WASHINGTON -- Tuesday's midterm elections produced a mixed bag for Democrats interested in regulating the auto industry, with one prominent Senate critic losing her race and another behind in a race too close to call.
Democrats regained control of the House, and the resulting power to conduct oversight investigations on subjects Republicans eschewed during the first two years of the Trump presidency.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who publicly scolded General Motors in 2014 for its slow response recalling vehicles with defective ignition switches linked to at least 19 deaths, lost to Missouri's 38-year-old attorney general Josh Hawley. The incumbent was also a vocal critic of how the auto industry handled the deadly Takata airbag crisis, saying it jeopardized lives by underplaying the risk before being forced to undertake the largest recall in automotive history.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, has also pressed automakers on safety issues and been a frequent critic of NHTSA over the pace of Takata airbag inflator recalls. On Wednesday morning his race was too close to call. With more than 8.1 million ballots cast in Florida, Nelson is behind the current Republican governor, Rick Scott, by about 34,000 votes, or 0.4 percent. Under state election rules, any race that is within 0.5 percent goes to an automatic recount.
In Nevada, home of Tesla's massive Gigafactory battery plant, Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller lost to Jacky Rosen. Heller recently proposed legislation that would lift the current cap on electric vehicles eligible for tax credits.
Meanwhile, Democrats flipped at least 26 seats to take control of the House of Representatives, with several West Coast races still undecided as votes continue to be counted. Democratic Party leaders have indicated they plan to investigate widespread charges of corruption in the Trump administration and to conduct oversight hearings of agency actions that often went unchecked the past two years.