5 Things to Watch in This Year’s Election
Every government affairs team will analyze the 2022 midterm election, but there is far more to monitor than just the topline results. From ground-breaking candidates to representation and turnout, here are five things to watch.
Almost every government affairs team will be glued to the results on Election Day as voters decide which party controls the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats.
Yet, as in all elections, there will also be much to monitor beyond the topline results. Nationwide, there are candidates running who could break new ground; trends in turnout and representation that could advance or recede; and several races that are simply worth watching as a signal of what is to come in American politics. In total, there are almost 7,000 candidates running, and that will bring a great deal of change.
For advocacy pros who want to get beyond the big headlines, here are some races and trends to watch in the midterm election.
A Black Woman Governor
The United States has never elected a Black woman as governor in any state. That could change this year, if any of three Democrats—Yolanda Flowers in Alabama, Stacey Abrams in Georgia or Deidre DeJear in Iowa—win their races.
In 2018, Abrams became the first Black woman to ever be nominated for governor by a major party, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Now, there are three candidates, but all are running against Republican incumbents, with Flowers and Dejear facing long odds (the Cook Political Report lists both seats as solidly Republican). Abrams lost a close race in 2018 and is currently locked in a tight rematch.
The last two years have seen Black women serve for the first time as vice president and on the U.S. Supreme Court. This year’s election could bring more firsts. However, Black Americans, who represent almost 14% of the U.S. population, fall short of equal representation in most political bodies. For example, they make up only 3% of the 100-member U.S. Senate.
Historic Numbers of LGBTQ Candidates
History is being made in New York’s third congressional district, where Republican George Santos and Democrat Robert Zimmerman are the first two openly gay candidates to face off for a seat in Congress. The race is one more indicator that LGBTQ Americans are increasingly running for office at all levels.
More than 1,000 LGBTQ Americans hold federal, state and local offices in 2022, up about 6% over last year, according to the LGBTQ Victory Institute, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ leaders. However, LGBTQ Americans represent about 7% of the population, meaning the U.S. will have to elect more than 35,800 additional LGBTQ candidates nationwide to fairly represent the population, according to the Victory Institute. For example, there are currently 11 openly LGBTQ lawmakers in Congress, a number that would need to roughly triple in order to be truly representative.
However, there are more than 600 LGBTQ candidates facing voters on Election Day in races up and down the ballot. That’s up from 432 in the last midterm election. Depending on how those races go, there may be a number of firsts, including the first lesbian governor ever in the U.S., with candidates in Oregon and Massachusetts; the first LGBTQ immigrant elected to Congress, with a candidate in California; and the first LGBTQ lawmakers sent to Congress from Oregon, Illinois and Vermont.
A Boom in Latino Turnout
Roughly 17 million Latinos voted in the 2020 election, an increase of about 31% over 2016 and the highest level of Latino turnout in U.S. history, according to The New York Times. Though turnout was high overall in 2020, the rest of the electorate increased only about 16%.
There are more than 62 million Latinos living in the U.S., making Latinos the largest minority group in America, representing almost one in every five people. The Latino population grew by 23% between 2010 and 2020, accounting for 51% of U.S. population growth during that period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps more important is that the population is still growing. Census projections show the Latino population will rise to about 111 million by 2060, a 79% increase over today and totaling 28% of the U.S. population.
Conservative Republican Latinas
A record 37 Latina candidates are running in the House, including 17 Republicans. Yet three Republican women running in congressional districts near the Mexican border in Texas have gained a lot of attention in recent months. All three support former President Donald Trump and hold conservative views on issues like immigration. That’s a departure for Republicans in heavily Latino districts, who often take a more moderate approach.
Mayra Flores became the first Latina Republican that Texas has ever sent to Congress when she won a special election to represent the state’s 34th district earlier this year. She is now fighting a tough race to keep that seat for the next two years. Republican Monica De La Cruz in the 15th district and Cassy Garcia in the 28th district hold similar views and both are battling to win their districts. The three women have campaigned and raised money together. How they fare will likely impact the Republican playbook in districts with large Latino populations moving forward.
Growing Numbers of Women in Elected Office
One topic to watch in November is how women candidates fair up and down the ballot. For example, there are 147 women in Congress, including 123 in the House and 24 in the Senate, meaning they occupy 27.5% of seats. Yet women make up about half the U.S. population. In 17 states, women have never been elected to the Senate. Three states have never sent a woman to the House (Mississippi, North Dakota and Vermont). However, with 20 women running in the Senate and 259 running in the House this year, the numbers could see a shift.
The same is true at the state level. Women have never served as governor in 19 states. This year, however, a record-setting 25 women are running for governor in states across the nation. Depending how races go, women could be elected governor for the first time in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New York. Women candidates for state legislature are also up over 2020 by about 3%, with more than 3,550 running.
Women are underrepresented in most political bodies. For example, they make up only about 18% of governors; 31% of state legislatures and statewide executive offices; and about 30% of the mayors in America’s 100 most populous cities, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. But 2022 could bring about changes, and that progress, even if incremental, will be important.
Government affairs teams have a great deal of work ahead after the election. There will be analysis, strategy adjustments and outreach to an entirely new crop of state and federal lawmakers. Equally important, teams will be educating their own audience on the freshmen, the new shape of the political landscape and what it means for their most important issues. A thorough understanding of the outcome—including how it impacts all segments of the electorate—is vital.
Women, minority and LGBTQ candidates make government more representative of the voters it serves and, over time, that can change the outcome on policy decisions. For example, almost 59% of the lawmakers in the Nevada legislature are women—the only female-majority legislature in the country—and they are likely to see issues like child care and abortion rights differently than a legislature dominated by men. Those are important factors for a government affairs team to understand, factors that will shape advocacy moving forward. As the LGBTQ Victory Fund procliams loudly, “representation is power.”