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CUNA 2010 Elections Wrap: Results represent significant change of direction for Washington

As has been widely reported, Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, picking up 60 House seats, with the outcome of 13 races yet to be determined as of early this morning. Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate. Despite a six seat pickup by Republicans and three yet-to-be-called races, they maintain a minimum of 51 seats.

CUNA/League support, as defined by CULAC donations, went to 358 House candidates and 31 Senate candidates, meaning credit unions backed a pro-credit union candidate in 82 percent of the seats up in Congress. As of this writing, 26 of pro-credit union Senate candidates won and just three lost. In the House, 300 CULAC-backed candidates won election and 48 lost, with 10 races yet to be determined. Overall, as of this morning, 93 percent of candidates in called races who received CULAC support won election.

In a number of key races, credit union involvement extended beyond CULAC donations. CUNA, CULAC, Leagues along with individual credit unions spent $1.1 million on direct communications with voters in 13 races, 10 in yesterday’s General Election. A Washington Post analysis in late October ranked CUNA the fifth largest outside spender in campaigns among trade associations, and the most bipartisan among the top 50 organizations.

Eight of ten races were won yesterday in which paid voter communications were invested. Of those backed, two key races were lost: credit union champion Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD). While this is a difficult loss, it demonstrates why it is important to develop new, up-and-coming champions on both sides of the aisle.

CUNA's Bill Cheney is confident these successes can be attributed to the strong, favorable image of credit unions, both among their own members and the voting public at large. Throughout the year, CUNA’s research and polling indicated voters react favorably to both candidates endorsed by credit unions and to candidates who support credit union issue positions.

Congress is expected to consider tax reform and ways to tackle the federal budget deficit. It is also possible Republicans, now in control of the House of Representatives, may force symbolic votes to repeal the Health Care Reform law or parts of the financial reform bill. However, with President Obama wielding a veto pen, it is not expected those measures will be enacted.

Housing finance reform will be the top agenda item for the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. This would be true no matter which party controlled the chambers. The key question here will be: what role should the federal government have in the secondary mortgage market?

While it is obvious Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) will be Speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) will most likely become Majority Leader, other leadership positions and committee chairmanships will be determined in the coming weeks. In the Senate, it is expected Senator Harry Reid will remain Majority Leader and that other leadership positions will remain unchanged. The key change in the Senate relevant to credit unions will be the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee; Senator Timothy Johnson (D-SD) is expected to claim the chairmanship of that committee. All of this is subject to change as the party caucuses meet over the next several weeks. CUNA and the LSCU will follow these meetings closely and communicate updates as developments warrant.

To view the complete memo, visit the Campaign and Election section under Governmental Affairs on or click here to be taken directly to the webpage.