Freshman class of Congress is looking younger, more female: Today’s talker
Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and are currently projected to finish with about 234 seats to the Republicans’ 201. Once the dust settles, the freshman class is projected to be 100 members, four higher than the incoming class in the 2010 Republican red-wave election and on the higher side of historical averages. Forty-one seats are projected to flip party status, and all 27 incumbents who lost their seats were Republican.
Diving deeper into the data, Democratic gains come largely on the backs of Democratic winners who are increasingly younger, browner and definitely more female. The average age of newly elected Democrats, for example, dropped a staggering 7.7 years — from 53.2 to 45.5 years — from only one Congress prior. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is slated to be the youngest member at 29 years old. How much will this age phenomenon impact Democratic choices for party leaders where the frontrunners (Nancy Pelosi of California, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina) are all in their late 70s? We will soon find out.
Also key to the Democratic victory was their overperformance compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margins within their districts. In competitive districts specifically, the average Democrat bested Clinton’s numbers by about five percentage points, enough to put a number of Trump-won districts into Democratic hands and a few marginally Clinton districts out of reach for Republicans.
But, women proved to be the real winner of the midterms elections. A record high 105 women are projected to be sworn in come January. Ninety are Democrats — a record for the caucus — including Kendra Horn (D) of Oklahoma’s 5th district, who registered the biggest statistical upset of the night by knocking off incumbent Steve Russell (R). Horn started the night with only a seven percent shot at taking the seat, according to forecasters at FiveThirtyEight.com.
In the end, the Democratic House gains were less like a blue wave and more like a blue high tide. Democrats took care of business in the House; they won back the majority. They may not be able to claim a mandate given their fairly slim majority, but their win means they gain committee chairmanships, agenda privileges, and most important to many, subpoena power. Now we will have to wait and see how they use these powerful tools in the 116th Congress.
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