Students, faculty discuss midterm elections
As results from the 2022 midterm elections continue to roll in, many may wonder what the outcomes of these races mean for them.
Though final tallies have yet to be determined in several races, most municipalities have already declared winners. This article will examine the potential impact the 2022 midterm elections will have on the future of our city, state and nation.
One of the biggest aspects of the 2022 midterm elections in terms of national races is control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many pundits predicted a “Red Wave” this November, but the results paint somewhat of a disappointing picture for the Republican Party.
Before the midterms, Democrats held majority control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Republicans now appear poised to take the House while Democrats are projected to retain a slim majority in the Senate.
“Nationally, Republicans were licking their chops ready for a red wave,” said UH political science professor and co-host of Houston Public Media’s “Party Politics,” Brandon Rottinghaus. “Poor quality candidates and unexpected Democratic enthusiasm kept that red wave to a trickle.”
Not only did Democrats ride out the wave, but they also did so in defiance of historical norms, said Cyrus Hosseini, president of the College Democrats at UH.
“Historically speaking, the minority party tends to make huge gains in midterm elections—a phenomenon we’ve observed for virtually the entire modern political era. That didn’t happen on Tuesday,” Hosseini said. “What we instead witnessed was significant resilience by Democrats and a galvanized coalition of young voters.”
Despite Democrats’ fortitude, Republican control over the House means the Biden administration must preside over a divided government. While the President has already pledged to work with his opposition, House Republicans are allegedly planning to launch multiple investigations into President Biden and his family, according to ABC News.
While this certainly poses a challenge to Biden, Rottinghause believes the president can overcome it.
“President Biden will have a tougher time with Congress now that it’s (likely) controlled by Republicans, but a slim Republican margin means negotiation is critical,” Rottinghaus said. “The Biden Administration has shown some adeptness at navigating opposition in their first two years.”
Though Democrats outperformed expectations on a national level, the same was not the case for the Texas Democratic Party. Republicans retained control of the Lone Star State, winning the vast majority of major races.
Though his campaign raised a record-breaking $27.6 million, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke failed to unseat incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The Houston Chronicle attributed O’Rourke’s loss to low voter turnout among Democrats in Houston and other blue-leaning districts.
“Democrats struggled with both message and money, key elements to swing a state politically,” Rottinghaus said. “The Democrats’ sour performance was expected given how incumbent parties fare in midterms, but Texas Democrats performed worse than Democrats in other states.”
Roughly 45 percent of registered voters cast ballots this year, 7.3 percent less than in 2018. However, it’s worth noting that this is still higher than every other midterm election in Texas over the last 20 years, according to The Texas Tribune.
Student Government Association President Joshua Martin said that while low voter turnout is frustrating, he still sees hope for the future.
“There are millions of people in the state of Texas who are eligible to vote but just didn’t,” Martin said. “I believe that outreach and voter education will be crucial in future elections, but I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Though Thursday’s results come as a let-down to many who had hoped to see the historically red state flipped, Martin urged students not to give up.
“To students disappointed by Beto’s loss, keep fighting for what y’all believe in,” Martin said. “Continue to reflect and believe in your values, and we can travel down the road of progress together.”
In local elections, most eyes were on the race between incumbent Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer.
Mealer hoped a tough-on-crime stance and backlash from a recent controversy concerning several of Hidalgo’s staffers would be enough to unseat the Democratic incumbent. Yet despite quadrupling Hidalgo in terms of fundraising, Mealer was ultimately unsuccessful in flipping the seat red.
Hosseini said that Hidalgo’s victory and many other Democrats in smaller races across the county spells good news for UH students and the city as a whole.
“We’re very fortunate to have retained some great leaders like Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo,” Hosseini said. “UH students and Houstonians at large have that to look forward to in terms of the kinds of investments we’ll be able to see in our campus and local communities.”
Despite Hosseini’s promise of a better future, the numbers tell a story of deep apathy among university-aged voters. According to the Houston Chronicle, roughly three percent of early votes were cast at the University ballot boxes located at UH, UHD, UHCL and TSU.
This news came out just days before Mayor Sylvester Turner announced in a Tweet on Nov. 9 that UH is this year’s recipient of the Mayor’s Early Vote Challenge Award. The challenge pitted TSU, UH and UHD against one another in competition to see which university could bring in the most voters during the early voting period.
According to SGA, a total of 4,813 ballots were cast at UH during the early voting period. While this was more than the other two universities, it represents about 10 percent of UH’s 47,000 students.
Though this election’s turnout was low for young voters, Martin said he’s proud of the efforts made by UH students who made their voices heard.
“Thousands of UH students came out to the polls to excersise their right to vote. Some students waited in lines longer than an hour,” Martin said. “I’m hopeful we can carry this enthusiasm into 2023 and 2024.”