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Republicans Take Over Congress in US Midterm Elections

By: Peter Sacco - @petersacco2 - Nov 5, 2014, 12:55 pm
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is expected to replace Democrat Harry Reid as Senate majority leader. (NPR)
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is expected to replace Democrat Harry Reid as Senate majority leader. (Flickr)

EspañolThe dust has settled following the upheaval of election night, revealing a new Republican majority in the US Senate and a strengthened Republican majority in the House of Representatives. With only a few US Senate elections still undecided, the bigger picture can be ascertained beyond doubt.

As things stand, the Republicans have won 52 Senate seats while the Democrats have fallen to 45, with 51 needed to secure a majority. Three seats remain up for grabs in Louisiana, Alaska, and Virginia, which will carry over into runoff elections in December. The results of Tuesday’s election marks a dramatic shift in governance, as Democrats must now relinquish the control they’ve held in the upper house of Congress since 2006.

This outcome means that President Obama will now face majority opposition in both the House and Senate for the first time during his presidency. When the new Congress assumes power in January, the Obama administration will face an uphill battle on contentious issues, such as immigration reform and energy policy, while Republicans are expected to push the president to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline running from Canada to the United States.

The nationwide ousting of Democrats comes on the heels of a presidential approval rating hovering around 40 percent, with less than one-third of voters believing the country is heading in the right direction. Republicans achieved widespread success by likening their opponents to the president, while Democrats tried to distance themselves from the administration.

“This race wasn’t about me or my opponent,” said Republican Mitch McConnell before a ballroom full of supporters in Louisville on Tuesday evening. “It was about a government people no longer trust.” The veteran Kentucky senator is widely expected to become the new Senate majority leader, replacing Democrat Harry Reid in January.

Republicans won nearly every highly contested race across the country, unseating Democrat incumbents in Montana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Colorado. The GOP also seized control of governor’s mansions in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

North Carolina Libertarian Rising

Counting heavy among Democrat losses on Tuesday was North Carolina, where Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis narrowly defeated incumbent Kay Hagan. The outcome in this new-age battleground state is noteworthy in and of itself, but the attention paid to Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh has turned just as many heads.

olitician by day and pizza delivery man by night, Libertarian Sean Haugh has run for public office six times.
Politician by day and pizza delivery man by night, Libertarian Sean Haugh has run for public office six times. (@EmperorSean)

Politician by day and pizza delivery man by night, Haugh has run for public office six times, culminating in a 2002 bid for the US Senate before seemingly retiring from politics in 2010. However, the veteran politician returned to the races in 2014, in large part because he did not feel compelled to vote for the policy solutions the two traditional party candidates were offering.

The main focus of Haugh’s 2014 campaign is the abolition of war and debt, two issues where the Libertarian sees Democrats and Republicans have made little progress. He vehemently advocates for an end to international military intervention, military aid, and the militarization of domestic police forces, while urging for free and unrestricted trade among all countries.

“It’s a shame that things have to get this bad before people start to look for another choice,” he said in an exclusive interview with the PanAm Post Tuesday night. “It’s only when we realize that the cycle of war and debt is never-ending that we consider an alternative.”

Haugh has opted for an alternative path to the ballot, choosing to disseminate his messages through social media platforms rather than traditional campaigning methods.

Although the Libertarian candidate received only4 percent of the vote in North Carolina, his rise in popularity demonstrates that disenchanted voters are willing to consider an alternative to the traditional two-party system.

“We sent a message to both Democrats and Republicans that there is a group of voters who are willing to stand up for peace,” said Haugh. “The movement has gained a lot of momentum over the years, and it’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Landrieu Falling in Louisiana

Despite maintaining a narrow lead over Republican challenger Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu failed to clear the 50 percent mark and will now participate in a December runoff. The Democrat incumbent and staunch supporter of the president leads Cassidy by 1 percent, having secured 42 percent of her state in an election offset by a strong secondary Republican candidate, Rob Maness.

Landrieu’s popularity has suffered from recent comments about her state’s perception of race and gender, and her continued support for Obama’s policies. Landrieu cast the key vote in the passage of the controversial Affordable Care Act, and a recent University of New Orleans poll indicates Obama holds only a 38 percent approval rating in Louisiana.

“The voting records of former Louisiana Democratic senators, such as that of John Breaux, have shown independence and awareness of the state’s priorities,” said Chad Rogers, editor of the Dead Pelican, a political news outlet. “Mary Landrieu’s record over recent years has shown only blind partisanship: she has backed all 185 bills signed by the president.”

Landrieu’s opponents have also accused the senator of being swayed by lobbyists, particularly as it relates to proposed sanctions against Venezuelan government officials. Earlier this year, Landrieu froze the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which would have directed sanctions on top Venezuelan officials over their violent crackdown on opposition protestors.

Landrieu cited economic concerns as her reason for shelving the legislation, claiming that the Citgo oil refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana would suffer as a result. She maintained her position even after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assured the senator that there was “no need to be concerned about any implications for refineries in Louisiana.”

The Cassidy and Maness campaigns suggest, however, that Landrieu blocked the sanctions at the request of Citgo — a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Citgo lobbyists have contributed over US$75,000 to Landrieu’s campaign.

Peter Sacco Peter Sacco

Peter Sacco is a journalist who works from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. He has developed a special interest in immigration and the war on drugs since moving to Honduras in August of 2013. Peter holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Follow @petersacco2.