Election Coverage
Welcome to this Special Edition of CASA Connects in which we review the 2020 General Election results through the lens of CASA’s State and Federal Legislative Advocates. Below is in-depth coverage of state and federal election outcomes and our predictions for what to expect in the year to come. We are proud to be your source for wastewater legislative, regulatory and industry news and provide timely perspective on how the clean water sector will likely be impacted by this month’s recent election. For questions about California election results please contact Jessica Gauger. For questions about the federal results please contact Eric Sapirstein or Sarah Sapirstein.
Federal Election Results
Now that Former Vice President Joe Biden has become the projected winner of the Presidential election, the political apparatus that propelled his successful campaign has begun transforming into an operation focused on transition and governing in the coming years. However, this transfer of power will be unlike any past transitions given the unprecedented (or once in a century) public health, economic and political challenges that will require the full attention of the White House and Congress. Success in addressing these priorities will largely hinge on finding a way for the political infrastructure in Washington D.C. and the states to work together and collaborate on expeditious passage of key legislation.
Join Us for a Post-Election Recap Zoom Meeting
Tomorrow, Friday, November 13, Eric Sapirstein and Sarah Sapirstein will hold a post-election recap Zoom meeting with the CASA Federal Legislative Committee to review the 2020 election results and what to possibly expect from the 117th Congress and Administration. The meeting will also be an opportunity to answer any questions committee members may have about this year's election. Please contact Sarah Sapirstein for meeting access information.
State Election Results
While California’s voter turnout was very high this election, the statewide election results did not bring many surprises, with the exception of the Democrats likely picking up at least two additional seats in the State Senate. While there are still several races that are too close too call, Democrats will maintain comfortable supermajorities in both houses. 
Several ballot measures were decided by voters including Proposition 15 (taxing business properties at current market rate to fund local services and schools), which did not pass. Official ballot measure reporting for all initiatives being considered on the 2020 ballot is available here.

Finally, with the election of Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, California now has a vacant U.S. Senate seat which will be filled via a Gubernatorial appointment. The representative selected by Governor Newsom will serve the remainder of Senator Harris’ term, which expires in January 2023. It has not yet been announced when the Governor will decide on and announce her successor, but a special election to fill her seat has been ruled out.
Democrats likely picked up between 2-4 additional state Senate seats, making the new composition at least 30 Democrats and up to 32, and between 7-9 Republicans. Democrats also have a new vacancy with the departure of Senator Holly Mitchell who was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. To see the specific seat changes in both the Senate and Assembly:
Additional Federal Updates
House Elections Maintain Democratic Control, But Republicans Pick-Up Several Seats
The presidential election, while decided by narrow margins in some states, confirmed pollsters’ predictions of the outcome.  However, predictions of a “blue tsunami” failed to materialize. Instead, a Republican “rip tide” pulled a number of Democrats from their seats, providing anywhere from a 5-7 seat pick-up. This reduces the current 232 Democratic House majority, depending on the final tally. Many of the Democrats’ losses were seats from conservative leaning congressional districts that were won in the 2018 off-year election that provided a record level of Democratic seats. Whatever the final outcome, the losses will likely require recalibration of the legislative agenda, throwing into doubt the ability to pass any aggressive initiatives like the Green New Deal. At the same time, the current House leadership on both sides of the political aisle is well positioned to remain in place. Nancy Pelosi (CA) is expected to remain as Speaker, Steny Hoyer (MD) as Majority Leader and James Clyburn (SC) as Majority Whip. Kevin McCarthy (CA) will likely continue as Republican Leader and Steve Scalise (LA) as Republican Whip. Each of these positions will be ratified by the parties’ respective caucuses in mid-November. As to committee leadership positions, committee chairs are expected to remain unchanged with the exception of the Committee on Appropriations where Nita Lowey (NY) retired. A three-way race is underway, and this should be determined in November as part of the Democratic caucus’ reorganizing for the next Congress, the 117th.
Control of Senate to be Determined by Georgia Runoff Elections
Similar to the House, the elections returned most Senators to the Senate with a handful of changes. The States of Arizona and Colorado elected Democrats to replace incumbent Republicans. Alabama’s Doug Jones (D) lost his race, providing the Democrats with a net one pick-up, far short of the five seats that would have provided majority control. However, the suspense did not end with the election. Both Georgia Senate seats were contested and none of the four candidates received a majority, sending the contests into run-offs on January 5. The stakes at risk for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot be overstated. If both seats break for the Democrats, it would deliver an equally divided Senate, providing the Biden Administration with the ability to break ties through Vice President Elect Harris’ Senate role. And if the races end in a split decision, the Senate would have a 51-49 Republican majority, placing enormous pressure and authority on Senators like re-elected moderate Susan Collins (ME) to influence legislative agreements. If the Georgia seats remain in Republican control, the Senate majority would see a four-seat majority at 52-48.  Unlike the House, the Senate rules take the form of norms and traditions. The much loved and hated filibuster was considered likely to be eliminated if the Democrats took control of the Senate. With the prospect of an evenly divided Senate at best, the idea of eliminating the filibuster is highly unlikely.
The Biden Administration: Who Will Sit in Key Positions?
As a former U.S. Senator and a former Vice President, President-Elect Biden is likely to look to form a cabinet that understands the norms and rules of Washington and one that can carry the White House messages and priorities to Capitol Hill as well as throughout the stakeholder community. While the role of “insiders” is often derided, Biden’s team will likely place a premium on individuals that have a fundamental understanding of the policies, as well as working knowledge on how to work with Congress. Biden has just two months to make the calls on who will carry-out the day to day management of the bureaucracy. While much of the groundwork has been laid to expedite the process, it remains a work in progress.
The Interregnum: What to Expect
The Biden Administration will be in-waiting for seventy days leading up to January 20, 2021. Its focus will be putting its team together. Expect in the coming days announcements of officials that would serve as the foundation and scaffolding of a White House operation such as the Chief of Staff, National Security Advisor, Legislative Director, COVID-19 Coordinator, and Press Secretary. Once completed, the next tranche of announcements of individuals would be expected to be announced who would be nominees for the management of the broader government’s agencies and departments.
The President-Elect secured an electoral and popular vote similar to the past four presidential elections that were considered “landslides”. However, the inability to capture control of the Senate, for now, will curb the more ambitious policy demands of progressives. Items on the campaign’s priorities list will likely be tempered given the prospect of a Senate that could bottle-up initiatives and a House that could see the Democratic cohesiveness of the past four years splinter over how aggressively to advance progressive policies. The Green New Deal’s aspirational approach to restructuring the U.S. economy to reduce threats from greenhouse gases is likely to remain an aspiration with pieces of the program considered moderate in approach, like encouraging adoption of renewable energy technologies, gaining traction. And the priority to restructure the federal tax code and claw back some of the corporate and wealthy taxpayers’ tax reductions face all but insurmountable obstacles in the Senate. Three agenda items that will continue to enjoy a strong push, despite divided government, will be environmental justice, judicial, and immigration policy reforms.
What to Expect: Executive Actions in First 24 Hours
The evolution of a strong Executive is expected to continue in a Biden Administration as the power of the pen is used to overcome congressional intransigence. The Trump Administration’s aggressive use of Executive Orders is expected to continue in a Biden White House. The first twenty-four hours of the Biden Administration will likely serve as launching pad of Executive Orders to roll back Trump Administration policies and priorities that have dominated the debate over environmental and public health debates over the past three years. The potential candidates subject to the issuance of Executive Orders could include:
What to Expect: The First 100 Days
The first hundred days of any new Administration is a benchmark and is considered a litmus test of securing key initiatives. The overwhelming needs of the intertwined threats of COVID-19 and the economy will be center stage from which all other policy initiatives will follow. The first hundred days of a Biden Administration will feel like four years as Congress and the White House seek to stem the health and economic losses of the past year. The Biden legislative agenda will likely have two tiers with the first tier targeting three overarching issues: 1) implementing a national strategy on COVID-19 including coordination with Governors, putting in place the delivery system of a vaccine, and ensuring Americans understand and accept that any vaccine is safe, 2) securing federal economic assistance for state and local governments, businesses and individuals to help weather the COVID-19 crisis, and 3) securing Senate confirmation of political appointees that will carry-out the policy goals and objectives of the White House.
Nov. 12, 17, 19
Nov. 12-13
Jan. 27-28, 2021
CASA Winter Conference 2021