November 13, 2018 7:30 AM
The following is a guest post from my friend and colleague, Fredrick Hicks, a political consultant and founder of the non-partisan firm HEG, LLC. He is a frequent television and radio commentator and his work has been published in numerous outlets. Fredrick can be found on social media @hicksreport.
The midterm elections delivered on everything—drama, the comedy that is vote counting in Broward County, Florida, joy, sadness and recounts, recounts and recounts. However, enough has happened that it is worth it to take a deep breath, reflect and group this assessment into three categories.
There was a lot of good for both Democrats and Republicans. I’ll take the party in power first. The big news is that Republicans held onto the Senate. While the 2018 map was always favorable, Republicans were able to take out three big targets: North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana. This will ensure the slate of federal judicial nominees will get through. Second, as of this writing, it appears that Republicans were able to fight off fierce challenges in the Deep South to hold onto two important governorships – Florida and Georgia. If this holds, the 2020 map is a little easier for Trump than if either or both of these previously safe seats had fallen, especially Florida. Finally, Republicans successfully protected beleaguered incumbents such as Senator Ted Cruz.
Democrats have much to celebrate as well. The big story of the night and the week is that the House flipped from GOP to Democrat. While that will probably mean a return to the speakership for Nancy Pelosi, this means America has a divided government and the chamber responsible for taxation – including the Affordable Care Act, which Chief Justice Roberts called a tax –spending and investigation will now be controlled by Democrats. Depending on the final Senate results, this could force collaboration between the Republican-controlled Senate (51 votes) and the Democratic House. Or, we could have gridlock. Either way, this is a major win for Democrats. The second big story is that the Democratic Party finally has a long and deep bench of talented politicians. From Governor-elect Gavin Newsom out in California to Beto O’Rourke in Texas to Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum in the South, as well as rising stars like Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts and others. Whoever wins the 2020 presidential nomination will have a number of high value options for their VP. The third win for Democrats is that they now know they can compete in places previously given up as lost causes, places like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and even Texas. This new map is going to make 2020 even more interesting.
With all that out of the way, here are the five big things from this election
Nationally (outside the Southeast)
- More women will serve in Congress than ever.
- Kansas elected the first-ever Native American woman to serve in Congress.
- Medicaid expansion, a key component of Obamacare, passed in three ruby red states: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. Maine is expected to join this group when its new governor takes office
- President Trump knows how to motivate his base. Even lackluster candidates for whom the POTUS campaigned performed well.
- Avenatti and Sen. Sanders are wrong. The notion that only white moderate Democrats can compete and win in a general election should be dead and put to rest. Minorities across the country won their Democratic primaries and either matched or exceeded the performance of their white counterparts who ran previously. Take note Democrats!
The Southeast (excluding Georgia)
- Dixie is changing and the Southern Strategy is on its last legs. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, as of this writing, came within 36,000 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast of becoming the first African American governor in Florida. Mike Espy is in a runoff in Mississippi. A woman beat a former governor in Tennessee. Congressman David Brat, who defeated Eric Cantor, lost. Mark Sanford’s seat, a reliably Republican district, went blue. Two major amendments in North Carolina failed. The new South is almost here. If the GOP does not take heed the Party will fall.
- Speaking of amendments, voters in Florida and Louisiana updated their state constitutions to include key components of the criminal justice reform movement. In Florida, Amendments 4 and 11 passed, restoring the right to vote for felons who served their time. In Louisiana, Amendment 2 passed which will now require unanimous jury decisions in felony cases. Given that the South is notorious for its incarceration rates and support for strong sentencing policies, this is significant.
- Transit is on the move. Hillsborough County (Tampa) approved a measure to fund future transit and transportation projects via a one penny sales tax. Given the past votes, this was huge and reflects the growth in urban enclaves.
- Minimum wage is on the move. Arkansas and Missouri (hey, Missouri plays in the SEC and there was that whole Missouri Compromise thing so they count) passed minimum wage increases. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will increase to $11 an hour by 2021. Missouri will increase to $12 an hour.
- While on the topic of Missouri, it is important to note that Missouri legalized medical marijuana. The state expects a significant windfall from the four-percent sales tax.
Georgia, oh Georgia. It’s hard to limit this list to just five, but here we go:
- Georgia is officially a toss-up state. Stacey Abrams’ performance should send shudders through the Georgia GOP.
- Buckhead, Cobb County, and Gwinnett County is blue! That’s right, the state senator and state representative for most of Buckhead are both Democrats. There is a caveat to the news about Cobb and Gwinnett and that is that they are blue in a General Election. They are still ruby red in specials and runoffs. The back to back support for Democrats in General Elections will have serious implications in the races for county commission chair, sheriff, and district attorney in 2020.
- 2019 will be the first year in more than 20 that a Price (Tom or Betty) will not be in office. An overlooked shocker from Tuesday is that State Representative Betty Price lost her Roswell (with a smidge of Alpharetta) seat to an underfunded Democrat. Layer this with Lucy McBath defeating Karen Handel for the seat held by Tom Price just 24 months ago and you quickly realize something is happening.
- Georgia is three states in one. You have the ever-growing urban Democratic metro Atlanta region. You also have the Republican agricultural communities, and you have the mid-sized and right-leaning communities. It is the latter that delivered, as of this writing, the statewide wins for Republican candidates.
Stacey Abrams pulled a host of Democrats across the line. Her historic performance, stronger than any Democrat ever in terms of raw votes andsecond only to 1998 Roy Barnes, including presidential candidates named Kerry, Obama, and Clinton, shows that Georgia is changing. Very few, Black or white, ever thought that Ms. Abrams would perform as well as she did when the year started. If she can sustain, Ms. Abrams is now the most powerful force in the Georgia Democratic Party. Down ballot Democrats owe their success to her and down-ballot Republicans can credit their demise to her. While there is a counter-argument to be made that this was more about a moment (or wave) and not an individual, empirically, it is difficult to determine to just how down-ballot candidates would have performed without Abrams at the top of the ticket. However, it is difficult to argue that the ground and digital game mounted by the Abrams campaign and the constellation of third-party organizations did not elevate all Democrats. No, I was not on her payroll in this election, just an honest observation.
That’s it y’all. My first piece for GeorgiaPol is in the bag. Thank you for reading.