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ND, SMC alumni excel in elections

| Thursday, November 6, 2014

SMALLER-map-graphic-of-nd-alumni_11-6-2014Sam Coughlin
The results of the midterm election, which featured seven Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s alumni running for national office or governor, will help shape the immediate political future of the country, professor of political science David Campbell said.

Campbell, who specializes in American politics, said the Republican Party’s success in reclaiming a majority in the Senate could produce a more difficult road to a Republican White House in 2016.

“From the Republicans’ perspective, winning Congress may actually complicate their attempt to win the presidency in 2016,” Campbell said. “They succeeded in 2014 by running against the President and, to a lesser extent, the Democratic Senate.

“It will be much harder for the Republican nominee to blame the country’s sour mood solely on the White House, since the GOP will have had full control of the legislative branch.”

With a majority in the Senate, Republicans now control both houses of Congress, something Campbell said would increase governmental productivity — ideally.

“One would like to think that Republican Congress and Democratic President will now have an incentive to work together but, alas, that is unlikely,” he said. “More likely is that President Obama will use his veto authority more than he has thus far and reject legislation passed by Congress.”

With a little over two years left in office, President Obama will likely start to try to mold his legacy, Campbell said, though he must do so without a Democratic majority in either house of Congress.

“Traditionally, presidents in their final two years look to establish a legacy and often do so in areas where the president can act without the need for Congressional approval,” he said. “Foreign affairs is the classic example — look for the President to engage more on the world stage. But another example is executive orders, often to create national monuments and parks. President Obama has already done some of this recently [and] I expect to see more.”

Overall, Campbell said these midterm elections reflected national trends that have recently solidified and a historical pattern typical of midterms.

“We continue to see many of the patterns that, in recent years, have been ‘baked into’ our elections,” he said. “Young people went Democratic, but turned out in low numbers; minorities went Democratic, but also turned out in low numbers; white men skewed Republican and turned out in reasonably large numbers.

“It has long been the historical pattern that the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections,” he said. “And, given the president’s low approval numbers, it is thus not surprising that we see the same this year. The notable aspect of this election is less that the Republicans picked up seats, but more that they did so well and thus took control of the Senate.”

Though the only Notre Dame alumnus currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Joe Donnelly (D-IN), class of 1977 and Law School class of 1981, was not up for re-election this year, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s alumni who ran for other national offices fared well in their races.

Rep. Peter King  (R-NY-2) won re-election for his 12th term in Congress with nearly 70 percent of the vote. King, who graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1968, serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN-1), who received his law degree from Notre Dame in 1973, won re-election with just over 60 percent of the vote. Visclosky, whose district includes Gary, Valparaiso and Michigan City, has served in the House of Representatives since 1985.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) won just over 60 percent of the vote en route to re-election for his third term. Kelly, who attended Notre Dame on football and academic scholarships, graduated in 1970.

Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) claimed nearly 60 percent of the vote in his district to win re-election to his second term. Rothfus graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1990.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA-13), Notre Dame class of 1999, won with nearly 70 percent of the vote in a district that includes parts of northeast Philadelphia. This was Boyle’s first election for the U.S. House of Representatives after serving for 5 years in the Pennsylvania House.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX-4) ran unopposed after defeating 17-term incumbent Republican Rep. Ralph Hall in the primary to win his first term in the House. Ratcliffe graduated from Notre Dame in 1987 and worked in the Department of Justice during George W. Bush’s administration.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) ran without a Republican challenger and took 88 percent of the vote in her district, which includes parts of the Dallas metropolitan area. Johnson, who graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1956 with a degree in nursing and was the first nurse elected to Congress, will begin her 12th term when the 114th Congress is sworn in this January.

Rep. Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives who has served nine terms, graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1966. She is the first woman to represent an offshore U.S. territory in Congress and the first female physician to serve in Congress. This year, she ran to become the first female governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Neither she nor her main opponent, Independent Kenneth E. Mapp, claimed a majority of the votes so the election will result in a runoff sometime in the near future.

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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