Republican Senate majority in jeopardy as Dems close in
This election season has been one of the most polarizing and eventful seasons that America has seen in a while. With the presidential race taking a front seat, it is important to remember that Congress can either help or hinder the president. Of all the senate races happening in 2016, the most important are Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
In the wake of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement, Nevada is looking for someone to fill his spot. On the Democratic side, it could be former Attorney General of Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto. Cortez Masto’s platform puts an emphasis on capitalizing on Nevada’s abundance of solar, wind, and geothermal energy. This not only puts an investment into clean energy, but into new jobs for the state. She also plans to push for immigration reform and make the path to citizenship easier in order to keep families together. Cortez Masto has previously fought against the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, a dumping site for nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, and plans to continue this fight. If elected, she would be the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate. Her fate now lies in how many of Nevada’s 780,000 Latinos show up to the polls.
On the Republican side, there is two-term representative, Joe Heck. Heck is the candidate that Nevada Republicans have been looking for to reclaim a Senate seat. He’s spent 35 years as a physician and brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve. As a previous small business owner himself, Heck promises to fight for small businesses and rid them of government regulations. Like Cortez Masto, he is in favor of clean energy and plans to advocate for this by pushing a bipartisan bill that streamlines the process of starting renewable energy projects. Heck is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Similar to Cortez Masto, he also calls for immigration reform, but in a way that will increase border security. Nevada has been slow to bounce back to economic stability, and the answer for some voters might be a change in party and a vote for Heck this election season.
Incumbent Kelly Ayotte has some competition as New Hampshire has steadily become a more Democratic state. Ayotte, however, is a more moderate Republican that has steadily tried to distance herself from the right. Unlike many of her Republican counterparts, she believes that climate change is real and has formed the Energy and Environment working group to combat it. She’s also working to fight New Hampshire’s growing heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic. She helped co-author the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 which provided incentives to communities to implement strategies to combat addiction and she has a hand in several other projects that work to fight this issue.
Ayotte’s moderate efforts might not be enough to fend off her challenger, Democratic New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. She is heavily focused on bipartisanship and spent her time as governor passing two bipartisan budgets that kept New Hampshire sales and income tax free while cutting taxes for small business research and development. She also froze tuition at state universities and lowered it for community colleges. She plans to approach the Senate the same way she’s led New Hampshire, by reaching across political lines and putting the issues first.
Incumbent Richard Burr isn’t exactly guaranteed a third term in this purple state. Low approval ratings have left Democrats with the opportunity for a steal. However, in a state like North Carolina that has seen several Senate changes, anything is possible. Burr had previously served on the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms before being elected to Senate. During his time in Senate, he was Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and sat on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and also the Finance Committee. He’s a strong advocate for military families and plans to hold the government accountable and not allow them to interfere with state legislation, a mindset that is integral to Republican ideology.
Burr’s challenger, Deborah Ross, is no stranger to Washington. This former state representative is highly focused on education because she believes that her public school education in North Carolina laid the framework for her to be who she is today. (https://www.deborahross.com/bio/). Despite being a second choice for most North Carolina Democrats after former Senator Kay Hagan decided not to run, she still has a chance with Burr tied up in a scandal over PAC money.
Incumbent Roy Blunt has been a Senator for Missouri since 2010. This former history teacher was elected to be Majority Whip much earlier than other members of Congress. Despite starting with this momentum in Congress, his recent block of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland left many Missourians unhappy with his performance.
Blunt still has the slight edge in the polls over his competitor, but definitely has some work to do if he plans to keep his seat. He has some of the worst approval ratings in Congress, leaving most Missourians with a taste for something new.
Missouri Secretary of State and challenger Jason Kander seems to be the solution those unhappy with Blunt have been looking for. At 35, this military veteran is the youngest statewide elected official in America. He’s taken a bipartisan approach to pass the first major ethics reform Missouri has seen in almost 20 years and turned human trafficking legislation in Missouri into some of the strongest in the country. Missouri has not voted for a Democratic president since 1992, but the state’s governor, Jay Nixon, and other senator, Claire McCaskill, are both Democrats. Kander could help bring Missouri Democrats to the polls once again on Tuesday.
With incumbent Ron Johnson barely winning his seat in 2010 and not performing to Wisconsin’s expectations for him, his reelection is anything but guaranteed. He’s publicly known for confronting Hillary Clinton during the hearings on Benghazi. He’s also been known to call those who take out student loans lazy as he skipped his senior year of high school and worked full time while getting his degree. Johnson believes that the solution to most of Wisconsin’s problem is reducing the cost and scope of the federal government and that is what he went to Washington to do.
After losing to Johnson in 2010, Russ Feingold is back for redemption. After advocating for campaign reform in the form of the McCain-Feingold Act and declining outside funds in 2010, he’s left that mindset behind in an attempt to win the seat that he held from 1993–2011 back. Contrary to Johnson, Feingold has invested in Pell Grants and works to make college more affordable. His Achilles heel however, could be a scandal involving his lack of response to veteran deaths due to over-prescription in Tomah, WI.
The retirement of Senator Dan Coats has left way for two new challengers to rise. House representative Todd Young on the Republican side and Secretary of State, two-term governor, and two-term senator Evan Bayh on the Democratic side. Young, a former marine, says that what prompted him to run for office was President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package and Obamacare in 2010. He promises to fight for small business owners, supports the second amendment, and is highly favored by the NRA. George W. Bush has also been campaigning for Young.
His challenger, Bayh,has very contrasting views. After Rep. Baron Hill (D–IN) dropped out of the race, the job fell to Bayh who has not disappointed Indiana Democrats. As the son of former senator Birch Bayh, he has a well-known name in Indiana. As governor, he was passed a large tax cut and reformed welfare programs. He plans to try and control government spending and strengthen our military if elected.
In a race that is very familiar to most of us here on campus, incumbent Pat Toomey is up for reelection against Democrat Katie McGinty. Despite trying to take a more socially moderate position moving forward, Toomey blocked the bill that would have placed restrictions for buying guns on those on the FBI’s no-fly list. Toomey has also been under heat for blocking Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. During his time in Congress, he also had a hand in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012. Many Pennsylvanians have been dissatisfied with his recent performance, however, and are starting to wonder why they elected him in the first place.
McGinty is new to elected office. This environmentalist and leader in clean energy could be Pennsylvania’s first female senator, a fact that many Democrats hope will draw women to polls to vote for her and Hillary Clinton. After college, she worked with former Senator Al Gore (D–TN) on the Clean Air Act.
She also previously chaired the White House Council on Environmental Quality in 1993 in the Clinton administration and as the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. She plans to continue her environmental efforts from Washington and to bring jobs to Pennsylvania through renewable energy.