Ekklesia coverage of the midterm US elections

By Press Office
November 6, 2018

Good evening and welcome to Ekklesia’s coverage of the 2018 US midterm elections. Tonight we are concentrating on what may be five of the closest, most consequential races. Follow our commentary on Twitter (@Ekklesia_co_uk). 

We will follow the Florida, Georgia, and Ohio gubernatorial (governor) races; the senate race between incumbent Ted Cruz (R) and challenger Beto O’Rourke (D); and the Ohio 12th US House of Representatives district, where our blogger lives. 

There are plenty of races for House seats rated as too close to call: this morning, FiveThirtyEight listed 18 seats as toss-ups (each party <60 per cent likely to win), with another 22 leaning either Republican or Democratic (likeliest party <75 per cent likely to win). The Democratic party needs to gain 23 seats to take control of the House. 

Yesterday evening, the New York Times singled-out two House races, Kentucky’s 6thand Virginia’s 7th, as “canaries”: places to watch that might give us an idea how the night will play out. Polls close in these districts between 6-7pm Eastern (11pm-12am GMT).

All House seats are up for elections, with terms lasting two years. In the Senate, just over a third (35) are, with elections staggered and terms lasting six years. The D party currently has 49 seats, so needs just two to take control.

However, the Democratic party is defending 25 seats this time, and the Republican party just nine. So the chances for D to make gains are limited. FiveThirtyEight has two senate seats, in Nevada (R incumbent) and Missouri (D incumbent), rated as toss-ups. These races are worth keeping an eye on, and also Heidi Heitkamp’s (D) difficult reelection bid in North Dakota.  

As the executive head of each state, governors have vital roles; they sign or veto legislation put forward by state legislatures, and in some states can take steps to make it possible for more people to vote. The R party currently has a 33 to 16 lead in number of state governors, with one independent. 

However, with 36 gubernatorial elections tonight, the D party stands to make big gains. This morning, FiveThirtyEight forecast the D party ending the night with 24 governors, next to the R party’s 26.                    

To get the latest counts for races nationwide as they come in, district by district, CNN seem to get them sooner than anyone else. Follow Associated Press handle for declarations of winners. 

Good live blogs include The Guardian, New York Times, and especially for the data nerds, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight. Please send us any other suggestions you may have.

Also, Democracy Now coverage this evening is highly recommended, hosted by the legendary Amy Goodman and in partnership with The Intercept. Tune in for cutting-edge reporting and commentary I guarantee you will not get from the networks. 

To our focused races… If elected, Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams (both D) would become the first black governors of Florida and Georgia, respectively. Each has fought a positive campaign, rising above racist attacks, voter suppression tactics, and bizarre, personal insults from President Trump. 

Polling suggests Gillum has the edge on his rival, congressman Ron DeSantis (R), who has aligned himself with Trump. DeSantis made what many saw as a thinly-veiled racist attack on Gillum almost immediately after Gillum won the Democratic primary to become his party’s candidate.

Tonight’s winner in Florida would take the office of Rick Scott, who has received criticism for a lack of action on climate change during his two terms. Scott has been running for the Senate against Bill Nelson (D); polls suggest he may struggle tonight. 

In Georgia, Stacey Abrams could become the first black female governor in the United States. Abrams has been scathing of her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp’s refusal to stand-down from his present office as Georgia’s secretary of state. 

This position has responsibility for running state elections and voter registration, and Kemp had stalled 53,000 registrations (70 per cent of them of by African Americans), claiming the names on the registrations did not match those on IDs provided. This was challenged and overturned thanks to a lawsuit by civil rights groups. 

Nonetheless, fears persist about the hurdles that face many voters as they exercise their fundamental right to vote. Polling suggests Kemp has a slight advantage over Abrams, although if neither candidate reaches 50 per cent, the two candidates would face-off again in a run-off in December. 

In Texas, Beto O’Rourke (D) has captured national attention with his spirited campaign to unseat Ted Cruz (R), a candidate in the presidential primary in 2016…

Ohio’s gubernatorial contest sees Mike DeWine (R) compete with Rich Cordray (D) to fill John Kasich’s seat in a state which, like Florida, will be influential in deciding the presidential election in 2020…

Ohio’s 12th House district was nearly the scene of a huge upset in a special election in August. Despite the Republican party retaining the district in 2016 with almost 67% of the vote, challenger Danny O’Connor (D) came within 2,000 votes of Republican candidate Troy Balderson. 

The 12th is likely to be the closest congressional race in Ohio, with Sherrod Brown (D) heavily favored to retain his Senate seat. The question for O’Connor and his party is, have they motivated enough voters to come out and vote, particularly in the highly-populated urban areas? 

Follow our commentary on Twitter (@Ekklesia_co_uk).

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© Jake Cunliffe is an Ekklesia associate. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church downtown, and convenes the Community Ministry team there. He also heads a diocesan task force on opposing the death penalty and advocates for children in protective services at the county court. Jake works as an independent researcher and project lead for social service organisations.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.