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Congressional Elections Analysis: The Basics

Congressional Elections Analysis

It was an historic midterm election for the GOP. Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in six years and gained the largest majority in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1928. Here’s some more detail on the results that made that happen and what the freshman class looks like.

In the Senate, Democratic incumbents Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) lost their seats while Republican incumbents Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) successfully defended theirs. In open seat races, Republican candidates Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Shelly Moore-Capito (W.V.), Jodi Ernst (Iowa) and David Purdue (Ga.) all won. Incumbent Mary Landrieu (D-La.) faced Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.-6) in a runoff on Dec. 6.

Focusing on just the competitive races in the House of Representatives, the GOP gained 15 seats and lost three for a net expansion of its majority by12 seats. Total number of Democratic seats in the House dropped to 186 while the Republican majority grew to 244, the largest since 1928. Two races were headed to a runoff on Dec. 6 and one race was still undecided.

There are 70 members of the new freshman class – 52 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Of those, 18 percent are women, 42 percent under the age of 50 and 72 percent have held prior political office. Individually, 14 served in the military and 20 have law degrees.  Finally, 60 members of this freshman class are white, five are black, three are Latino and two are Asian.

Exit polls showed an anti-D.C., anti-incumbent sentiment that is reflected in the results of the midterms; however, this sentiment is not necessarily reflected in who will lead the parties in the 114th Congress. There is little change in the top leadership posts in either the House or the Senate. In fact, the only new members of leadership in either House are Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) who will head the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Democratic Senatorial Congressional Committee for the 2016 election cycle, respectively, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) who will be responsible for strategic progressive outreach for Senate Democrats. Similar to the Senate, the top House leadership positions for both parties remain unchanged.

The new Republican majority in the Senate means new chairs and ranking members for key committees in both the House and the Senate. This change in leadership could impact the outcome of legislation to reform the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), address new environmental proposals from the Administration and reform the nation’s tax code. With status quo control remaining in the House of Representatives, the environment for legislative issues does not change much.

Composition of 114th U.S. Senate


Several unresolved issues for the 113th Congress remain to be addressed before it shuts its doors on Dec. 11. These include reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), extending expiring temporary tax provisions, passing a 2015 budget particularly that portion belonging to HUD, and addressing a proposed cut in the housing subsidy for military service members.  There are varying levels of progress on these issues and with time ticking by, it is likely that the Congress will try and combine all of these into a single “omnibus” package. Senate Republicans would like to clear the decks of issues like TRIA and tax extenders so they can focus on other priority issues. Further complicating matters is the President’s executive order on immigration which could scuttle budget negotiations. As usual, the lame duck session is chaotic and complicated.

(Editor’s Note: Several elections occurred on Dec. 6 after the Apartment Advocate’s deadline.)


Contributors: Greg Brown and Kathleen Gamble