20 Good Things from the 2018 Midterm Elections
The Commonwealth of Virginia started the night out with four Democratic congresspeople - it ended it with seven. Former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger, the woman who became an internet celebrity after her killer debate closing against House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat, beat the Republican incumbent to become the first Democrat elected to the House of Representatives from the 7th District since 1968.
Democrat Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race after defeating Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. He became the first openly gay person elected governor in the country. Unfortunately for Governor-elect Polis, bisexual governor of Oregon Kate Brown beat him to become the first person elected governor from the broader LGBT+ community in 2016. Everyone say goodbye to term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper - who we might see again in 2020.
Speaking of Colorado, Michigan voters just approved a ballot measure to fully legalize marijuana. Tax revenue collected from the legalization, estimated to be around $730 million over the next five years, will be earmarked for K-12 education (35%), transportation infrastructure (35%), and the local governments that allow marijuana business to operate in their jurisdictions (30%). At least $40 million of that revenue will also be used in the next two years to fund clinical trials researching the efficiency of marijuana in preventing veteran suicide.
While we’re on the subject, Missouri and Utah voters also legalized the consumption and sale of medical marijuana yesterday.
Beto O’Rourke’s historic U.S. Senate campaign altered Texas political culture and energized Democrats across the state. Yes, Republicans swept all statewide races. However, they did so by notably slim margins - Mr. O’Rourke lost his race with Ted Cruz by less than 3% of the vote. The state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general races were also won by less than a 5% margin. Generally, in Texas, Republican candidates in these races win by double digits. Watch Beto drop the f-bomb in his concession speech here.
Thanks to the help of Forward Majority PAC, Democrats also flipped 11 House seats in the Texas Legislature.
Some of the left’s most notable gains came out of the Great Lake State. Democrats in Michigan swept all five statewide races: U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. They also flipped two Congressional seats from red to blue.
Michigan was just one of four states where the Republican Party lost their state government trifecta - when one party holds the governorship and both the lower and upper legislative chamber in a state. In addition to Michigan, Republican trifectas came to an end in Kansas, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.
We also had a historic night of firsts. According to a list published by The Guardian, the Nov. 6 midterm elections brought us: the first African American member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts (Ayanna Pressly), the first two Muslim congresswomen (Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar), the first two Native American congresswomen (Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland), the first female governor of Maine (Janet Mills), the first congresswoman from Iowa (Abby Finkenauer), the first African American congresswoman from Connecticut (Jahana Hayes), and the first two Latina congresswomen in Texas (Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia). Did I mention that all of them were Democrats? Also, for the first time ever, over 100 women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Perhaps the most important news of the night was the approval of Amendment 4 in Florida. Approximately 1.5 million people are currently banned from voting in the state due to past felony convictions. With this newest addition to the Florida Constitution, these people will now have their voting rights automatically restored once they complete their sentences, including probation and restitution. The disenfranchisement of convicted felons disproportionately affects African Americans - a study by The Sentencing Project in 2016 found that 21% of voting-age African American citizens in Florida were not eligible to vote in 2016. Activist Shaun King called Amendment 4’s passage “one of the most important [victories] of our lifetime.” Watch John Oliver break down felon disenfranchisement here.
Democrats also made substantial gains at the gubernatorial level. The governor’s seats in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin all flipped from red to blue. They now control 23 of the nation’s 50 governorships.
The state of Colorado approved two measures aimed at taking politics and partisanship out of the redistricting process. Amendment Y relates to the redrawing of congressional district boundaries; Amendment Z concerns state legislative redistricting. Both amendments establish a 12-member commission that would be equally divided between Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters. A lottery system will be used to pick commission members.
Seventy-seven military veterans won elections across the country. Combined with the current 15 veterans in the Senate, at least 92 veterans will be members of the 116th United States Congress. “We saw an uptick in the number of non-incumbent veterans who got major party nominations this cycle,” said Veterans Campaign Executive Director Seth Lynn. These veterans got a shoutout in Barack Obama’s Facebook post on Wednesday.
Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned from office earlier this year amid allegations from four women that he physically abused them. Voters in New York decided yesterday that his replacement would be Democrat Letitia James, the first woman ever elected to the position. James is also the first black woman ever elected to statewide office in New York.
Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah all supported ballot measures to expand Medicaid. Paired with Democratic gains in governor’s offices, the program is set to grow by about a half-million people after Tuesday’s election.
Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to U.S. Congress. At 29 years old, Ocasio-Cortez ran on a progressive platform that included universal health care, a federal assault weapons ban, housing as a human right, the abolition of ICE, and a federal jobs guarantee.
Arkansas and Missouri both voted to increase the minimum wage. Missouri voters approved a measure that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023 - a move that will help about 677,000 workers according to the National Employment Law Project. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will be gradually raised to $11 an hour by 2021. This boost will impact about 300,000 workers.
President Trump had endorsed 52 people competing in the midterm elections on Twitter since mid-August. Including the races with likely pending results, half of those people have lost or will lose.
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s most vocal defenders, will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in January. Luckily for Rep. Schiff, Republicans changed committee rules in 2015 to allow chairmen to issue subpoenas without consulting the minority party. Republicans used this practice unrelentlessly against the Obama administration. Now, Democrats are likely to use this power to thoroughly investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and compel witnesses to testify under oath.
One-party rule in Washington is over. Democrats gained a total of 30 seats nationwide, ending eight years of Republican control of the House of Representatives.