2018 midterms (cont.)
December 5, 2018

Frank Scott, a 35-year-old banking executive and former state highway commissioner, won a runoff election Tuesday for mayor of Little Rock, making him the Arkansas capital's first-ever elected black mayor. (Two previous black mayors were appointed by city directors, not voters.) Scott defeated Baker Kurrus, a 64-year-old lawyer who served as Little Rock superintendent of schools after the state took control of the district three years ago. Outgoing Mayor Mark Stodola chose not to seek re-election.

Scott said he hoped his victory in the nonpartisan election would help ease racial tensions in Little Rock, which has struggled with desegregation since nine black students had to be escorted into Little Rock Central High School by police in 1957. "If you believe it's time to unify this city, let's do it," Scott said at Tuesday night's victory party. Little Rock's Pulaski County also elected its first black sheriff and county clerk this year, and several other Arkansas cities just elected their first black mayors, too, The Associated Press reports.

In other Tuesday election news, Republican Brad Raffensperger won a runoff election for Georgia secretary of state. His victory over Democratic former Rep. John Barrow means a Republican will replace Gov.-elect Brian Kemp (R) as the state's top election official.

December 4, 2018

North Carolina's Board of Elections has refused to certify the results of the U.S. House race in the 9th Congressional District, citing irregularities with mail-in absentee ballots. Those irregularities appears to center around a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless, a campaign consultant and the elected vice chairman of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Republican Mark Harris, who appeared to have defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, hired Dowless as "an independent contractor who worked on grassroots for the campaign, independent of the campaign," Harris strategist Andy Yates told The Charlotte Observer. Dowless, who goes by McCrae, was paid by Red Dome Group, a firm founded by Yates that was dissolved in mid-2017, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office. Dowless was convicted of felony perjury and felony insurance fraud in the 1990s and served more than six months of a two-year sentence.

Dowless appears to have organized "a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board," WSOC-TV reports. He declined to answer questions from WSOC's Joe Bruno, but Bruno did get on-camera confirmation from a woman named Ginger Eason that Dowless paid her to pick up absentee ballots and deliver them to him. She said Dowless did not inform her that collecting absentee ballots violated North Carolina law.

Eason was among a handful of people who signed as witnesses on dozens of absentee ballots, according to WSOC's tally — one of the several red flags from Bladen County's absentee returns. Lisa Britt, who witnessed at least 42 absentee ballots and apparently doesn't live at the address she listed on the ballots, is Dowless' step-daughter, according to journalist Judd Legum. You can learn more about the irregularities at The Charlotte Observer and in WSOC's report below. Peter Weber

December 3, 2018

It's typical for a party that suffers losses in a midterm election to subsequently reflect upon what went wrong, as when former President Barack Obama acknowledged a "shellacking" in 2010. But Republicans this year have not done much of that.

The New York Times reports that there has been "little self-examination among Republicans" following the party's loss of nearly 40 seats in the House of Representatives. This fact is frustrating some lawmakers. "There has been close to no introspection in the GOP conference," Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told the Times, "and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats."

Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), said there hasn't been "any party lookback or leadership lookback and it does worry some of us." Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) argued that Republicans must "learn some lessons from this election," with one being that their caucus needs to be more diverse and look "more like America."

One retiring Republican, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), suggested he knows the reason for the lack of self-reflection: he says it's because the midterms were a referendum on President Trump, but the GOP can't conclude that publicly out of fear of inciting the president's wrath. Trump himself asserted that the midterms were a "big victory" for Republicans, but as Democrats in the following weeks continued to rack up House seats, that assessment has not exactly aged well. Brendan Morrow

November 29, 2018

The election of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Tuesday and belated victories of Democrats TJ Cox in California's 21st Congressional District and Anthony Brindisi in New York's 22nd District — both declared Wednesday — bring the 2018 midterms to an official close. Republicans will control the Senate by a 53 to 47 margin and Democrats flipped 40 seats to win a 235-200 majority in the House, the party's best showing since gaining 49 seats in 1974.

According to Dave Wasserman at the Cook Political Report, Democrats won 9.4 million more votes than Republicans in the House races, a margin of victory of 8.4 percent, with a record 60.1 million votes versus the GOP's 50.7 million. The incoming House includes 62 new Democrats (35 of them women) and 31 new Republicans (including one woman).

NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith tallied up how the final results look for President Trump, who played an active, defining role in the campaign. Trump's final score: 54 people he endorsed won, 46 lost.

If Trump batted above .500, California Republicans were decimated. With Cox's victory, Republicans will hold only seven of California's 53 House seats, the fewest since 1947, when California had only 23 seats, according to the Los Angeles Times. Bloomberg's Greg Giroux puts that in perspective:

The culling of California's GOP delegation is a particular blow to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — soon to be House minority leader — and you can read more about that at the Los Angeles Times. Peter Weber

November 28, 2018

Democrat TJ Cox declared victory on Wednesday in California's 21st Congressional District, the final undecided congressional race from the 2018 midterms.

Cox, an engineer and owner of two nut-processing companies, ran against incumbent Republican Rep. David Valadao. On the night of the election more than three weeks ago, Valadao was ahead of Cox by nearly 4,400 votes. As more ballots were counted, that lead got tighter, and on Monday, Cox surged ahead. When Kings County updated its results on Wednesday morning, it brought Cox's lead to 529 votes.

All of the votes in Fresno and King counties have been counted, but a few thousand still need to be tallied in Tulare and Kern counties. Valadao is a three-term incumbent, who won in 2016 even when the mostly rural district voted for Hillary Clinton by double digits. If Cox does officially win the race, Democrats will have gained seven House seats in California and 40 nationwide. Catherine Garcia

November 27, 2018

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won the Mississippi Senate runoff on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Mike Espy, several media outlets are projecting.

With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith has 55.2 percent of the vote, while Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration, has 44.8 percent. Hyde-Smith was appointed in April by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) after longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran retired due to health issues. She now becomes the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi. When the new Congress starts in January, Republicans will have a 53-47 majority in the Senate.

Hyde-Smith made several controversial statements over the last few weeks, including saying she would attend "a public hanging" and also declaring she wouldn't mind if it became "a little more difficult" for "liberal folks" to vote. On Monday, President Trump made a final push for Hyde-Smith, holding two rallies in Mississippi. Catherine Garcia

November 27, 2018

Mississippi voters go to the polls Tuesday for the last election of 2018, the Senate runoff between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and Clinton administration agriculture secretary. Hyde-Smith was appointed to temporarily replace former Sen. Thad Cochran, and the winner of Tuesday's election will serve out the remaining two years of Cochran's term.

Hyde-Smith, 59, is favored to win, but her campaign has been roiled by recent comments about sitting "on the front row" of "a public hanging" and a purported joke about making it difficult for students and "liberal folks" to vote, plus newly unearthed photographs and video appearing to show her laud the Confederacy and recent reports that both she and her daughter attended private "segregation academy" schools set up to help white students avoid school desegregation. Adding to the racially charged tenor of the campaign, seven nooses were found hanging from trees outside the Mississippi Capitol on Monday, accompanied by handwritten signs referencing Tuesday's election and Mississippi's dark history of lynching.

While Espy's campaign has been painting Hyde-Smith as an embarrassing reminder of Mississippi's segregationist past, Hyde-Smith and other Republicans have been highlighting Espy's $750,000 lobbying contract with Ivory Coast's Cocoa and Coffee Board in 2011, and his trial on charges of illicitly accepting gifts in the 1990s — he resigned from President Bill Clinton's Cabinet, was tried on 30 corruption charges, and acquitted on all 30.

Working to ensure a Republican victory, President Trump held two rallies for Hyde-Smith on Monday, and GOP groups poured $4 million into the runoff, versus $1.2 million from Democratic groups. If Hyde-Smith wins, she will be the first woman ever elected to Congress from Mississippi and Republicans will control 53 seats in the 100-seat Senate. Espy, 64, would be Mississippi's first black senator since Reconstruction and the first Mississippi Democrat elected to the Senate since 1982. Peter Weber

November 26, 2018

Election Day was nearly three weeks ago, and one House race still needs to be called: California's 21st Congressional District.

The district covers portions of Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties, and it's currently represented by Republican Rep. David Valadao. On Nov. 6, the incumbent was ahead of Democrat TJ Cox by about 4,400 votes, but as more ballots were counted, that lead got smaller. On Monday, after Kern County updated its results, Cox jumped ahead of Valadao by 436 votes.

There are still several thousand ballots left to count, the Los Angeles Times reports, and under California state law, county officials have until Dec. 7 to certify their results. If Cox, an engineer and owner of two nut-processing companies, wins, it will give Democrats 46 of California's 53 House seats. Catherine Garcia

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