Highlights From a Historic Midterm Election

Brad McMillan, Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service

The 2018 midterm election is over, and now it is time to govern. There were several significant highlights in this election—and all of us are wondering what the results might mean, both nationally and in central Illinois.

First of all, this was a historic year for voter participation in a midterm election. According to estimates from the New York Times, approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014. This is an impressive increase and good for our democracy.

In addition, this election saw positive gains in the diversity of Congress. A record number of women will serve in Congress—at least 103 in the U.S. House of Representatives and 23 in the U.S. Senate. The first two Native American and Muslim congresswomen are headed to the U.S. House, and the first female U.S. Senators were elected in Arizona and Tennessee.

A Divided Congress
The Democrats took back majority control of the U.S. House, while the Republicans increased their majority control in the U.S. Senate. Many Tea Party Republican conservatives lost re-election, and newly elected congressional members from both parties are now speaking about “working together to solve problems.” 

But will this really happen? Will President Trump support bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, criminal justice reform and immigration, or will gridlock rule in Washington DC for the next two years? The other key question is whether the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House will overreach and spend tons of time on investigations rather than important public policy solutions.

Blue Wave in Illinois
A so-called “blue wave” swept through Illinois as the Democratic party gained the Governor’s office, swept all constitutional offices, and picked up at least five seats in the House, giving Speaker Michael Madigan a supermajority to match Senate President John Cullerton’s supermajority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Governor-elect JB Pritzker won by an impressive 14-percent margin. 

For those of us in central Illinois, the big question is: How will Pritzker govern, and will he act on important pledges made during the campaign?

  • Will he focus energy to help downstate communities with job creation?
  • Will he lead the charge for a new capital bill for roads, bridges, and secondary and higher education construction projects to help put our local construction trades folks to work?
  • Will he use his considerable influence to follow through on his editorial board statements in favor of a constitutional amendment to have an independent commission draw legislative maps following the 2020 Census?

Every new governor has a window of opportunity to capitalize on their new position and popularity. Governor-elect Pritzker spent a lot of time campaigning in the Peoria region and has pledged to represent all of Illinois. We wish him much success. iBi

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