Midterm Races to Watch
Political campaign yard signs are everywhere during this midterm election season.
Credit: Aaron Roeth Photography

Midterm Races to Watch

It feels like you can’t turn on the television or check in on social media this month without seeing a political ad, as candidates gear up for the November 6 midterm election. Traditionally, the party of the president in power loses seats in Congress in a midterm election. That’s nothing new. But this year, President Trump’s growing unpopularity, in conjunction with current events (such as Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and last weekend’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh) has led to the rise of a self-proclaimed “Blue Wave”–a coordinated response by Democrats to win as many political races as possible, anywhere they can, from city councils to the governor’s office, and from state legislatures to the U.S. Congress. As a result, the November 6 midterm election has seen an unprecedented amount of voter interest, and exceptionally high voter turnout: in some precincts, early voting numbers have already surpassed the total number of voters in those same precincts in 2016.

Does this mean good news for the Democrats? Not necessarily. Recent polling has suggested that Democrats may gain control of the House of Representatives–by some estimates, they may gain 25 to 35 seats–it is also expected that Republicans will hang onto control of the Senate. Some poll numbers also show the GOP maybe even pick up a couple of Senate seats along the way. As election season comes down to its last few days, Election Central takes a look at a few key races to watch.

Texas

The U.S. Senate race in Texas will be a close one. Republican Senator Ted Cruz became a household name after running against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primary. Now, however, he faces a challenger in Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic House Representative from El Paso. Despite the recent fact that Texas is a predictable Republican state, O’Rourke’s numbers have continued to climb as he closes in on Cruz. If O’Rourke wins this would be a very large upset victory. O’Rourke has gained national attention for his strong speaking skills (a video of him defending the right to kneel in protest during the national anthem went viral), his easygoing nature, and his “nice guy” approach. Polls are saying that Cruz will probably still win this Republican stronghold, but O’Rourke is predicted to come surprisingly close.

Florida

The battle for the governor’s seat in Florida has drawn nationwide attention for how politically divisive it has become. Former Republican congressman Ron DeSantis is facing off against Democrat Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee. DeSantis has been a vocal Trump supporter throughout his entire campaign, and now the president is doubling-down on his backing of DeSantis. But since Trump only won Florida by a narrow margin in 2016–and because Trump’s approval rating has continued to fall–it remains to be seen if Trump’s support will hurt or help the Republican candidate. Meanwhile, former President Obama has made appearances in support of Gillum. If Gillum wins, he will be Florida’s first black governor. At the moment, polling shows the two candidates within just a few points of each other.

Georgia

In Georgia, Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, is also the secretary of state. (The secretary of state’s office is responsible for overseeing elections.) This means that he is overseeing his own election. Accusations of widespread voter suppression have drawn the eyes of the nation to Georgia, resulting in the growing call for Kemp to step aside from his secretary of state duties or to withdraw from the race. It has recently been revealed that more than 300,000 people have had their voter registrations thrown out and been denied the right to vote==and a disproportionate number of them are people of color.

Kemp was also caught on tape saying that he needs to keep the number of voters low in order to win. Kemp is facing lawsuits both for this election and for the 2016 election, when he ordered that thousands of voter registrations be thrown out because people had moved, when in fact they had not. If Democrat Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, beats Kemp, she will become Georgia’s first black female governor.

Dig Deeper Using Internet resources, research a key race happening in your own state. Why is it important? What is the likely outcome? Which candidate would you be likely to support if you were old enough to vote? Explain.
Valerie Cumming

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