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10 Races Federal Employees Should Watch on Election Day

Senate, House, gubernatorial and mayoral races that will impact feds in 2015 and beyond.

The federal civil service was created to operate independently of the political class and smoothly in spite of the upheaval caused by elections.

In practice, lawmakers control just about every aspect of federal employees’ jobs. The day-to-day functions of federal workers remain largely without political influence, but from pay to agency budgets, lawmakers impact the workforce with an array of  decisions.

There is, therefore, a lot at stake for feds in Tuesday’s midterm elections. If Republicans take control of the Senate, as most prognosticators anticipate, they will head up all the committees currently led by Democrats. What new faces will be making the decisions affecting federal employees come 2015? Which figures long known to feds will no longer be around?

Here’s a list of where federal employees should be focusing as the results start coming in Tuesday evening:

1) Virginia Senate - Sen. Mark Warner, D, vs. Ed Gillespie, R

Warner is the incumbent in the race, and until recently was expected to win easily. He is still a heavy favorite, but polls have shown the race tightening in the final stretch of the campaign. Representing hundreds of thousands in his state, Warner is seen as one of federal employees’ biggest advocates in Congress. He has supported pay raise equity for blue-collar feds and retroactive pay for workers furloughed during the government shutdown in 2013. If early results look bad for Warner, expect a long night for Democrats across the country.

2) Arkansas Senate - Sen. Mark Pryor, D, vs. Rep. Tom Cotton, R

Pryor, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has weighed in on a lot of federal employee issues in the last few years. His efforts were enough to earn the endorsement of the American Federation of Government Employees, having voted against extending the federal employee pay freeze in 2014 and fighting for consistent cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees. Cotton, on the other hand, voted to extend the pay freeze and multiple times to reduce the size of the civilian workforce at the Defense Department. Pryor is a heavy underdog, trailing by several points in virtually every public poll.

3) Alaska Senate - Sen. Mark Begich, D, vs. Dan Sullivan, R

Begich, also a HSGAC member, has worked to streamline the federal hiring process, in support of federal firefighters, to reform the security clearance process and for postal reform, among other issues critical to feds. Begich also earned the AFGE nod of approval, though Sullivan worked for the State Department as a political appointee under President George W. Bush. Sullivan was long seen as the favorite, though polls have been inconsistent of late.

4) Louisiana Senate - Sen. Mary Landrieu, D, vs. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R

Landrieu is the third vulnerable Democrat who serves on the HSGAC, which has oversight of the federal workforce. She has been a relatively quiet voice on the committee, but has generally taken fed-friendly positions and is also backed by AFGE. During his time in the House, Cassidy has supported bills to contract out federal positions and freeze federal employees’ pay. The race is likely to go to a runoff, meaning the winner would not be decided until December.

5) Wisconsin Governor - Gov. Scott Walker, R, vs. Mary Burke, D

While federal issues are not immediately at play in this race, Walker is the poster boy for taking on public-sector unions. His signature victory reduced collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s employees, which led to a recall election (Walker ultimately survived). Many in the political predicting business think Walker has his eyes set on higher office, i.e. president, so feds may want to keep an eye on this one. Burke has closed the gap in recent weeks, and the race is now a tossup.

6) New Hampshire Senate - Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D, vs former Sen. Scott Brown, R

Brown, one of the Senate’s most moderate members during his tenure, was far from one of the most anti-fed lawmakers over the last few years. Still, in his three years representing Massachusetts in the Senate, he cast votes to cut agency funding, freeze federal employee pay and trim the federal workforce. Shaheen previously addressed the National Treasury Employees Union at its legislative conference to warn of the ill effects of sequestration and has generally voted in support of federal employees. She has repeatedly supported reforming the federal budgeting process to give agencies more certainty. The race is neck-and-neck, though Shaheen is seen as a slight favorite.

7) Kentucky Senate - Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R, vs. Alison Lundergan Grimes, D

As the leader of the Republican caucus, McConnell has voted in line with budget cuts and pay freezes seen by federal employee advocates as detrimental to the workforce. McConnell has, in many ways, led those efforts. Feds will want pay attention to this race, as McConnell is likely to become majority leader if Republicans take control of the Senate. Asked how he would run the chamber, McConnell told Politico, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” McConnell has pulled ahead in recent polling and is a favorite heading into Election Day.

8) Virginia’s 10th Congressional District - State Del. Barbara Comstock, R, vs. John Foust, D

Comstock and Foust are vying to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, R, who has long been the most fed-friendly Republican in Congress. Both candidates recently pledged to Government Executive their commitment to support federal employees should they be elected, but it remains to be seen from which side of the aisle that support will come. Comstock is viewed as a slight favorite in the race.

9) Oklahoma Senate - Rep. James Lankford, R, vs. state Sen. Constance Johnson, D

Sen. Tom Coburn, who worked on a variety of federal workforce issues from wasteful spending to postal reform, announced his early retirement earlier this year. Unlike the other races on this list, this one is pretty much decided: Lankford is a sure thing. The race is worth noting, however, both because of Coburn’s retirement and the role Lankford, who currently sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has played in crafting federal workforce legislation. He has served as the head of the federal procurement subcommittee and sought to strengthen oversight of agency operations. He has promised to continue Coburn’s legacy as a deficit hawk.

10) Washington, D.C. Mayor - Muriel Bowser, D, vs. David Catania I

Another race without much stake in federal policy, but with so many federal employees concentrated in the nation’s capital, this race is one to keep an eye on. Bowser has made attracting and retaining federal government jobs in D.C. a campaign promise, and vowed to invest in a “Live Near Your Work” program to “help working class federal employees save money by living in the city.” Bowser is facing a closer-than-expected race against Catania, who sits on the D.C. City Council with Bowser, but the Democrat is still seen as a favorite. 

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