WASHINGTON – Voters in five states went to the polls Tuesday to choose a new congressman from Ohio and party nominees in a bevy of other House, Senate and gubernatorial contests from Michigan to Missouri.
Here are our top takeaways from Tuesday’s results:
House Republicans are in trouble
Ohio’s special election remained too close to call Tuesday night but this race should have been a cake walk for the GOP. The fact that 31-year-old Democrat Danny O’Connor, a county recorder, made it so competitive is a bad sign for the GOP heading into November, especially because Republicans pulled out all the stops to boost their candidate, GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson.
The GOP spent more than $4 million on the special election, a district Republicans have controlled for more than three decades. They attacked O’Connor as a puppet for the ever-unpopular House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, even though he said he would not support her for speaker. And they dispatched President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for Balderson.
All that for a virtual tie in the vote tally. Balderson held a narrow lead over O’Connor but the race remained too close to call officially.
No matter who wins, the close finish signals a possible “blue wave” election that could catapult Democrats to a House majority come November. There are 68 Republican-held districts where the GOP holds a weaker hand in terms of partisan makeup, according to the Cook Political Report.
“The GOP have to do something really significant in September if they want to keep the House in November,” Frank Luntz, a long-time Republican pollster, tweeted on Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s special election is to fill a vacancy left by ex-Rep. Pat Tiberi, who retired earlier this year. Balderson and O’Connor will face each other again in November, when they vie for a full two-year term in the House.
Mini-takeaway on Ohio: Democrats may be cursing the Green Party candidate, Joe Manchik, who snagged more than 1,100 votes. Presumably, most of those came from left-leaning voters who would otherwise have supported O’Connor. It’s not clear if that would have made up the difference for the Democrat, but it has to be frustrating in such a close race.
More (and more) women are winning Democratic primaries
Female candidates have been winning Democratic primaries up and down the ballot so far this election cycle. And Tuesday’s results put an exclamation point on this trend, as two more women notched big primary wins in Kansas and Michigan’s gubernatorial races.
In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, a former state Senate minority leader, defeated two Democratic rivals to claim her party’s nomination Tuesday. With Whitmer’s win, Michigan’s Democrats are poised to field an all-female ticket for statewide offices.
In addition to Whitmer and Debbie Stabenow, who is seeking a fourth Senate term, the Democrats also nominated women for state attorney general and secretary of state.
Whitmer will face GOP nominee Bill Schuette, currently the state’s attorney general, in what’s expected to be a very competitive general election.
Democrats are hoping to recapture Michigan’s governorship after eight years of GOP rule. Current Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is term-limited.
In Kansas, Laura Kelly, a state senator, won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a hotly contested primary. Democrats think they can make this ruby-red state competitive, in part because ex-Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, remains deeply unpopular after pushing through sweeping tax cuts that created severe financial trouble for the state.
The Republican gubernatorial primary remained too close to call Tuesday, with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was locked in a tight race with Secretary of State Kris Kobach in early results.
A rare win for labor unions in Republican-leaning Missouri
Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work law Tuesday that would have banned unions from collecting mandatory dues. The battle, which attracted big money on both sides, provides a much-needed boost for organized labor after a series of legal and political losses.
The GOP-controlled state legislature passed the anti-union law in 2017, but labor organizations and Democrats blocked its enactment and collected enough signatures to force Tuesday’s public vote.
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a high-stakes case that could deprive unions of a key source of funds.
Tuesday’s win for unions came after a major blow in June when the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled 5-4 that unions cannot collect fees from non-members to help defray the costs of collective bargaining. The court ruled that those fees, permitted under a 1977 high court decision, violate the free speech rights of those who do not want to contribute.
Tuesday’s vote in Missouri, which has grown increasingly Republicans, could give labor groups fresh momentum heading into November’s general election, where their political strength will be tested again.
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