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Week of 11.10.06

Election Day Outcomes

This week, David Brancaccio and Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh place a magnifying glass on mid-term election outcomes to reveal what they mean for America's future. The show also follows up on crucial, but underreported questions brought up by previous NOW election investigations, covering such topics as controversial ballot initiatives, Congressional corruption, political blogging, the immigration and minimum wage issues, and "clean" campaigning.

Below, read more outcomes related to the people, policies, and politicians in the wake of Tuesday's dramatic results.

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» Sway the Course? (November 3, 2006)

Focus: Will the Iraq war drive voters' choices at the polls?

Outcome: Though the Iraq war proved to strongly influence voters across the country, veterans certainly weren't assured of victory on Election Day. Out of the 20 "fighting Dems" who were given a fair chance of winning, six triumphed. Three of those were Pennsylvania candidates who defeated incumbent Republicans: Chris Carney edged out Don Sherwood, while Joe Sestak beat out Curt Weldon. It took a while, but Patrick Murphy also defeated his Republican opponent, Mike Fitzpatrick, by fewer than 1,600 votes.

Chart showing Democratic advantages on ethics, Iraq, and the economy Chart showing Democratic advantages on ethics, Iraq, and the economy. In Minnesota's 1st district, Democrat Tim Walz defeated Republican Gil Gutknecht. In Illinois, Bill Hare defeated Andrea Lane Zinga for the open seat in the 17th district. And by now we're also well aware of the slim margin by which Democrat Jim Webb defeated Republican Incumbent George Allen in Virginia's crucial Senate race. Allen conceded the race on Thursday, giving the Democrats full control of the Senate.

One surprising defeat was that of Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth of Illinois who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down two years ago. Duckworth lost to Peter Roskam by fewer than 4,500 votes, out of nearly 170,000 votes cast.

In the Texas race extensively profiled on our broadcast show, Republican incumbent Jack Carter defeated Democrat Mary Beth Harrell 58% to 39%. From our web-exclusive video reports, Texas Democrat John Courage was trounced by Republican Lamar Smith, 60% to 9%. Elsewhere in the state, Republican Van Taylor was hammered by Democrat Chet Edwards, who took nearly 60% of the vote.

» Minimum Wedge and Janitor Justice? (October 27, 2006)

Focus: A look at the people and politics behind the fight for a fair minimum wage.

Outcome: The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for the past nine years, though incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she intends to make raising it a priority of the new Congress. This year, voters in Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Montana and Missouri decided to raise the minimum wage beyond the federal floor, bringing to 28 the total number of states whose minimum wages will eventually rise above the federal level. The District of Columbia also voted to raise its minimum wage.

Melone Peyton, the working mother who was featured in our broadcast, will likely get a raise. She voted in Tuesday's election and when we spoke to her, she was ecstatic about the results. She also gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

On our web-exclusive report, the Houston janitors and the Service Employees International Union are still engaged in a three-week old strike as of November 10. Parties in the strike met with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, on Thursday morning to try to reach a solution. The janitors, earning just above $5.00 an hour, are seeking a minimum wage raise to $8.50 an hour plus health benefits.

» Votes for Sale? (October 20, 2006)

Focus: A grassroots movement to clean up elections and stop the influence of big money on political campaigns.

Outcome: California's clean-election-focused Proposition 89 failed at the polls. It would have curbed the amount of money individual donors can give to candidates running for office and also would have reduced the amounts companies can spend on ballot initiatives.

The candidate most featured in the show, Arizona State Representative Doug "Coach" Quelland, a Republican, was defeated by Democrat and fellow "clean" candidate Jackie Thrasher. Arizona's clean-campaigning governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, was easily reelected. In Maine's gubernatorial race, Chandler Woodcock, a clean-running conservative, lost to Democrat John Baldacci, who ran a traditionally-funded campaign.

In several other states, voters supported measures aimed at reforming elections: Montana approved a measure that prohibits lobbying by government officials for two years after leaving office, and the citizens of Colorado approved an amendment that restricts lobbying and gifting.

» Cleaning House? (October 6, 2006) and Lawmakers or Lawbreakers? (August 25, 2006)

Focus: Can Congress Police Itself?

Outcome: Corruption and scandal proved to be one of the top voter concerns on Election Night, according to exit polls. Although California Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis is reported to be the subject of a Justice Department investigation into his connection to lobbyists, he still won in a landslide. But in a surprising result, seven-term Congressman Richard Pombo, also from California, was defeated.

Democrats also took the seats of other Republican Congressmen plagued by scandal, such as Mark Foley in Florida, Bob Ney in Ohio, and Tom DeLay in Texas.

» Alien Nation? (September 29, 2006)

Focus: Are some Republicans using the illegal immigration issue to score votes?

Outcome: Immigration was the subject of four ballot measures in Arizona and two in Colorado. All six passed. Arizona approved one measure making English the official language of the state, and another that expands the list of government benefits denied to illegal immigrants. Colorado voted yes to an initiative that would allow the state to sue the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

Indiana Representative John Hostettler made cracking down on illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, but lost the battle to keep his seat. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Randy Graf, an outspoken Republican opponent of amensty for illegal immigrants lost his race to a moderate opponent.

» Taking the Initiative (September 22, 2006)

Focus: Who's behind your local ballot initiatives?

See our full overview of state ballot measure outcomes: Measure for Measure

» Blog the Vote (September 15, 2006)

Focus: Are political blogs influencing elections?

Outcome: While bloggers had high hopes for Ned Lamont's Senate run in Connecticut, he was ultimately defeated by independent and incumbent Joseph Lieberman. Still, bloggers played a role in the primary win of John Tester in Montana, who squeaked out a crucial victory for the Democrats against incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, Conrad Burns.

» Down for the Count (September 8, 2006)

Focus: Will new voting machines cause an Election Day debacle?

Outcome: "Across many states, we did see a consistent series of both mechanical and people problems associated with the electronic voting machines. We also saw problems and confusion with voter ID and voter registration," Wendy Weiser, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, told NOW. Weiser said it is still too early to talk about the magnitude of such problems. "What is clear is that we still have a lot of work to do to improve the way we run elections," she said.

Reports of malfunctions, ballot shortages, and long lines were reported on blogs across the country, making them "an online national clearinghouse of the polling problems that still face the election system," according to the New York Times.

» Block the Vote (September 1, 2006)

Focus: Is your right to vote safe? New laws designed to prevent voter fraud may keep minorities, the poor, the elderly and the disabled away from the polls.

Outcome: Laws requiring photo ID have been struck down by courts in Georgia, Missouri and Arizona. This didn't stop poll workers in Missouri from asking the state's chief elections official, Robin Carnahan, for photo ID three times, according to CNN. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was unable to vote at first because he forgot to bring his own registration card.

» God's Country (April 28, 2006)

Focus: Evangelical Christians have been preaching politics in Ohio ahead of political elections and face accusations of using the church as a vehicle for political advocacy.

Outcome: In the show, we featured Ohio's Ken Blackwell, a Republican backed by a network of conservative church leaders to win the Republican gubernatorial primary. He was then defeated resoundingly in the election by Democrat Ted Strickland. Across the country, four in ten evangelicals voted for Democrats, according to one exit poll.

In Kansas, Attorney General Phill Kline, who made headlines for seeking access to abortion clinic records, lost his bid for reelection.

» No Right to Choose? (April 14, 2006)

Focus: NOW examines how anti-abortion activists in South Dakota are working to overturn Roe v. Wade and to promote abstinence-only education for young people.

Outcome: A ballot initiative that would have implemented a strict ban on abortion in the state was meant to test Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. However, the initiative was defeated 56% to 44%.