Polls have long been closed in an election that has the potential to change the balance of power in the Senate. But as of Wednesday evening, four races have yet to be decided.
As of 11:40 p.m. ET, the Republicans and Democrats were each projected to win 48 seats in the upper chamber of Congress.
Thirty-five seats are up for grabs in the 2020 Senate race. Twenty-three were Republican prior to the vote, and 12 were held by Democrats.
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner will lose his seat to the state’s former governor John Hickenlooper, AP projected.
Hickenlooper said turnout was the greatest in the state’s history and could represent a historic high for the country.
“Clearly, people are saying it’s time to turn the page. It’s time for a different approach,” he said.
In the special election in Arizona, former NASA astronaut and Democrat Mark Kelly, who is married to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, won a seat from Republican Martha McSally, the AP has called.
McSally was previously appointed to replace the late John McCain in 2018.
The Alabama Senate seat up for election went from blue to red, with former college football coach Tommy Tuberville defeating Democrat Doug Jones.
High-profile Republican Mitch McConnell has been elected to his seventh term as Kentucky’s senator. The Senate majority leader faced off against former fighter pilot Amy McGrath.
By voting for McConnell, Kentucky voters said they wanted to keep their “front-row seat” in the Senate, he said.
Another prominent Trump ally, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, will be headed back to Congress after facing a challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who became the first Senate candidate to raise more than US$100 million in campaign funds.
In Montana, Republican Steve Daines was re-elected despite a tight race with Steve Bullock that was called just before 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
Idaho, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Arkansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and Tennessee were also expected to stay Republican, according to AP.
In addition to the Arizona and Colorado victories, AP has projected that the Senate seats for Oregon, Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and Rhode Island will continue to be represented by Democrats.
Former Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker won his seat as well. Booker said he was humbled by the faith New Jersey residents have placed in him.
“Thank you for standing with me and allowing me the honour of representing my home state in Washington,” he said in a tweet. “Our work is far from finished.”
Just after 9 p.m. ET, on Wednesday, The Associated Press projected Democrat Gary Peters from Michigan had been re-elected.
The battle for the Senate
Unlike in the House of Representatives, only a third of the upper chamber’s 100 seats are up for election at a time. Elections are held on even years.
Republicans are looking to maintain or boost the 53-seat majority that has allowed them to execute U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda — including, for instance, the controversial confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the election.
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Democrats, who currently have a majority in the House of Representatives, are hoping to gain control of the upper chamber of Congress as well.
If Trump loses to Democrat Joe Biden — an outcome polling suggested was likely though the race was a toss-up as of publication — Democrats will need the Senate to move ahead with campaign promises.
“Given the degree of polarization that we see in the U.S., without support in both houses of Congress, a president really can’t legislate,” politics professor Rob Goodman of Ryerson University said in a recent Global News interview.
In order to take control of the chamber from the Republicans, Democrats — who have 45 seats in the Senate, plus two independents who caucus with them — would need to gain three or four seats.
Why three or four? It depends on who wins the presidency. Since the vice-president breaks tied votes in the Senate, either party could take control of the legislature with 50 seats if it also won the White House.
One of Georgia’s elections will take some time to decide.
In that state, if no Senate candidate receives 50 per cent of the vote, each race goes to a runoff.
In the case of one contest — the special election to replace retired Sen. Johnny Isakson — Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler will be on a runoff ballot on Jan. 5. Loeffler had previously been appointed to the role.
In Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate and the sole GOP vote against the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, was projected to maintain her seat, defeating former state legislator Sara Gideon.
— With files from the Associated Press and Eric Sorensen, Global News