ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Much of the dust has settled and Tuesday’s election results were a mixed bag when looking at the House vs the Senate. One thing that became clear early was that despite the Democrats taking control of the House for the upcoming 116th Congress, the predicted overwhelming "Blue Wave" failed to materialize. Democrat gains in the House were more in line with historical norms, and they lost ground in the Senate. The Democrat party also had a good night at the state level, with wins in key Governors' races and gains in state legislatures.
Democrats largely won seats they were expected to in the House and were successful in several largely suburban districts that the GOP has held for some time. The Democrats gained a net total of 26 seats and lead in 9 other seats that have not been called, which would give them a majority margin of 12 votes next year: 229 to 206. The Gallup polling firm has reported that when a president has approval ratings below 50%—as President Trump does now—their party has historically lost an average of 37 seats. For comparison, when Republicans gained the majority back in 2010 they won a net total of 63 seats.
The new Democrat majority was largely won in suburban races in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and even Texas. Each of those states saw multiple Republicans defeated in suburban districts. New Jersey was particularly painful for Republicans, who may be left with only a single seat in a state where they held 6 as recently as two years ago. Interestingly, whereas many had considered California to be a prime target for Democrats to pick off Republican held seats, it appears that they may only be successful in turning 2 seats there. Both of those seats remain uncalled but lean toward Democrat conversions
In the Senate the results were different, though much of the results there can be attributed to the favorable map for Republicans this year. At the moment, the GOP has increased their majority in the upper chamber by 2 seats.
It wasn't all bad news for Democrats in Senate races, however. Congresswoman Jackie Rosen (D-NV)—a quick rising star in Nevada Democrat circles—defeated incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller and Democrat Senator Joe Manchin (WV) successfully won reelection against a strong challenger.
What happens now?
The immediate result is that an impending change in the majority in the House throws the agenda for the upcoming lame-duck session into question. Republicans still maintain their majority until January, but traditionally much deference is given to the incoming majority. Looking into next year when the 116th Congress convenes on January 3, Democrats will officially be in charge in the House. And we know the leadership of all the House Committees will change as well.
Meanwhile, the Senate will largely move forward with a business as usual approach, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will have a slightly larger margin to maneuver the legislative process and Republican Senate leadership has said they will focus on confirming the President's judicial nominations.
What about outside Washington?
Democrats flipped a net total of seven governorships—including in the usually reliably Republican state of Kansas and in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, which voted for Trump just two years ago. Republican bright spots were winning reelection efforts by Republicans in Maryland and Massachusetts and holding the governorship in Florida. They also appear to have fended off a strong challenge aimed at flipping Georgia's governor's mansion, though that race remains close and Democrat Stacey Abrams has not yet conceded as of this writing.
There were also some interesting ballot initiatives across the country. Advocates for increasing minimum wage laws saw successes in Arkansas and Missouri. Initiatives to legalize marijuana were on the ballot in both Michigan and North Dakota, it passed in Michigan but failed in North Dakota by very similar margins. Somewhat surprisingly Utah voters authorized the use of medical marijuana in their State.
That's a wrap on our initial summary and impressions on the 2018 midterm elections! We will keep you informed of the NACS Government Relations team’s assessment of the impact the election will have on our legislative calendar.