-Smith was appointed to her Senate seat to replace incumbent Thad Cochran after he retired in April. If elected, she would be the first woman voted into the Senate for the state.

House races

  • In Oklahoma’s 5th District, Democrat Kendra Horn scored a major upset by defeating Republican Rep. Steve Russell.
  • In Virginia’s 10th District, Democrat Jennifer Wexton upset incumbent Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock.
  • In Florida’s 27th District, Democrat Donna Shalala flipped a seat that had belonged to outgoing Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
  • In New York’s 14th District, 29-year-old Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
  • In Connecticut’s 5th District, Democrat Jahana Hayes became the first black woman to represent the state in Congress.
  • Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim congresswomen after their victory’s in Minnesota’s 5th District and Michigan’s 13th District, respectively.
  • In New Mexico and Kansas, Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids will become the first two Native American women in Congress.
  • In Kentucky’s 6th District, Republican incumbent Andy Barr held off a fierce challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, who has made headlines for her opposition to Trump, won re-election in her state’s 43rd Congressional District. Waters was one of several prominent politicians who were targeted by mail bombs in late October.

Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who was shot when a gunman targeting conservatives opened fire on a practice for a Congressional baseball game last year, becoming a symbol of the country’s sometimes violent divides, was re-elected in Louisiana’s 1st District.

Republicans also held Ross Spano’s seat in Florida’s 15th District, Steve King’s seat in Iowa’s 4th District and Devin Nunes’ seat in California’s 22nd District.

Governors races

  • In a tight Florida race, Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum.
  • In a close Wisconsin race, Democrat Tony Evers defeated incumbent Republican Scott Walker.
  • In Kansas, Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly defeated incumbent Kris Kobach, who was known for writing laws that took a hard line on immigration.
  • In Maine, Democrat Janet Mills became the state’s first female governor after defeating Republican Shawn Moody.
  • In South Dakota, Republican Rep. Kristi Noem became the state’s first female governor after defeating Democrat Billie Sutton.
  • In Colorado, Democrat Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor after defeating Republican Walker Stapleton.
  • In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer ended Republicans’ eight-year hold over the governor’s office.

A number of Republican incumbents, including Bill Lee in Tennessee, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, Greg Abbott in Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts cruised to re-election.

Democratic governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania won re-election without difficulty in New York.

Other issues of note

One local race in Kentucky made headlines because of who lost. Kim Davis, the Republican county clerk in Rowan County, KY, lost to her Democratic challenger, Elwood Caudill Jr. Davis gained notoriety after she was jailed for refusing to issue licenses for same-sex marriage in 2015.

Republican Dennis Hof, a brothel owner who died before the election, won his race to join the Nevada Assembly. A Republican will be appointed to serve his term, the  Reno Gazette-Journal  said.

In Florida,  voters approved an amendment that will restore voting rights  to most felons when they complete their sentences. Those convicted of sex offenses and murder are exempt from the amendment.

Previously, felons had to wait at least five years after their sentence was fulfilled before they could request their voting rights restored. About 1.5 million people are affected by the new law.

Voters in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nevada and Oklahoma approved  Marsy’s Law , which advocates for victims' rights and ensures the victims of crimes are told about criminal proceedings and can be present and heard at those proceedings.

Here are some of the other noteworthy issues being voted on in ballot measures around the country:

  • Ten Commandments: Voters supported an amendment to Alabama’s state Constitution that would allow the display of the Ten Commandments on state, public and school grounds by a wide margin. National organizations that advocate for separation of church and state are already promising legal challenges.
  • Medicaid eligibility: Voters in Nebraska, Utah and Idaho approved expanded Medicaid eligibility. A ballot initiative to renew Montana’s Medicaid expansion remains too close to call.
  • Abortion: Both Alabama Amendment 2 and West Virginia Amendment 1, which are largely symbolic rejections of abortion, passed. Alabama’s measure, which was approved, would “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life,” and West Virginia’s, which also passed, notes that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.”
  • Marijuana: Michigan Proposal 1 passed, legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 and older, but a similar measure in North Dakota failed. In Utah, Proposition 2 passed, legalizing medical marijuana. Missouri had three competing measures for different rates of taxation on medical marijuana; one passed and two failed.
  • Minimum wage: Arkansas Issue 5 and Missouri Proposition B passed, increasing minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021 in Arkansas, and $12 an hour by 2023 in Missouri. 
  • Gun control: Washington passed Initiative 1639, a gun control measure that would “implement restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms including raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, background checks, waiting periods, and storage requirements.” 
  • Gender identity: Massachusetts Question 3, which was approved, will keep in place a state law that “adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement.”
  • Voting: Arkansas and North Carolina approved amendments requiring voters to present a photo ID in order to vote in person.

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