Just the Facts

Five Facts on What Happened in the Midterms

By No Labels
November 7, 2018 | Blog

The midterms were Tuesday night.  Here are five facts on what happened:

Democrats took control of the House after eight years of Republican rule

Republicans were swept into the majority in 2010 on the back of the tea party movement and have been able to hold on to their majority for almost a decade.  However, Tuesday night Democrats took back  the House by running up big majorities among women, minorities, and well-educated suburban voters. While dozens of races have yet to be called, and could remain contested for weeks, Democrats are confirmed to have won at least the 218 they needed to win the majority. When all races are finalized Democrats are expected to hold approximately 228 seats, an overall gain of 33 seats that is closely in line with what most election models were predicting. Some of the biggest surprises came in reliably red states – Oklahoma, where Democrat Kendra Horn defeated Republican incumbent Steve Russell, and in South Carolina, where Democrat Joe Cunningham defeated Republican Katie Arrington in an open House seat.

Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate

With several races yet to be called Republicans could expand their numbers in the Senate to 54, an increase of three over their current 51-seat majority. Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota all fell early in the night, unable to overcome the strong Republican DNA in their states.  Florida and Arizona, two states that Democrats needed to win in order to have any chance of holding their ground in the Senate, have yet to be called, but the Republican candidates are currently leading in both contests.  While it appears that Florida is headed for a recount as Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson are separated by approximately .4%, Martha McSally, the Republican candidate in Arizona, has been able to maintain close to a 1% lead over Democrat Kyrsten Sinema with 99% of precincts reporting.

Democrats flipped seven governorships

Going into election night Republicans controlled 33 governorships while Democrats held only 16 (Alaska had an independent governor). However, Democrats were able to flip the governor’s office in Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine. Republicans were able to hold on to the governorship in Florida by .7% in a hotly contested race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis.  Additionally, incumbent Republican Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts were able to win by big margins in reliably Democratic states. Conversely, Democrats won close races in Wisconsin, where two-term Republican Governor Scott Walker was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers and in Nevada where Democrat Steve Sisolak beat Republican Adam Laxalt in an open race. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is trailing Republican Brian Kemp by .6% and it is possible that this race could head to a recount.

Democrats gained ground in five state legislatures

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Democrats were able to gain ground in various state legislatures, an area in which they have lost significant ground over the past decade.  Democrats took both legislative chambers in New Hampshire, flipped the Senate in Colorado, Connecticut, and Maine, and took the House in Minnesota. While these elections do not normally generate headlines, they are incredibly important for state-level debates over taxes, education, and health care, as well as the upcoming redistricting in 2020.

It is estimated that a record 113 million ballots were cast in 2018

While these numbers are still preliminary, this would represent 49% participation among eligible voters, one of the highest levels of engagement in a midterm election in American history. According to Michael McDonald, an elections expert, midterm elections over the past three decades have generally seen around 40% participation. The last time a midterm election reached the level of engagement that has been seen in 2018 was during the 1966 midterm elections, when participation was also 49%.  However, despite the historic turnout levels in 2018, it still does not rival recent presidential elections — in 2016, for example, about 138 million votes were cast.

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