In this year’s mid-term elections on November 2, voters in the US will be electing all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 37 US Senators, and Governors of 37 states. Elections will also be held for state legislatures and local offices, along with a variety of referenda.

The Democrats gained control of the US House of Representatives and Senate at the 2006 mid-term elections, after 12 years of Republican control. The Democrats gained 31 seats in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate the Republicans lost six seats to the Democrats. This gave the Democrats a 31-seat majority in the House, and a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

In 2008, the Democrats gained another 21 seats in the House, and eight more Senate seats. The defection of Republican Senator Arlen Specter in 2009 gave the Democrats a theoretically filibuster-proof 60-40 majority, but this only lasted until January 2010, when the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

The Democrats are facing serious losses this November due to a failing US economy, the limited policy success of the Obama Administration, the failure of Democrats to pass legislation through a deadlocked Senate, and the right-wing Tea Party movement’s revitalisation of the Republican party.

In the House of Representatives, Republicans appear to be on track to gain the 39 seats they need to form the majority. New York Times polling blog FiveThirtyEight is currently giving the Democrats a 37% chance of maintaining their House majority.

In the Senate, Democratic chances have improved due to internal Republican party wrangles in several states. In Florida and Alaska, Governor Charlie Crist and Senator Lisa Murkowski are running for the Senate as independents after being challenged by candidates to their right in Republican primaries. Tea Party activist Rand Paul is running in Kentucky, turning what should be a safe Republican seat into a close contest. In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of Mike Castle has switched the seat from a 94% chance of a Republican gain to a 94% chance of the Democrats retaining the seat.

While the Democrats will likely hold on to their Senate majority, they are set to lose ground, with their seats in North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana and Pennsylvania almost certain to fall to the Republicans, and several others in serious danger.

Out of 37 states where Governors will be elected on November 2, the incumbent is not running for re-election in 24 of those states, due to term limits, retirement, or primary defeat. Gubernatorial elections are particularly important this year, as states prepare to redraw the boundaries of House of Representatives districts. Redistricting takes place once a decade, after the national census, and will take effect for the 2012 elections. In most states, it is a partisan and openly biased process, where state legislatures and Governors actively work to redraw boundaries to assist their party and make seats safer for incumbents.

Many states will also hold referenda on November 2. One of particular interest is Proposition 19 in California, which would legalise cannabis for general use and allow it to be taxed by government. Polls show the “yes” side ahead, although not by a great deal.

California is facing a severe budget deficit, and it is expected that cannabis taxation would provide more than a billion dollars a year for the state Treasury, and save money for local government and law enforcement agencies. A yes vote would be very significant, considering California’s role as the largest state in the United States, and one of the largest economies in the world.

Check out Ben Raue’s blog The Tally Room here.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW