In this year’s midterm elections, Republicans took back the Senate, kept control of the House and won governorships in 31 states and counting. What does that mean for you and for us, as strong advocates of the arts and arts education? Here we break down the national, state, and local results – and their potential impact on the arts:
The U.S. Senate will be Republican-led. This means all Senate committees will see new chairmen, and since those committees control and recommend federal spending, these new chairmen could have significant impact on federal arts funding.
Moreover, when the new Congress takes office in January, the Republican Party will control both houses of Congress for the first time in eight years.
A few races are still to be decided. Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) remains ahead by only 582 votes, but her race is still too close to call. The Democrats lost at least seven seats in the Senate, but pro-arts members Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) won their races! At least 14 new Republicans are entering in the U.S. House, including a music theater major in college, member-elect Mia Love (R-UT). Another exciting pro-arts member-elect is Alma Adams (D-NC), who has already announced plans to continue with her collage art while in DC. All together, House Speaker John A. Boehner is likely to see the largest number of House Republicans in office since World War II.
This means a legislative agenda shift is likely, with a potential possibility for more legislative agreement between the House and Senate, and thus more bills passing Congress. In his victory speech, expected new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Tonight, Kentuckians said we can do better as a nation. Tonight, they said we can have real change in Washington. Real change, and that’s just what I intend to deliver.”
What that “change” is still to be determined. However, some good news: 114th Congress could see agreement on comprehensive tax reform, impacting charitable giving. In the House, many of the Appropriations Subcommittees will also see new chairs due to retirements. The subcommittee that oversees funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the Arts in Education programs will have a new chair as Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) ran for another office and was defeated. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is expected to continue to chair the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and will be joined by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) as expected Ranking Member, ensuring that a steadfast friend of the arts remains in the leadership of that very important panel.
State & Local Races
By any measure, it was a tough night for the arts and culture last night on the state and local levels.
Yesterday’s elections were not about the arts and culture or about any actual topic other than the economy. Yesterday’s elections were largely a vote against President Obama. According to exit polling conducted for the Associated Press by Edison Research, a third of voters said their choice was partly a repudiation of President Obama.
The best example of this is in the president’s home state of Illinois—a democratic stronghold, where pro-arts incumbent Governor Pat Quinn lost a close race for reelection against Bruce Rauner who won with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote. Rauner has stated on his website that he wants to control government spending, because “bigger government means more corruption.” Too often statements like this indicate a desire to eliminate wide areas of government investment—like the arts and culture. The governor-elect will have to work with a heavy Democratic majority in the statehouse, but it will also be up to arts advocates in Illinois to convey the importance of the arts and culture to the new governor.
Democrats also lost the governor’s mansion in heavily democratic Massachusetts where Republican Charlie Baker eked out a narrow win over Democrat Martha Coakley by a margin of 48.5 percent to 46.5 percent.
In Connecticut, former Stamford Mayor and pro-arts Gov. Dan Malloy squeaked through his re-election with a win margin of only 26,000 votes over Republican Tom Foley.
Additionally, in heavily blue Maryland, heir apparent Lt. Governor Anthony Brown lost his race for governor and did so with a stunning 9 percent loss to Republican Larry Hogan. Governor-elect Hogan had worked recently to tie Brown to current Maryland Gov. O’Malley, a former Public Leadership in the Arts Award winner, and to high taxes in the state.
Back to the positive—in Michigan, Republican incumbent Rick Snyder was re-elected as governor by a 4 percent margin. Gov. Snyder is a supporter of the arts and received the 2014 winner of the Public Leadership in the Arts Award. During his first term, he has increased the state arts agency’s budget from $2.56 to $8.15 million and has looked to the creative sector to help stimulate Michigan’s economy.
Looking at state legislative races, a total of 1,098 (55.6 percent) of the country’s 1,972 state senate seats and 4,958 (91.6 percent) of the country’s 5,411 state house seats were up for a vote. Altogether, 6,057 (82.0 percent) of the country’s 7,383 state legislative seats were up for election during the midterm election year.
Overall, the Republican Party’s state legislative successes appear to mirror its successes on the federal level. Six chambers flipped to Republican control that had been held by the Democratic Party going into the 2014 election. Additionally, six legislative chambers are undecided. This includes five chambers that are currently Democratic and one that is currently Republican.
Lastly, there were seven State Superintendent of Public Instruction elections that happened yesterday and we saw pro-arts education candidates elected in Oklahoma, South Carolina, and California while similar candidates lost in Georgia and Idaho.
Tune in for a complimentary webinar on November 20 at 3:00 p.m. (ET) with Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund staff as we provide our post-election analysis of how the federal, state and local elections, including ballot initiatives, will impact the arts and arts education in America. Presenters include Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch, Nina Ozlu Tunceli (Executive Director of the Arts Action Fund), Narric Rome (Vice President of Government Affairs), Jay Dick (Senior Director of State and Local Government Affairs), and Kate McClanahan (Director of Federal Affairs). Register now!