Democrats Take U.S. House, Governorships; Republicans Tighten Grip On U.S. Senate

Republicans solidified their hold on the U.S. Senate in yesterday’s elections, but Democrats ended the GOP’s eight-year hold on the House.

Despite the enthusiasm that drove Democrats to take back the House, it wasn’t enough to overcome the party’s disadvantage in the Senate – with 10 Senate Democrats running for reelection in states that Donald Trump won in 2016.

Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate defeating four Democratic incumbents. Three-term incumbent Bill Nelson of Florida lost a tight race to the state’s governor Rick Scott, while two-term Democrat Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid in Missouri.

Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – two Democrats who won in deep red states with Obama at the top of the ticket in 2012 – also lost their re-election bids.

Democrat control of the House paves the way for two years of a divided Congress.  With Nancy Pelosi expected to become Speaker, Democrats are ready to embark on an agenda focused on rigorous oversight of the Trump administration and attempt to pass bills to stabilize Obamacare and possibly set up a Medicare buy-in. None of this is likely to gain the support of Senate Republicans.

WISCONSIN

In Wisconsin, Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public education, defeated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a race that went down to the wire.  Evers was projected the winner early this morning after the late report of 45,000 uncounted ballots in Milwaukee County — a Democratic stronghold in Wisconsin.

Walker had not conceded the race as of this morning, his campaign alleging that “thousands” of ballots were damaged and may have skewed the count. With the unofficial count substantially complete, Evers led by about 31,000 votes, or 1.16 percentage point, just outside the margin at which State law permits a losing candidate to request a recount.

Walker campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said “we need the official canvass and for military ballots to be counted before any decision can be made.”  Prior to the race being called for Evers, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch told supporters to prepare for a “long, drawn-out recount.”

Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin her Republican opponent, State Senator Leah Vukmir, handily in her re-election bid.

According to the Associated Press, Republicans flipped a Democratic seat and held eight other key seats to maintain their majority in the state Senate. The GOP went into Election Day with an 18-15 advantage in the Senate. Thirteen seats were in play, including eight Republican seats. Democrats needed to hold their five seats and flip three GOP seats to win a 17-16 majority.

But Republicans held their eight seats and Andre Jacque defeated Democratic incumbent Caleb Frostman on Tuesday night to ensure the GOP maintains at least an 18-15 advantage.

Republicans maintained control of the state Assembly for two more years.

The GOP went into Tuesday’s elections with a 64-35 majority in the chamber.  With more than a dozen races still too close to call late Tuesday night, Republicans had a 50-33 edge. Not a single Republican incumbent had lost.

Maintenance of their legislative advantage will allow the GOP to stymie the initiatives of Evers, pending any recount that may occur.

ILLINOIS

In Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker won election as Governor defeating incumbent Bruce Rauner in the most expensive Governor’s race in United States’ history.

Democrats also picked up two congressional seats. Sean Casten declared victory over incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th Congressional District, turning a longtime-GOP stronghold into a critical win for Democrats in their effort to take control of the U.S. House.

Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren was defeated by Democratic challenger Lauren Underwood in a close election for Illinois’ 14th Congressional District.

Democrat majorities in both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate were increased.  They secured a new veto-proof majority of 73-45 in the House by winning a net 6 seats.  They increased the size of their supermajority by protecting every incumbent while picking up two seats. When the new legislature is inaugurated in January, Senate Democrats will enjoy a 39-20 majority.

MINNESOTA

Tim Walz  a U.S. House member from southern Minnesota, jumped out to an early election night lead over Republican Jeff Johnson and never relinquished it going on to win Minnesota’s gubernatorial election.

Walz campaigned on raising the state’s minimum wage, boosting spending on schools and increasing transportation spending, perhaps through a gas tax hike.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat and possible 2020 presidential candidate, won another six-year term in her race against State Representative Jim Newberger.  U.S. Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat who was appointed this year after the resignation of Al Franken, was elected to serve out the final two years of Mr. Franken’s term.

Like the congressional election, at the state level Democrats took back the Minnesota House while the Minnesota Senate stayed with the GOP – an Election Day shift that will remake the Capitol power structure next year.

DFLers gained 18 seats, far more than the 11 they needed to flip the House. Republicans went into the election with a 77-57 majority in the House, but Tuesday’s result puts the DFL at a 75-59 advantage when the chamber convenes Jan. 8, 2019.

In the Senate, one seat was up for grabs in a special election.  It went to the Republicans – preserving their one-vote majority – and ensuring that divided government will continue in Minnesota.  GOP Rep. Jeff Howe defeated DFL Stearns County Commissioner Joe Perske in the race to succeed former Sen. Michelle Fischbach, who resigned last summer after being elevated to lieutenant governor.

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