Midterm 2022 election results: Democrats hold their own against predicted 'red wave'

With most midterm results in, one thing is clear: the prophesized “red wave” did not come to be. Democrats flipped a Pennsylvania seat and kept their control of the Senate, and they lost far fewer seats in the House of Representatives than anticipated.

Between soaring inflation and President Biden’s low approval ratings, analysts predicted Democrats would suffer huge losses at every level. In midterm elections, the president’s political party loses an average of 30 House seats. Democrats lost seven as of Sunday. Instead, Democrats managed to hold on to important seats.

According to New York Times news analysis by Lisa Lerer, "Democrats cast the election as a referendum not on Mr. Biden’s record but as a verdict on the state of American democracy, an opportunity to reject the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen."

Senate and House

In the Senate, Democrats currently hold 50 seats and Republicans hold 49. Alaska’s race went into a runoff between two Republican candidates. The final seat belongs to Georgia, which has gone to a runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. With 99 percent of votes counted as of publishing, Warnock received 49.4 percent of votes and Walker received 48.5 percent. The runoff is scheduled for Dec. 6.

Democrats were less successful in the House, though they still outperformed predictions. All 435 seats were up for election, except for one of the six non-voting members. So far, Republicans have won 211 seats and the Democrats have won 204. POLITICO predicts that Democrats could win more of the 20 remaining seats than Republicans. Democrats are leading in 12 of the undecided races.

One of the key Senate races this cycle was in Pennsylvania. The race attracted national attention with its widely-known candidates: Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and TV-personality Dr. Mehmet Oz. Fetterman is a 6-foot 9-inch former football player and lifelong Pennsylvanian, starting his political career in 2006. Oz achieved fame as a television personality, and did not live in Pennsylvania before his senate campaign. Despite his tenuous ties to Pennsylvania and lack of political experience, Oz was considered a legitimate competitor. He knew how to harness far-right Republican support — including former president Donald Trump — against the unpolished, abrasive Fetterman.

Fetterman beat Oz by almost five points (51 percent to 46.6 percent), flipping a seat that has been almost exclusively Republican since 1969. With Fetterman’s victory, the Democrats are guaranteed at least a 50-50 split in the Senate, which becomes a majority with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. If Warnock wins Georgia, Democrats will have a 51-49 majority.

Notable “firsts”

There were many notable “firsts” in this election. 25-year-old Maxwell Frost is the first congressperson from Generation Z. Frost, a progressive activist, won Florida’s 10th Congressional District by 19 points against Calvin Wimbish, a 72-year-old conservative and retired Army Green Beret.

Summer Lee became Pennsylvania's first Black congresswoman, winning the 17th Congressional District which includes part of Allegheny County. Before her congressional run, Lee defeated incumbent Paul Costa in 2018 to reach the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with the support of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Austin Davis became Pennsylvania's first Black lieutenant governor — and highest-ranking Black official in PA history.

In Vermont, Becca Balint (D) became the first woman and out member of the LGBTQ community in Vermont to be elected to Congress. Alex Padilla (D) became California’s first elected Latino Senator, and Delia Ramirez (D) became Illinois’ first Latina congressperson.

Down-ballot measures

The 2022 midterms were significant for many down-ballot measures on hot-button issues.

Kentucky voted against a ballot measure that said abortion was not a constitutional right, although it is still banned in the state, while Michigan, California, and Vermont enshrined reproductive autonomy rights into their state constitutions. The increased push for abortion rights comes after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson earlier this year, which overturned Roe v. Wade. According to AP VoteCast, two-thirds of the nation’s voters believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to only about 10 percent who support a full ban. Abortion is fully banned in 13 states.

In four states, slavery was on the ballot. Three states voted to remove language from their state constitutions allowing slavery as a form of punishment for crime. Louisiana did not. The ballot measure read: “Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of involuntary servitude except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice?” A “yes” vote would be in favor of removing slavery as punishment, but many, including a Louisiana State Representative, say the ballot measure’s wording confused voters. Laws allowing slavery as criminal punishment are considered outdated and unenforceable in the present day, but activists say that more must be done to avoid the “modern-day slavery” of exploitative prison labor.

Several states voted in favor of affordable housing policies. Frost, Florida’s Gen Z Representative, ran on a platform including housing and transit reforms, such as rent stabilization, eviction prevention, and supporting Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Homes For All Act. In Missouri, Kansas City tenants rights organization KC Tenants Power won a measure authorizing $50 million for housing at or below 30 percent of the median income. In Los Angeles, a measure will likely pass that taxes high-value properties. The tax would help build affordable housing and decrease homelessness. Colorado narrowly passed a measure to add $300 million per year to fund affordable housing programs and address homelessness.

Missouri and Maryland voted to legalize recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21. Maryland’s ballot measure passed overwhelmingly, while Missouri’s was much closer with 53 percent support. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas all rejected recreational marijuana. TIME posits that these failures were due to lower voter turnout for a non-presidential election.

Illinois appears on track to pass the Workers’ Rights Amendment, adding protections in the state constitution for workers seeking to unionize. It would also prevent state lawmakers from passing “right-to-work” laws, which would prohibit non-union employees from having to contribute to the costs of union representation. The bill was supported by Vote Yes for Workers Rights and would enshrine Illinois workers’ right to collective bargaining.

Colorado voted to raise state taxes on high-income households to fund universal free school lunches for all students. Under the previous program, only about 30 percent of students qualified for free lunches, while at least seven percent more who could not afford lunches did not qualify. Instead of broadening eligibility standards, the proposition will create an entirely new system for free school lunches, including subsidies for school food service and locally sourced ingredients. The funding will come from reducing tax deductions in households earning $300,000 or more annually.