2017 Election Highlights
A breakdown of the biggest races and ballot measures.
Last Updated at 11:25 a.m. EST on Nov. 8, 2017
It was largely a sleepy Election Day this year at the state and local level. There were only two races for governor, a dozen or so for big-city mayors and a near-record low number of statewide ballot measures. Last time this few measures appeared on state ballots was 1947.
Nevertheless, there were still some important races and ballot measures that we've been tracking. Without further ado, here's a rundown of Tuesday's results (some of which are still to come).
Nationwide, Republicans hold 34 governor's offices, a near-record high majority. After election night, they will soon hold 33. In New Jersey, Democrats flipped the seat, which is now held by term-limited GOP Gov. Chris Christie. The Democratic candidate, former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy, defeated Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
In Virginia, the only other state with a gubernatorial election this year, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie with an unexpectedly comfortable margin.
But the question remains: What does that mean for the 2018 midterms?
At the legislative level, Democrats had a better election night than they could have dared to hope for, picking up seats in special elections from Georgia to Washington state.
In Washington state, a Democratic win in a Seattle-area Senate seat gave Democrats a one-seat majority in the chamber and, with it, control of all the political branches of government. Coupled with their victory in the New Jersey governor's race, Democrats now have full control of nine states.
In Virginia, Democrats gained more House seats than they have in any single cycle dating back to the 19th century.
Elsewhere, Democrats' imminent takeover of a Georgia Senate district -- both candidates who are moving to a runoff are Democrats -- means the GOP will lose its supermajority in that chamber. Democrats picked up two other seats in Georgia, as well as seats in Michigan and New Hampshire. And in New Jersey, Democrats added modestly to their majorities, picking up a seat or two in either chamber.
More than a dozen big cities held mayoral elections on Tuesday. In most of them -- Boston, Buffalo, N.Y.; Cincinnati, New York City, Pittsburgh and St. Petersburg, Fla. -- the incumbent mayors won.
But in several midsized cities -- Atlantic City, N.J.; Annapolis, Md.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Manchester, N.H. -- Republican mayors were defeated by Democrats.
Even mayors under ethical clouds won. Flint, Mich., Mayor Karen Weaver, for instance, turned back a recall attempt. Although the recall was launched in response to a garbage contract, attention turned during the campaign to the city's water crisis. Nonetheless, Weaver won easily.
Meanwhile, Charlotte, N.C., voters elected their seventh mayor in eight years after ousting the current mayor who led the city's battle against the state over transgender bathrooms. The new mayor, Vi Lyles, will be the first black woman to lead city hall in Charlotte. (Tuesday was a historic night in many places for women. Here's a rundown of where female candidates scored big victories.)
And Seattle elected its first female mayor since the 1920s. Jenny Durkan will be one of the nation's only current big-city mayors who is openly lesbian.
The Minneapolis mayor's race was still too close to call, and Atlanta is set for a runoff between two members of the city council.
State Ballot Measures
The most closely watched ballot measure on Tuesday was likely Maine's vote on Medicaid expansion, which is a central provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.
The state became the first to expand Medicaid by popular vote and the 33rd to expand Medicaid in general.
The vote signals support for the ACA at a time when President Trump is taking major steps to undo the law.
Also on the health-care front, Ohio voters rejected what would have been a first-of-its-kind state law to reduce drug prices. Californians rejected a similar measure last November.
The pharmaceutical industry spent big in 2016 to fight it and did the same in Ohio.
The measure would have let state health agencies pay the same for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which gets a 24 percent discount off drug manufacturers' prices.
In almost half the states, there's no law that keeps public officials convicted of job-related felonies from cashing their pensions once they resign or get fired. New York has a so-called pension forfeiture law, but it has loopholes that still let the practice occur.
On Tuesday, though, voters closed some of those loopholes.
The approved ballot measure would have affected Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos -- two powerful New York lawmakers who were sentenced to prison for corruption in recent years -- but both recently had their convictions overturned.
Gas companies -- including BP, Exxon, Shell and Sunoco -- are about to pay millions of dollars to the state of New Jersey for the pollution they've caused. While the lawyers work out those settlements, the state's voters have decided how the money will be spent.
A measure on Tuesday's ballot ensures that the money will go toward environmental projects -- such as building parks and building dams. In the past, critics complained that environmental settlements have "gone to general funds to make up for budget shortfalls and bad fiscal decisions."
The question invoked a debate that's happening around the country. As governments become more transparent about how tax dollars and other sources of money are spent, lawmakers and taxpayers are pushing for them to be used more wisely or fairly.
Crime Victim's Rights
In recent years, several states have voted to expand crime victims' constitutional rights, including the rights to refuse to turn over evidence or be interviewed by a defendant's attorney. This year, Ohio joined the trend.
Most of the new rights are actually already law in Ohio. The new initiative merely enshrines them in the constitution. Eventually, supporters hope to amend the U.S. constitution with the same added protections.
Despite overwhelming opposition from the legal community -- public defenders, prosecutors, even victim advocates, in some cases -- voters almost always approve these measures.
Home Equity Loans
When the housing bubble burst in the late 2000s, no state was spared. Some, however, fared better than others. One such state was Texas.
But on Tuesday, voters approved a ballot measure that loosens some of the restrictions credited with helping the state escape much of the foreclosure crisis.
Once every 20 years, under the New York Constitution, citizens are asked if they’d like to call a constitutional convention and re-examine the fundamentals of the government process.
This time around, they decided against the idea.
Local Ballot Measures
Voters were in a mood to spend money on Tuesday -- that is, in the few places where they had the chance to decide tax and bonding questions.
Projects totaling roughly $1 billion in each city won approval in Dallas, Denver and Kansas City, Mo.
On the other side of Missouri, voters in St. Louis approved a half-cent increase in the sales tax to fund raises for police and firefighters. And in Grand Forks, N.D., voters approved a half-cent increase in the local sales tax, in their case to fund road and water projects.
But not every local spending measure was approved on Tuesday.
In Tucson, Ariz., voters rejected plans to raise the city sales tax to pay for early childhood education and to fund improvements at the zoo.