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Odds and Ends: Three Election Outcomes You Probably Haven't Heard Much About

You know the big stuff already: Donald Trump won the presidency, defeating Hillary Clinton by bursting through her leaky blue firewall. Republicans maintained control of the US Senate, with more gains plausible in the next cycle. House Republicans barely suffered any net losses -- racking up big wins in diverse districts across the country, and retaining their firm control over Congress' lower chamber. At the state level, the GOP now controls at least 33 governorships (with a North Carolina partial recount pending), and owns total control of two-thirds of state legislatures. Historic opportunities for conservative governance lie ahead, starting with the critically-important announcement of a nominee to fill Justice Scalia's vacant Supreme Court seat.  Meanwhile, here are three lower-profile results that are worth noting:

(1) Oregon's Democratic Secretary of State went down to defeat, marking the first GOP victory in a statewide election in 14 years.  More significantly, the loser of this race was known to many as the infamous bully who led the charge to fine a Christian-owned bakery $144,000 for declining to provide services to a same-sex wedding:

Avakian is the state bureaucrat who went after the business of the Christian bakers, Sweetcakes by Melissa in 2013. The owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein, refused to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Though the bakery served gay customers, the couple believed that by participating in the wedding ceremony, they were condoning the marriage, which conflicted with their Christian beliefs. Avakian's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) went after the Kleins, resulting in them being forced to close their business. Aaron Klein tells Independent Journal Review that the state garnished their bank accounts and assets to satisfy a $135,000 fine. In all, he says, the state took $144,000 from them. Oregon political analyst Rob Kremer told Independent Journal Review that Avakian campaigned on the idea that he would use the Secretary of State's office to further his progressive political agenda and — surprisingly — that turned off a lot of Oregon's liberal voters.

Many conservative supporters of same-sex marriage have spoken out forcefully in defense of religious liberties and ideological coexistence in a free, pluralistic society. The power of the state being wielded to punish small businesses for refusing to actively participate in an event that explicitly violates the tenets of their faith (note that the bakery in question didn't deny service to gay customers generally) strikes most Americans as an abusive application of government force. While there were several factors at play in this race, Mr. Avakian was a prominent poster child for aggressive progressive overreach in the culture wars -- which many Democrats are starting to second guess as an overall approach to campaigning and governance. Avakian's Republican opponent prevailed by a comfortable five-point margin in deep blue Oregon, where voters also overwhelmingly rejected (41/59) a major corporate tax increase. "Many voters worry[ied] that it would hit their own wallets," McClatchy reports.

(2) In Colorado, voters absolutely demolished a ballot initiative to create a government-run, single-payer healthcare system for the state.  Nearly 80 percent of Coloradans cast ballots against the measure, with barely one-in-five voting 'yes.'  Every single county in the state voted against the idea, including liberal Denver County, where two-thirds of residents rejected it.  Perhaps Rocky Mountain denizens learned an important lesson from Vermont, which was forced to table its single-payer dream because it would have bankrupted the state.  In another interesting footnote, there were only three statewide office elections in Colorado last week: Democrats won the presidential and US Senate races by three and four points, respectively.  But a Republican woman won a closely contested election for an at-large seat on the state's board of university regents.  Why is this worth mentioning?  Because the winner, Heidi Ganahl, attracted about 8,000 total votes more than Hillary Clinton did at the very top of the ticket.

(3) For all of the attention paid to odious white supremacist David Duke throughout this campaign cycle, his US Senate run in Louisiana ended in abject, deserved embarrassment. The state's conservative electorate relegated Duke to a seventh-place finish, delivering him a rounding-error pittance of votes.  The Republican Party firmly denounced Duke's candidacy and repudiated any connection to him whatsoever.  Voters apparently agreed with that assessment.  Because no candidate garnered a majority, the contest is headed to a run-off on December 10.  Among the top dozen vote-getters in the race, nearly 1.2 million Louisianans voted for Republican candidates, with fewer than 700,000 backing Democrats.  Barring a complacency-driven collapse, Republican John Kennedy is expected to prevail next month, which would make him the 52nd Republican in Congress' upper chamber.  Two House races will also be decided in run-offs, one of which (CD-3) pits two Republicans against each other.  The other of which (CD-4) focuses on a seat that has been held by the GOP since the late 1990's.  

Parting thought: As a follow-up to this piece: House Republicans' (procedurally irrelevant) national "popular vote" victory margin has expanded to more than 3.7 million votes.  They've beaten the Democrats by more than three percentage points.

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