Everything You Need To Know About Last Night’s Election

Photo: Courtesy of Rex USA.
Here's everything you need to know about last night's midterm elections.
The Big News
Republicans won big, picking up as many as nine Senate seats. Victories were called last night in North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Georgia, West Virginia, and Iowa — with Alaska too close to call and Louisiana heading to a runoff.
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House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a hard fight in Kentucky against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell's victory means not only will he keep his seat but almost certainly become the Senate’s new majority leader.
The new Senate majority will lead to a big shake-up. Republican Sen Jim Inhofe, whose position on climate change can best be summed up by the title of his book (The Greatest Hoax), is likely to take control of the Senate’s environmental committee. There will likely be new pushes to repeal Obamacare, too.
Democrats did have a few victories: In New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen fought off Republican Scott Brown — giving Brown the dubious honor of being the first person to lose two Senate races in as many years, both to women. Brown lost to Elizabeth Warren in 2012 before moving to New Hampshire to try again.
The Big Firsts
Last night also saw some historic firsts for women:
Alma Adams, a Democrat who won a special election last night in North Carolina, is the 100th woman to join the 113th U.S. Congress, the most in history. (For the record, there are 535 seats total.)
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Mia Love was elected to the House last night, becoming the first ever Republican Black woman to do so. Love, a Mormon, is also the first Haitian-American to serve in Congress.
West Virginia elected its first woman senator, Shelley Moore Capito, who beat Democrat Natalie Tennant, as did Iowa, with Senator Joni Ernst.
The Reproductive Rights Fight
Alongside those firsts in representation, there were some victories — and setbacks — in the fight for reproductive rights.
Several big state-level attempts to restrict abortion were on ballots last night. Radical anti-choice “Personhood” bills, that would give full constitutional rights to unborn fetuses, were resoundingly voted down in North Dakota and in Colorado.
But, Tennessee voters passed a bill that gives lawmakers the power to more severely limit abortion access — and given that state’s conservative legislature, restrictions are likely on the way. This affects not just Tennessee women, but women from across the conservative South, where the state had been an island of access. One in four abortions there is sought by a woman traveling from a neighboring state.
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Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images.
The Governors' Races
All the big Governors' races we had our eyes on went to Republicans, which means more bad news for women’s health care on the state level.
In Texas: Wendy Davis, the candidate for governor made famous for her 11-hour filibuster against that state’s harsh new abortion laws lost to Republican Greg Abott.
In Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker beat adamantly pro-choice opponent Mary Burke. In his first term in office, Governor Scott cut state funding for Planned Parenthood and enacted a bill forcing women seeking abortions to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds.
In Kansas, Sam Brownback — who liked to compare abortion to slavery on the campaign trail — squeaked out a victory, and in Florida a close race between Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist and his incumbent Rick Scott went to Scott. Scott also signed into law a forced ultrasound bill during his last term.
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Republican governors also won in a surprising number of blue states, including Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois — Obama’s home state where he campaigned heavily for Democrat Pat Quinn.
The Weed Question
It’s going to be legal to smoke weed in the nation’s capital. Initiatives legalizing recreational pot passed in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C., joining Washington state and Colorado — bringing decriminalized pot to a larger number of Americans than ever before. A popular measure in Florida to do the same fell just short of the 60% it needed to pass.
The Minimum Wage
There is one issue that seemed bipartisan and popular last night and that’s raising the minimum wage. Four states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota — had ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage and all four passed. All four voted for increases of more than a dollar to the $7.25 minimum; Alaska’s new low will be $9.75 an hour.
The Claymate
Singer, songwriter and perennial runner up Clay Aiken lost his bid for Congress in North Carolina. If you’ve still got a “Don’t blame me, I voted for Clay” bumper sticker, you’re in luck.
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