November 15, 2018
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Diversity and Medicaid expansion were big winners in 2018 election

Elise Amendola | AP
Elise Amendola | AP
Attorney General Janet Mills will be Maine’s first female governor.

We (mostly) know who won in Tuesday’s election, both in Maine and nationally. Democrats, generally, did well, taking over the U.S. House from Republican control, although they lost significant ground in the U.S. Senate. In Maine, they will control the Legislature, where they won a majority in the Senate and significantly expanded their majority in the House.

Democrats picked up seven governorships, including Maine’s where Janet Mills became the state’s first female governor and first governor to win a first term with more than 50 percent of the vote in more than five decades.

Beyond the headlines, there were many winners — both in term of people and issues — that weren’t specifically on the 2018 ballot. Here’s a rundown of some of these winners, which will impact American politics for years to come.

Diversity

This was year of firsts around the country, especially for women, who are projected to hold a record 100 seats in the U.S. House. Mills will be Maine’s first female governor. Republican Kim Reynolds was elected the first female governor of Iowa and that state’s next Legislature will have a record number of women.

Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado is the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the U.S.

Congress also became more heterogeneous with this election, a small step toward better reflecting the diversity of America. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, both Democrats, will be the first two female Native Americans in the U.S. House. Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is also the first lesbian congresswoman from Kansas. Haaland, a member of the the Pueblo of Laguna tribe was the first Native American to chair a state political party.

Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the country’s first Muslim congresswomen. Tlaib, of Michigan, is the first female Palestinian-American elected to Congress. Omar, from Minnesota, is a former refugee and will be the first Somali-American in Congress.

Republican Marsha Blackburn will be Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator and Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne will be Iowa’s first female U.S. representatives. Democrats Ayanna Pressley is the first black member of the U.S. House from Massachusetts. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Democrats, are the first Latina congresswomen from Texas, where more than a third of the state is Latino.

Medicaid expansion

Outgoing Gov. Paul LePage has been a major roadblock to Medicaid expansion in Maine. He vetoed it six times and has gone to court to stop the law, which Maine voters enacted through a successful referendum last year. On her first day as governor-elect, Mills said she would implement the law, using existing state financial resources.

Voters in three red states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — approved Medicaid expansions at the polls on Tuesday. And Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly pledged to sign an expansion bill, which the state’s Legislature passed but was vetoed by outgoing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Thirty-seven states have now adopted expansion, putting health care in reach for millions of low-income working Americans.

Susan Collins

Republicans enlarged their majority in the U.S. Senate. After a runoff and possible recounts, they may hold 54 seats to Democrats 46. This larger margin may take some pressure off Sen. Susan Collins, who frequently finds herself heavily lobbied to tilt the balance in close votes, such as last month’s confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The larger vote differential could also give Collins more leeway to cast votes that don’t align with the Republican majority. This could burnish her support among independent and moderate Republican and Democratic Maine voters in 2020, when she is up for re-election.

Felons

Florida voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution to restore voting rights for convicted felons in that state. Florida had been one of three states that essentially have a lifetime ban on voting for convicted felons. Maine and Vermont are the only two states where felons never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated.

The Florida law change will allow an estimated 1.5 million people, many of them racial minorities, to regain voting rights. Experts say that if the law had been in place this year, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, would have won the governorship over Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the projected winner.

Florida’s vote should prompt other states to reconsider their restrictions on voting.

 


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