Political experts panel analyzes midterm results


Photo courtesy of Mary Rose O’Donnell

Pennsylvania Democratic chairwoman Dr. Nancy Patton Mills speaks at an election analysis panel hosted by Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

By Mary Rose O'Donnell, For The Pitt News

Pennsylvania surprised the United States in the 2016 presidential elections by leaning right for the first time since 1988 and electing President Donald Trump by one percentage point. After a long hiatus from voting red, Pennsylvania’s fate seemed unsure.

Members of the Pittsburgh community gathered in Chatham University’s Mellon Living Room on Nov. 8 to discuss the 2018 Midterm Election Results. Organized by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, the post-election analysis covered state and federal election results — including Pennsylvania’s 2016 conservative swing and the recent blue wave in the United States. It specifically looked at female voters and candidates’ roles in what happened on election night.

Dr. Dana Brown, executive director of PCWP, hosted the event and moderated a panel of experts on state and federal politics. The panel included Anissa Coury, chair of the Allegheny Young Republicans, Dr. Nancy Patton Mills, chair of the Pennsylvania Democrats, Chris Potter, government & accountability editor of WESA, and MJ Slaby, reporter and curator of The Incline.

Brown kicked off the evening by sharing the successes of female candidates in Pennsylvania. According to Brown, there was a 71 percent increase in female-held seats in the state Senate, a 24 percent increase in female-held seats in the state House and, in total, 66 female victories on the 2018 Pennsylvania General Election Ballot. But the panel wasn’t sure what these election results and political advancements mean for women.

“There is definitely a message of involvement, especially when you look at who is getting into politics … people were interested and excited to see what happened,” Slaby said.

Mills said she believes voter turnout and enthusiasm played a large role in the election outcome. She said each party was motivated to vote due to fear or excitement regarding the current state of the country — Democrats to gain more equilibrium and Republicans to keep control.

“The base of the Democratic party and the base of the Republican party were both energized to a very high pitched level. The Democrats that came out were terrified at the direction of our country,” Mills said. “The Republicans that came out were very involved in trying to prove that they were right by electing Trump.”

Potter said the Pennsylvania elections for governor and senator echoed each party’s respective concerns or enthusiasms regarding President Trump. He cited the victories of Democrats Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in their respective races and how on the flip side, many local races turned red. He said he believes the Brett Kavanaugh hearings played a role in uniting and engaging Republicans in the midterm election.

Collectively, the panelists agreed there was a great sense of uncertainty in the air as the public is still digesting Tuesday night’s results, with news coverage shifting to a tense White House press conference as well as a mass shooting in California the day after.

“No one can even get 24 hours to talk about where our country is going and how we our going to manage it,” Mills said.

Coury brought up Democrats’ new power in the House and what this could mean going forward and with potential Trump collaborations, saying while Democrats now have more power in the House, they should use it as an opportunity to work alongside Republicans and find compromise.

“I think that the Democrats have an opportunity here to govern and I hope they do. The ball is in their court,” she said.

Potter said while Trump has shown a willingness to work with Democrats, he has yet to clarify his stance on issues like immigration and infrastructure, which jeopardizes opportunities for bipartisanship in Congress.

“There have been many times in the past two years where the president has indicated he wants to work with Democrats. However, I think anyone would say that this is a mercurial president that many lawmakers in both parties find challenging to work with,” Potter said.

While the panel speculated on what these results could mean for the United States going forward, it was clear to them that civic engagement is growing across the country.

“I think that the local voter was thinking nationally this time,” Miller said. “I know that all elections are local, but people were looking at the big picture … people felt that they were voting for America.”