Election 2015: A Republican-leaning mixed bag
Update: I've added some additional details about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Yesterday was election day. That may come as a surprise to you. I’m embarrassed to admit I almost forgot about it myself. We may not have elected a president on Tuesday, but elections matter. The election last night meant something, although it may not be everything you were lead to believe it was. My overall view is that it was a mixed bag that generally leaned Republican.
In Salem, a payroll tax on employers was put forward as a solution to fund expansion of bus services in the city. This proposition was soundly rejected by a vote of nearly 60% opposed and 40% in favor. This suggests to me that a) mass transit is not something voters are consistently willing to force others to pay for, and b) mass transit still hasn’t reached the kind of popularity that the left has suggests it has everywhere. It tends to be a kind of holy grail on the left and it was soundly rejected in a low turnout election. Low turnout elections tend to result in more informed and conscientious voters.
In Coos County on the Oregon coast, more than 60% of voters supported a “Second Amendment Preservation Measure.” The measure declares that unconstitutional gun laws are void in Coos County and that the county won’t spend any funds to enforce SB 941 passed by the Legislature earlier this year. Coos is more rural and therefore very gun friendly. Second Amendment supporters have been waiting for something to vote for and they finally got their opportunity. This measure is likely to end up in court as opponents assert the measure is unconstitutional.
By a margin of 65–35 voters in the City of Pendleton soundly defeated a 5-cent gas tax. Gas taxes tend to be a very touchy subject regardless of when they come up. The legislature typically gets a lot of heat (and incumbents sometimes lose elections) because of votes in favor of raising the gas tax. Gas is a necessity for the vast majority of people and raising taxes on lots of people at once is typically very hard to do.
The City of Grants Pass defeated a sales tax by a massive margin of 78–22. The sales tax is the the third rail of Oregon politics. You can talk about a sales tax in certain situations but you don’t want to grab and hang onto that rail because it will electrocute you.
A very interesting tax measure passed in Washington. The measure decreases the sales tax from 6.5 to 5.5%, an 8 million dollar revenue loss to the state, unless the Legislature asks voters to approve a measure requiring a 2/3 legislative majority for tax increases. This is likely to be tied up in the courts since opponents question the legality of the measure. I’ve never seen a measure that explicitly strong arms the legislature into action like this and I’m surprised such a complicated measure passed.
Note: Washington has 98 House Seats. Yes it's weird and no I don't know why.
Teri Hickel, a Republican from Federal Way, won a special election for the Washington House of Representatives. In 2008, Washington House Republicans were outnumbered 63–35. Now the margin is only 50–48 in favor of Democrats. A pickup of one more seat means Republicans would split the chamber and two seats would give them a majority. The Washington Senate is currently under sole Republican control (they’re often joined by a Conservative Democrat for a two vote advantage).
Seattle is enjoying experimenting with some interesting stuff. They’re trying a new kind of wealth redistribution. Seattle voters have approved a measure that levies a property tax and then uses that money to fund campaign contribution vouchers of $100 for every voter to spend for the candidate they support. It’s a step towards government funding of elections which typically benefits fringe members of political parties and adds to polarization.
Republican businessman Matt Bevin, after winning the GOP primary by 83 votes, went on to handily beat his Democrat opponent in the Kentucky Governor’s contest. Jack Conway was a strong Democrat candidate who was polling well and was expected to continue the legacy of previous Democrat governors. He was defeated by 9 percentage points in what is considered a strong victory for Bevin.
In Virginia, 122 incumbents in the State Assembly and State Senate ran for re-election. All 122 of them won. That’s right. Not a single incumbent was defeated. This is a first — even in Virginia — which has a history of being favorable towards incumbents. This from an electorate we’re constantly being told is tired of politics as usual. Anti-gun groups and the Koch brothers both spent big and yet nothing changed. There’s a lot about this election that challenges conventional wisdom.
In the City of Portland (but in the state of Maine) voters actually rejected a minimum wage increase 58–42. This is surprising to me. Portland is a very liberal city in Maine and would be expected to pass a minimum wage increase. Statewide minimum wage hikes were very successful in 2014 (a Republican wave year) and typically passed.
It wasn’t all good for Conservatives. In the state of Pennsylvania, they elect partisan judges. On Tuesday, Democrats swept all three seats to pickup a majority on the state Supreme Court.
A bipartisan committee (aka an equally partisan committee) does redistricting in Pennsylvania. If this committee cannot come to a decision on the maps for legislative redistricting, The Supreme Court selects someone to choose if the Democrats map or the Republicans map should become law. This doesn’t bode well for turning Pennsylvania red in 2016.
Democrats picked up at least three Republican-held seats in the New Jersey State Assembly. This will give them control of 51 of 80 seats (possibly 52). That’s a solid majority and their largest in 36 years. Democrats also control the New Jersey Senate.