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Live Election Coverage: U.S. Senate Races

By Lauren Camera — November 04, 2014 6 min read
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On Nov. 4, Politics K-12 will track the results of selected U.S. Senate races with special attention paid to contests that will help decide which party controls the chamber in the 114th Congress. That will be especially important as Congress plans to overhaul the Higher Education Act, continue to grapple with a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and tackle various spending bills in the coming year. The blog will be updated throughout the evening and into the next day. The winners will be highlighted and a short analysis will accompany each race. Be sure to click through the hyperlinks for more in-depth campaign coverage.

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U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) v. Dan Sullivan (R)
Begich, who is getting some last-minute help from teachers’ unions, introduced the Investing in Innovation for Education Act, which seeks to continue the Obama administration’s Investing in Innovation, or “i3,” grant program; he is a member of the Senate STEM Education Caucus. Sullivan, a former Alaska attorney general, has pledged to help grow the pipeline of Native Alaskan teachers. He formerly served at the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council and is more focused on foreign relations and national-security issues than on education. (For more on Alaska‘s Senate race, click here.)


U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D) v. U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R)

The AP called the race at 8:30 PM in favor of Cotton. Cotton is a big proponent of school choice, including home schooling, charters, and vouchers to be used at private and religious schools. He also favors merit pay for teachers and alternative teaching-certification pathways. Though Pryor didn’t play a major role in education issues, he did introduce the Sensible School Lunch Act, a bill that would have made changes to grain and protein requirements, similar to those in a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule. (For more on Arkansas’ Senate race, click here.)


U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D) v. U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner (R)
The AP called the race 10:19 PM. Gardner has played a big role in higher education issues, introducing two bills this year to help students tackle their loans and help families save for college. Udall’s campaign got help from groups such as the National Education Association, which recently poured $200,000 into a TV ad that criticized Gardner for his vote in favor of the federal fiscal 2015 House budget, which would have cut access to the Pell Grant, a college-tuition-assistance program for low- and middle-income students. (For more on Colorado’s Senate race, click here.)


Michelle Nunn (D) v. David Perdue (R)
The AP called the race at 11:05 PM. Perdue, a successful businessman and a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue—a Republican who led the National Governors Association’s effort to develop the common core—capitalized on growing public sentiment that the common core is a federal initiative. Nunn, the CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, the largest volunteer-service organization in the country, and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat, attacked Perdue for opposing the Common Core State Standards. (For more on Georgia’s Senate race, click here.)


U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (D) v. State Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
The AP called the race at 11:35 PM. Braley, who has been a major player in Democratic efforts to keep student-loan interest rates low, visited several state colleges and universities over the summer to talk to students about increasing access and affordability in higher education. Ernst says that the biggest issue with higher education is not necessarily keeping student-loan amounts low, but shrinking costs on the front end. (For more on Iowa’s Senate race, click here.)


Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) v. Mitch McConnell (R)

The AP called the race at 7:01 PM, when McConnell led Grimes 55 percent to 42 percent, with 10 percent of precincts reporting. The race has largely been a battle of coal and energy issues. Other than corralling Republicans through various legislative issues as Minority Leader, McConnell hasn’t played a key role in education legislation. Grimes, Kentucky’s Secretary of State, doesn’t have much experience on education issues either, though one of her major campaign platforms is making college more affordable by giving students the same loan rates at Wall Street banks, allowing student to refinance loans, and streamlining repayment options. (For more on Kentucky’s Senate race, click here.)

Louisiana: RUN-OFF

U.S. Sen Mary Landrieu (D) v. U.S. Rep Bill Cassidy (R) v. Rob Maness (R)

At 9:50 PM, the AP called that race will go to a run-off in December. Louisiana has an open primary: If no candidate garners 50 percent or more of the vote, there is a run-off between the top two candidates in December. During the campaign, Landrieu defended the common core, emphasizing that the standards are a local and state effort, and not part of a federal initiative. Both Cassidy and Maness came down on the other side of the argument, popular among Republicans these days. Cassidy, who’s served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2009, insisted that that the Obama administration forced states to adopt the common-core standards in exchange for waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act and competitive grant dollars. Maness, a retired Air Force colonel, explained that the standards are troublesome for students with special needs, like his son. (For more on Louisiana’s Senate race, click here.)

New Hampshire: SHAHEEN WINS

Jeanne Shaheen (D) v. Scott Brown (R)

The AP called the race at 9:20 PM. Shaheen has been a big proponent of STEM issues, and introduced a bill that would establish a competitive grant for states to work with the private sector to establish extracurricular and non-traditional STEM education programs, such as robotics competitions or engineering software challenges. She’s also voted to fully fund the Pell grant program, which provides tuition assistance for low- and middle-income college students. Brown, meanwhile, focused his education platform on higher education. In a position paper, he touted efforts to slow the rate of tuition increases at colleges and universities through the use of technology and by re-examining tax policies on college endowments. He also pledged to overhaul the entire student loan system. (For more on New Hampshire’s Senate race, click here.)

North Carolina: TILLIS WINS

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D) v. State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R)
Tha AP called the race at 11:30 PM. Tillis accused Hagan of being a proxy for President Barack Obama throughout the campaign. He also touted the fiscal 2015 budget he helped negotiate, which restructured teacher-salary schedules and resulted in pay raises across the board. Hagan hammered Tillis for his role in passing a series of state budgets that blocked more than $500 million in education spending, resulting in larger classes and a shortage in school supplies. Hagan, who serves on the Senate education committee, led an effort among moderate Democrats to reauthorize the outdated NCLB law, and has introduced several education-related bills. (For more on North Carolina’s Senate race, click here.)

South Dakota: ROUNDS WINS

Rick Weiland (D) v. Larry Pressler (I) v. Mike Rounds (R)

The AP called the race at 9 PM. Rounds, a former governor of South Dakota, increased K-12 state spending while in office from 2003 to 2011, and opened 10 research centers at the state’s university system. His campaign website says that, if elected, he plans to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and defund its budget. Weiland, previously a senior adviser to former Sen. Tom Daschle, supported the common core and was in favor of allowing borrowers to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates. Pressler served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975-1979 and in the U.S. Senate from 1979 through 1997. He had limited education experience, though he sat on the House education committee for four years. (For more on South Dakota’s Senate race, click here.)