Vanderbilt community reacts to 2022 midterm elections

Republicans performed strongly in Tennessee, while Democrats retained control of the Senate and House control is yet to be decided.

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Sean Onamade

The U.S. flag flying at Alumni Lawn as captured on Nov. 7, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Sean Onamade)

Matthew Shipley and Damian Ho

Vanderbilt students and community members joined the nation in voting in U.S. midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections held on Nov. 8. In Tennessee, Republicans swept eight out of the nine districts, with Nashville being represented by a Republican for the first time since 1875. Overall, Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate while the majority in the U.S. House is yet to be decided. 

Tennessee elections

In Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, Andy Ogles (R) defeated Heidi Campbell (D). During redistricting following the 2020 Census, the state legislature significantly changed the district’s lines to favor Republicans, which led longtime Representative Jim Cooper (D) to retire from Congress. As of print, this is a flipped seat for Republicans in the House.

U.S. Representative Mark Green (R) won re-election against Odessa Kelly (D) in the 7th Congressional District, where Vanderbilt’s campus and large parts of Nashville now lie. Green and Kelly visited Vanderbilt over the course of the election to make their case to students. 

Prior to this election, Nashville had not been represented by a Republican in Congress since 1875. Vanderbilt College Democrats President and junior Claire Reber cited gerrymandering as the reason for this shift. 

“The gerrymandering of Nashville into three districts proved detrimental to some of the best Democrat candidates I have had the pleasure of meeting,” Reber said. “Effective redistricting reform is desperately needed to uphold voting rights in this country.”

Additionally, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) won re-election, receiving nearly double the votes of his Democratic challenger Jason Brantley Martin. 

All four amendments to the state Constitution were approved by Tennessee voters by wide margins. The ratified changes included enshrining right to work laws, ending slavery during imprisonment, outlining a line of succession to the governor’s office in cases of temporary disablement and allowing ministers and priests to serve in the Tennessee legislature. A representative of the Vanderbilt Prison Project said the group celebrated Tennessee voters’ passage of Amendment 3.

“This past week Tennessee changed its constitution’s language in a monumental way, replacing the oppressive provision that allowed for slavery as punishment for a crime with new verbiage that unequivocally bans the dark and insidious practice,” the representative said. “Although the fight against mass incarceration continues, words matter, and the passage of this amendment emphasizes that in a big way.”

Some reported encountering accessibility issues when they attempted to vote in the Tennessee elections. Over 400 voters in Nashville were given ballots for the incorrect congressional district, and despite being a registered voter in the state of Tennessee, junior Sam Sliman said he was turned away at the polling station for not having the correct form of photo identification.   

“I ended up deciding to register to vote here instead of home because I thought it would be more convenient and less prone to complications, but that has turned out to not quite be the case,” Sliman said.

 

National elections

Typically, midterm elections are seen as a referendum on the incumbent party in power. Given high inflation and President Biden’s low approval rating, many political pundits expected a ‘red wave’ this year, especially given more promising polling for Republicans in recent weeks. However, as election results were announced on Tuesday night and in following days, Fox News and the New York Times among other media outlets reported that the ‘red wave’ largely did not materialize.

Democrats won close Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, while Republicans retained control of key Senate seats in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Democrats have secured 50 seats while Republicans will have at least 49 seats in the next Congress. 

In Georgia, no candidate for Senate reached the required majority for election, so a runoff election will be conducted on Dec. 6 between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Reber said she was proud of Democratic campaigns such as the ones that VCD members worked on.

“The quality of our candidates helped us fight back against the predicted ‘red wave,’ and our hold of the Senate and success against election-denying gubernatorial candidates affirm the midterms as a referendum against Republican extremism,” Reber said. “Strong voter turnout amongst young voters was also extremely promising and reflective of issues surrounding abortion, economic inequality, racism, LGTBQ+ rights, and climate change.”

The 2022 midterm elections saw a number of celebrity candidates such as Walker in Georgia, Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and JD Vance in Ohio. Of the three, Vance is the only candidate to have achieved electoral success thus far. When asked about the results, Ohio voter and senior Lucy Beauchamp expressed concern over the trend of celebrity candidates.

“I think we have clearly seen that it is not productive. Everyone has opinions, but that does not mean everyone has the knowledge and experience to effectively represent a community,” Beauchamp said. 

Vanderbilt College Republicans President and senior Shane Mumma hopes this election can be a learning point for the Republican Party. Mumma said his statement reflects his personal views and not the overall position of VCR. 

“The GOP ran flat-out bad candidates in key races across the country, and we should not and cannot do that going forward,” Mumma said. “I think Governor Kemp down in my home state of Georgia, whom I proudly supported at his events and with my vote at the ballot box, is the model we ought to follow: a fantastic, conservative candidate who puts his values first.”

As of print, control of the U.S. House has still not been determined by the Associated Press, but outstanding races suggest Republicans will likely have a slim majority. As of publication, Republicans are projected to win at least 217 seats while Democrats will win 206 seats. 218 seats are required for a majority in the House. Most unresolved races are in the West, where mail-in ballots constitute a large portion of votes.