US midterm elections see gains for the Democrats

The Democrats have won control of the US House of Representatives in the November 2018 Congressional midterm elections. The contest was seen to be a key test for US President Donald Trump, as analysts had predicted a ‘blue wave’ as a sign of discontent for Mr Trump’s policies.

With 429 of 435 seats declared, the Democrats have taken control of the House winning 231 seats, more than required to form the majority party. In the 100 seat Senate, the upper house of Congress, the Republicans have maintained control with 51 seats and two left to declare. Despite the loss of the House, Mr Trump tweeted that the election was a victory and had been a ‘tremendous success’.

The Democrats were not expecting significant gains in the Senate with 29 of their senators having their seats contested compared to just eight Republican seats. The result in the House follows a set trend that the opposition party to the President wins control. Control of the House means that Democrats can introduce legislative bills and initiate Congressional committees to scrutinise Mr Trump. The Senate must approve any legislation and has the power to appoint federal officials.

Nancy Pelosi, a leading Democrat and Congressional veteran, is widely expected to be appointed to the key position of Speaker of the House in the vote on 28 November, having served as Minority Leader of the House in the last Congress. Surprisingly, her appointment would be supported by Mr Trump who said that she has ‘earned this great honour.’  On Twitter, he went as far as to offer Republican support in the House ‘if they [Democrats] give her a hard time’.

Voter turnout was estimated to be at its highest for any midterm since 1970 with 113 million people voting, a 36 percent increase on the 2014 midterms. Exit polls have shown a divide in voting by different ethnic groups with Hispanics and African Americans favouring the Democrats. Over 75 percent of African Americans are expected to have voted Democrat and over 50 percent of White Americans voted for the Republicans. During the campaign, donations to Democrat candidates far surpassed Republicans with Democrats receiving $314 million more.

These elections have seen a significant increase in the representation of female and ethnic minority candidates. The House now has 107 female representatives and 23 in the Senate. Republican Marsha Blackburn, a candidate who pop-star Taylor Swift broke her political silence to oppose, has become the first female Senator of Tennessee. South Dakota has elected its first female Governor, Kristi Noem. The first Native American women have been elected to Congress, with Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland joining the House. Ilhan Omar (a refugee from Somalia) and Rashida Tlaib, both Democrats, are the first Muslim women in the House. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest ever female candidate to be elected to Congress, won her seat in the New York Bronx; which she, since her election, has announced that she is unable to afford accommodation in expensive Washington DC.

Since the election on 6 November, the results in Florida, Arizona and Georgia have been mired in controversy with legal challenges and demands for recounts. In Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp declared victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams, the first female African-American candidate in the state. With the result being tight, Abrams refused to concede and her campaign has said they will pursue legal action over their allegation that over 30,000 votes were not counted.

In Florida, Election Officials have ordered a recount for both its Senator and Governor. Republican Rob DeSantis has a 0.41 percent lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the contest for Governorship, and in the race for the Senate there is just a 0.15 percent difference between the candidates. Relations between the two parties have soured in the state with Republican Senate hopeful Rick Scott filing legal action against the Democratic election supervisors for alleged violation of electoral law. Scott was quoted, ‘I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election.’ His rival, Democrat Bill Nelson, has launched counter legal action over the validity of signatures on absentee ballots. Mr Trump has waded into the dispute accusing Democratic electoral supervisors of ‘fraud’ and corruption in the two Florida contests.

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January 2022
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