Federal elections are held every two years on the first Tuesday in November. The entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate is up for re-election on this upcoming Tuesday, November 4. This election is critical for housing and community development programs (HCD), as many allies of HCD programs and members of committees with jurisdiction over our programs are up for re-election. Additionally, the balance of power could change in the Senate, impacting the leadership and direction of HCD committees.
NAHRO will be live-tweeting on election night as results come in. With a few exceptions, polls close on the East Coast at 8:00 p.m., so follow the conversation @NAHROnational or join in using #election2014 starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Also, watch the NAHRO on the Hill blog for post-election analysis in the days and weeks after the election and for a webinar walking you through what will be a critical lame duck session of Congress after the election.
Note: NAHRO is a non-partisan organization and does not take positions on elections. This is intended as informational only and not meant to endorse any one candidate or party over another.
Though it is nearly impossible for the control of the House to be taken by Democrats, there are a small handful of contested House races that could impact committees with jurisdiction over HCD issues. On the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Michael Grimm (R- N.Y.), Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) are all considered “toss-up” races. Appropriator Rep. David Valadao (R-Cali.) is in a race that is considered “likely Republican.”
Currently, the Senate is comprised of 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and two Independents (who caucus with the Democrats). This means that Republicans need to pick up only five seats to create an evenly divided Senate and 6 to control it outright. Based on polling, most prognosticators claim that Republicans are between 60 percent and 70 percent likely to take control of the Senate. That said, predictions and polling are frequently inaccurate for a variety of reasons; in June, polls showed former house Majority Leader Eric Cantor up by as many as 34 points immediately before his primary race in June, a race Cantor lost by 10 points. Be prepared for surprises on election night.
If the Republicans do take outright control of the Senate, committees would be controlled by Republicans, which will change the leadership of committees and type of legislation that is considered. If the Senate is split, Democrats would retain control of committees because Vice President Biden, a Democrat, serves as the president of the Senate. In the past when the Senate was split, some power sharing agreements were reached, though it is unknown whether similar deals are possible if the 114th is split.
But, an even split between the parties is unlikely given the number of Independents on ballots in various states. If no party controls the Senate outright, the informal party allegiance of Independents could be the deciding factor in tipping the balance of power one way or the other.
It is also possible that the balance of power in the Senate may not be decided until as late as January; Louisiana and Georgia law requires that run-off elections be held if neither candidate gets a large enough majority of votes, and Georgia’s run-off election is not scheduled until January 6.
Regardless of which party controls the Senate, there are several Senate races that could impact members of committees with jurisdiction over HCD issues, specifically the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee and the Appropriations committee.
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is a member of the Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittee and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is an Appropriator who is a strong housing advocate and both are in very tightly contested races. It is likely that based on Louisiana law, their Senate race could be headed for a run-off in December. Other appropriators who are in tight races are Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sen. Mark Begich (R-Alaska), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Only a single member of the Banking Committee is in a close race- Sen. Kay Hagan (D- N.C.). Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) is also up for re-election, but is largely considered safe. Also considered most likely safe is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who sits on both the Appropriations and Banking committees.
Beyond HCD impacts, there are also a handful of interesting races that could shift the balance of power in the Senate.
In Kansas, the Democratic candidate withdrew his candidacy over the summer and Democrats have chosen not to replace him on the ballot. However, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has a formidable challenge from Independent Greg Orman, who is currently leading most polls, but is still well within the margin of error.
The retirement of Banking Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) has created a three-way race in South Dakota, in which Independent Larry Pressler could pull enough votes from Republican Mike Rounds to hand the victory to Democrat Rick Weiland. However, polling appears to indicate that the race is tightening in favor of a victory for Rounds by as many as 12 points.
In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell leads challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in some polls by a slim margin, though other polls indicate that the Majority Leader is likely to win by as much as 8 percent.
Another retirement has triggered a close election between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. Most polls are showing a less than 3 percent divide between the candidates, making a run-off election in January likely.
Regardless of the outcome of the election on Tuesday, the 113th Congress still has work to do before the new Congress takes office in January. The current continuing resolution expires on December 11, which means that Congress will have to consider spending in FY 2015 when they return to Washington after the election. Additionally, the issue of expired tax credits, including the fixed rate Low Income Housing Tax Credits, is still unresolved. Visit NAHRO’s Congressional District Contacts page after the election to watch a recorded webinar and access tools to make the most of the lame duck Congress. Appropriations bills could be finalized as early as Thanksgiving, so be sure that you’re ready to weigh in on these critical issues with your lawmakers immediately when they return to Washington.