The 2014 midterm elections are Tuesday, and they’re a big deal. It’s when people across the country get to pick their senators, congressmen and governors and vote on state ballot initiatives, which can range from legalizing marijuana to raising the minimum wage.
The main political result everyone is waiting for is whether Democrats keep control of the Senate, which they’ve held since 2006. While a shift in the balance of power is the big drama, there is more at stake in every state.
Here are 50 facts to help you understand what’s happening in the election.
1. Alabama: 2014’s most boring Senate race
Alabama wins for dullest race. Republican Jeff Sessions, a three-term senator, faced no challengers in the primary or general election. He would chair the Budget Committee if Republicans take control of the Senate.
2. Alaska: May join the midnight tokers
In Alaska, voters will have a chance to legalize the recreational use of marijuana (if you’re an adult), a step approved two years ago by voters in Colorado and Washington state.
3. Arizona: Gabby Giffords’ former staffer in a rematch
Democratic Rep. Ron Barber won a full-term in 2012 to succeed Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011. He was one of her former staffers wounded in the attack. Barber faces a rematch with Republican Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel.
4. Arkansas: Will prohibition finally end?
For most of the U.S., prohibition ended in the 1930s. Not in Arkansas, where 37 dry counties prohibit alcohol sales. Some people in the state are trying to change that. There’s a ballot initiative that would legalize the manufacture and sale of alcohol statewide.
5. California: Trying to combat worst drought in history
California is in the third year of one of the state’s worst droughts in the past century. A new water bond would provide $7 billion for water quality, supply and infrastructure improvement projects in drought-ridden states.
6. Colorado: Legal rights for fertilized eggs
Abortion is a hot topic in Colorado. A “personhood” amendment would add fetuses to those protected by the state’s criminal and wrongful death act. Opponents say it would ban abortions.
7. Connecticut: A race so tight every vote counts
Connecticut is a blue state, but Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is in a tight re-election fight with businessman Tom Foley. It’s a rematch for the two candidates.
8. Delaware: Dems are safe
In the Senate, Sen. Chris Coons won a 2010 special election to fill Joe Biden’s old Senate seat. He’s a safe bet for re-election this year. In the House. two-term Democrat John Carney should also have an easy path to re-election.
9. Florida: Never not a hot topic
When is there not political drama in the Sunshine State? In Florida, spending on ads by parties, candidates and interest groups was approaching $82 million by late October, the Center for Public Integrity reports, leading to a rate of nearly 101 TV spots per hour — most, not surprisingly, aimed at the hotly contested governor’s race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist.
10. Georgia: Jimmy Carter’s grandson runs for governor
Gov. Nathan Deal, whose first term was tarnished by ethics allegations, faces Jason Carter, grandson of former president Jimmy Carter.
11. Hawaii: Gubernatorial candidate made history last time he won, now he’s favored
Gov. Neil Abercrombie was ousted in the Democratic primary by state Sen. David Ige, the first time in the state’s history an incumbent governor had lost a re-election primary. Ige is now favored in November over Republican Duke Aiona, who served as lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2010, and independent Mufi Hannemann, a former Honolulu mayor.
12. Idaho: Likely winner is anti-Obamacare
Jim Risch is a safe bet for re-election in a GOP state. He’s big-time anti-Obamacare and a staunch fiscal conservative. Idaho voted for GOP presidential candidates by more than 60% in 2008 and 2012.
13. Illinois: Filthy rich GOP businessman could be next governor
Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is spending millions to challenge vulnerable Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. Rauner is a partner at Golder, Thoma, Cressey (GTCR). He’s a former car parker and burger cook.
14. Indiana: If you don’t live here, you’re not paying attention
Unless you’re from Indiana, you’re probably not going to be paying attention to this state on election night. There are no Senate races, the governor’s race isn’t for another two years, and there’s not much drama in the state’s nine House contests.
15. Iowa: A Senate candidate Michelle Obama can’t pronounce
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin is retiring. Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley had the field pretty much to himself until state Sen. Joni Ernst broke out of the GOP pack and won the primary with Sarah Palin’s backing. But Braley has a high-profile woman in his corner, too: Michelle Obama. The only problem is she can’t pronounce his name. The first lady flubbed Braley’s last name seven times in remarks Oct. 11 at Drake University, calling the four-term congressman “Bruce Bailey.” Then the White House mistakenly reported Braley was running for governor.
16. Kansas: There’s no place like home
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has been dogged the whole cycle over whether he has a home in Kansas. He overcame a primary challenge from a Tea Party-backed candidate. But the drama didn’t end there. Democratic nominee Chad Taylor withdrew from the race, giving independent businessman Greg Orman an opening against Roberts. If Orman wins, it would the first time there are three independents serving in the Senate.
17. Kentucky: Mitch McConnell fights one of the nastiest 2014 Senate battles
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily dispatched a Tea Party challenger in the primary, and he’s now in a heated battle with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has had help on the stump from former president Bill Clinton.
18. Louisiana: Senate race may not be decided until December
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has been a top GOP target since her first election in 1996, and her fourth run is no different. Louisiana regularly votes Republican in presidential years, and Landrieu’s support of the Affordable Care Act has been controversial. Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness are the top Republican contenders. The state’s unique primary system means the Senate race may not be decided until December if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
19. Maine: Open combat in governor’s race
Republican Paul LePage, known for his combative style, is running for re-election against six-term Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.
20. Maryland: Anthony Brown could become Maryland’s first black governor
The lieutenant governor of Maryland wants a promotion. If Anthony Brown defeats Republican Larry Hogan, he will become the first African-American governor of Maryland. That would make Brown only the third black person elected governor in the United States, following Doug Wilder in Virginia and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.
21. Massachusetts: The popular governor isn’t running again
Gov. Deval Patrick is popular, but he’s not running for re-election. Democrat Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, is in a general election battle with Republican Charlie Baker, who lost his 2010 race against Patrick.
22. Michigan: Obama tries to make a difference
In one of his final campaign swings, Obama visited Michigan for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and Gary Peters, who is running for the open Senate seat. We’ll have to wait to see if the president’s visit boosted the party ticket.
23. Minnesota: Who will replace Michele Bachmann?
Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann isn’t seeking re-election this year, opening up this safe Republican district in which Mitt Romney won 56% of the vote in 2012. Former state representative Tom Emmer is the GOP nominee.
24. Mississippi: Recovered after Tea Party primary scare
Six-term incumbent Thad Cochran, who survived a primary scare from Tea Party fave Chris McDaniel, is favored to beat former congressman Travis Childers, who hoped to gain support from disgruntled Republicans.
25. Missouri: Teachers, listen up
Missouri will vote on a ballot initiative that would tie teacher’s jobs and salaries to student performance, curb tenure and limit contracts to three years.
26. Montana: Math teacher tries to hold on to state’s long-held Democratic seat
Republican Rep. Steve Daines became the front-runner after Democratic Sen. John Walsh, appointed to the position earlier this year, bowed out following allegations he plagiarized his master’s thesis. Latecomer Amanda Curtis, a state representative and math teacher, has struggled to boost her profile and raise money.
27. Nebraska: Senate favorite is former university president
Midland University president Ben Sasse won the GOP primary with the support of national conservative groups. He is considered the overwhelming favorite to replace first-term Sen. Mike Johanns, who chose to retire despite facing an easy re-election path.
28. Nevada: A rising Hispanic star
Gov. Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic to hold statewide office, campaigned without a serious challenge for a second term. His challenger, Bob Goodman, came in second in his primary to the ballot option, “None of These Candidates.”
29. New Hampshire: Didn’t they just elect a governor?
New Hampshire is all about shaking things up. The state elects its governor every two years, whereas most other states do it every four years. Maggie Hassan, a former Senate majority leader, is seeking a second term. Her challenger, businessman and retired Marine Walt Havenstein, the victor in a four-way GOP primary, has never run for office before.
30. New Jersey: GOP nominee says he’s trailing Cory Booker because of single moms
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker won a 2013 special election to finish the late Frank Lautenberg’s term. He’s facing GOP nominee Jeff Bell, a gold-backed dollar proponent. Bell says unmarried women, especially single mothers who back Dems to keep their government benefits, drive the gender gap that has him trailing Sen. Cory Booker.
31. New Mexico: State’s first Hispanic governor mentioned as GOP presidential candidate
Gov. Susana Martinez became the nation’s first Hispanic female governor in 2010 and is mentioned as a possible future GOP presidential candidate. She is seeking re-election against state Attorney General Gary King.
32. New York: House candidate could be youngest woman ever elected to Congress
If she wins her House race in New York, Elise Stefanik would become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. The 30-year-old was head of Rep. Paul Ryan’s debate prep as the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee and also served in the George W. Bush administration in economic and domestic policy jobs. She is running against Democrat Aaron Woolf for the seat of a retiring Democrat. Elizabeth Holtzman, a New York Democrat, was 31 when she was elected to Congress in 1972.
33. North Carolina: Pizza delivery guy could draw votes from major candidates
First-term Sen. Kay Hagan won this swing state in 2008, running on the same ticket as President Obama. In 2012, North Carolina went for Mitt Romney. For months, Hagan has been taking hits for supporting the Affordable Care Act. Her general election opponent is Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. Libertarian pizza deliveryman Sean Haugh could draw voters away from both major-party candidates.
34. North Dakota: Voting on the ‘inalienable right to life’
In North Dakota, Measure 1 would provide “the inalienable right to life” for humans at “any stage of development.” Supporters and opponents differ on what impact it might have on abortion regulations.
35. Ohio: Candidate lost momentum over driving without a license
Incumbent GOP Gov. John Kasich’s campaign coasted after Ed FitzGerald was beset by revelations that he did not have a valid driver’s license for years, including when he was mayor of a Cleveland suburb and was allegedly driving alone in taxpayer-paid vehicles.
36. Oklahoma: Why the state has to choose two senators
Voters will choose two senators. In one race, three-term GOP incumbent Jim Inhofe, 80, was favored to win over his 34-year-old Democratic challenger, Matt Silverstein. In the second, conservative Rep. James Lankford was favored to win the special election to fill the final two years of retiring Sen. Tom Coburn’s term.
37. Oregon: Candidate’s fiancée planned an illegal pot farm
Democrat John Kitzhaber is seeking an unprecedented fourth term. A scandal involving Kitzhaber’s fiancée — she admitted to marrying an Ethiopian immigrant for money and taking part in plans for an illegal marijuana growing operation in the 1990s — gave state Rep. Dennis Richardson some hope, although Kitzhaber is leading in the polls.
38. Pennsylvania: One of the most unpopular governors in the country
Republican Tom Corbett could be the first governor to be denied re-election since Pennsylvania law was changed in 1968 allowing for consecutive terms. He’s one of the most unpopular and vulnerable GOP governors in the nation.
39. Rhode Island: Could see the state’s first female or Asian-American governor
Democratic incumbent Lincoln Chafee is retiring. If Democrat Gina Raimondo wins, she would be the state’s first female governor. If Republican Allan Fung wins, it would make him the state’s first Asian-American governor.
40. South Carolina: Did he really say that about Nikki Haley?
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen got some unwanted attention for accidentally using an offensive word in reference to Nikki Haley, the GOP incumbent who is the state’s first female governor. Haley is favored to keep her post.
41. South Dakota: More of the same
South Dakota hasn’t had a Democratic governor in 35 years. That trend seems likely to continue, as incumbent Dennis Daugaard is poised for another term in the executive mansion.
42. Tennessee: Could become fourth state with an abortion amendment
On the ballot is a constitutional amendment that would give state lawmakers an ability to pass restrictions on abortion — although it would have no immediate effect on abortion in Tennessee. If enacted, Tennessee would become the fourth state in the nation that has an abortion amendment in its constitution. The other three states are Arkansas, Colorado and Rhode Island.
43. Texas: It doesn’t look good for progressive hero Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis became a liberal hero by filibustering an abortion restriction bill in 2013. She set her sights on replacing three-term GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who is stepping down; however, Davis is trailing State Attorney General Greg Abbott in the polls by double digits.
44. Utah: Could elect first black Republican woman to Congress
The second time would be the charm for Mia Love in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Love, former mayor of tiny Saratoga Springs, would become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. Love is trying to succeed retiring Democrat Jim Matheson — who defeated her in 2012 by 768 votes.
45. Vermont: Likely to stay blue
Vermont has one at-large Congressional district — so one representative in the House for the whole state. Democratic incumbent Peter Welch is expected to win, keeping the state blue. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is also expected to win another term.
46. Virginia: No more Eric Cantor
One name not on the ballot: Eric Cantor. In a stunning defeat, the House Majority Leader lost a primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat. Cantor resigned Aug. 18. What’s Cantor up to these days? Wall Street investment banking.
47. Washington: Ex-NFL player in close House race
There are some former pros running to take up the mantle of the “Jock Caucus” — as Sports Illustrated once dubbed it — in the 114th Congress. One of them is Clint Didier, a Republican from Washington who played tight end for the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers from 1982 to 1989. Didier is locked in a competitive House race in Washington’s 4th District with another Republican, Dan Newhouse.
48. West Virginia: A woman will make history in the Senate
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is leading in recent polls, and Natalie Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, are vying for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. The winner will make history as the first woman to represent West Virginia in the Senate.
49. Wisconsin: Scott Walker’s bald spot makes campaign news
Scott Walker, a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, wants a second term as governor. He has been a polarizing figure, notably over collective bargaining laws. One talking point during the close battle with Mary Burke? His bald spot, which he claimed was caused by a kitchen injury.
50. Wyoming: Battle with a Catholic priest
Republican Mike Enzi, seeking a fourth Senate term, survived a modest primary scare from Liz Cheney. He holds a huge lead over Charlie Hardy, who was once a Catholic priest. Hardy claimed Enzi was to blame for gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Contributing: Katie Smith, Cooper Allen, Cat Camia, Paul Singer, USA TODAY; The (Nashville) Tennessean; Associated Press