The Midterm Election Results

Published Wednesday, November 10, 2010
by Brad D. Steele

The House of Representatives

To put the Republican House victory in historical context, this was the largest midterm victory by the opposition party since 1938 when Republicans won 72 seats.  The 63 total seats won by the Republicans is the third largest gain by the opposition party in almost 90 years – Democrats won 77 seats in 1922 during Republican Warren Harding’s presidency.  As of now, the House breakdown is 239 – 187 with 9 seats still too close to call and 4 of those 9 are leaning Republican. 

Even more interesting is the fact that Republicans only lost three seats.  That equals the second smallest loss in the entire history of the House of Representatives.  Two seats were lost in 1806 and 1988 and three were lost in the elections of 1790, 1838 and now 2010.


The victory in the House was broad-based and it returned Republicans to areas of the country where they virtually had no presence.  In the Northeast, Republicans gained five seats in New York and both seats in New Hampshire.  In the Midwest, they gained five seats each in Pennsylvania and Ohio, three in Illinois and two each in Michigan and Wisconsin.


In the South, Republicans defeated the 14 term Chairman of the Budget Committee, John Spratt, in South Carolina.  They took three seats in Virginia – including a 14 term Member, three in Tennessee, two seats in Alabama and they beat a 10 term Member from Mississippi.  


In the Great Plains States, citizens in North and South Dakota elected a Republican to each of their at-large congressional seats.  In the Mountain states, Republicans took two in Colorado – including the brother of former Senator and current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  And in the West, Republicans picked up two seats each in Arizona and Washington.  The Republican success was so complete that they are even expected to win a seat in California.


In all of the states mentioned – save for N.Y. and Calif. – the Republican victories gave them control or kept them in control of those House delegations.


With this win, Republicans will be in control of the House and there will be significantly more pro-growth, pro-business Members leading the House Committees that impact the private club industry: Small Business (Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.)), Energy and Commerce (Fred Upton (Mich.)), Education and Labor (John Kline (Minn.)), Judiciary (Lamar Smith (Texas)), Ways and Means (Dave Camp (Mich.)) and Budget (Paul Ryan (Wis.)).


The Senate
While the Republican gains in the Senate did not transfer control of that chamber, the results do place a pro-growth, pro-business agenda that much closer to the top of the pile.  After winning in Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Wisconsin and after suffering no Republican losses, the caucus is emboldened and they are ready to make changes in the upper chamber’s attitude during the next Congress.  With the Alaska seat remaining in Republican hands (though whose hands has yet to be determined), the Senate breakdown is 51 – 47 with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.


With 47 Republicans now in the Senate and with more Democratic Senators siding with Republicans to oppose their own party over the last two years, it seems some legislative initiatives the private club industry has pushed for may get better results in the 112th Congress.


It should be remembered that three of the newly elected Senators – Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) – will be sworn-in at the beginning of the lame duck session on November 15.  As such, issues like the extension of the Bush tax cuts will be even harder for the majority to dismiss.  Additionally, the fact that the President’s former Senate seat is now held by a Republican will be a stark reminder to many Senators just how significant this election was.


Ultimately, the Republicans’ failure to gain control of the Senate will not dampen the opportunity for our industry to begin to see some change in that chamber.  If the majority does not temper some of its perspectives and acknowledge what took place across the country on November 2, many of those Senators will be looking at the same fate as their six fallen comrades.  Of the Democratic seats up in this cycle, nearly 1/3 lost on Tuesday.  As such, the message more than likely got through.       


Governor and State Legislative Races
With Republicans winning 12 out of the 19 gubernatorial seats held by Democrats and keeping 13 out of the 18 already in their control, it is clear that the elections of 2010 will have a far reaching impact at the state level.  For our industry, that should mean more fiscal responsibility by governments closest to private clubs and their members.


Indeed, the Republican wave was so great that it even produced a net gain of 500 more state legislative seats across the country – bringing their total to the most they have had since 1928.  As these new members take office, Republicans will control both legislative chambers in 26 states. 


These telling state legislative race victories should mean that the same kind of pro-growth, pro-business agenda emerging in Congress will also be seen in the statehouses.  That should mean less pressure on clubs from state regulators and less pressure on individual club members from their state departments of revenue.


Ballot Initiatives
Finally, there were a few ballot measures that had an impact on private clubs in certain states.  In the State of Washington, voters rejected a measure that would have created the first personal income tax in the state.  It would have applied to those making $200,000 a year ($400,000/couple) and could have been extended to those making less money in the years to come.  As this measure would have directly impacted those who traditionally join private clubs, NCA is extremely pleased with this result.


Unfortunately, voters in Nevada rejected a measure that would have amended the state’s constitution to prohibit the state from taking private property and giving it to another private entity through eminent domain.  Though there is no immediate concern that eminent domain will be used against a Nevada club, the rejection of this measure means that this issue is still a potential problem for private clubs.  Had the ballot measure been worded more clearly, citizens in the Silver State might have understood its intent better and it could have passed.


Voters in Arizona, South Carolina and Utah handily approved measures that protect a worker’s right to a secret ballot election before a union is formed.  These measures were meant to send a message to Congress about the pending Card Check bill (or Employee Free Choice Act).  That federal legislation would strip this fundamental voting right from workers, simplify the union organization process in clubs, and allow union coercion and intimidation to force workers into accepting a union.  NCA has fought against the Card Check bill and we are very happy to see voters in these states approved initiatives that protect workers and businesses from overzealous union organizers.  
Conclusion
Though there is much more in-depth review that must be done, these election results can only be labeled as positive for the private club industry.  With luck, this will be the beginning of a more enlightened time on Capitol Hill (and in the statehouses) for private clubs, their employees and their members.  There is no doubt that the 112th Congress will be better than the 111th and the atmosphere for clubs should be better than at any other time during the last four years.  But, this is still Washington, D.C., and anything can happen.  So, as always, we will stay on guard.


Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact NCA’s Vice President of Government Relations and General Counsel, Brad D. Steele, at steele@nationalclub.org.

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