Go ahead and read the newspaper if you like. They will tell you who won in your area, what initiatives and propositions and various ballot measures passed. But there were some interesting details among all the noise that needs to be highlighted.
For instance, you likely heard about Alaska legalizing weed. And not just for medicinal purposes. While it has been the medicinal crowd who has pioneered decriminalization, it is significant this time around, emboldened by Colorado's success, that these approvals in D.C., Oregon and Alaska were for even recreational consumption. In fact, the lone medicinally-themed campaign for decriminalization, which was Florida, is the one that lost and did not pass. The question now must be asked;...did it not pass because voters there still support the drug war, or was it because they didn't want to fool around with half-measures? Pundits will discuss for the next few months as the data is crunched.
But weed was not the only interesting thing to happen in Alaska this election. Even more history was made. The incumbent Governor candidate was Sean Parnell, former Lieutenant Gov. under Sarah Palin. He became full Governor when she resigned to run on the ticket with John McCain for the Vice-President slot in 2008. He was re-elected in 2010. While tallying of final ballots is still occurring and will go on for as long as 2 more weeks due to the vast expanse of the state, it seems fairly clear Parnell was defeated in an upset by a truly odd ticket. (Alaska races for Gov. are like Presidential elections, where both a Gov. and Lieutenant-Gov. run on a ticket together.) Independent candidate Bill Walker, formerly a Republican and also former mayor of Valdez in the early 80's, along with the former Democrat candidate (who resigned his slot to join Walker's ticket as Lieutenant) have beat Parnell.
Now to understand the historical context here, understand that while Americans often say they're sick of the two-party structure of American polotics, independent and "3rd party" candidates rarely get their support. Alaska isn't friendly territory for non-incumbents taking on Republican candidates; no Democrat or independent has ever won a majority of the vote in a race for governor or senator against an elected incumbent Republican. The last time a Democrat or independent captured a majority of the vote in a race for an open seat or against an incumbent Republican who had not been elected (i.e. appointed or rising from lieutenant governor to take the place of a resigning governor) was in 1970. On the other hand, independent and third-party candidates for governor have had more success in Alaska than elsewhere. Wally Hickel, a former Republican governor, won the 1990 gubernatorial race on a third-party ticket. Andrew Halcro, a former Republican member of the Alaska Legislature, took more than 9 percent of the vote as an independent in the 2006 race. (Thanks to Harry Enten at www.FiveThiryEight.com for this background.) http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/sarah-palin-successor-sean-parnell-bill-walker-alaska/
"Ah," you say, "Well obviously the state was so embarrassed over Sarah Palin, they were willing to vote for anybody to ditch her legacy." Hmmmmmmm,...well,...not really.
Just 2 days before voting day, Sarah came out and endorsed Walker over her former Lieutenant.
What the Hell, you say? Yes indeed. Even with a Democrat as part of the ticket. Now that's rogue for ya.
Seems that Sarah had been upset with Parnell for undoing her signature legislative achievement of passing increased taxes on the oil & gas industry. Palin supported a ballot measure last election that would have restored the taxes, while Parnell worked to defeat the initiative. Parnell's side won. Since then, Parnell has come under fire for the resulting budget shortfalls without the taxes. As well, there was the little matter of a scandal in the Alaska National Guard over some sexual misconduct. Walker has been hammering Parnell over acting immediately when the oil & gas industry cried about the taxes, but took 4 years to get around to firing the state's Adjutant General over the sexual abuse. Palin has a son in the Army, and has been critical of the matter as well.
On top of it all, the Republican Governor's Association threw 1.3 million dollars into the race to help Parnell in the final weeks,...all for nothing.
And so here we are, seeing a true rogue ticket winning the governorship in perhaps America's most republican stronghold, in the middle of what was supposed to an election season that would portend of the Republican resurgence. Neocons everywhere have been licking their lips anticipating return to the years of Bush-The-Younger. When party luminaries look at this race, however,...they begin to feel an awful sense of a stalking spirit sneaking up on them. Those damned Alaskans, thinking for themselves. Why can't they get in line?!
Colorado's governor race is also of note. It isn't over yet, with many ballots still to count. But here is one the Republicans are going to scream was cost them by thos damned Libertarians.
Two key issues drove this campaign;...guns and weed.
Last year Governor Hickenlooper presided over the passing of Colorado's ban of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices for firearms. It was not popular, and 2 state legislators were successfully recalled as a result. Folks were expecting this might mean Hickenlooper himself might get tossed to the curb. And gun rights advocates certainly had that as their mission in mind.
Unfortunately for Republicans, however, they miscalculated that booting Hickenlooper would be so guaranteed, that they decided to also try to spike Colorado's recreational weed law by running a candidate who vowed to undo it. But the law has been so universally popular, even among Republicans, this arguably sunk the campaign from the very beginning.
Meanwhile, Matthew Hess (no relation to Az. Libertarian candidate for Governor, Barry Hess), ran as the state's Libertarian candidate for the office. He pulled just under 2% of the vote.
Guess what the difference between Hickenlooper and his Republican rival is? You got it,...barely over 2%.
Now Republicans have been screaming for decades that Libertarians "steal" votes from them. They believe that anyone who is a 2nd Amendment supporter is theirs by rights. But the problem is that Libertarians seldom ever pull in enough of a percentage of the vote to truly make the difference between who wins or not. It does occur,...but nearly with the frequency Republicans imagine. And most of this years' races bear that out. But the Colorado race was one where it kind of did. And the race was indeed very much about gun rights. 2nd Amendment fundamentalist Republicans will be fired up over this and there will be much hate for the mere word "libertarian" in this aftermath. Expect an onslaught of ballot access denial legislation over the next year.
At least one House race ended up similarly. West Virginia's 2nd District was won by the Republican, Alex Mooney, with difference over his Democrat challenger of 3.1%. Here, the Libertarian, Davey Jones, pulled nearly 5%. So Democrats will have an opportunity to hate as well.
But one high profile race where the Libertarian was NOT the spoiler for Republicans (but was for Democrats) is North Caroliana, where Thom Tillis defeated the predicted champion Kay Hagan by just 1.2%. The Libertarian, Sean Haugh, pulled 3.75%.
And speaking of gun issues, Washington state passed by a 3-to-2 margin what gun control advocates are calling a landmark initiative, requiring mandatory background checks on all sales of firearms, even those between private individuals. This is what the gun-banners refer to as the infamous "gun show loophole". In most western states, firearms are considered mere property, and disposal of them by sale to other individuals has always been no different (legally speaking) than selling off a household appliance or power tools. But now, in Washington, all such sales (with exceptions for family) must get prior approval IN WRITING from the local sheriff. That part about 'in writing" is significant, because it was the built-in waiting period that was worked into the law, meaning that simply having a swift and efficient computer-based electronic instant check system is specifically not what is intended. In fact, the law has no teeth in it to force any sort of expeditious time frame upon the local sheriff to complete the background checks, which could easily be abused to simply deny approvals to those who would clear the background checks.
Interestingly, Everytown for Gun Safety, one of Bloomberg's umbrella groups, is behind a clone of this initiative that has been filed in Nevada for 2016. It is likely that other clones of this shall also be filed in many states soon leading up to 2016.