Democrats retain control of the Senate with a win in Nevada
Control of the House of Representatives was still up in the air on Saturday as vote counting resumed days after an election expected to see heavy losses for Democrats, as midterm elections historically favor the out-of-state party. But Democrats held their ground and even made some gains in many key contests, leaving many Republicans nervous. By regaining control of the Senate, they dashed the GOP’s hopes of an outright takeover on Capitol Hill.
That’s welcome news for Biden, who has been looking at the possibility of humiliating defeats as the election nears. Now the Senate, which oversees the confirmation of executive branch staff and federal judges, will remain in his party’s corner. The Senate majority will also give the president and his party more say in legislative debates on domestic and foreign spending and other important issues.
“I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next few years,” Biden told reporters. He called Cortez Masto and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) to congratulate them from Cambodia, where he is attending a summit of Asian nations, according to the White House.
Schumer called the results “vindication” for Democrats and their agenda, and said Republicans turned voters away with extremism and “negativity,” including some candidates’ false insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. “America has shown that we believe in our democracy,” he told reporters in New York, praising the quality of Democratic leaders.
Most national Republicans have been tight-lipped about the projected result as of Saturday night, and the Laxalta campaign has yet to publicly acknowledge Cortez Masto’s projected victory.
Still, several Republicans have begun to voice their displeasure as they face at least two more years in the minority. “The old party is dead. Time to bury him. Do something new,” tweeted Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), shortly after the race was called.
Shiree Verdone, a Republican fundraiser, said Saturday night that GOP donors and activists were upset by the outcome of the election.
“We have to investigate what went wrong. There has to be some kind of study done on what happened in this election.” said Verdone, who held a fundraiser for Laxalt and acknowledged that Democrats know how to get to the polls in Nevada with the “Reid Machine,” named after the late Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who in October as head of the Senate GOP caucus predicted his party would carry 53 to 55 seats, had not yet made a statement Saturday night.
Cortez Masto announced that she will give her victory speech on Sunday.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar is projected to win the race for Nevada Secretary of State, defeating Republican candidate Jim Marchant, who sought oversight of Nevada’s elections while falsely denying the 2020 results. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Marchant in the race.
Democrats are also slated to take the Washington state House seat held by Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was ousted in the Republican primary after voting to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. .
In Nevada’s Senate race, Cortez Masto’s victory was part of a perfect record for incumbent senators seeking re-election in the midterms, as voters strongly opposed upsetting the established order in the House. It was part of a strong showing by Democrats in battleground states where Republicans have fallen behind after highlighting rising prices and crime concerns during an era of one-party control in Washington.
Republicans began the election seeking one seat to take control of the Senate. Democrats flipped in Pennsylvania and held on to several other states seen as vulnerable, running as defenders of post-term abortion rights. Roe v. Wade and branding GOP rivals as extremists. One such state was Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D) was projected to win Friday night over Republican challenger Blake Masters.
In Nevada, Laxalt tried to tie Cortez Masto to Biden while blaming inflation and crime on Democratic policies, pointing to a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Cortez Masto helped pass during the height of the pandemic.
Republicans predicted their economic message would resonate especially well in a working-class state with one of the nation’s highest inflation rates. But both sides always expected the race to be decided in a razor’s edge, with Cortez Masto seeking a second term in a state the GOP has long seen as its best chance to take over.
Cortez Masto, who is the first Latina elected to the Senate, has put abortion access at the center of her campaign, warning that her opponent could help enact a federal ban on abortion even as Nevada guaranteed access to the procedure by ballot. She also touted Democrats’ efforts to cut costs, including the cost of prescription drugs.
Laxalt said he would not support a national abortion ban, although he supports a statewide referendum to ban abortions after 13 weeks. During the general election, he said little about his role in fueling former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud as Democrats attacked him on the issue.
During a news conference earlier Saturday, Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria was asked if any campaigns had raised concerns about the counting process. “I have nothing to report there,” he said. Later, Gloria added that he had heard “nothing from any campaign” about the fraud allegations.
The Senate was evenly divided between the two parties during Biden’s presidency, and Vice President Harris was authorized to cast tie votes. The fight for a majority was the focal point of the mid-term campaign, with huge sums of money flowing into key states. The inexperienced candidates Trump has elevated have eased the way for Democrats in some key races, sometimes stumbling and giving Democrats more room to attack.
In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) defeated well-known doctor Mehmet Oz, the first Republican candidate to be endorsed by the former president. Or faced scrutiny through his popular TV show, which promoted questionable products; his long residence in New Jersey; and instances Democrats used to paint him as an out-of-touch candidate, including his own reference to raw vegetables as “raw”.
The Arizona race also featured a Trump-backed Masters rookie who has been branded an extremist by Democrats. They seized on his comments about privatizing Social Security and his support for abortion restrictions, including a national 15-week ban.
Democrats have fended off other challenges, blocking Republican attempts to advance in Colorado, Washington state and New Hampshire. Republicans nominated more moderate candidates in the first two states, but in New Hampshire it was the GOP candidate Don Bolduca far-right candidate who embraced much of Trump’s platform and falsely claimed that Trump had won the 2020 election.
Republicans retained control of open seats in North Carolina and Ohio and will send two new senators to the upper house from those states: Rep. Ted Budd and author JD Vance. In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson (R) narrowly won re-election in a competitive contest.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) ran narrowly ahead of Republican candidate Herschel Walker, a former football player. But no candidate met the 50 percent threshold needed to prevent a runoff. The two will face off again in the second round next month. Both sides were getting ready in a purple state.
In Alaska, vote counting continues under a new ranked choice system. In that race, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, Trump’s target, and Kelly Chibaka, a challenger backed by the former president, were competing.
Overall, Democrats held Senate defenses in 14 states this year in the midterms — all of which were won by Biden in 2020. Republicans held defenses in 21 states, including two that Biden won. One was Pennsylvania, so far the only flipped seat.
Schumer praised the quality of Democratic leaders and said they won in part because Republicans nominated “flawed” candidates. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign, said in a statement that the victories represented “the strong support of the majority of Democrats in the Senate” and “a rejection of the extremism represented by the GOP.”
The losses have sparked discontent among Senate Republicans, with at least six pushing for a delay in next week’s leadership election amid Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership challenge.
The Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group closely associated with McConnell (R-Ky.), has spent more than $230 million this cycle supporting Republicans in races across the country. Without directly criticizing Trump, McConnell lamented before the election that problems with the “quality of candidates” made it more difficult for Republicans to change the Senate than the House.
With several Trump-backed Senate candidates losing, Trump and his allies tried to shift the blame to McConnell, criticizing him for not spending more in Arizona to support Masters and other decisions.
Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.
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