The perfect candidate in Arizona
Rep. Martha McSally (R) appears in line to become senator-elect in Arizona for a host of reasons, summed up in a simple statement: She was a great candidate.
She won the old-fashioned way. She earned it.
McSally was the first female attack pilot to fly in combat for the United States, logging more than 300 hours behind the controls of the A-10 “Warthog.” I am told by fighter pilots that the A-10 is not an elegant plane, but soldiers on the ground love what it does: chew up the enemy.
McSally didn’t have an “enemy” in this campaign, but she did have a talented, if flawed, opponent. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) spent years in Congress painting over her hard-left, radical-protester past, but McSally dove in and stripped that paint off. In the end, McSally used her credentials as a center-right Republican and her genuine heroism to take on and take down the best candidate Democrats have run in Arizona in years. Helped along by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s superb record (and political machine), McSally instantly becomes a star of the growing “warrior caucus” in the Senate. Note to GOP recruiters: Recruit combat veterans. The country gets it.
And a note to President Trump: McSally won because she communicates. Very, very well. Clear your bench of the weak-kneed and timid talkers. Find some young, happy-warrior talent for governing and the Sunday shows. 2020 is underway. You are going to need a lot of McSallys to win a second run. —Hugh Hewitt
Kansas didn't fall for Kris Kobach
Kansas passed on a chance to elect a Trump-style governor on Tuesday.
Kris Kobach campaigned from the back of a flag-painted Jeep with a replica machine gun mounted by his side. His anti-immigrant obsession earned him a spot on the president’s short-lived voter-fraud commission. President Trump’s last-minute Twitter endorsement probably won him the GOP nomination over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer.
But Kobach’s pledge to restore the school-starving tax cuts of former governor Sam Brownback (R) helped state senator Laura Kelly whip him like meringue. Despite widespread worries among Democrats that independent Greg Orman would split the anti-Kobach vote, when the ballots were counted, Kelly outperformed the pre-election polls.
Strong turnout in the suburbs of Kansas City and Wichita may have been the difference. Preliminary returns indicated that more than 1 million Kansans cast votes in the election, compared with about 870,000 in the most recent off-year gubernatorial election in 2014. —David Von Drehle
The Year of the Women
My favorite part of the 2018 election was not a single contest. It was the unprecedented number of Senate and House races — 33 in all — that featured two female candidates, including in some high-profile cases (most notably, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema vs. Republican Martha McSally running to be the first female senator from Arizona.) Time after time, as races were called, the faces of two women flashed on the screen; it felt both unusual and overdue.
The Center for American Women and Politics ran the numbers, tallying six Senate contests and 27 House races in which the two major-party candidates were women. Sure, that’s a pretty small share of the 470 House and Senate races overall, given that women account for half the population. But it’s more than double the number in recent cycles: 17 such contest in 2016, 15 in 2014, 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2010. Or, stretching back to 1992, in the aftermath of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, a mere six House races. This wasn’t the Year of the Woman — it was the Year of the Women, and that’s a welcome development. —Ruth Marcus
California saves itself some time
California voters have reclaimed their time. Or, more accurately, they’ve taken a big step to do away with an anachronistic policy that does nothing but mess with circadian rhythms: daylight saving time. On Tuesday, Californians passed Proposition 7, which will attempt to establish daylight saving year-round. Who knows if it will actually happen, as implementing the policy will require Congress to approve the change, and everyone knows how good Congress is at doing such tasks. Florida attempted the same thing earlier this year, and it’s still waiting for Congress to take up the issue. But in any case, Prop 7 is a sensible recognition that, no, daylight saving time doesn’t really save us much money on energy, as its proponents have long argued, and, yes, jostling with the hours of our day reduces productivity and is associated with higher traffic fatalities. So thank you, California. Now everyone else should follow its lead. —Robert Gebelhoff
The South is starting to crack
Well, that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) came up short in his bid to be governor of Florida. Stacey Abrams (D) continues to fight for every vote in her quest to be the next governor of Georgia. But their runs are notable for what they did do. The two candidates who were poised to become the first African American governors of their states ran a different kind of campaign. They ran as unapologetic Democrats. As Abrams told me last year, “Democrats have to be willing to stand on our own truth consistently.”
The reward was vote totals that exceeded those of 2014. Gillum lost by just 0.7 percentage points, with 1.1 million more votes than Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) winning total four years earlier. Abrams, who has not conceded, is down 1.6 percentage points. The previous Democratic nominee lost to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal by 8 percentage points.
Californians decide taxes aren't so terrible after all
Last year, the California legislature increased the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel as part of an effort to improve funding for the state’s transportation infrastructure. California is the home of Proposition 13, the 1978 voter initiative that set off anti-tax furor that has been with us ever since. And so it’s no surprise that Proposition 6, which would have repealed the new tax, emerged on the ballot this year. Prop 6 was a stalking horse: It was backed by congressional Republicans as a way to entice their base to the polls. Mercifully for the sake of anyone ever stuck in a Los Angeles SigAlert — that’s a local term for a monster traffic jam — voters gave it the thumbs down. Yes, a good economy seemed to temper voters’ initial annoyance with the increased levy, and AAA reports gas prices are at their lowest since April. But, along with the continuing unpopularity of the Republican and Trump tax reform package, consider this another sign that a reflexive anti-tax message is losing its sway with American voters. —Helaine Olen
Manchin shows off his political virtuosity
While it was a closely watched race and the final margin was relatively thin, Joe Manchin III’s reelection to the U.S. Senate from West Virginia was never in any more doubt than his vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Manchin is a savvy politician who knows his state, and he knew weeks ago that the only way he could lose would be to vote against Kavanaugh.
No state has swung as dramatically from blue to red as West Virginia in the past 18 years. When Manchin began his political career in the state legislature in the early 1980s, Democrats dominated local, state and federal offices. But a political shift that began with the state’s support of George W. Bush for president in 2000 has left Republicans firmly in control of the statehouse and Manchin the lone Democrat in West Virginia’s congressional delegation.
President Trump won West Virginia by a whopping 42 points in 2016, so it was not unreasonable for the GOP to think Manchin might be vulnerable. But Manchin has always been a Republican — or at least a conservative — in Democrats’ clothing. He knows his state and its people. His opponent, Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, won a contentious primary that left the GOP divided. Tuesday’s result in West Virginia was one of the least surprising of the night. —Gary Abernathy
Jared Polis's win in Colorado is remarkable because it was unremarkable
Few of last night’s gubernatorial contests were as astounding as Democrat Laura Kelly’s historic flip of deep-red Kansas. But just to the west was a race equally historic — and entirely un-astounding. That’s the best part of Jared Polis’s win as Colorado governor. The election of the Democrat, who became the country’s first openly gay person elected governor, felt as if it should be a given. And it was. Polis cruised to victory, topping his Republican opponent by nearly seven points.
Ten years ago, this would have been unthinkable, or at the very least remarkable. But last night, folks saw the result, cheered and turned back to the nail-biter next door. Sometime between the Obergefell decision and election night, we became cool with a gay governor. A few more cycles, and we’re not batting an eyelash at an openly gay senator — or maybe a gay president. Progress is crisp in Colorado’s air, and it sure is refreshing. —Drew Goins
A big day for health care
My favorite race involved not a specific candidate but an issue: Medicaid expansion. For the most part, it won.
Before Election Day, 33 states and the District had opted into Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion program. On Tuesday, voters in three states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah – joined this group via ballot measures. Collectively, they’ll extend Medicaid coverage to 325,000 low-income Americans.
Deep-red Idaho’s ballot measure passed by the widest margin, 60 to 39 percent, as of a Wednesday-morning tally. Nebraska and Utah appear to have passed more narrowly, though lots of Utah votes are still being counted.
Meanwhile, Maine, which last year became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative, just got a new governor who will actually implement it. (Both Utah and Maine are also among a handful of states awaiting approval to add work requirements to Medicaid.)
It wasn’t all victories though. Montana’s Medicaid expansion had been set to expire next summer. Voters were asked Tuesday whether they wanted to extend it, paid for with a tobacco tax. They voted no. —Catherine Rampell
A victory for compassion
Within the past decade, San Francisco has shifted from mildly countercultural to downright dystopian. The city is awash in tech companies and their highly compensated employees, while human misery remains starkly evident on its streets. The median home price reached $1.6 million this year, while the sidewalks host more than 7,000 homeless people. Even the United Nations has called it “cruel.”
In an apparent rebuke to all of that, San Francisco voters Tuesday ratified Proposition C, an initiative to raise taxes on the city’s largest businesses to fund homelessness relief programs. Businesses earning more than $50 million in gross annual receipts will see a tax increase of slightly more than 0.5 percent, which budget analysts estimate will raise up to $300 million a year and nearly double the amount currently spent on homeless services and housing.
The ballot measure proved revealing for many of the tech elite. Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff poured money into its support, framing the measure as a moral obligation for those who had benefited from the tech boom. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey opposed it (along with, surprisingly, Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed.)
But in a rare moment of virtue, care for others triumphed. —Christine Emba
It'll be a while before we know all the results
My favorite races are the nail-biters, and this year, it is hard to beat the one still going on in Texas’s 23rd Congressional District. It’s a vast district — bigger in area than 29 states and covering about one-third of the U.S.-Mexico border. And it has ousted four different incumbents in the past dozen years. It also takes in part of my home town, San Antonio.
The incumbent Republican, Will Hurd, is a charismatic, independent-minded former CIA agent who seemed to be doing everything right in what promised to be a rough race with Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, an ex-Air Force intelligence officer and first-time contender. And for a while it appeared that he had, when the Associated Press declared him the winner. But the votes have continued to come in, and at 3:30 a.m. ET, the AP withdrew its call, saying the totals were too close to be sure which candidate had won. So I’m staying tuned and looking forward to a recount. —Karen Tumulty