The Republican Party in a major effort to break the Democratic control of Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) – Looking to regain control of Congress, energetic Republicans made a big push late Tuesday in tight races as they battled to break the Democrats’ one-party grip on Washington and derail President Joe Biden’s once-lofty agenda.
As polls began to close from the East Coast to the West, the Democrats’ fragile hold on power was threatened. With a closely held House and an evenly divided Senate, the party faced a a new generation of Republican candidates – among them political newcomers, including those who deny the 2020 elections and some extremists inspired by Donald Trump who easily won some seats.
But the races were tight, and Republicans faced stiff competition in their march across states, particularly in Virginia’s House races, pointing to a looming crisis.
Even with a slim majority, Republicans could bring new intensity to Capitol Hill by promising to end Biden’s most ambitious plans and launch investigations and closer oversight — even, potentially, impeachment of the president.
Tuesday saw the first major national elections of January 6, 2021, the attack on the Capitol, and the emotions were raw. Recently violent attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband it startled many, and federal law enforcement officials warned of increased threats across the country. Biden’s party worked to hold on by the slimmest of margins.
“We intend to win,” Pelosi told PBS’ “NewsHour,” insisting that Democrats have “far superior candidates” and voters will show their support.
“So I think you’re going to be surprised tonight,” Pelosi said.
All 435 seats in the House and one third of the Senate were up for grabs. If the Republican newcomers help the party take control of the House and possibly the Senate, the outcome will present new challenges to Congress’ ability to govern — especially if the margins are slim.
In the House race, battleground Virginia provided a snapshot. Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a former Navy commander who touted her work on a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 mutiny.
But elsewhere, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger defeated Trump-backed Yesli Vega in a district Republicans had hoped to flip. And Democrats held House seats in Rhode Island, Ohio and Kansas that Republicans wanted.
Senate races remain in flux. Republican JD Vance, venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in Ohio. In New Hampshire, Trump-style Republican Don Bolduc failed to unseat Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
The Senate race remained focused on four hotly contested states — Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania — where the race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz for an open seat was seen as key to party control.
Divided government has historically offered the possibility of bipartisan deal-making, but Republican candidates have instead campaigned on a platform to stop Democrats.
“I think this is going to end up being an administration that is defined by conflict,” said Brendan Buck, a former top aide to the last two Republican House Speakers.
Without a unified agenda of their own, Republicans have threatened confrontations that could spark crises as they vow to cut federal spending, refuse to increase the national debt and refuse to support Ukraine in war with Russia. Everything pointed to a potential deadlock.
“It’s going to make it clear to them that there’s a new sheriff in town,” Buck said.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to wrest the speaker’s gavel from Pelosi next year if Democrats lose power, has recruited the most racially diverse class of House GOP candidates, with more women than ever. But there is also a new cadre of Trump loyalists, incl election skeptics and denierssome of which were around the Capitol at January 6.
Trump has endorsed hundreds of candidates across the country this election cycle, though they weren’t always the first choices of McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. In the interview, the former president said he supported McCarthy for speaker and mocked his old nemesis McConnell as a “bad leader,” according to Fox News.
In a sign of the country’s toxic political climate, Pelosi canceled most public appearances in the final week of the campaign after an intruder broke into her family’s San Francisco home in the middle of the night, demanding to know “Where’s Nancy?” and beating her 82-year-old husband in the head with a hammer. Authorities said the Oct. 28 attack specifically targeted the speaker’s home.
The election took place amid deep discontent. A majority of Americans — about 7 in 10 — disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, according to the AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of more than 90,000 voters nationally. About 4 out of 10 disapprove.
In the House, several new Republicans were elected in Florida’s redistricting. They will be joined by 25-year-old Democrat Maxwell Frost — the first member of Generation Z to win a seat in Congress.
Far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a key Trump ally, won again in the Georgia election.
And the officials held their own. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated JR Majewski, a Republican who was in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, was re-elected in New York. Republican Sens. Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida defeated their Democratic opponents. In Colorado, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet also won re-election.
Counting of votes could extend beyond Election Day in many states, and Georgia in particular could go to a runoff on Dec. 6 if no candidate wins a majority. Both sides have already filed lawsuits in some cases, hinting at court battles that could delay the final results.
Republicans need a net gain of five seats in the House to achieve a majority of 218 seats and a net gain of one to take control of the Senate. The 50-50 Senate is now in Democratic hands as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the deciding vote, in what has been one of the longest stretches of a divided Senate in modern times.
Democrats subsequently gained momentum on the abortion issue The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, and warned voters about MAGA conservatives, short for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
But Republicans focused voters’ attention on issues closer to home — high price inflation and crime — as they become uneasy about the direction of the country.
Senate Republican leader McConnell has openly railed against the “quality of candidates” that could cost his party victory, while Trump has championed his preferred candidates to create a potentially untested class of newcomers.
House Democrats have faced their own hiring woes, a situation exacerbated by a series of Democratic retirements as longtime lawmakers head for the exits.
In a dramatic example of the tough political environment for Democrats, campaign chairman Sean Patrick Maloney is fighting for political survival against Republican state legislator Mike Lawler in New York’s Hudson Valley. He would be the first Democratic campaign chairman to suffer defeat in two decades.
Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the medium term at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.
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