In an election riddled with questions about its main thrust – was it a referendum on President Obama, a protest against incumbents, revolt against partisan bickering – the American voters sent a message loud and clear: Democrats out, Republicans in.
That sentiment applied to the Greek-American candidates as well, beginning with Congressman Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican who coasted to reelection in the easiest of ways – his opponent was…no one. So popular is the Bilirakis name on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which includes the historic Greek community of Tarpon Springs – Gus’ father, Mike, was a Congressman from that area from 1983-2007 – that this time around the younger Bilirakis prevailed without a challenge.
In the battle for Florida’s governorship, however, Bilirakis’ fellow Greek-American Floridian politician Charlie Crist did not fare as well. The Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat lost a close election to Republican incumbent Governor Rick Scott.
Another Greek-American Democrat, Paul Vallas, who ran for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, along with the ticket headliner Pat Quinn, lost to Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and his running mate, Evelyn Sanguinetti.
As went Greek America, so did the country. The Republicans dramatically reclaimed control of the U.S. Senate and increased their stronghold on the House of Representatives, and Republican Governors John Kasich (OH), Susanna Martinez (NM), and Scott Walker (WI) mounted strong reelection victories, propelling further speculation about their possible 2016 presidential bids.
Even the most popular of presidents – modernly, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton come to mind – historically tend to suffer electoral defeats in “midterm elections” i.e., two years after their election or reelection. Over the past twenty years, there have been four such transformational elections: in 1994, Clinton’s first midterm, when Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Then, in 2006, when a befuddled George W. Bush, in the midst of his second presidential term, famously called the huge Democratic Congressional victory a “thumpin’.” Four years later, in Obama’s first midterm, the president used a different word – “shellacking” – to describe the Republicans’ returning of the favor. And now, the Republicans have the opportunity to make their biggest imprint on Capitol Hill in 20 years – when Newt Gingrich set the agenda via the Contract with America. Moreover, Republican gubernatorial wins throughout the country, particularly in deep blue Maryland and Massachusetts, epitomize a considerable change of the political landscape.
During the fall campaign season, President Obama kept an astonishingly low profile in terms of helping fellow Democrats on the campaign trail. There were several reasons for Obama’s absence from the stump, his steady drop in national polls and Democratic candidates’ reluctance to be associated with him lest they lose election or reelection bids the most prevalent.
The sea of Republican red’s prevalence across the U.S. map notwithstanding, there were some bright spots for Democrats scattered throughout, including in the Greek-American community. In Massachusetts, Niki Tsongas easily won reelection to Congress. Though not Greek-American by birth, Tsongas was married to the late U.S. Senator (MA) and Democratic presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, from 1969 until his death in 1997. And in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus also won reelection handily.