Five Cornell alumni — all incumbents — were called the winners to serve in the 117th United States Congress. Six alumni lost their House races on Tuesday, with one remaining race too close to call at time of publication.
The five represent a variety of Cornellian identities: Rep. Katherine Clark J.D. ’89 (D-Mass.) and Rep. Sharice Davids J.D. ’10 (D-Kan.) are former Cornell Law School students, while Rep. Dan Meuser ’88 (R-Pa.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader ’73 (D-Ore.) both have undergraduate degrees in government. Rep. Elissa Slotkin ’98 (D-Mich.) majored in rural sociology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences during her time at Cornell.
Wins (* indicates incumbency)
*Katherine Clark J.D. ’89, Massachusetts’ Fifth District
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) won her race against Republican challenger Caroline Calurusso by an impressive margin, with 74.4 percent of the vote. This is Clark’s fifth term since entering office in a 2013 special election.
In the 116th Congress, Clark served as Vice Chair of the Democratic Congress, the sixth-highest ranking position within the House’s Democratic caucus. Now, Clark is running within the party to serve as the Assistant House Speaker, which would make her the fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the chamber. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) established the role of Assistant Speaker in 2006 to give rising party members a “seat at the leadership table” and establish a united front of multiple leaders within the party.
In a public statement released on Twitter, Clark thanked her supporters for remaining confident.
“This moment in our history demands not just recovery but rebirth. We must finally confront the challenges that have long plagued America,” she wrote. “From health care access to racial injustice to climate change to voting rights, the threats facing our planet and democracy are great. We need bold solutions and urgent action to allow us to live up to our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all.”
*Sharice Davids J.D. ’10, Kansas’ 3rd District
Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) secured her second term in Congress representing Kansas’ Third District. Although the Kansas City area district once leaned Republican, Davids was favored in polls throughout the race, ultimately winning with 53.4 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press.
Davids was first elected in 2018 as the first Democratic candidate to represent the district in eight years. The win made her one of the first Indigenous women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. In her first term, she was a member of both the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the Congressional Native American Congress, positions in which she advocated equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans and increasing economic development among Indigenous communities.
“Our state motto, Ad Astra Per Aspera — to the stars through difficulties — has never felt more real than it does right now. Because we are in this fight and we’re in it together,” Davids said in an interview with NBC affiliate KSHB Kansas City. “And I can tell you this, for as long as I am here, we are going to fight for every single seat across this state.”
*Dan Meuser ’88, Pennsylvania’s Ninth District
Republican incumbent Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) won reelection to the northeastern Pennsylvania district for a second term. The victory was widely expected, as the Ninth District is strongly Republican and Meuser won his first election by nearly 20 points.
Since his 2018 election, Meuser has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, backing numerous aspects of his agenda. Meuser, a former business executive, has also been a strong backer of local Republicans, financially supporting conservative candidates across the state.
As the early results came in last night, Meuser told local outlets: “We worked real hard. We had a great team … I think we told everyone what we were going to do, and we did it. I supported President Trump’s agenda that was in the interest of Pennsylvania.”
*Kurt Schrader ’73, Oregon’s Fifth District
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) gained a seventh term in Congress, defeating Republican Amy Ryan Courser with 54.4 percent of the vote in a district he has represented since 2008.
The months leading up to this election were especially challenging for constituents of the district, whose communities were devastated by one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in Oregon’s history. In the Fifth District, citizens faced evacuations, property loss and poor air quality throughout the late summer and fall. Schrader dedicated the final months of his campaign to helping constituents receive disaster aid from FEMA.
*Elissa Slotkin ’98, Michigan’s Eighth District
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) won reelection in the highly competitive race for Michigan’s Eighth District by a slim margin of 51.1 percent, according to the AP. In 2018, Slotkin flipped the historically Republican district in a midterm election that resulted in Democrats gaining 41 Congressional seats.
This election cycle, Michigan once again proved especially competitive, with the district’s lead having flipped back and forth from Slotkin to Republican challenger Paul Junge. Vote totals initially reported on election night largely favored Republicans, as mail in ballots that lean Democratic were counted later on.
Slotkin had the upper hand in fundraising during her campaign, despite the conservative leanings of a district that includes a large portion of Lansing, the state capital, and its outlying suburbs.
While Michigan ballots were still being counted into the early afternoon of Nov. 4, Slotkin made a public statement stating, “Although we can’t be totally certain until every vote is counted, at this hour I have really strong confidence we will succeed here in the 8th District.”
Too Early to Call
Beth Van Duyne ’95, Texas’ 24th District
Republican Beth Van Duyne narrowly leads Democrat Candace Valenzuela, 48.8 to 47.5 percent, in a race that most outlets have currently deemed still too close to call. According to the AP, 99 percent of the district’s results have been reported.
In August 2019, incumbent Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) announced that he would not run for reelection after serving the Dallas suburbs-based district since 2005. His retirement quickly set off a competitive race to represent the district, which Marchant only won by three points in 2018. During the election cycle, Valenzuela outraised Van Duyne $4 to $2.8 million.
If Van Duyne holds onto her lead, it will likely be one of the bigger Congressional upsets of 2020. Both Politico and the Cook Political Report projected the race to be “lean Democrat,” citing the district’s growing Hispanic population and suburban backlash to Trump’s administration.
Dana Barrett ’88, Georgia’s 11th District
Democrat Dana Barrett handily lost to Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), the four-term incumbent, by over 20 points. The heavily Republican district includes a swath of land reaching from a sliver of Atlanta to its northern suburbs and exurbs.
Barrett, who received a Cornell degree from the School of Hotel Administration, began advocating for political change during her career as a talk radio show host following Trump’s election. During her run for Congress, Barrett primarily focused her campaign on healthcare reform, advocating universal coverage for all Americans.
Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95, New York’s 23rd District
Democrat Tracy Mitrano lost to incumbent Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) in her second run for the seat since 2018.
A Cornell Law School graduate and former lecturer at the University, Mitrano campaigned on a platform supporting healthcare reform, increased wages for teachers and improving accessibility to student loans.
Her expertise in cybersecurity was one cornerstone of her policy plans. She urged government agencies to enhance security systems and protect Americans from threats of intellectual property theft and fake news.
Read The Sun’s complete coverage of this race here.
Devin Thorpe MBA ’93, Utah’s Third District
Journalist and author Devin Thorpe lost to Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) to represent the Third Congressional District of Utah. The district, which includes the southeastern portion of the state, is strongly Republican.
While the race was not very competitive — Thorpe won only 27.5 percent of the vote — the political leanings of the candidates were particularly unique in an era of intense partisanship.
Thorpe was a lifelong Republican and worked for former Utah Sen. Jake Garn. But after observing the work Democrats were doing to reform healthcare legislation, Thorpe abandoned the GOP and became a Democrat. By contrast, Curtis also switched political parties during his career, leaving the Democratic Party to run as a Republican for Congress in 2017.
Mike Siegel J.D. ’09, Texas’ 10th District
Mike Siegel lost against Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) for the second time, after the incumbent narrowly bested the civil rights lawyer in 2018. The sprawling 10th District stretches from the suburbs of Houston to the northern edge of Austin.
Siegel was a favored candidate of progressives, and ran in 2018 on the slate of Brand New Congress, a political action committee founded by ex-staffers of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. He ran his campaign championing causes such as healthcare for all and the Green New Deal, despite the district’s conservative tilt.
While the race had been fiercely contested, McCaul ultimately defeated Siegel, 52.5 to 45.3 percent.
Andy Ruff ’87, Indiana’s Ninth District
Andy Ruff lost against incumbent Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) in the race for the southern Indiana district, garnering only 35 percent of the vote according to the Associated Press. The self-described progressive set out for a difficult run in this district, which had been rated solid Republican by the Cook Political Report.
Ruff, who studied natural resources during his undergraduate career at Cornell, has enjoyed a long career in public service. First working as a public school teacher, Ruff began a career in politics serving as a city council member in Bloomington, Indiana, a position he held for 20 years. Despite the conservative leanings of the district, Ruff’s platform included implementing universal health care and increasing environmental regulations.
Wesley Hunt MPA ’15, MBA ’15, MILR ’16, Texas’ Seventh District
Wesley Hunt narrowly lost to Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (R-Texas) in a competitive race, falling in a close final margin of 50.8 percent to 47.5 percent.
The win continues the trend toward Democratic voting in the Houston suburban district — before Fletcher’s 2018 win, the district had sent Republicans to Congress for 50 straight years.
Hunt’s campaign focused on protecting the oil and gas industries, which have historically been integral to Houston’s economy. He outwardly opposed government energy regulations such as the Green New Deal. Hunt’s campaign gave Fletcher a run for her money, outraising her by more than $1.5 million in the third quarter.