The midterm elections came with few surprises but one thing is clear: the balance of power in the Senate has changed hands, as Republicans wrestled control away from Democrats. Key losses for the Dems included races in in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina. What will be interesting is how a new Republican controlled Congress will work with President Obama over these last two years of his presidency. There will be a lot left to dissect after this election including turnout numbers among typically Democratic base voters, including African-Americans, women, and Hispanic voters. Senate Democrats had tough losses in Arkansas and Colorado where the incumbents ran without significant help or support from President Obama.
In North Carolina, losing Senator Kay Hagan also did her best to distance herself from President Obama, only to have him called in toward the end of the campaign in an effort to generate more interest among African Americans. Democrats did not pick up any seats in the Senate despite there being hopes for victory in places such as Kentucky and Georgia. There was a bit of history in the Senate, however, as Tim Scott who was appointed to fill Sen. Jim DeMint’s term in 2012 became the first popularly elected African American from the South in the Senate’s history.
That wasn’t the only place the GOP made history. The gains made by the Republicans in the House of Representatives didn’t tip the scales of control of that body, but they did grow their lead to the largest it has been since the early 20th century. A key election to that body was Mia Love. Love is the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, UT who takes over the 4th Congressional District seat. With this win, she becomes the first Haitian-American and Black woman to be elected to Congress from Utah. Joining her in Congress is Democrat Alma Adams, who takes over for Mel Watt who resigned his seat to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Adams will represent North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District and will add to the ranks of Congressional Black Caucus.
Democrats took some tough losses on the state level as well. Two Obama-backed gubernatorial candidates lost in traditionally “blue” states. Incumbent Pat Quinn from Illinois lost his seat in the governor’s mansion to Republican Bruce Rauner. Outside of racking up high vote totals in and around Chicago; Quinn was soundly defeated across the rest of the state. Meanwhile in Maryland, the support of a law school classmate and neighbor who occupied the White House wasn’t enough to propel Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to victory. Brown lost handily to Republican businessman Larry Hogan. Interestingly, Hogan’s running mate Boyd Rutherford will be the third consecutive African-American Lt. Governor (Michael Steele, Anthony Brown) to serve the state of Maryland. Rutherford also is another GOP politician elected statewide. His election to the second highest position in Maryland is another example of the GOP promoting minorities for statewide office.
There were also some ballot initiatives of note. Washington, D.C. passed a referendum that legalized recreational marijuana. The only problem may be if Congress, using its Federal powers, vetoes the District’s new law. With a new GOP-led Congress that has not shown itself as progressive on social issues like marijuana; it is reasonable to speculate if they will keep out of the District’s affairs. Oregon voters joined the nation’s capital in passing a referendum on allowing marijuana for recreational use. Oregonians can posses up to eight ounces in their home, but only one ounce away from their home.
Several “red” states passed referendums that increased the minimum wage. South Dakota voters who elected a Republican Governor and Senator also decided a minimum wage increase was a good thing. The Arkansas electorate, which voted out a Democrat in favor of his Republican opponent, also approved an increase to the state’s minimum wage. To cap off the run on conservative states okaying a raise in the minimum wage a state as conservative as Alaska (where Sarah Palin once governed) raised the wage. Nebraska also passed a ballot measure raising the wage, becoming the fourth conservative state to support an initiative that has been branded as a “liberal” or “progressive” cause.
Ray Baker is a multi-media journalist who has been featured on TVOne, BET & TruTV. He has also done work for The Washington Post, & Politic365. You can follow him on Twitter at @RayBakerMedia.