Republicans were the clear winners in yesterday’s midterm elections. They took control of the Senate, expanded their House majority, and scored a number of state-level wins, including gubernatorial upsets in reliably Democratic Massachusetts and Maryland.
But beyond the headlines, who were the less obvious winners and losers in yesterday’s elections, especially in terms of education policy? Below is a quick and short analysis of key electoral developments. If you want to learn more about what the 114th Congress will mean for education, attend ASCD’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA) in January 2015.
Lamar Alexander—Tennessee voters sent the former U.S. Secretary of Education back to Washington for another Senate term and he is now poised to chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee in 2015.
Women in Congress—Pink is the new purple. Alma Adams’ (D-NC) special election victory (she’ll be sworn in immediately) means Congress will have 100 female members (20 senators, 80 representatives) for the first time in history.
Individual voters—A slew of close races (the Colorado, Connecticut, and Vermont governor’s races are still too close to call a day after the polls closed) highlighted an evenly split electorate and the importance of every vote cast.
Ed Gillespie—The former national GOP chairman almost toppled popular incumbent Senator Mark Warner and his near-victory makes him the strong early favorite for Virginia’s open governor’s seat in 2017.
Mitch McConnell—The man who said it was his goal to make Barack Obama a one-term president won reelection, will be the next Senate majority leader, and was instrumental in ushering in the lame duck phase of Obama’s presidency.
Presidential ambitions—Republican governors Scott Walker (WI), Susanna Martinez (NM), Rick Scott (FL), and John Kasich (OH) all won reelection in key battleground states that could fuel aspirations to be kings (or queens) or kingmakers.
Tom Torlakson—His reelection as California state superintendent was a lone bright spot for the teachers’ unions who strongly backed his candidacy.
For-profit colleges—The GOP has been critical of the Obama administration’s efforts to rein in for-profit colleges that leave students with high debt and limited earning potential. A GOP-controlled Congress may make it even easier for for-profit colleges to get federal aid.
Common Core initiative—Newly elected state superintendents in Arizona and Georgia oppose the standards while the incoming Oklahoma chief attacked the current chief over state adoption of the standards. Meanwhile, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, visibly distanced himself from the standards during his successful reelection campaign.
Political dynasties—The family business ain’t what it used to be. The progeny of political icons—David Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, and Michelle Nunn in Georgia—were unable to replicate their fathers’ electoral successes.
President Obama—His 2008 coattails helped elect eight new Democratic senators, including Mark Begich (AK), Kay Hagan (NC), and Mark Udall (CO), to give Democrats a solid 59–41 majority. Six years later, the soon-to-be lame duck president proved to be an electoral drag, with the Senate flipping to Republican control and Begich, Hagan, and Udall all losing reelection.
Presidential ambitions—The Kentucky legislature remained in Democratic control, making it less likely the state’s election laws will be changed to allow Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to run for president and Senate reelection at the same time in 2016.
Arne Duncan—When Republicans complained about the Obama administration’s executive overreach, they often meant the Secretary of Education’s initiatives, such as the NCLB waivers and federal support for the Common Core initiative. Now, both the House and Senate will be closely watching the Department of Education to prevent it from acting as what Lamar Alexander called “a national school board.”
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