Pot, Soda, Abortion: Election Stories You May Have Missed

This year’s midterm elections ushered into office a wave of Republican candidates. But some of America’s most debated issues were also at the forefront in several states and were a boon for liberals.

Here's a list of winners and losers in contests you may not have followed and other trends: 

Marijuana Gets the OK

Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved limited recreational pot use, joining Colorado and Washington state in letting adults possess and consume marijuana just for fun. But a medical marijuana initiative in Florida failed to pass when it got less than 60 percent of the vote.

The Oregon measure hands regulatory control of pot to the state’s liquor control agency and allows Oregonians to grow up to four plants at a time. NBC News projected Wednesday that Alaskans had passed a similar initiative by a narrow margin, after two earlier pot-legalization measures had failed.

The D.C. initiative, meanwhile, allows residents to grow up to six plants in their homes and possess up to 2 ounces for their own personal use.

Mixed Decisions on Prohibition (Yes, Prohibition)

Arkansas voters turned down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized alcohol sales statewide. Arkansas is one of a few states that allow local municipalities to make their own decisions on alcohol sales, creating a patchwork of wet and dry counties throughout the state.

But voters in the Connecticut town of Bridgewater, the state's last dry town, made the historic decision Tuesday to end prohibition and reverse its alcohol sales ban there.

Political Legacies Come Out Ahead

Scions of a number of high-profile political dynasties, from Kennedys to Bushes, were on the ballot on Tuesday night, and some of them won.

Ted Kennedy Jr., the son of the late U.S. senator and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, won his first political race for a seat in the Connecticut state Senate.

Jason Carter came up short in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, a position that his grandfather Jimmy Carter held before winning the White House in 1976.

In Texas, another Bush is back in office. George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was elected Texas land commissioner.

Historic Firsts for the GOP

Congress got its first-ever black Republican woman Tuesday and, depending on the outcome of a race whose results are still being counted, could also get its first-ever openly gay Republican member.

Mia Love, Utah's latest congresswoman-elect, was already Utah's first black female mayor and a widely-touted rising star in the GOP. Now, she will be Congress' first-ever black Republican woman.

In Southern California, Republican challenger Carl DeMaio was trying to unseat Rep. Scott Peters, and if he does, he could become Congress' first openly gay Republican member. DeMaio was leading there by fewer than 1,000 votes Wednesday, though the race had not yet been called.

Divide on Abortion

Coloradans rejected a constitutional amendment that would have modified the criminal code to include fetuses under the terms “person” and “child” in legal statutes, nixing the notion at the polls for the third time in six years. Opponents argued that it could lead to a statewide ban on abortion.

Similarly, North Dakotans said no to a measure that would have provided “the inalienable right to life” for humans at “any stage of development.”

But Tennessee voters backed a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortions.

Minimum Wage Hikes Pass

Voters in Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all voted to increase their hourly minimum wage.

Arkansas voted to boost its hourly minimum wage from $6.25, a wage below the federal minimum of $7.25, to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska will raise its hourly minimum to $9 by 2016 from $7.25. South Dakota will raise its hourly minimum from the federal minimum to $8.50 next year, and tie future increases to inflation.

Big Night for Women in Politics

The country marked a milestone in Tuesday’s midterms: There will be 100 female members in the next Congress, the highest number in history. That means women will make up close to a quarter of U.S. lawmakers.

Democrat Gina Raimondo defeated Republican Allan Fung on Tuesday to become the first woman elected governor of Rhode Island.

Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a seven-term congresswoman from West Virginia’s 2nd District, became the first woman elected to serve the state in the U.S. Senate.

In Utah, Mia Love will become the first black Republican congresswoman in American history.

Gun Control Advances in Washington

Voters in Washington state approved a measure that requires background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions. They rejected another that would have prohibited background checks on firearms until a federal standard is established.

An "American Idol" Runner-Up Again

Clay Aiken, the 2003 runner-up on “American Idol,” lost yet again, this time in a congressional race.

Aiken had run against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for a House seat in North Carolina. Had he won, Aiken would have become the first openly gay congressman elected from the South.

Nation's First Voter-Approved Soda Tax

San Francisco voters defeated a measure that would have taxed sodas and other sugary drinks to fight obesity and related diseases. The measure on Tuesday's ballot to levy the two-cents-an-ounce tax on soft drinks fell short of the two-thirds support needed to pass. 

But in Berkeley, California, voters became the first in the country to approve taxing sodas (at 1-cent-an-ounce) in an effort to curb consumption. 

No Drug Tests for California Doctors

Voters in California rejected a ballot initiative that would require mandatory drug tests for doctors, and an increase on malpractice settlements.

California's 1975 medical malpractice law was the first in the nation to impose caps on damages for pain and suffering caused doctor negligence.

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