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An Election to Remember: Opening Doors for Clubs

For most Washington political professionals, the election results seemed like a foregone conclusion. Republicans would maintain the House of Representatives (but with 10-15 less members), the Senate would flip to Democratic control, and the White House would remain in the hands of the Democrats and be occupied by the former Secretary of State. Well, I guess that is why they actually hold the elections.

For the private club industry, the final results have opened a number of doors that seemed likely to remain closed for four more years. Now that the dust has settled, what happened and what does do it mean for clubs, their leaders and their members?

The House of Representatives

As November 8 drew closer, the concern that there would be a wholesale change in the House of Representatives began to lessen. Yes, there would be losses but they would be limited to the low double digits.

At NCA, we were watching some key House races that could help indicate how the evening was going to go for the club industry. Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), David Jolly (Fla.), John Katko (N.Y.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) and Bruce Poliquin (Maine) were races in the East that, if flipped, could usher in a number of less sympathetic members to the House.

Happily, four of those five races stayed in the incumbents’ hands; the only loss was Jolly, who lost to Florida’s former Governor, Charlie Crist.

With the East Coast races going better than expected, seats in the Midwest and West were the only areas left that could swing the House. As polls in those states closed, we watched seats held by Reps. Robert Dold (Ill.), Rob Blum (Iowa), Will Hurd (Texas) and Cresent Hardy (Nev.).

When the smoke cleared, only two of the four (Dold and Hardy) had lost.

From these results, it became obvious that the House would not only stay in pro-club hands, but that the expected losses would be far fewer than first thought.

2016 Election DemographicsThe Senate

When election night began, the Senate was divided 54-46; however, Republicans had 24 seats up while Democrats only had ten. That, coupled with the fact that a presidential race traditionally brings out more Democratic voters, meant that it would be extremely difficult for Republicans to retain the majority.

NCA had identified seats in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire as the most likely to flip. Aside from those six races, three others soon became extremely competitive.

Incumbent senators in Missouri and North Carolina were never seen as being in jeopardy when the year began. Then, in late fall, each became more impacted by the presidential race. In addition, an open seat in reliably red Indiana started to lean blue.

So, nine races with pro-club candidates would likely determine which party controlled the upper chamber of Congress. In an effort to help some of those candidates, NCA’s ClubPAC provided contributions to Sens. Johnson (Wis.), Toomey (Pa.) and Ayotte (N.H.).

Seven of those nine incumbent senators won re-election. Unfortunately, Sens. Kirk (Ill.) and Ayotte (N.H.) came up short. Ayotte’s loss was a particular blow to the private club industry as she was the lead sponsor of the STARS Act—an Affordable Care Act (ACA) “fix-it” bill that we have long supported.

In the end, what could have been a very disheartening evening for the club industry turned out to be a very good one. Pro-club leaders in the House were re-elected in strong numbers and the pro-club Senate’s majority was retained.

The White House

When election night began, it seemed that the key swing states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire would, once again, decide who would be the next President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton could count on the traditionally blue states and Virginia (because of the selection of Sen. Kaine as her running mate). Thus, the conventional wisdom was that she would only need 25 more Electoral College votes to secure the 270 needed to win the White House. That meant she would only need North Carolina, Colorado or Nevada and New Hampshire (states she had been polling well in for most of the campaign).

Donald Trump could count on all of the traditionally red voting states, which would mean he would need 79 more Electoral College votes to win. Additionally, he looked solid in the toss-up states of Florida, Ohio, and Iowa; however, those three toss-up states only had a combined total of 53 electoral votes

Therefore, the only path forward for Trump was to also take North Carolina and a combination of Colorado with Nevada or New Hampshire from Clinton’s column. That seemed like an extremely tall task.

As the evening progressed, his successes started to mount. Not only did he win the traditionally red states, but also the toss-up states of Florida, Ohio and Iowa. Once he took North Carolina, the entire complexion of the race changed.

While he had taken the four most competitive toss-up states, he still only had 259 electoral votes and would have to take Colorado or Nevada to reach 270—and that just was not going to happen. So instead, he did something that had not been done in nearly thirty years. He broke through the vaunted “blue wall.”

Historically, that was a major feat. The last time a Republican candidate won both Michigan and Pennsylvania was 1988. In addition, Wisconsin had not gone red since 1984. These states contained the so-called “Reagan Democrats,” and every Republican presidential candidate has tried to win them back.

With his jobs and economic growth message (especially in those states), Trump turned one of the most unbelievable election years on its head.

What Does It All Mean For Clubs?

For the first time in eight years, the private club industry will have our issues heard—and acted upon—in Washington. With a pro-club House of Representatives, Senate and White House, we will no longer be relegated to trying to stop regulations and legislation that impact club leaders’ staffs, operations and members.

The incoming president does not just play golf but has created and run private golf and country clubs. Regardless of your political preference, there is no doubt that Donald Trump has more golf club experience than any other U.S. President in history. From a purely parochial perspective, his election is a very good thing for us because he knows our needs.

Over the first year of his administration, NCA expects there will be significant changes to laws and regulations that have only made your job more complicated and negatively impacted your employees and members.

To begin, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be repealed and replaced. Working with the pro-club House and Senate, there will be a replacement bill that focuses on better affordability, patient choice, and portability of insurance policies. This has been a goal of NCA’s since the ACA was passed in 2010 and we look forward to helping pass the replacement bill.

Most significantly, we will now be able to see tax reform become a reality. Trump has said that condensing the individual tax rates into three—with a top rate of 33 percent—and lowering the business tax rate to encourage growth will be top priorities. With Congress echoing this sentiment, both the legislative and executive branches of government are readying for the first major overhaul of the tax code in nearly 35 years.

Finally, as discussed on page 18 of this issue, there will be relief from the more onerous regulations that have emanated from the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. That, alone, will be a major victory for our industry.

For clubs, these changes cannot get here soon enough. However, our industry must temper its excitement at the prospect of change with the realities of the situation—change will come but it will take time.

With this election result, we now have more than just champions on Capitol Hill to support us, but leaders throughout the federal government who will make the changes we need and want. NCA has been working for this for the last eight years and, now, with your help we have succeeded. The next four years look more promising than ever before.

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