Election Reflects Divide

House Flipping to Democratic Control, But GOP Makes Gains in Senate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Everything was in play in these midterm elections with the House looking Tuesday night like it would change hands to Democrats while Republicans made gains in the Senate. (DTN photos)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The midterm election Tuesday was the big "blue wave" that became more of a mild blue tide as Democrats captured the House, but Republicans held their own and gained Senate seats.

Going late into the evening, projections saw Democrats gaining more than enough seats to capture control of the House of Representatives, which Democrats lost in 2010.

Republicans held on to key Senate seats and even made some pickups by knocking off Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota and holding a late lead in Florida as well. The Arizona race remained too close to call late in the evening.

The outcome results in a divided federal government, as Democrats would control legislation in the House, including oversight power over President Donald Trump and his administration. Still, the split also likely halts the president's legislative agenda and will also create more gridlock between the House, the Senate and the White House over budgets and spending during the next two years.

In some key governor races, Republicans held Florida and Georgia, but Democrats were leading in Republican-held states of Kansas and Wisconsin late in the evening. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat and member of the House Agriculture Committee, won Minnesota governor's race. Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, won the governorship of New Mexico. Michigan and Illinois were called as governor's seats that flipped from GOP to Democratic. Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican and former Ag Committee member, was leading in the South Dakota governor's race.

Democrats won House seats in some typically Midwest and Plains states considered reliably Republican areas. In Johnson County Kansas suburbs, GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, a four-term incumbent and member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, lost to Democrat Sharice Davids, a Native American lawyer and former Obama White House fellow. Kansas flipped an open governor's seat to Democratic as well, as Laura Kelly defeated conservative Kris Kobach.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, a three-term incumbent and member of the House Agriculture Committee, lost in the Illinois 13th District to Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a former teacher who focused on Davis' health-care votes.

In Iowa, Rep. Rod Blum, a Republican, lost to Democrat Abby Finkenauer in the district representing northeast Iowa. In southwest Iowa, Democrat Cindy Axne defeated three-term GOP Rep. David Young, a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee as well.

Embattled Rep. Steve King, in Iowa's 4th congressional district, held off his toughest Democratic challenger yet as controversial comments on race and diversity nearly cost King in a normally reliably conservative area. King is a senior member of the House Ag Committee.

New York Rep. John Faso R-19th, another Ag Committee member, lost the Hudson Valley district to Antonio Delgado, a former rapper, but also a Rhodes Scholar.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, won easily even as Democrats picked up some seats in Texas. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the committee, also held his seat easily.

Reflecting some of the change in Congress, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, lost his re-election to Democrat Colin Allred, a former pro football player and attorney in the Obama administration.


Allred's election in Texas was likely buoyed by strong suburban support for Democrat Beto O'Rourke, but O'Rourke lost his bid Tuesday to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Democratic chances in the Senate collapsed early when Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, lost in Indiana to Republican businessman Mike Braun in an early call. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Indiana's former governor, won the state by nearly 20 points two years ago.

In North Dakota, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer will move to the Senate after defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, also pegged early as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Drama came early on election night in key races in Florida. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson fell behind in Florida to GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who was down by more than 56,000 votes with 99% of precincts reported.

In Tennessee, GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn also kept the Senate seat in Republican hands.

In another GOP gain, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley, the state's attorney general. Hawley carried nearly every rural county in the state in getting the win.

In Montana, early on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, a farmer, was leading his race even after being considered one of the more vulnerable incumbents.

In Mississippi, Democrat Mike Espy, a former secretary of agriculture under former President Bill Clinton, was leading late into the evening over appointed incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith by 41.6% to 40% with 75% of precincts voting. With Chris McDaniel, another Republican in the race pulling nearly 17% of the vote, Espy and Hyde-Smith will be forced into a runoff race at the end of November.

In Utah, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won a Senate seat to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Among other Senate results, members of the Senate Agriculture Committee won, including Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


Chris Clayton