Obama Strategy Pays Off, GOP Retains House, Dems Strengthen Senate and NYS Seats
By Mary Alice Miller
President Barack Obama made history on Tuesday for the second time. Serious about moving forward with his agenda for all Americans, the President broke new ground engaging committed Democrats and independents. Obama’s campaign had saturated the lives of prospective voters with online and boots-on-the-ground GOTV operations that will become a case book study for future campaigns. With agendas as diverse as health care reform, support for active and returning veterans, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Race to the Top education reform, support for Black farmers and HBCUs, reproductive justice, consumer financial protections, and immigration reform, President Obama touched the lives of ordinary Americans and engaged them in his campaign.
One week after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across wide swaths of NY and mid-Atlantic states, voters braved long lines at polling sites. Yet, according to Citizen’s Union NY, approximately half of NYS’s registered voters did not vote.
President Obama won traditional blue states and all the swing states, except North Carolina.
Yvette D. Clarke, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, Charles Rangel all easily won re-election. Hakeem Jeffries officially became the representative for the 8th congressional district. Grace Meng became the first Asian-American women to be elected to the NY congressional delegation. Staten Island’s Michael Grimm (R) survived a challenge from Mark Murphy.
Widely seen as a presidential contender in 2016, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand won her first full term. She was first appointed by Governor David Paterson to the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand formed Off the Sidelines which advocates that more women run for public office.
Democrats held their 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate, despite having to defend 23 seats to 10 Republican seats. The election has created a record number of 20 women in the U.S. Senate.
New Hampshire elected the first-ever all-woman delegation: the only female Democratic governor in 2013 Maggie Hassan, and Democrat Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster join incumbents Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R).
In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren became the first woman Senator from the state. Warren defeated Republican Senator Scott Brown, who had been elected to complete Sen. Ted Kennedy’s term. President Obama had tapped Warren to establish and structure the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the aftermath of the worldwide Wall Street financial meltdown that destroyed millions of jobs in this country and eviscerated home ownership across the country.
Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin) became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. Rep. Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman from Hawaii elected to the Senate.
Missouri Republican Representative Todd Akin lost his bid to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill after he said McCaskill was “much more ladylike in 2006,” compared her work to that of a dog, and told a debate audience that a woman did not need to worry about getting pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because the woman’s body has a way “to shut that whole thing down.”
Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock told his Senate debate audience that he thought “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen,” which was widely viewed as legitimizing rape and a policy that could be used to deny early contraception to rape victim. A vote against Mourdock was no consolation: winner Joe Donnelly (D) also believes life begins at conception, a principle that could be used to block abortion, some forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization.
Linda McMahon lost her second bid for Connecticut U.S. Senate to Patrick Murphy, spending a total of $100 million on her two attempts.
In total nationwide, 10 House Democrats and 12 House Republican incumbents were defeated, leaving the GOP in control of the House under Speaker John Boehner.
Romney’s VP candidate Paul Ryan was re-elected to his House seat and retains his House Budget Chairmanship, along with his Medicare voucher plan.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Chicago) won re-election to his House seat while he remains in the Mayo Clinic for bipolar depression treatment. Jackson, Jr. has been on medical leave for months and is under federal criminal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds to decorate his home in Washington, D.C. as well as allegedly offering campaign cash to now-convicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojavich in exchange for now-President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
The only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus Allen West (Florida), who was known for uttering gems like calling House Democrats “communists,” lost his bid for re-election to Patrick Murphy.
Michele Bachmann, chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus narrowly retained her seat.
Haitian-born Republican Mia Love, Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah lost her bid for Congress.
The NYS Senate is being closely watched. The Senate’s current 62 seats will increase to 63 next year as a result of redistricting. Currently, Republicans hold a slim 33 seat majority.
Tony Avella, Michael Gianaris, Malcolm Smith, Martin Dilan, John Sampson, Eric Adams, Kevin Parker, Diane Savino, Velmanette Montgomery, Daniel Squadron, Bill Perkins, Adriano Espaillat, Ruben Diaz, Gustavo Rivera, Jeffrey Klein, Ruth Thompson all won re-election.
Councilman James Sanders, who defeated Sen. Shirley Huntley in the September Primary, was unopposed.
Republican Marty Golden won re-election even after he planned an employment preparation event for women that included learning how to walk down stairs.
Last July, DSCC Chair Michael Gianaris told Our Time Press that Senate Democrats were targeting 10 seats. By October, that number had been modified to 6-7. Assemblyman George Latimer defeated Bob Cohen for the Westchester seat of retiring Suzi Oppenheimer. Ted O’Brien won the Rochester seat of Republican Senator James Alesi, who had decided not to run for re-election despite Bloomberg’s offer of campaign support for Alesi’s vote in favor of marriage equality. In the newly-created Albany area district, Democrat Cecelia Tkaczyk has a slim 140 vote margin over Assemblyman George Amedore, Jr. State Senator Joseph Addabbo beat Eric Ulrich, though there was concern about voter access to the polls after the Hurricane Sandy devastation in the Breezy Point section of the district. Poughkeepsie Democratic Senate Candidate Terry Gipson has a 1,600 vote lead over incumbent Republican Stephen Saland. Simcha Felder beat David Storobin, who had won a special election earlier this year to fill the seat of Carl Kruger, who pled guilty for taking bribes and is now serving time in federal prison.
Gianaris told OTP in October “Voters in the state want a progressive government, and Republicans in the Senate are blocking action on a lot of issues they care about: raising the minimum wage, sensible gun laws and gun control, equality for women, campaign finance reform and integrity of government.”
Gianaris added, “We have seen a big improvement in our membership over the last couple of years. One quarter of the conference is people who are new to the conference. That happened in the last two years. We hope to continue moving in that direction.”
Regarding the potential prospect of Democrats regaining control of the Senate, Caucus Chair John Sampson’s spokesman Michael Roberts said Sampson is “cautiously optimistic and excited about the prospect of taking control of the Senate.” Should the Democrats wrest control, “We will continue to work on our agenda for the poor and working class families across the state, as well as support the Obama agenda in his next term.”
In the NY State Assembly Karim Camara, James Brennan, Joan Millman, Rafael Espinal, Annette Robinson, Nick Perry, Alan Maisel, Inez Barron, Keith Wright, and Denny Farrell were re-elected. Walter Mosley was officially elected to Hakeem Jeffries former seat. Former Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez, who was accused of sexual harassment and lost his position of chair of the Assembly Housing committee, won with 89% of the vote. William Boyland, Jr., who was indicted on federal bribery charges a couple of weeks after being acquitted on separate bribery charges, won by 94%.
Judges Cheryl E. Chambers and Barry M. Kamins won re-election to the NY Supreme Court, 2nd Judicial District. Craig S. Walker and Robin S. Garson were elected to Kings County Civil Court.
There were a variety of propositions on the ballots across the country.
Colorado and Washington State legalized recreational use of marijuana. Maine and Maryland voters approved same sex marriage. Montana passed a parental notification ballot initiative. A California genetically engineered foods labeling initiative failed. A Florida constitutional amendment that would have prohibited taxpayer funding for abortion (which the state doesn’t do, anyway) failed; an initiative to prevent health insurance funding for abortion also failed in the state.
Alabama voters failed to repeal a section of the state’s constitution which states: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children; and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.” The section is not in effect due to previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings declaring it unconstitutional. Alabama voters also failed to repeal a provision which states: “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense…” At issue is forced public spending on schools, an issue currently in Alabama courts.