Whether you are sick to your stomach, or in the middle of a heart attack, this nail-biting 2020 U.S. election has produced plenty of drama. While the result of the presidential election is still up for grabs two days after the election, there are some things that are certain. That is that Baltic Caucus members in the House and Senate have fared very well.
In the Senate, of 14 current Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus members, four Democrats and three Republicans were up for re-election. SBFC founder and co-chairman Richard Durbin won handily in Illinois, while Jeff Merkley won in Oregon. Newest SBFC member Jeanne Shaheen, who joined the caucus in March this year, fought off early challenges for a resounding +15-point win in New Hampshire. Senator Gary Peters barely squeaked by in his race in Michigan, with results not evident until 24 hours after polls closed.
On the Republican side, Susan Collins won perhaps the most nationally visible race in Maine, while Tom Cotton (Arkansas), and Mike Rounds (South Dakota) were also victorious.
While Democrats needed to flip a cumulative three (with a Joe Biden win) or four Senate seats to take over the Senate majority, they have done so in only two races (in Arizona and Colorado), while losing in Alabama. The Peters’ victory in Michigan is essential for their hopes, coupled with another two wins, possibly in North Carolina or in a Georgia runoff in January. But the window is closing.
In the House, it is already certain that the Democrats will retain their majority, but at the expense of perhaps up to a dozen seats, which include many first-term incumbents who had flipped seats in swing districts in 2018. As of the early afternoon, on November 5, Ballotpedia said that five Republicans had managed to flip seats, and the Democrats two, but there were dozens of races which were still undecided and some of them favoring challengers. As of the election, the Democrats held a 232-197 majority in the 435-seat body.
Although not a single House Baltic Caucus member lost a general election contest on November 3, the HBC will still see seven members depart, mostly due to retirement. One incumbent, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) lost a primary earlier in the year and was one of eight incumbents to fall short before the general election. The biggest change will be the retirement of HBC founder and co-chairman John Shimkus (R-Illinois). Rep. Shimkus’s replacement as Republican co-chair of the Caucus has already been named – Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska), who won a close race with 51% of the vote in a split district that voted for Joe Biden.
Other HBC members leaving besides Shimkus and Lipinski are Republican Representatives Rob Bishop (Utah), Paul Cook (California), Bill Flores (Texas), and Peter King (New York), who was an original HBC member from 1997. Democrat Rep. Denny Heck (Washington) is also retiring. The seven losses will bring the overall total of 76 members down to 69, which will nevertheless leave the HBC at its best starting position in a new Session in recent memory.
As all seven departures are men, the percentage of women in the HBC rises to over 20%, which is more in line with the overall percentage of women in the U.S. House of Representatives. Fourteen HBC members are women, twelve being Democrats.
During the 116th Congress (2019-2020), 13 members joined the HBC, and 2019 was an especially good year, with 12 members joining. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) was the only member to join in 2020, but the low number from this year can certainly be attributed foremost to the massive reorientation following the onset of the Coronavirus. One member who joined in 2019, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), left the House to become White House Chief of Staff in March this year.
Three HBC members ran unopposed: Reps Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), currently the only HBC member from Florida. His strong position is an indication of the solid Republican support from a significant Cuban American community in Southern Florida, which helped in flipping two seats.
Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) won elections with the highest percentages of HBC members – all over 80%. Other close races besides Rep. Bacon’s were Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), and Devin Nunes (R-California), all with below 55% of the vote.
New members of the U.S. House who won seats being vacated by departing HBC members:
- Illinois 3: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – Rep.-elect Marie Newman (D)
- Illinois 15: Rep. John Shimkus (R) – Rep.-elect Mary Miller (R)
- New York 2: Rep. Peter King (R) – Rep.-elect Andrew Garbarino (R)
- Texas 17: Rep. Bill Flores (R) – Rep.-elect Pete Sessions (R)
- Utah 1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R) – Rep.-elect Blake Moore (R)
- California 8: Rep. Paul Cook (R) – Rep.-elect Jay Obernolte (R)
- Washington 10: Rep. Denny Heck (D) – Rep.-elect Marilyn Strickland (D)