2018 Midterms – overview of what happened

Paper ballot voting in California (by Peter Merholz from Berkeley, CA; CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Paper ballot voting in California (by Peter Merholz from Berkeley, CA; CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The 2018 Midterms are mostly history, except for a few recounts and a lot of hot takes. So, here are the basics of what went down on Tuesday.


Dems take back the U.S. House
This is, of course, the biggest news from yesterday. Democrats were projected to do this, and they came through across the nation. It was not as big a “blue wave” as some predicted, but it was enough to give them the majority by about 28 seats.

What this means: Democrats will now take over the committees in the House, including the committees that can investigate the Trump administration. They can provide a check on Republican legislation, and on Trump initiatives. In short, they can protect our democracy, to some extent, from the creeping authoritarianism of the Trump presidency.

Note, though, that they do not assume the majority until January. The Republicans still control both houses of Congress until then, which means that events could still unfold in the next two months. Keep your eyes on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Mueller probe. Most pundits expect things to happen involving both.

McGrath loses to Barr
In one of the most high-profile contests in the history of the state, Amy McGrath lost her bid to unseat Andy Barr in the sixth district. The unofficial margin was 51% to 48%. Barr credited the visit by President Trump with energizing Republican voters to come out, especially in the rural areas.

Dems take multiple governorships
Democrats flipped a number of governorships, including in some of the largest states. With redistricting coming after the 2020 census, these seats will be part of the fight against gerrymandering. Notable flips include Wisconsin (Scott Walker is finally out), Michigan, Kansas (Kobach loses), and Illinois.

Also notable: Andrew Gillum (D) came close in Florida, but lost to the Repub DeSantis. And in Georgia, Kemp is leading, but Abrams refuses to concede, noting that numerous counties have not reported their mail-in ballots.


Dems flips seats in the House, but Repubs still have super-majority
While very few thought that the Dems could flip the Kentucky House, there was hope that they could flip enough seats to take the Republicans below the 60-vote super-majority. Assuming reported vote totals hold, they fell short of even that goal, with Repubs still holding 61 seats in the House, and continuing control of the Senate.

This means, of course, another legislative session in 2019 where the Republicans can pass pretty much whatever they want. They have already stated that if the pension bill loses in the state Supreme Court, they are going to pass it again.

Turnout was up, but not everywhere
SOS Grimes had predicted a 46% turnout, which may turn out to be close to the final number. However, it was higher in some parts of the state: about 40 counties had turnout over 50%, and one county crossed the 60% threshold.

Emerge alumnae did well
Across the state, graduates of the Emerge program to train women to run for office did well, flipping some Republican seats and holding some open Democratic seats. They also won a number of local races.

Democrats improved, even in losses
Even though the Dems did not take as many seats as they had hoped, their numbers improved from 2016 in many of the races. Further analysis is needed, but it looks like the party ran stronger this election than in a number of previous ones.

There will be recounts
In the “every vote counts” category, there will certainly be a number of recanvas and recount efforts. Based on the unofficial results on the SOS web site, here are the closest races:
House 13 – 1 vote (!)
House 96 – 5 votes
House 27 – 6 votes
House 91 – 7 votes
House 81 – 24 votes
House 88 – 48 votes

The urban-rural divide continues
The McGrath loss came from not getting enough votes in the rural counties. And across the state, Democrats flipped seats in urban or suburban districts, but generally could not pull it off in more rural districts. This isn’t universally true, of course; Republicans won in certain urban seats, and Democrats won or held in certain rural seats. Nevertheless, it is a challenge that the party as a whole needs to figure out.