Voters in four red states approved ballot initiatives to raise their state minimum wages on Tuesday, sending another message to Washington that Americans support a higher wage floor.
Arkansas voters approved their initiative by a 65-to-35 margin, according to early returns. The measure will increase the minimum wage incrementally to $8.50 per hour by 2017. Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved their initiative, which will raise the minimum wage to $9 by 2016, by a 62-to-38 margin.
Alaskans voted by a 69-to-31 margin to raise their minimum wage from $7.75 to $9.75 an hour by 2016, and then peg it to an inflation index so that it rises with the cost of living. South Dakota voted 55-45 to raise their minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 next year. It will also be indexed thereafter.
The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour and hasn't been raised since 2009, though states have the option of setting their own minimum wages instead. Arkansas and Nebraska will now join 24 other states that are slated to have a higher wage floor than the federal level next year.
Raising the minimum wage is extremely popular among Americans, with 70 percent of respondents to a recent poll saying they back the idea. That support tends to cross party lines, even if Democrats are more enthusiastic about the idea than Republicans.
Supporting minimum wage increases became so fashionable during this midterm election season that even some Republican candidates got behind the ballot initiatives. After discouraging such a raise earlier this year, Dan Sullivan, the Republican challenger to Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), eventually said that he would vote in favor of the Alaska measure. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who unseated Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) on Tuesday, slowly came around to say he would do the same for the initiative in Arkansas.
Given the broad public support, progressive and labor groups in recent years have made a point of putting minimum wage referendums on the ballot at the state and city level. By going to the ballot box, minimum wage backers are able to bypass reluctant state legislatures, particularly those led by Republicans, and put the vote to what is often a more sympathetic audience.
Recent polls in Arkansas, Alaska and South Dakota all showed support for the minimum wage ballot measures, even though the legislatures in those states are GOP-controlled. Nebraska, though solidly red, does not formally recognize state lawmakers' party affiliation.
Minimum wage increases have been a bright spot for organized labor recently, as unions -- and the Service Employees International Union in particular -- have spearheaded the campaign to raise wages in fast food and retail. Low-wage worker strikes have gained national attention.
President Barack Obama has cited the fast-food strikes in calling on Congress to hike the federal minimum wage. Democrats in both chambers have proposed raising the wage to $10.10 per hour and tying it to an inflation index. House Republicans, however, haven't brought the measure up for a vote, and Senate Democrats haven't rounded up enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.
This story was updated after wage increases passed in Alaska and South Dakota.
BEFORE YOU GO
11/05/2014 8:27 AM EST
Christie: GOP Wins Show Focus On Leadership
The AP reported Wednesday:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Republican victories in governor's races across the country show voters want leaders who will "get things done," rather that fighting over ideology.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2016 candidate for president, said he was gratified by GOP wins in Democratic-leaning states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, as well as victories in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Christie said voters "elect and re-elect governors to get things done."
Christie, who campaigned for GOP candidates across the country, said the winners deserve the credit, not him. He said elections are "always about the candidate."
Christie spoke Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, ABC's "Good Morning America" and Fox News Channel.
11/05/2014 7:46 AM EST
President Obama To Address Midterm Results In Afternoon Press Conference
President Barack Obama will speak to the press Wednesday afternoon to address his party's resounding loss in the 2014 midterm elections, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest. He is expected to strike a tone of compromise and accountability following a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and many of the nation's gubernatorial offices.
Obama tried reached out to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is widely expected to be the next senate majority leader and who also won re-election Tuesday night, and left a message, CNN reported.
The president's press conference will take place at 2:50 p.m. Eastern time from the East Room of the White House.
11/05/2014 6:57 AM EST
Indictment, Dog Killing, Infidelity Overcome By GOP Candidates
How bad was it for Democrats? Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican facing a 20-count indictment won in New York and another known for outbursts of rage and killing a beagle, Mike Bost, won a seat in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois that had been Democratic for 70 years.
Down in Tennessee, Rep. Scott DesJarlais' past infidelities and pushing of abortion on a mistress continued to not matter to voters, who handed him a landslide victory.
There were a couple of bright spots for Democrats, or at least the more moderate crowd. Florida Rep. Steve Southerland lost to Democrat Gwen Graham after holding an all-male fundraiser and joking about Graham in lingerie. And in Louisiana, GOP Rep. Vance McAllister, dubbed the "Kissing Congressman" after he was caught on tape smooching a staffer, finished far back in the field in his contest.
-- Michael McAuliff
11/05/2014 5:24 AM EST
Expect A Delay In Results
AP not calling these races until the number of outstanding votes can be verified: Va. gov.; Conn. gov.; Colo. gov.; Alaska gov, Senate.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 5:07 AM EST
Alaska Becomes 4th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana
In yet another major pushback against the war on drugs, Alaska legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, joining Oregon and Washington, D.C. -- both of which legalized cannabis only hours before. Alaska becomes the fourth state in the U.S. to legalize retail marijuana, along with Oregon, Colorado and Washington state.
Voters approved Measure 2, which legalizes the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana. Adults, age 21 and older, may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (with no more than three being mature) for personal use. The measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, such as devices used for smoking or storing the plant.
“The folks trying to keep marijuana illegal are relying on the same scare tactics today that they have relied on for decades, but voters just aren’t falling for it anymore," Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement early Wednesday morning. "The results are particularly encouraging since voter turnout during a midterm election is typically smaller, older, and more conservative. Clearly, support for ending marijuana prohibition spans the political and ideological spectrums."
Read more here.
-- Matt Ferner
11/05/2014 4:28 AM EST
Ah, Politics... Chicago-Style
11/05/2014 3:40 AM EST
Sarah Palin To GOP: You Didn't Build This
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took to Facebook last night to issue a hearty congratulations -- and warning -- to her GOP brethren:
Thank you, wise voters! Tonight is a big victory for We the People! Credit is due to the victorious candidates. Your message to President Obama is undeniably received, though he'll try to ignore it.
The Democrats got mauled today, deservedly so. To prohibit that from happening to the GOP in 2016, it must learn the lesson from the last time Republicans held the Senate majority. This time they must not retreat, and it's our responsibility to hold them accountable. Will they fight for reform that aligns with the limited government planks of the Republican platform, or will they return to the big government cronyism and status quo favored by the permanent political class? Will they drain the swamp or decide the D.C. cesspool is really just a jacuzzi they can't wait to jump on into and shake us off?
If GOP leadership returns to business as usual, then this majority will be short lived, for We the People say, “once bitten, twice shy.”
Click here to read the full statement.
11/05/2014 2:55 AM EST
Alaska Approves Minimum Wage Increase
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Alaskans have voted to raise the minimum wage.— Becky Bohrer (@beckybohrerap) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 2:39 AM EST
Alaska Rep. Don Young Projected To Win 22nd Term
The Associated Press is projecting that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will win re-election as Alaska's only member of Congress.