Government affairs

Legislative Updates

2017 election debrief

A year after the Republican Party won the presidency and both chambers of Congress, 2017’s Nov. 7 elections proved to be quite a different night—for Republicans and Democrats.

  • In Virginia, the governor’s race went to a Democrat, Ralph Northam as did the race for lieutenant governor and attorney general. The Virginia General Assembly had a huge swing in favor of Democrats as well; with votes still being counted, whether Republicans maintain control of the legislative body has yet to be determined.
  • In New Jersey, Phil Murphy was voted to replace Gov. Chris Christie, who left office as New Jersey’s least popular governor in history (according to multiple polls). In Hoboken, Democratic city councilman Ravi Bhalla was elected to replace Mayor Dawn Zimmer, making him the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. Incumbent Republican Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian was defeated for re-election by Democratic city councilman Frank Gilliam.
  • In New York, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio easily won reelection with 66.5 percent of the vote. The state senate gained an additional Democrat; the state assembly, two additional Democrats. Under the state’s constitution, every 20 years New York is required to place before the voters a proposal to hold a constitutional convention to be held the following year, with any suggested amendments being voted on in the year after that. This year, a proposal was placed on the ballot for a 2018 convention, with any amendments to be voted on in 2019. More than 80 percent of voters were against a constitutional convention.
  • In Washington State, there was a special election for a state senate seat for Washington’s 45th legislative district. Since the state senate was evenly split going into the election, the contested election determined the partisan balance of power in the state capital. Democrat Manka Dhingra won a majority of votes in the first round of the election, but rules required the race to go to a second round. With more than $9 million spent on the election through campaign contributions and political action committee expenditures, Dhingra won. In Seattle, Democrat Jenny Durkan became the city’s first female mayor since 1927.
  • In Boston, incumbent Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh won re-election to a second term.
  • In Utah, the seat held by former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was up for a vote. Provo Mayor John Curtis (R) won handily.
  • Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid via a ballot initiative.
  • Democrat Vi Lyles of Charlotte, NC became the city’s first African-American female mayor.
  • In Ohio, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson (D) won his fourth four-year term, making him the longest serving mayor in the city’s history. In Cincinnati, Democrat John Cranley won re-election to a second term as mayor.
  • Miami remained in Republican control after term-limited Tomás Regalado was replaced by city commissioner Francis Suarez. St. Petersburg saw incumbent Democrat Rick Kriseman re-elected to a second term in office.
  • Democrat Joyce Craig became Manchester, NH’s first-ever female mayor and the first Democrat to be elected mayor of Manchester in 14 years.
  • Liberian refugee and Navy Reservist Wilmot Collins became the second black mayor in Montana’s and Helena’s history after defeating 16-year incumbent Jim Smith in a non-partisan race.
  • Democrat Melvin Carter became St. Paul, MN’s first African-American mayor, with over 50 percent of the total vote and more than 25 percent more than the runner-up.
  • Jonathan McCollar was elected the first African-American mayor of Statesboro, GA, after defeating incumbent Jan Moore in a non-partisan race. McCollar previously lost to Moore in 2013.
  • Democrat Brendon Barber, a Georgetown, SC city councilman since 1998, was elected the city’s first African-American mayor.
  • Democrat Mary Parham Copelan was elected Milledgeville, GA’s first female African-American mayor.
  • 27-year-old Booker Gainor (D) was elected Cairo, GA’s first African-American mayor.
  • Democrat Cathy Murillo’s victory Election Day made her the first Latina mayor of Santa Barbara, CA.

While this does not include all races from this year, Election Day 2017, in summary, reflected important gains for Democrats and, as many of these races were not for open seats, the results suggest incumbency might not help Republicans in 2018. This should not come as a major surprise, though, as midterm and special elections often go against the dominant political party.

Infighting among Republican lawmakers and President Trump’s record of accomplishments so far appear to have energized Democrats across the country. This year’s results could act as a window into potential results in 2018 for House of Representatives races, but Democratic control of the Senate may prove to be out of reach next year.

Democrats in the Senate have 23 seats up for election in 2018, alongside two Independents who caucus with them. Republicans have eight seats up for grabs, and it is likely some seats will change hands come Election Day.  Time will tell; any shifts in party favorability will depend on to what extent the Republican majority can leverage its control of the executive and legislative branches.

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