GOP House majority smaller, but still intact
Despite President Obama’s re-election and the loss of two seats from their Senate majority, Republicans could still stand up and cheer over their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives holding firm — albeit with the loss of several seats.
Going into the vote on Tuesday, Republicans had 241 seats in the House, compared to 191 held by Democrats and 3 vacancies. With six races still undecided as of Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 7), the GOP majority is likely to drop by seven seats at most. This would mean that the GOP ranks in the next House will be the second largest since 1938 — right after that which swept into Congress in 2010.
“The loss of seats is not as bad as it could have been,” an official of the National Republican Congressional Committee told Human Events, “and when you think that we reached the second-highest watermark in a year like this, that’s something to be proud of.”
What this means in terms of policy is that the burden of being a check on liberal Democratic policies from raising taxes to increasing the debt ceiling will still be on the shoulders of House Republicans, nearly 40 percent of whom were elected either in 2010 or last night.
Although there will be a handful of freshman GOP representatives who are from the center of the political spectrum, the overwhelming number of Republicans elected to the House Tuesday are decidedly conservative and, as was the case in 2010, backed by the tea party movement.
The bad news …
With experts estimating that races remaining to be counted will be over in a week, 11 Republican incumbents lost re-election. Four were victims of the Democrat-wielded redistricting knife in Illinois: freshman Reps. Joe Walsh, Bobby Schilling, and Robert Dold and seven-term Rep. Judy Biggert, who is considered more of a moderate than conservative. Two New York freshmen—Ann Marie Buerkle and Nan Hayworth—also went down, as did both of New Hampshire’s GOP House Members, Frank Guinta and Charles Bass. Freshman Reps. David Rivera (Fla.) and Chip Cravaack (Minn.) lost, as did 86-year-old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) in large part because of unfavorable redistricting.
And the good news …
Republicans did manage to retain 24 seats in which incumbent GOP lawmakers either retired or were beaten in primaries and won six open seats formerly held by Democrats. Conservative Republicans Tom Cotton and Markwayne Mullins won the only Democratic seats remaining in Arkansas and Oklahoma respectively, while Republicans George Holding and Mark Meadows won two open seats in North Carolina. Former State Rep. Jackie Walorski won Indiana’s 2nd District two years after nearly unseating Rep. Joe Donnelly — who stepped down this year to run successfully for the Senate — and Assemblyman David Valadao won the open 24th District in California.
GOP challengers even managed to take out at least four Democratic incumbents: lawyer and second time candidate Andy Barr (Ky.-6), who unseated Rep. Ben Chandler; congressional staffer Richard Hudson (N.C.-8), over Rep. Larry Kissell; former Erie County Executive Chris Collins (N.Y.-27) over Rep. Kathy Hochul; and lawyer and lay Roman Catholic leader Keith Rothfus (Pa.-12) over Rep. Mark Critz.
In districts that were newly created, or where Republicans were stepping down, there were several conservative winners who are likely to draw attention. Texan Steve Stockman, a conservative swashbuckler and born-again Christian who last served in Congress 16 years ago, came back to win a newly created — and heavily Republican – Houston-area district. Luke Messer, former state House majority leader from Indiana, made it to Congress on his third try by taking the seat Mike Pence relinquished to run successfully for governor of the Hoosier State.
And in Michigan’s 11th District (Oakland and Wayne Counties), Kerry Bentiviolo, a Ron Paul supporter who raises reindeer and plays Santa Claus, won election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Rep. and Republican Thad McCotter
As in every election, there are some sad losses conservatives must bear. Certainly the loss of tea party favorites Walsh and Buerkle hurts on the right. In addition, Rep. Allen West — one of two black Republicans in the House — was trailing Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida’s 18th District, but refusing to concede defeat. But overall, and even before the last returns were in, it looks as though Nov. 6 was a night conservatives will cherish in terms of races for the House.