Reflecting on the 2018 Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2019 — Now that all but one of the 470 House and Senate races from the election cycle just ended are final and recorded, it is time to better understand what the results portend.

As we know, the Democrats had a good election overall, and most particularly in the US House where they converted a net 40 seats — possibly 41 if NC-9 turns their way when the new election is finally scheduled — but Republicans did expand their majority in the Senate, thus largely disqualifying 2018 as an official wave election. Overall, there are 93 freshman House members and nine new senators when counting appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ).

Democrats came very near wave proportions, however – the Ballotpedia organization studied past wave elections and found that a swing of 48 House seats is necessary to constitute such a designation. While the effects from the 2018 election will certainly have long term reverberations, much more time is required to determine if the results are providing the foundation for transformational policy changes or are merely a blip that could just as quickly swing back to the Republicans.

What we do know is that women made significant gains in federal representation. In the Senate, the body now features a net three more female members (gaining Kyrsten Sinema and appointed Sen. McSally, both from Arizona, along with new Sens. Jacky Rosen (NV), and Marsha Blackburn (TN), but losing North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp), meaning that 25 women are now incumbent senators.

We also see six states where women hold both of the state’s US Senate positions. They are: Arizona, California, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Washington. Throughout American history, just 56 women have served in the Senate, almost half of whom are current members. During a period in 1978, the Senate had no female members, making that the last point in time where the body was exclusively male.

In the House, 102 women now serve in the chamber, with 37 freshmen. The numbers represent a net gain of 28 when compared to the 115th Congress because males replaced women in several open seats. The new aggregate number is also the largest in American history.

Looking at the racial divisions, 92 Senators are non-Hispanic white, four are Hispanic, two Asian, one black, and one multi-racial. The House currently features 315 non-Hispanic whites, 56 blacks, 44 Hispanics, 15 Asians, and four Native Americans.

During the election cycle, 35 House incumbents and five senators were defeated. In the districts, 31 lost in the general election and four, two Democrats and two Republicans, lost their bids for re-nomination in respective primaries. All five losing Senators fell in the general election.

In the House, 32 of the freshmen had not previously run for any office, held a key appointed government position, or had a significant history in politics. All nine of the new senators previously held elective office: five coming from the House, two ex-governors, one of whom, Mitt Romney, was also a party nominee for US president, one state attorney general, Josh Hawley (MO), and one former state Representative (Mike Braun (IN)).

In the House, the veteran members, those elected in the 2016 general election and before, averaged 66.7 percent of the vote in their respective 2018 elections, down from 67.9 percent two years earlier.

As further evidence of the strong Democratic tide, the veteran Democrats increased their average victory percentage by 3.3 percentage points when compared to the previous election, while the winning Republican members saw their vote average drop 6.2 percent.

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