The 2022 midterm elections produced several major surprises as races began to be called late Nov. 8 and early Nov. 9, and the biggest effects were yet to be decided, as neither Republicans nor Democrats had secured control of the House or Senate.
But for national security and defense watchers, some of the most important races on Election Day produced definitive results. Here’s what it means for the Pentagon and Air Force.
Air Force Veterans
In the current Congress, 15 Air Force veterans are in office—13 in the House, two in the Senate.
Neither of the USAF vets in the Senate—Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—were up for re-election. Three in the House were not on the ballot either, but nearly two dozen other former Airmen sought office for the first time
All told, every Air Force veteran currently in the House who was running again has been projected as winning. In addition, three newcomers are projected to win: Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), Zach Nunn (R-Iowa), and Donald Davis (D-N.C.).
Luna is a former enlisted Airman who joined at the age of 19 and served as an airfield manager, according to media reports. She earned the Air Force Achievement Medal, was honorably discharged, and subsequently joined the Oregon Air National Guard for a time.
Davis is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and, according to media reports, served for eight years, working as a mortuary officer; coordinating operations for VC-25A “Air Force One” at Joint Base Andrews, Md.; and serving at an ROTC detachment in North Carolina.
Nunn is a retired lieutenant colonel who served on both Active duty and in the Guard and deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, amassing nearly 1,000 combat flight hours, mostly in reconnaissance aircraft, according to an Air Force release and his LinkedIn page.
Most of the other former Airmen seeking office for the first time lost, but one race still remained uncalled. Sam Peters, a retired major who won the Bronze Star medal and was running in Nevada, narrowly trailed Rep. Steven Horsford.
Of the 26 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, only two were up for re-election: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). Duckworth rolled to an easy win, with the Associated Press calling her race at 8 p.m. Eastern time, just as polls in Illinois closed.
Kelly, meanwhile, faced a tight battle with Republican Blake Masters and had not secured victory, but with a projected 72 percent of the vote in, he was winning by a 51-46 margin, according to ABC News.
Of the 59 members of the House Armed Services Committee, 50 were on the ballot Nov. 8. And of those 50, the vast majority were successful—45 were projected as winners by the Associated Press as of 3:45 p.m. Nov. 9. That included the top Republican and Democrat on the committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Only one lawmaker on the panel had been projected to lose, but she was a major figure. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) was the vice chair of the committee and a powerful advocate for the Navy. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) sought re-election but was defeated in her primary.
That left four races involving HASC members still uncalled, all involving Democrats. Reps. Marilyn Strickland (Wash.), Pat Ryan (N.Y.), Jared Golden (Maine), and Steven Horsford (Nev.) were all leading in their races, but by narrow margins (as of 3:45 p.m. Nov. 9).
Some of the other most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot, however, survived. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) were projected as winners. The relatively junior lawmakers could be poised to rise up the ranks now, as Luria and Cheney join eight HASC members who did not seek re-election in leaving the panel, creating fairly substantial turnover.
Of course, the compositions of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees is still to be determined, depending on who ends up in the majority and by how much.
On that front, political observers have noted that Republicans are still likely to take control in the House, but by a far smaller margin than predicted entering Election Day. As of 3:45 p.m., ABC News had called 211 races for Republicans and 194 for Democrats, with 30 still up in the air.
With a 222-213 advantage in the current Congress, Democrats held a 31-28 advantage in seats on the HASC. Generally speaking, the majority party gets a slightly higher ratio of seats on every committee than it has in the overall House, according to data from the Congressional Research Service.
For the Senate, a perfectly divided 50-50 chamber in this past Congress led to an even 13-13 split on the SASC. As of 3:45 p.m., ABC News is projecting a 48-48 tie, with four seats still up for grabs. The final composition of the chamber won’t be determined for weeks though—most major media outlets are projecting the race in Georgia to go to a runoff in December.
If it all ends in another 50-50 tie, Democrats will retain the majority thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. But should either party gain at least 51 seats, they’ll likely get an extra seat on committees to fill.
The breakdown of seats on both committees could have implications for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, as the majority party is able to call hearings on issues that matter most to them.
A number of Republican lawmakers have expressed alarm about the Air Force’s plans to retire older aircraft at a faster rate than it buys new ones to pay for other modernization efforts, while others have decried Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s indications that there may be no competition for a future KC-Y tanker. Many have also raised objections to diversity and inclusion efforts within the Pentagon, arguing that they are political and take focus off lethality.
Some top Democrats, meanwhile, have sharply criticized the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, from its sustainment problems to its high costs. There is also a minority within the party who have voiced objections to nuclear modernization efforts.
More broadly speaking, control of the House and Senate will likely go a long way in shaping debates in the next few years about the budgets the DOD and the Air Force get. Republicans have argued that President Joe Biden’s proposed funding doesn’t keep pace with inflation and needs to be increased, while some Democrats have expressed reluctance to do so.