Missouri Goes Red; Kansas Voters Help Give Democrats House Majority
By Samuel Ast
In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill, who has been Senator since 2007, lost her re-election bid to state attorney general, Josh Hawley, by more than 160,000 votes. Hawley will serve alongside Senator Roy Blunt to represent Missourians in the upper chamber. In the weeks to come as more election data reaches the surface, reasons for McCaskill’s defeat will be debated. One area of particular interest will be deciding how much of an effect McCaskill’s vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh factored into her defeat. McCaskill has often been criticized by Democrats for her moderation, though her vote against both of the president’s Supreme Court picks, despite the political risks, cannot be overlooked. Nicole Galloway will stay in her post as Missouri state auditor, a critical position to hold given that office’s role in redrawing legislative maps. Despite the urban Democratic bastions of St, Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, the state of Missouri now looks to be more Republican than neighboring Kansas.
Even though Republicans were successful statewide, a number of progressive ballot measures like medical marijuana and a minimum wage increase were overwhelmingly approved by voters on Tuesday. Amendment 2, one of three medical cannabis related measures, passed with more than a million votes, while Amendment 1, otherwise known as ‘Clean Missouri’, garnered roughly the same amount. Amendment 1 will change the process for redrawing legislative maps, make changes to campaign finance and prevent elected officials from serving as lobbyists right after leaving office. Missouri voters also overwhelmingly voted in favor of Proposition B, which will raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2023. Kansas City libraries are also positioned to receive new funds generated by a property tax increase approved by voters.
In the Jackson County races, interim County Sheriff Darryl Forte held on to his job, defeating challenger David Bernal. Voters also favored Frank White as County Executive.
Among the seven Questions on the ballot regarding amending the County Charter, Question 3, 4 and 5 passed.
Question 3 transfers the responsibilities of the county jail from the Executive office to the Sheriff’s. It also provides for a raise in salary and imposes term limits to the Sheriff.
Question 4 hands the responsibilities of running COMBAT, the anti-drug/anti-crime agency, to the County Prosecutor office rather than the County Executive’s. It also allows for a salary increase and term limits for the County Prosecutor.
Question 5 give the County Legislature authority to approve or remove the County Counselor.
Most of the state representative races were left unchallenged with the exception of the 37th District between incumbent Joe Runions and John Boyd, Jr. Runions was re-elected.
In a striking, yet not entirely unpredictable repudiation of president Trump and his Republican party, voters in the 3rd congressional district of Kansas–which includes Wyandotte, Johnson and parts of Miami county– chose Democratic candidate Sharice Davids over eight-year incumbent Kevin Yoder to represent them on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. When Davids takes office, she will be the first openly gay, Native American representative to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In a bellwether race nationally recognized as critical for Democrats to retake control over Congress, polling leading up to today’s results indicated that Yoder had a tough challenge on his hands with Davids. The candidates met for a public debate only once despite roughly 10 months of fundraising, events, speeches, canvassing, phone banking and ads. Campaigning on messages of increased access to affordable, quality healthcare and new tax cuts for the middle class–coupled with attempts to link Yoder to president Trump– Davids sought to appeal to suburban voters, women in particular, and this proved to be an extremely effective strategy. Suburban voters who, for the most part, are unhappy with the current occupant of the White House and his attitudes towards women and minorities were crucial to Davids’s win tonight. Davids had this to say about the implications of her successful challenge against an entrenched, four-term Republican incumbent: “What is uncommon, until now, is to have those voices and those stories and those experiences truly reflected in our federal government, in Congress and in the Senate”, referring to the shared personal experiences of herself and her constituents. This race brought in copious amounts of cash along with intensely focused national attention. All in all, over 164,000 votes were cast in support of Davids, with a strong showing in Wyandotte County, a traditional Democratic stronghold, helping the Democrat to increase her share of the vote to 53.3%, compared to Yoder’s 44.2%.
Both Davids and Davis can attribute some of their vote share to Laura Kelley, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who won her election against the controversial and divisive secretary of state, Kris Kobach, by over 47,000 votes despite expectations that the race would be tight due to Independent candidate Greg Orman who received under 7 percent of the total vote share. Kelly, like Davids and Davis, built her campaign around issues of education funding and affordable healthcare. The Kelly campaign capitalized on the disgust many Kansans have with former governor Sam Brownback’s failed tax experiments in the state.
Given the House seat Democrats picked up in Kansas, along with a multitude of seats nationwide, Democrats in Kansas have done their fair share to help secure the 23 seats that were necessary for a Democratic takeover of the lower chamber. Contributing to the success of Democrats in the state was record high turnout that far surpassed the last midterm elections in 2014. On Tuesday, more than a million people cast ballots in Kansas statewide, an increase of over half a million more votes than the last midterms.
While individuals’ motivations for voting cannot always be accurately surmised, what can be determined is the record levels of turnout the 2018 midterm election ushered forth across the country writ large. What has become abundantly evident as the night progresses is the correlation that exists in American politics these days between the divisive, unpopular presidency of Donald Trump and turnout levels that one would not typically expect to see in non-presidential election cycles.