10 Most Important Things To Know About The 2014 U.S. Midterm Elections
The 2014 U.S. midterm elections were historic in many ways, from the money spent to the staggering number of seats that changed parties, but it’s often difficult to decipher what exactly the election means for the U.S. Here are the 10 most important things to know about the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, and what to expect in the future.
Sources: WashingtonPost.com, CNBC.com, NECANet.org, BBC.com, TheGuardian.com, NYTimes.com, CBSNews.com, TIME.com
The midterm election was the most expensive in history
A whopping $3.7 billion was spent during the 2014 midterm elections, including spending by candidates, parties, and outside entities. Approximately $2.7 billion was spent by candidates and their parties, while another $900 million came from outside groups. Although the 2010 midterm elections cost the same for candidates and parties, only $309 million came from outside parties. By comparison, 2014 saw the emergence of political action committees (PACs) and Super-PACs that became key components in campaign financing, leading to the record-high figures.
The Republican Party took control of the Senate and strengthened control of the House
In the Senate, Republicans gained eight seats by winning in Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina. Several seats have gone to a runoff election to be held in December, so that number may increase as well. Republicans also gained 12 seats in the House of Representatives, the most gains of any party since World War II.
Nationwide voter turnout was historically low — 36.4%
Voter turnout in U.S. midterm elections is often extremely low. Just 40.9 percent of the eligible population voted in the 2010 midterms. In 2014 the turnout was even lower at 36.4 percent — the lowest since 1942, which saw a 33.9-percent voter turnout — most likely because the election came in the middle of World War II.
Major losses by Democrats spurred debate over the future of the party
With the presidential election in 2016 looming, tensions are growing within the Democratic Party as to the direction it should be leaning. Many want the party’s platform to lean further to the left, adopting a more populist agenda. Others support a more centrist ideology, widely seen as more business friendly.
The minimum wage was raised in several states
Minimum wage, a longtime critical issue with voters, received a boost with the midterm elections. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota raised their states’ minimum wages. San Francisco lifted theirs to $15 an hour — the national high. Despite the fact that Democrats lost in many of those states, the ballot showed that increasing the minimum wage holds bipartisan appeal.
Most observers said there was no “dominant national theme” for the 2014 midterm elections
In many elections, one divisive issue spurs voters to turn out and vote. War, for example, often galvanizes voters, as do times of great economic distress. Though issues such as income inequality, healthcare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare), and immigration were all on the discussion table, none were pinpointed as the critical talking point in the midterm elections.
Several milestones for minorities and women were set during the election
The midterm elections brought several milestones for minorities and women. The first black Republican congresswoman, Mia Love, was elected. Tim Scott became the first black senator to be elected in the south since reconstruction. Massachusetts elected Maura Healey, the first openly gay state attorney general. And Congress now has 100 women serving at a given time for the first time in history.
Republicans benefitted from a disproportionate number of Senate seats up for reelection in Republican states
The landscape of this election favored the Republican Party from the beginning. The majority of Senate seats that were up for grabs were in red, or Republican, states to begin with. In 2016, there will be more blue-state Senate seats on the ballot, giving Democrats a better chance of taking back the Senate.
There is a historic trend for the president’s party to lose seats in midterm elections
The Democratic Party’s defeat in this election is surprising in its magnitude, but not in the fact that it happened. The party in power in the executive branch often loses in midterm elections. Analysts believe this has to do with voters reacting against the ideologies of the president’s party by seeking to elect candidates from the other party. Additionally, there is a feeling that many congressional candidates are merely riding on the coattails of the president, and do not have enough substance of their own to warrant being elected.
Ballot initiatives expanding marijuana use were passed in several states
Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. joined Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana use, showing the legalization movement is gaining force. Many other states, including California, have set their sights on 2016 to approve marijuana for recreational use. More than 20 states have already approved marijuana for medical use.
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