Republicans appeared poised to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives following Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to projections from the Associated Press, but the night ended without a final result as several races remained too close to call.
Both parties notched victories in some of the most competitive races across the country, as Democrats sought to beat back a Republican backlash to President Joe Biden’s agenda that could be stalled in the final two years of his term with a divided Congress. But the anticipated Republican sweep predicted by multiple polls did not appear so strong as Tuesday drew to a close.
Control of the Senate, meanwhile, also remained up in the air due to a number of tight races that may take days to decide.
A high-profile race in Georgia between Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock is expected to head to a runoff in December, after neither Senate candidate won more than 50 per cent of the vote.
Yet in Pennsylvania, a neck-and-neck Senate race that many predicted would take days to call, Democrat John Fetterman prevailed over Republican candidate and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz with less than one per cent between them.
Fetterman credited his “every county, every vote” campaign strategy in which the tattooed and hoodie-wearing candidate sought to bring the Democratic Party back to predominantly white working-class areas that have increasingly rejected the party.
“And that’s exactly what happened,” Fetterman, 53, told a cheering crowd early Wednesday at a concert venue in Pittsburgh. “We jammed them up. We held the line. I never expected that we would turn these red counties blue, but we did what we needed to do and we had that conversation across every one of those counties.”
Fetterman suffered a stroke just before he won the Democratic primary, tightening the race as pundits, as well as Oz, questioned the Democrat’s fitness to serve. But Fetterman equated the health scare to getting knocked down and getting back up, which he turned into a theme throughout the final weeks of the campaign.
That theme could very well apply to Democrats at large, who were facing historic headwinds. The party in power almost always suffers losses in the president’s first midterm elections, but Democrats had been hoping that anger from the Supreme Court’s decision to gut abortion rights might energize their voters to buck historical trends.
The outcome of races for House and Senate will determine the future of Biden’s agenda and serve as a referendum on his administration as the nation reels from record-high inflation and concerns over the direction of the country. Republican control of the House would likely trigger a round of investigations into Biden and his family, while a GOP Senate takeover would hobble Biden’s ability to make judicial appointments.
Some populist members and candidates aligned with former president Donald Trump have gone even further by threatening to launch impeachment proceedings against Biden himself, claiming he has failed to execute his duties as president amid an influx of illegal migrants, rising crime, stalled domestic energy production and other issues.
Republicans have also indicated they may reduce or even freeze U.S. military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as the European nation continues fighting off Russia’s invasion more than eight months after it was launched. That would severely limit Washington’s ability to help the Ukrainians, who have credited U.S. weapons for gaining territory back from the Russians in recent weeks.
Whichever party controls the Senate will further determine what Biden can accomplish in the back half of his current term. Before the midterms, the upper chamber was evenly split, with Vice-President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking votes giving control to the Democrats. That still created headaches for the White House, which struggled to earn enough support for its priorities.
Trump-backed candidate J.D. Vance won a hard-fought battle for a Senate seat in Ohio against longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. And Republican Marco Rubio faced off a tough challenge from Val Demings to earn a third term representing Florida.
But Democrats also fought back strong Republican challenges in New York, Oregon and Colorado, which were seen as under threat this year despite being relatively liberal strongholds.
Several Republicans who were projected to win their House, Senate or governor races have questioned or outright denied the outcome of the 2020 election and even case doubt on whether this year’s results could be trusted.
But others who have echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud were defeated, including Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and Tudor Dixon, who was seeking to become governor of Michigan.
In other races for governor, Republican Ron DeSantis — pegged by many as a heir to Trump and a potential presidential candidate — easily won a second term in Florida, a win he called “historic.”
And Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defeated Democrat Stacy Abrams in a second straight matchup. Abrams, a key voting organizer credited for delivering the state to Biden in the 2020 election, was seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.
In Arizona, Republican Kari Lake was trailing Democrat Katie Hobbs in one of the most closely watched races of the night. Lake has spread baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and fully embraced Trump’s populist tactics.
Election deniers were also poised to win races for secretary of state, which will oversee the next presidential contest.
Alabama voters elected state Rep. Wes Allen, who backed a groundless lawsuit to overturn Biden’s victory, as their secretary of state. In Indiana, Diego Morales, who ousted the Republican incumbent in the party primary by repeating Trump’s election lies, won the race for secretary of state by defeating Democrat Destiny Scott Wells.
Wyoming Republican Chuck Gray, a state lawmaker who also endorsed efforts to overturn the 2020 election, was running unopposed for secretary of state.
All told, half of the 22 Republicans vying to be secretaries of states _ and overseeing elections in most states _ have repeated Trump’s election lies. Seven endorsed his attempts to overturn the will of the people and remain in power.
Scattered problems arose during the day that frustrated voters but did not appear to affect the ability to accurately tally the votes. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, some machine tabulators were unable to scan ballots immediately, a temporary glitch that began fueling conspiracy theories from Lake and her supporters. Voter roll snags at check-in delayed some voters in Detroit.
Cyberattacks also affected government websites in some states, including those for secretaries of state, yet state and federal officials stressed the DDoS attacks would not impact ballot counting or results.
—With files from the Associated Press