Your Catholic 2018 midterm roundup: health care, wages, abortion and more
While the waviness of Tuesday’s midterm election continues to be debated, Sister Simone Campbell called the day “a tremendous success,” at least when it came to the dozen U.S. House races targeted by the “Nuns on the Bus” national tour that ended earlier this month outside President Trump’s Florida home.
Sister Campbell, executive director of Network Lobby, said one factor shaping the results in eight House races was the “substantive conversations about the common good” the group facilitated. They focused their criticism on efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and on last year’s federal tax cut that critics say puts funding for social programs at risk.
They focused their criticism on efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and on last year’s federal tax cut that critics say puts funding for social programs at risk.
She said she was encouraged by women voters, who appeared to break for Democrats in key suburban congressional districts, as well as the record number of women headed to the House of Representatives as the Democrats take control—including the first two Native American women and the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.“I take heart in that people are standing up for the common good,” Sister Campbell said.
A number of ballot measures supported by other Catholic leaders passed on Tuesday.
In Florida, voters approved a constitutional amendment that will automatically restore voting rights to more than one million convicted felons. In the runup to the election, the Florida Catholic Conference urged voters to accept the proposal, writing in a voters’ guide, “Restoring their right to vote is a meaningful step to engage their full participation in their communities.” Most felons automatically have their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences or go on probation. The amendment does not apply to those convicted of sex offenses or murder.
A minimum wage increase was approved in two states. An Arkansas measure will raise the wage from $8.50 an hour to $11 by 2021, while Missouri will gradually raise the $7.85 minimum wage to $12 an hour.
In Florida, voters approved a constitutional amendment that will automatically restore voting rights to more than one million convicted felons.
Catholic bishops in Missouri had come out in favor of the minimum-wage increase, writing in a voting guide, “We have seen within our own parish communities the effect that unemployment, underemployment, and low wages have on our own parishioners and on society at large.”
Expanding Medicaid to cover people who cannot afford health insurance was on the ballot in three states. Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah approved the move by solid margins. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City was part of a coalition of religious groups urging voters to pass the initiative in a state where most residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Catholic voters made up about a quarter of those voting in House races on Nov. 6, according to a CNN exit poll, and those voters were almost evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates. (The AP VoteCast poll found a similar result; see table above.) Writing at Religion News Service, Mark Silk noted the change from 2014, when exit polls showed 54 percent of Catholic voters favoring Republican candidates.
“[This shift] may reflect the higher turnout in the Latino vote, representing a larger, more Democratic portion of the Catholic vote as a whole,” Mr. Silk wrote.
Catholic voters made up about a quarter of those voting in House races on Nov. 6, and those voters were almost evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates.
Though the Catholic vote was important, the polling group P.R.R.I. estimated that white evangelicals continued to be overrepresented at the polls this year.
Robert P. Jones, the group’s founder, noted on Twitter that white evangelical Protestants comprised 26 percent of this year’s electorate, though they make up only 15 percent of the overall U.S. population.
Among all voters, according to the CNN exit polls, those who say they attend services weekly or more went for Republicans, 58 percent to 40 percent. Those who attend a few times each month voted for Democrats, 52 percent to 46 percent.
Pro-life measures were on the ballot in at least three states. Voters in Oregon rejected a ban on public funding of abortion, 64 percent to 36 percent. But West Virginia prohibited the use of state funds to pay for abortions by a four-point margin. And Alabama passed a constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortion and “declaring...the state’s policy to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life,” 60 percent to 40 percent.
While pro-life groups found plenty to like about Tuesday’s results, particularly a Senate that appears ready to confirm conservative judges, Kristen Day, head of Democrats for Life, said her group is “really sad” at the defeat of Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana, who lost to pro-life Republican Mike Braun. But she also pointed to re-election victories for Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, who sometimes cast pro-life votes, as signs of hope. With the exception of Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, senators who supported Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court were re-elected, while at least two other Democrats from red states who opposed Mr. Kavanaugh, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, were both defeated.
Ms. Day said she was encouraged by the election of Ben McAdams to the House, a Democrat from Utah who defeated a pro-life Republican incumbent but said during the campaign that he wants to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.
Ms. Day said she is hopeful that a Democratic majority in the House may be able to work with Senate Republicans and the president to enact paid maternity leave, an issue she hoped would not “get bogged down in the abortion debate but could help reduce abortions.”
In other races of interest to Catholic voters, Rep. Conor Lamb won re-election to the House from Pennsylvania. Mr. Lamb, a Democrat, won a special election earlier this year in a normally reliably Republican district. The Catholic candidate had faced controversy over his views on abortion, which he said he personally opposed but would not seek to ban.
Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from a Chicago suburb who is against abortion, handily won his seat, following a close primary challenge earlier this year. Mr. Lipinski’s Republican opponent was a self-described neo-Nazi who denies the Holocaust.
And in the first statewide referendum on transgender rights, Massachusetts voters on Tuesday beat back a repeal attempt and reaffirmed by a 2-to-1 margin a 2016 law extending nondiscrimination protections to transgender people, including their use of public bathrooms and locker rooms. Catholic leaders were mostly silent on the question.
In Colorado, Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor, while Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, who identifies as bisexual, was re-elected; both are Democrats.
Republican Kim Davis, who became something of a folk hero to conservatives in 2015 when she refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples, was ousted from her seat as county clerk of Rowan County, Ky. Ms. Davis was part of a controversial meet-and-greet with Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to the United States. The Vatican quickly distanced the pope from the meeting, saying he did not know Ms. Davis and that the meeting had been orchestrated by the then-papal nuncio, who in recent months caused a stir by accusing Pope Francis of covering up sexual misconduct committed by a former U.S. cardinal.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Source for infographics: The AP VoteCast, conducted on Election Day and the preceding week by telephone and mail by the University of Chicago for Fox News and the Associated Press, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.