Democrat Congressmen Joe Donnelly and Peter DeFazio held onto their seats on Tuesday (Nov. 2), despite a conservative wave that wrestled control of the U.S. House of Representatives away from the Democrats.
Donnelly, whose 2nd District in Northern Indiana encompasses much of the RV manufacturing hub of Elkhart County, edged out Republican Jackie Walorski by approximately 2,500 votes, while DeFazio, whose Oregon district includes the RV hub of Lane County, had an easier time, beating Art Robinson, 53.5% to 44.6%, according to late-night returns reported by the Eugene Register-Guard.
Meanwhile, Republican Marlin Stutzman easily captured Indiana’s Third Congressional seat, formerly held by Mark Suder, who resigned May 21 after admitting to having an extramarital affair with an office staffer. The 3rd District also includes part of Elkhart County.
Incomplete returns showed the GOP picked up at least 60 House seats — the biggest party turnover in more than 70 years — and led for four more, far in excess of what was needed for a majority. About two dozen races remained too close to call, the Associated Press reported .
On their night of triumph, Republicans also gained at least six Senate seats, and Tea Party favorites Rand Paul in Kentucky, Mike Lee in Utah and Marco Rubio in Florida were among their winners. The GOP now owns 46 seats in the Senate with three races — in Colorado, Washington and Alaska — yet undecided. Under the radar, the changes in the legislatures of key states will impact future congressional elections through the redistricting process.
Donnelly garnered about 48% of the roughly 190,000 votes cast in his district, while Walorski ended up with 47% of the votes. Libertarian Mark Vogel attracted nearly 9,500 votes — more than three times the margin of Donnelly’s victory — leaving Walorski and her Republican supporters to wonder what might have been if the third-party candidate hadn’t entered the race, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Lane County voters helped DeFazio repulse Robinson’s dogged bid for the seat, with 62% backing the incumbent. Late Tuesday, of the roughly 123,000 votes DeFazio had received, more than half — 65,400 — came from Lane County. DeFazio, first elected to Congress in 1986, faced his toughest challenge ever.
Indiana’s 2nd District race drew national attention this year as a symbol of the political narrative of these mid-term elections.
Republicans nationwide have worked in their campaigns to capitalize on frustration with the economy and skepticism of new health care legislation as well as President Barack Obama’s low approval rating, which was 48% as of today, according to Rasmussen Reports.
Walorski followed that template, framing the race as a referendum not just on Donnelly but on the leadership of Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Donnelly, who beat Republican Rep. Chris Chocola during the Democratic wave of 2006 and was re-elected with two-thirds of the vote in 2008, supported most of the Democrats’ big-ticket items during the past two years — the economic stimulus package, the plan to rescue Chrysler and General Motors, and health care and financial reform. He voted with Pelosi approximately 88% of the time, according to campaign ads.
He defended those votes on the campaign trail, but he also stressed his independence by highlighting the times when he has opposed fellow party members on climate change, gun rights and immigration.
“I think the people of this district realize I don’t worry about party politics,” he said after his speech. “I just try to do what’s right for our country and our district.”
With the election behind him, Donnelly said today that it’s time to get back to work.
“We have very serious challenges facing our country,” he said. “We have to get our deficit in order. We have to have more jobs in our community, which we work on every single day, and we have to make sure our servicemen and women who are protecting our country overseas have everything they need.”