Democrats Seek to Regain Control of the Senate

by Sanders Jett-Folk

In an unpredictable election year, voters are mainly paying attention towards the divisive presidential candidates of the main two parties. However, it’s also extremely important that they look towards down ballot candidates and races.

The US Senate is comprised of 100 members that are elected by voters in their state. Each state has two Senators that serve six year terms without term limits. They’re the upper half of the two houses of Congress, the other being the House of Representatives. Both control all national legislature proposed by people within and outside of Congress.

In the 2010 midterm election, the Republican Party gained eight seats in the Senate, giving them the majority and placing Mitch McConnell from Kentucky as the Senate Majority Leader. In the election of 2012, the Democratic Party, lead by Harry Reid of Nevada, regained control of the Senate by gaining two seats. This reversed once again in 2014, when the Republican Party gained nine seats.

Now, in 2016, the Democratic Party seeks to once again control the Senate. Currently, the Democrats have 44 seats and the Republicans have 54 seats. There are two Independents in the Senate, but they count as seats for the Democrats since they caucus with them.

To gain a majority, the Democrats have to either gain five seats for an outright win or gain four seats and have former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton elected as President. This is because the elected Vice President, also known as the President of the Senate, counts as a member of the Senate in the event of any tie.

“Hardly anybody knows about the Senate race at all,” said sophomore David Forsberg.

Many analysts and prediction sites have weighed the Democrats chances of gaining enough seats to have a majority. Predictions/statistics listed are up to date as of this article’s release.

Election Projection, an analyst site ran by Scott Elliott (who provided the image used in this article) currently predicts that while the Democrats will lose a seat in Nevada, they will gain four other seats, placing them only one seat behind from gaining a majority. The site also predicts that Hillary Clinton will win the presidential election, which would give the Democrats a win in the event of a D-R tie.

Pivit, a site that uses polls, user opinions, and historical data to make predictions regarding future events, says there is a 54% chance that the Democrats will gain control of the Senate. The site also predicts a 73% chance that Clinton will win the presidency.

When asked who he believed would have the majority, junior Joseph Goline simply said “Probably the Democrats.”

Regardless of what party gets a majority, senior Joseph Miller said “I hope they pick the people that are honest and get the job done.”

Only a few of the 34 Senate races in the 2016 election are expected to be competitive.

Maryland’s own Senate race is considered by many to be decided already. Former Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski is stepping down after serving five terms. Representative Chris Van Hollen,  who is presently serving Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, won the Democratic primary for the Senate in April, making him the party’s nominee for the open seat. The Republicans voted to nominate Maryland House of Delegates member Kathy Szeliga. The only poll conducted for the race is a Public Policy Polling one from April, which showed Van Hollen taking 53% to Szeliga’s 25%, with 22% undecided at the time.

Media Specialist Cindy Doggett offered her thoughts on Maryland’s race. “I thought Chris Van Hollen has done a good job as a representative.”

The main competitive races are expected to be in Florida, Nevada, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire according to Real Clear Politics. Election Projection predicts the Republicans to win FL and NV, and the Democrats to win the rest. If that turns out to be correct, all of those seats would be a shift in party control except for Florida, which will likely be held by Republican incumbent Marco Rubio if he wins the primary for the race.

While there are other races around the country, polls show the incumbent party’s candidate winning. For example, a Cofounder Pulse Poll in Kentucky earlier this month shows incumbent Republican Senator Rand Paul winning 59% against Democratic Mayor of Lexington Jim Gray, who received 41%, with no one undecided.

There’s been much talk in the media about third party candidates, mainly from two other parties. The Libertarian Party received national attention following their nomination of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for President. The Green Party nominated Dr. Jill Stein. Both were their party’s nominees in the 2012 election. While the Libertarian Party mainly pulls supporters from #NeverTrump conservatives, the Green Party’s progressive platform appeals to #NeverHillary liberals.

While neither party has ever controlled a federal seat in Congress, in this year alone, four state legislative members have switched from the Republican Party over to the Libertarian Party. However, despite all the hype around these third parties, neither are expected to gain seats. Regardless of party or state, they usually have low poll numbers when included and receive little media recognition. Both parties have ran Senate candidates since they were created, without success.

At the end of the day, polls shift consistently and predictions can change. The Republicans have a lead, but it’s a small lead that can shrink if even one seat changes (or does not). That means it’s very important for all voters to support their party by voting on November 8th.