Produces first openly gay governor, first Muslim Congress women, many other firsts
Propelled by an unprecedented surge of rank-and-file enthusiasm and widespread urban and suburban dissatisfaction with President Trump, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2011.
The party was even projected to gain more seats than in 2006, the year they delivered what then-President George W. Bush described as a “thumping.”
“Thanks to you, we owned the ground,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — likely the next House speaker — said Tuesday night. “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America.”
Yet with victories in Tennessee, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Florida and Texas, Donald Trump’s Republican Party extended its majority in the U.S. Senate, capitalizing on a lopsided battlefield that forced Democrats to defend 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016.
The divergent outcome is largely a repudiation of Trump, who told supporters at a rally last month in Mississippi to “pretend I’m on the ballot” — and a partial vindication.
It all depends which side of the widening gap between Red America and Blue America you stand on.
Voters turned out in record numbers to render a verdict on Trump, after two years in which he has monopolized the media, polarized the electorate and dominated American political life like no president since Franklin Roosevelt — or arguably ever.
As the last ballots trickled in, it became clear that America’s verdict wasn’t mixed so much as divided. The red, rural parts of the country voted heavily Republican. The blue, urban parts voted heavily Democrat. And the purple, suburban areas leaned leftward — far enough to flip dozens of suburban GOP House districts, but not far enough to save moderate Democratic senators such as Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly in conservative strongholds such as Missouri and Indiana.
Winning the Senate was always a long shot. Still, the party was depending on Donnelly, McCaskill and Florida’s Bill Nelson to hold their seats, and hoping that Phil Bredesen, a popular and moderate former governor, could eke out a win against GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn. In Texas, Democrat Beto O’Rourke became a folk hero for liberals who thought he might defy gravity and defeat Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican incumbent.
It was not to be.
Democrats faced serious hurdles this cycle. Republicans largely oversaw the last round of redistricting, redrawing the congressional map in ways that force Democrats to win the national popular vote by seven or more percentage points just to secure a bare House majority. On the Senate side, Democrats were defending 26 seats to the GOP’s nine — by far the most difficult map either party has faced in decades. Republicans in some red states passed a set of restrictive voting laws that disproportionately handicap Democratic constituencies. Finally, the economy is humming and unemployment has fallen to a 48-year low — factors that traditionally boost the party in power.
None of that, however, prevented Democrats from flipping the House. In suburban, GOP-held districts that voted for Clinton in 2016, Democrats performed well: Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami, a moderate who co-founded the House climate-change caucus, lost to his Democratic challenger, as did Northern Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, New Jersey’s Leonard Lance, Dallas’s Pete Sessions, Minnesota’s Erik Paulsen and Colorado’s Mike Coffman. And strong showings in Richmond and Oklahoma City, where GOP incumbents Dave Brat and Steve Russell went down in defeat, suggested Democrats could continue to pick off Trump districts and cushion their likely victory.
Democrat Abigail Spanberger, victorious candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat, at her election night party in Richmond, Va.(Photo: Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP ).
A Democratic win in the House will provide a crucial check on GOP rule and usher in a class of lawmakers in both Washington, D.C., and state capitals across America that will be younger, more female, more diverse and more progressive than any in U.S. history. Their ranks include the first two Muslim women in Congress, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Jared Polis of Colorado, the first openly gay man to be elected governor of any state; and Sharice David of Kansas, the first Native American woman in Congress and the Sunflower State’s first openly gay representative.
The contours of a Democratic House victory took shape early on.
In previous cycles, Democrats had failed to field challengers in tons of politically promising districts, conceding hundreds of seats up and down the ballot to uncontested GOP incumbents. But 2017 and 2018 attracted droves of diverse, often rookie candidates appalled by Trump and itching to “resist.” By Dec. 31, 2017, more than 2,100 people had filed paperwork to run for the House or Senate, the most since the Federal Election Commission started keeping track in 1977. At that point, 510 Democratic House challengers had raised $50,000 or more, just shy of the GOP’s record-setting total (522) from 2010 — the year Republicans wound up flipping 63 seats and retaking control. By the end of primary season, Democrats were challenging all but 10 Republican representatives — an unprecedented feat that eventually helped the party capitalize on Election Day.
Women played a key part in this recruitment boom. Amid the backdrop of the broader #MeToo movement, more women launched campaigns this cycle for the U.S Senate (53), U.S. House (476), governor’s mansion (61) and state legislature (3,388) than ever before. Many were first-time candidates; most were Democrats. Activism among women — especially college-educated suburban women — skyrocketed as well.
Money was also on the Democrats’ side. Overall, 65 percent of this election cycle’s House donations have gone to Democratic candidates. During the last 20 years, Democrats have only topped the 50 percent mark once before (in 2008), and neither party has ever raked in more than 57 percent. Over the past three months, more than 90 percent of House Democratic candidates in competitive races outraised their Republican rivals.
Highlights of the election
This year’s US midterm elections have already made history, with a record number of women, Native Americans, and Muslim candidates running for office.
Commenting on the Democrats taking the House, CNN’s Van Jones pointed to the diversity of candidates that won seats in this midterms.
Jones said on Tuesday night that the “new Democratic Party” is now “younger, browner” and cooler”.
“It is the end of one-party rule in the United States, thank God, and the beginning of a new Democratic Party: Younger, browner, cooler, more women, more veterans.”
As results from Tuesday’s votes continue to stream in, here are the candidates who have made history:
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar–First Muslim women elected to Congress
Both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar won in their Democrat-safe seats becoming the first Muslim congresswomen.
Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, and Omar arrived in the US at the age of 14 after fleeing civil war in Somalia.
Omar is also the first Somali American to serve in the US Congress.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez–Youngest woman elected to Congress–
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th District and has now made history as the youngest woman to join Congress.
Born to a father from South Bronx and a mother from Puerto Rico, Ocasio-Cortez was an organiser for the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids–Joint first Native American women elected to Congress
Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, is the first Native American woman elected to Congress, alongside Sharice Davids.
Haaland said she will prioritise climate change, as well as a number of other progressive issues, such as Medicare-for-all and debt-free education.
Davids is a Cornell Law School graduate and professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, who was raised by a single mother.
She is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Native American tribe that hails from Wisconsin.
The former White House fellow under Obama is openly gay and an advocate for LGBT issues. She was elected to the third congressional district in Kansas.
Jared Polis—First openly gay governor
With a net worth of close to $400m, Democrat Jared Polis is already one of the richest members of the House of Representatives but in winning the Colorado gubernatorial contest, he became the first openly gay governor of a state.
Ayanna Pressley–Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman
Democrat Ayanna Pressley surprised many when she upset 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano during Massachusetts’s 7th Congressional District primary.
She ran uncontested on November 6 to become the state’s first black congresswoman.
Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia–Texas’s first Latina congresswomen
In a state with a Hispanic population of close to 40 percent, in 2018 Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became the first women of Latin American origin to represent Texas in the House of Representatives.
Escobar was elected to Texas’s 16th District, while Garcia won the state’s 29th District.
Lou Leon Guerrero–First female governor of a US territory
Democrat Lou Leon Guerrero won Tuesday’s election by a broad enough margin that she would not have to face a runoff vote.
She became the ninth governor-elect of Guam, which has a population of some 162,000. Her victory marked the first time in 15 years that Democrats controlled the territory’s governorship.
Yahoo News, Aljazeera