Republicans have emerged from Tuesday’s midterm elections with control of Congress for the first time in eight years. In the most expensive midterm in history, Republicans took control of the Senate and strengthened their majority in the House. Republican candidates won at least 10 of the day’s 13 closely contested Senate races, giving the party control of the Senate for the first time since 2007. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is expected to become the next Senate majority leader after defeating Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell celebrated his victory in Kentucky.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “Friends, this experiment in big government has lasted long enough. It’s time to go in a new direction. It’s time to turn this country around. And I will not let you down. Thank you so much.”
Three sitting Democratic senators lost races: Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, and Mark Udall in Colorado. The political landscape could still worsen for the Democrats as the Senate race in Alaska remains too close to call and Louisiana is headed for a runoff. The Republicans also picked up at least 10 more House seats, giving the party its largest majority since World War II.
Republicans also won a number of tightly contested gubernatorial contests. Republican candidates in Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois and Massachusetts took control of seats previously held by Democrats. A number of sitting Republican governors also overcame strong challenges, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Michigan’s Rick Snyder. In one of the rare Democratic upsets on Tuesday, Tom Wolf is projected to have beaten incumbent Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
The midterms saw nearly 150 ballot measures nationwide. Voters in four traditionally conservative states approved initiatives that will raise the minimum wage — in Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas. Voters in Illinois also backed an increase to $10 an hour, although state lawmakers will have final say. In Massachusetts, voters approved a landmark measure that will provide workers with the strongest paid sick leave requirements in the country, up to 40 hours per year.
Washington, D.C., passed a ballot measure to legalize marijuana, as did Oregon. A medical marijuana initiative failed in Florida.
In a victory for abortion rights, voters in both Colorado and North Dakota defeated personhood amendments, which would have defined fertilized eggs as human beings. But an anti-choice amendment in Tennessee that would enable the state Legislature to pass extreme anti-abortion legislation was approved.
Colorado voters rejected an initiative to require labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. The agribusiness giant Monsanto spent $4.7 million to defeat the GMO labeling measure. Voters appear to have defeated a similar initiative in Oregon, but it remains too close to call.
In Washington state, voters approved the day’s only major gun control measure, imposing background checks on all gun sales.
A top al-Qaeda leader has reportedly been killed in a new U.S. drone strike inside Yemen. Shawqi al-Badani, head of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and deemed a “global terrorist” by the United States, was among four people reportedly killed in an American attack overnight. Badani has been accused of links to bombings that killed more than 100 Yemeni soldiers and a plot on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. The strike follows an earlier U.S. bombing that killed at least 10 alleged militants.
Ten people have been wounded in Jerusalem after a driver drove his car into pedestrians. The attack occurred near a similar incident two weeks ago where a Palestinian ran into a group of Israelis, killing two people. Daily unrest in occupied East Jerusalem continued today with clashes between Palestinians and far-right Israeli demonstrators who tried to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel stoked new outrage this week after advancing plans to build 500 new illegal settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
Both Ukraine and Russia are moving their forces closer to eastern Ukraine after a weekend vote backing pro-Russian separatist leaders. Russia has recognized Sunday’s elections, while Ukraine’s president has threatened to scrap an autonomy deal for the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Separatists are already accusing Ukraine of violating the truce reached in September. On Tuesday, the Ukraine government said it would deploy new units to the east, where fighting has killed more than 3,000 people since April. In Brussels, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia has also moved forces closer to its border with Ukraine.
Jens Stoltenberg: “Recently we are also seeing Russian troops moving closer to the border with Ukraine, and Russia continues to support the separatists by training them, by providing equipment, and supporting them also by having special forces, Russian special forces, inside the eastern parts of Ukraine.”
Authorities in Mexico have captured the fugitive mayor of Iguala who is suspected of ordering a police attack on 43 students, who have now been missing for more than five weeks. Federal police arrested Jose Luis Abarca and his wife in Mexico City, where they were hiding in a working-class neighborhood in a building that appeared to be abandoned. They are suspected of orchestrating the attack by police on the students from a rural teachers college, who were apparently then turned over to a local drug gang. The mayor’s wife is accused of being the gang’s leading operator. The couple fled Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero, amidst an investigation that has netted more than 50 arrests and uncovered remains in multiple mass graves, none of which have so far been identified as the students. Family members and protesters have continued to hold out hope the students are alive.