The morning after
The Tea Party didn't take the West Tuesday night. Power did shift to the right, as it did nationwide, but not dramatically. In New Mexico, Republican Steve Pearce took his House seat back from Harry Teague, but the state's other two Democratic congressional incumbents held on. The GOP gained two seats in the House in Colorado and Arizona, one in Idaho, one in Nevada, and another in Washington. (Republicans could grab a few more seats from Democrats in races in Washington, California and Arizona that are too close to call. Check out Politico's sweet interactive map for updates.)
Teague's defeat, and Democrat Walt Minnick's loss in Idaho are both notable. Minnick had been described as a "Democrat not hindered by incumbency," even in bright red Idaho. He's conservative enough that the Tea Party offered him an endorsement this summer (which he refused). Teague beat Pearce two years ago, is also a conservative Democrat, and a self-described oil man. Nationally, the Blue Dog Coalition lost at least 22 of its 47 members at the ballot box.
In high-profile statewide races, hard-right candidates may have hurt the GOP's shot at ousting two D.C. power players. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived his "lethally-low approval rating," in a 5.5 point victory over Tea Party star Sharron Angle in Nevada. “He never wins big and he never wins pretty," Republican strategist Greg Ferraro told the Las Vegas Sun. "(But) he always finds a way.” And in California, liberal stalwart Barbara Boxer comfortably defeated former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Sarah Palin-wannabe, Carly Fiorina.
Colorado, which we've called "the West's true swing state," ended up swinging blue. Denver mayor John Hickenlooper easily won the Gubernatorial election over two uber-conservative opponents who split the Republican vote. (Unevenly, though: The GOP candidate took only 11 percent.) And Michael Bennet narrowly beat Tea Partier Ken Buck for a U.S. Senate seat.
In Wyoming and Arizona, Gubernatorial races predictably went to Republicans. Democrat Jerry Brown posted a wide victory over Meg Whitman in California, shifting the top state office from red to blue. The opposite happened in New Mexico, where Republican Susana Martinez was victorious. Republican Brian Sandoval crushed Rory Reid (Harry's son) for Nevada's top job. He'll be the state's first Hispanic governor. The race is still neck-and-neck in Oregon. And the Navajo Nation elected Ben Shelly as their next leader, even though he's facing criminal charges for using tribal money to his own benefit.
The most significant environmental vote in the West was in California, where Proposition 23, an effort bankrolled by oil companies to dial back the state's nation-leading global warming law, was soundly defeated. "I think it's extremely significant that in recessionary times Californians once again prove you can have both a strong economy and a clean environment," Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for the campaign against the proposition told the San Francisco Chronicle. There was a significant, but less obvious, environmental win in Arizona, too. Rep. Raul Grijalva, an environmental champion and a progressive -- a rarity in Arizona -- barely held onto his seat there. Gabrielle Giffords, another Arizona greenie, is still in a tight race to keep her House seat.
Cally Carswell is HCN's assistant editor.