Puerto Ricans may have elected Rick Scott and other midterm surprises

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The narratives of the midterm elections were set when suburban voters turned against President Trump, women racked up record numbers of electoral wins and Republicans dominated rural states and counties.

But dive deeper into the results and some more surprising storylines emerge, from familial ties to long shot candidates, expanding suburbs and new battlegrounds.

Here are the overlooked stories that didn’t get enough coverage after the polls closed.

Did Puerto Ricans elect Rick Scott?

{mosads}When Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico devastated in 2017, almost 400,000 of the island’s residents moved to the mainland. Many of them landed in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) administration set up welcome centers in airports in Orlando, Tampa and Miami.

Plenty of political observers thought the Puerto Rican diaspora would be a political boon to Democrats. Unlike Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans tend to vote pretty heavily for Democratic candidates.

But there’s a sign that Puerto Ricans might have rewarded Scott’s warm welcome. Scott took 42 percent of the vote in Osceola County, a Democratic bastion south of Orlando where President Trump took just 36 percent of the vote two years ago.

More Puerto Ricans moved to Osceola County, about 22,000, than to any other county in the country, except neighboring Orange County. Miami-Dade County was the third-most common destination for Puerto Ricans. Scott outperformed Trump in all three counties — and those votes alone gave him the margin he needed to beat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Did Puerto Ricans send Rick Scott to the Senate? There’s an argument to be made.

Nancy Pelosi won big

She may be the GOP’s favorite boogeywoman, but House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has a pretty strong following back home. Pelosi won 256,247 votes this year, just 18,000 votes shy of her showing in 2016, when many more voters showed up to the polls.

Pelosi actually took a higher percentage of the vote — 86.7 percent — in her San Francisco district than she has ever won in any of her general election races before. Her previous best came in 1998, when she won reelection with 85.8 percent of the vote.

The suburbs are encroaching on rural districts

Democrats have never mounted a serious challenge to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Walden’s district includes everything east of what Pacific Northwesterners call the Cascade Curtain, the dividing line between the liberal coast and the conservative high desert in Oregon and Washington.

But Portland is growing, like most big cities in the country, and the metropolitan area is starting to arrive in Walden’s district.

Consider Hood River County, Walden’s home base. Its population has grown by about 15 percent in the 20 years since Walden first won election, to about 23,000 residents. Walden’s performance peaked in 2004, when he won the county by almost 3,000 votes. His margin was 2,000 votes in 2010, then 1,000 in 2012 and 2014. In 2016, Walden won the county by just five votes.

This year, Walden’s Democratic opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, won Hood River County by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over Walden.

Walden still won the district by 17 points, and he won’t be a Democratic target unless some of Oregon’s most conservative rural territory has a massive and improbable change of heart. But the results there should make Republicans nervous that Democrats are starting to peek behind the Cascade Curtain.

More good news for Dems in Texas

Texas Democrats had a great midterm election, scooping up Republican-held seats in Dallas and Houston and routing Republicans in once ruby-red counties. Take Harris County, where voters picked a 27-year-old political rookie over the sitting county executive, and where 19 black women who ran for county judgeships all won.

Democrats have new targets, too: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R) won by just 3 points, after he spent 10 times what his opponent spent. Rep. John Carter (R) won by 3 percentage points, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R) won by only 4 points.

There are worrying signs for Republicans statewide, too, as some of the fastest-growing suburbs in the country move left. In Denton County, north of Dallas, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) won by 32 points in 2012 — and by just 7 points this year. Neighboring Collin County gave Cruz a 32-point win in 2012, and just a 6-point win this year.

A good year for ballot initiatives

More than 5.1 million Floridians voted in favor of Amendment 4, a proposal to restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentences. That’s half a million more votes than President Trump won in 2016.

The most popular ballot measure in the country this year was in California, where more than 6.9 million people voted for Proposition 2, an initiative that will tax incomes of more than $1 million a year to pay for mental health services.

Voters were in a pretty positive mood when it came to ballot measures this year. About two-thirds of the initiatives, propositions, referenda and questions on the ballot, 107 out of 155, passed.

But money matters: Among the top 10 most expensive ballot measures up for a vote this year, the side that spent more money won every single one.

Post-millennials cometh

Some winning candidates celebrated Tuesday night with champagne toasts. That wasn’t an option for Cassandra Levesque or Kalan Haywood: Neither of them can legally drink alcohol.

But come January, they will have a say in the direction their respective states take. Levesque and Haywood, both 19, will become the two youngest state legislators in the country.

Levesque won election to the New Hampshire state House in Barrington. Haywood will represent Milwaukee in the Wisconsin state House. The two Democrats both have some political experience: Levesque lobbied her state legislature to pass a measure raising the legal marriage age to 16. Haywood has been working on political campaigns since he was 13, and he says he has wanted to run for office since he was just 8.

They won’t be the youngest-ever state legislators in the country, though. That title still belongs to Saira Blair, who won a seat in West Virginia’s House of Delegates at the age of 17. Blair, at the ripe old age of 22, decided not to run for another term this year.

Tags Ballot initiatives Bill Nelson Donald Trump Florida Greg Walden John Carter Kenny Marchant Michael McCaul Nancy Pelosi Oregon Puerto Rico Ted Cruz

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