Election 2014: Breaking down the results

Photo+courtesy+of+Pete+Souza

Photo courtesy of Pete Souza

Ian Johnson

NATIONAL

Republicans picked up at least 7 seats in the Senate, including key races in Colorado, Georgia and North Carolina.

What it Means:

While Republicans may be celebrating across the country, in reality their Senate takeover will translate to less than expected. They still won’t hold a filibuster-proof majority, meaning there will likely be a role reversal, with Democrats trying to block a conservative agenda. However, Republicans controlling both houses now puts President Obama in a weaker position to negotiate with Republican leaders, meaning we may see less gridlock and more compromise, something even left-leaning Americans will be much more likely to embrace after the 113th Congress’ astonishingly stagnant legislative record, which has been chiefly led by House Republicans.

 

Incumbent Mitch McConnell defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in a relatively surprising landslide, and is now set to become Senate majority leader.

What it Means:

McConnell’s unanticipated 15% margin of victory over Grimes certainly puts the Commonwealth in a much more powerful position in Congress. The GOP’s Senate leader is arguably the second most powerful figure in Washington behind the President. Senate Republicans will also likely slow the approval process of the President’s nominations by repealing “The Nuclear Option”, a rule implemented by current majority leader Harry Reid to block Republican filibusters of appointments.

With a strong majority, McConnell could also push an extremely partisan agenda of repealing Obamacare, tax reform and possibly impeachment, although such actions are unlikely to gain enough traction to translate to legislation. However, one of McConnell’s most important tasks will be setting the stage for (and possibly hand picking) the GOP’s frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential election. With several Senators like fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas (although the two haven’t exactly been the best of friends) all having shown interest in making runs in 2016, McConnell will play a huge role in determining which candidates will come out strong before the primaries.

While bills that put extreme restrictions on gun control and abortion, and those that are less restrictive of campaign finance are unlikely to pass, putting such measures to a vote will legitimize them as key issues a Republican candidate can take advantage of. However, McConnell’s window to pass sweeping legislation may be small, with a favorable Democratic candidate in Hillary Clinton knocking on the door and a far less optimistic picture for Republicans in 2016.

 

Several states voted to legalize recreational marijuana and raise the minimum wage.

What it Means:

Voters in Alaska and Oregon approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, while voters in the nation’s capital approved a measure to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for up to two ounces. Alaska was also one of four states (including Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota) to vote on increasing the legal minimum wage above the federal $7.25 per hour amount. Illinois also passed an advisory initiative that recommended raising the wage to $10. Both results could be continuations of national trends that could lead to federal action on both issues in the future.

 

STATE

Kentucky Democrats hold their narrow majority in the state House of Representatives.

What it Means:

The Democrats defended their 54-46 advantage in the state House of Representatives and avoided losing the majority for the first time since the 1920s. While state legislature races have been widely overlooked, they may have had the greatest potential to have a direct impact on voters. If Republicans had won over the state House, they would have controlled both bodies of the General Assembly, making it very easy to pass legislation restricting abortion and affecting voting laws. Without a majority, such changes are unlikely.

 

LOCAL

Two new members elected to the Jefferson County Board of Education

What it Means:

Lisa Willner defeated longtime member Carol Haddad while local attorney Stephanie Horne narrowly won the seat vacated by the retiring Debbie Wesslund by defeating Angie Moorin, the parent of two former Manual students. Both candidates have heavily supported implementing the recommendations of this year’s state audit, which include spending less on administration and more on instruction, meaning we may see new materials and technology added to classrooms, with pay cuts to upper-level employees.