The 2010 election cycle proved unique in many ways – it’s the first time that the House of Representatives switched party control without the Senate also doing so, for example – but probably it’s most surprising characteristic is the reverse nature of the results.
Normally in landslide years, the statewide elections set the tone for incumbent defeats. Not so in 2010. Only two US Senators, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, were unseated Tuesday night. Likewise, only two Governors, Ohio’s Ted Strickland and Iowa’s Chet Culver, were politically fired. In the US House races, however, at least 49 (47 Democrats; 2 Republicans) incumbents lost their re-election battles, and the number could go as high as 59 depending upon the outcome of the 10 House elections that are still undecided. At the state legislative level, the number of incumbent defeats rose into the hundreds. Republicans gained more there than at any electoral level, and increased their total number of legislative seats by at least 680 nationally. They will control a minimum of 54 legislative chambers, a modern-day political record.
The voting public’s willingness to change political course in 2010 is unusual because the anti-incumbent fervor actually increased as people moved down the ballot (into races where the candidates’ names are less familiar) instead of waning. Thus, the sense that this is an “upside down landslide” victory for the Republicans.
As mentioned above, 10 US House races remain unresolved. In all cases, large numbers of absentee and/or provisional ballots remain to be counted that could certainly change the results. Whether such alteration means a different candidate will eventually win the election as opposed to the one who is now leading remains an open question in each of these elections. The 10 are (in alphabetical order):
- AZ-7: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) vs. Ruth McClung (R)
Grijalva leads 62,459 to 58,376 – all precincts are counted
- AZ-8: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) vs. Jesse Kelly (R)
Giffords leads 120,175 to 117,826 – in both AZ races all precincts are counted but thousands of absentee ballots remain
- CA-11: Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) vs. David Harmer (R)
McNerney leads 82,124 to 82,003 with thousands of ballots remaining to be counted
- CA-20: Rep. Jim Costa (D) vs. Andy Vidak (R)
Vidak leads 32,521 to 30,708 – the low vote total suggests huge numbers of votes remain uncounted
- IL-8: Rep. Melissa Bean (D) vs. Joe Walsh (R)
Walsh leads 97,403 to 96,850 – again large numbers of absentees remain
- KY-6: Rep. Ben Chandler (D) vs. Andy Barr (R)
Chandler leads 119,845 to 119,245 – the high vote total suggests the absentee ballots remaining are relatively few, but are enough to change the outcome
- NY-25: Rep. Dan Maffei (D) vs. Ann Marie Buerkle (R)
Maffei leads 95,286 to 93,090 with 96% of the precincts counted
- TX-27: Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) vs. Blake Farenthold (R)
Farenthold leads 50,954 to 50,155 – all precincts are reporting; low voter turnout; absentee ballots remain
- VA-11: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) vs. Keith Fimian (R)
Connolly leads 111,615 to 110,695 – absentee ballots remain
- WA-2: Rep. Rick Larsen (D) vs. John Koster (R)
Larsen has just pulled into the lead 97,931 to 97,224 – but only 71% of the vote has been counted; Washington’s unique all-mail system that allows ballots postmarked on Election Day means this one will take a long time to resolve
Only two Senate races remain outstanding. In Alaska, it will take some time to determine if Sen. Lisa Murkowski has won re-election via write-in after losing the Republican primary. It is clear, however, that Republicans will retain the seat. In Washington, Sen. Patty Murray maintains a lead of 27,464 votes, but a quarter of the statewide vote remains to be counted.
On the gubernatorial front, five races remain outstanding. Democrats have small leads in Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, and Vermont. Republican Tom Foley has a slight lead in Connecticut. Several percentage points worth of votes remain to be counted in all five states.