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Republicans extend control over Senate, Democrats take the House

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Posted at 1:18 AM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-06 20:28:59-05

(RNN) – Both parties are pleased and disappointed in an election that saw the Republicans extend their control over the Senate and the Democrats take control of the House.

With turnout at a record high for a midterm election, both parties showed up at the polls, creating an even bigger political divide in Congress, which President Donald Trump will have to navigate.

Political leaders for both parties expressed their satisfaction with the results. Trump tweeted his happiness over Republicans winning a number of high-profile campaigns, and Nancy Pelosi was jubilant as she addressed a crowd at a victory party.

Trump called Pelosi after it was clear how the chips were falling for both parties.

“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” she said from a party in Washington, DC. “In stark contrast to a GOP Congress, a Democratic Congress will be led with transparency and openness.”

The election is close, and the chips continue falling as many predicted, while the country still watches and waits for results in some high-profile competitive races.

The Democrats have taken control of the House by flipping 23 seats so far, and more could yet turn. Republicans have taken control of three more seats, and are also eyeing more, in particular in Arizona and Florida, where they held slim leads.

A number of big-ticket governor’s races also turned on close elections, with Republican Ron DeSantis winning over Andrew Gillum in Florida and Democrat Laura Kelly pulling off an upset in Kansas.

In Georgia, it was too close to call late into the night, though Republican Brian Kemp held a distinct advantage over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

As Republicans have dominated Congress during Trump’s first two years, now Democrats will have a chance to offer a check to the balance of power.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas held on to his seat in a high-profile race. Democrat Beto O’Rourke ran a competitive campaign, but Cruz’s base came out to support him.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, was resoundingly defeated by Republican Josh Hawley. The state is solidly red, and Trump campaigned in the state twice in the last week before the election.

McCaskill was not the only Democrat to lose a Senate seat. Republican Mike Braun unseated incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota lost her seat to Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer. Heitkamp was widely considered vulnerable after voting against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Florida’s results, in particular, were evocative of the razor-thin margins of the 2016 election.

DeSantis defeated Gillum to become Florida’s new governor after a particularly heated campaign, by a margin of just 1 percent.

“Y’all, I want to encourage you not to give up. I want to encourage you to stick to the fight," Gillum said during his concession speech. “I want you to know, that every step of this way, even though I won’t have the blessing of serving as the next governor of the state of Florida, I still plan to be on the front lines right alongside every single one of you when it comes to standing up for what it is that we believe in.”

DeSantis addressed his supporters after receiving a call from Gillum.

“About 15 minutes ago I spoke with Andrew Gillum, and he very graciously conceded the election,” DeSantis said. “He was a –“ DeSantis paused as the crowd cheered.

“He was a very formidable opponent and I wish him well in his future endeavors,” he continued. DeSantis added that he looks forward to working with Trump.

Republican outgoing Gov. Rick Scott held an edge on incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race, which had not yet been called as of early Wednesday morning.

Democratic incumbents Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez managed to hold on to their seats.

In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim Congresswoman after her unopposed victory in the 5th District. In Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, another Muslim woman, won in the 13th District.

Republican county clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky lost to her Democratic challenger, Elwood Caudill Jr. Davis gained notoriety after she was jailed for refusing to issue licenses for same-sex marriage in 2015.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn defeated her Democratic challenger, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, in her Senate bid. Democrats had been hopeful they could flip the seat blue with the popular former governor running against Blackburn.

The Democrats, however, were looking at the House as the big prize of the night, as they incrementally picked up seat after seat to gain a majority.

Colorado Democrat Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor after defeating Republican nominee Walker Stapleton.

One closely watched race was New York’s 14th Congressional District. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after she defeated Republican candidate Anthony Pappas.

Many voters reported waiting in long lines and other difficulties across the U.S earlier in the day.

Even Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp - who is the secretary of state and oversees elections - had difficulty voting on Tuesday.

As a result of ballot box issues, the Georgia NAACP won a lawsuit to keep polls open in two precincts near Spelman College and Morehouse College until 10 p.m.

The nation also is watching the election because Kemp called in the FBI to investigate if the state’s Democratic party tried to hack the voter registration system – without offering evidence. Throughout the campaign, Kemp has received criticism for overseeing a campaign he’s involved in.

The 2018 midterms saw a record number of early voters, more than double the amount in the last midterm election.

According to The Washington Post, early voting totals in at least 17 states surpassed the overall 2014 midterm voter turnout. In Kansas and West Virginia, early voting outpaced the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported.

 

Senate Races

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz held on to his seat, even though Beto O’Rourke showed promise as a worthy challenger. Cruz said the O’Rourke campaign was an “unprecedented assault” and railed against “Hollywood money” infiltrating the campaign.

His opponent took a more inclusive tract.

“We’re not going to define ourselves by who or what we are against, or afraid of, or scared of. We are a great people, ambitious, defined by our aspirations, the hard work that we are willing to commit in order to achieve them. Every single one of us - Republicans, Democrats, Independents - from the biggest of cities, to the smallest of towns, the people of Texas want to do, and will do, the great work of this country.”

In the Senate, some predictable results have already played out. Stalwart liberal incumbents such as Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Tim Kaine, D-VA, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Chris Murphy, D-CT, Ben Cardin, D-MD, Bob Casey, D-PA, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, have been projected to win re-election by the Associated Press.

Bob Menendez in New Jersey also held on in a tough re-election campaign.

Incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin, also considered vulnerable in conservative West Virginia, managed to win his re-election bid.

Strong Republican challenges to Democratic incumbents in Indiana and Florida were being closely watched.

The Mississippi special Senate race between Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith will go to a runoff on Nov. 27 after no candidate got 50-percent of the vote. Hyde-Smith was appointed to her Senate seat to replace incumbent Thad Cochran after he retired in April.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also held onto their seats.

Republican Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first female senator by defeating former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, won a Utah Senate seat on the Republican ticket.

House Races

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, who has made headlines for her opposition to Trump, won re-election in her state’s 43rd Congressional District, according to the AP. Waters was one of several prominent politicians who were targeted by mail bombs in late October.

Democrat Kendra Horn won Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District – in what the statistics website FiveThirtyEight said was the biggest upset of the election.

In Kentucky’s 6th District, Republican incumbent Andy Barr held off a fierce challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath in a big win for the GOP. Republicans also held Ross Spano’s seat in Florida’s 15th District.

Democrats, seeking to flip 21 seats to take the House, scored in Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton upset incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock in the 10th District, a district that was Republican for decades. And Donna Shalala (in Florida’s 27th District) also flipped a seat that had belonged to outgoing Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim Congresswoman after her unopposed victory in Minnesota’s 5th District. Rashida Tlaib, another Muslim woman, won in the 13th District.

Democrat Jahana Hayes won the House race in Connecticut’s 5th District to become the first black woman to represent the state in Congress.

In New Mexico and Kansas, Democrats Deb Haarland and Sharice Davids will become the first two Native American women in Congress.

Twenty-nine-year-old Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, representing New York’s 14th Congressional District.

Republican Steve Scalise, who was shot when a gunman targeting conservatives opened fire on a practice for the Congressional baseball game last year, becoming a symbol of the country’s sometimes violent divides, was re-elected in Louisiana’s 1st District.

Steve King, the Republican incumbent for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, also won re-election.

Governor Races

Kansas elected Democrat state Sen. Laura Kelly as governor over incumbent Kris Kobach. Known for writing laws for states that took a hardline on immigration, Kobach rose from secretary of state to governor.

As secretary of state, Kobach also implemented strict guidelines for voter ID laws. Kobach also worked with the Trump administration on a possible a Muslim registry.

Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in a race that was neck-and-neck to the end.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the Michigan gubernatorial race, ending Republicans’ eight-year hold over the state governor’s office.

Observers anxiously awaited returns in Georgia, where Democrats pinned their hopes on Stacey Abrams against Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a contentious race.

A number of Republican incumbents, including Bill Lee in Tennessee, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, Greg Abbott in Texas and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts were predicted to cruise to re-election.

Democrat Andrew Cuomo won re-election without difficulty in New York.

Ballot Measures

In Florida, voters approved an amendment that will restore voting rights to most felons when they complete their sentences. Those convicted of sex offenses and murder are exempt from the amendment.

Previously, felons had to wait at least five years after their sentence was fulfilled before they could request their voting rights restored. About 1.5 million people are affected by the new law.

Voters in Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma approved Marsy’s Law, which advocated for victims' rights. The well-funded initiative is also on the ballot in Kentucky, Nevada and North Carolina.

Marsy's Law would ensure the victim of crimes be told about criminal proceedings, and to be present and heard at those proceedings.

Here are some of the other noteworthy issues being voted on in ballot measures around the country:

  • Voters supported an amendment to Alabama’s state Constitution that would allow the display of the Ten Commandments on state, public and school grounds by a wide margin. More than 7 out of 10 voters backed the measure, according to WBRC.  National organizations that advocate for separation of church and state are already promising legal challenges.
  • Idaho Proposition 2, Montana Initiative 185, Nebraska Initiative 427, Utah Proposition 3: All would, if approved, expand Medicaid eligibility.
  • Alabama Amendment 2, West Virginia Amendment 1: Both are largely symbolic rejections of abortion. Alabama’s measure, if approved, would “recognize and support  the sanctity of unborn life,” and West Virginia’s notes that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.”
  • Michigan Proposal 1, Missouri Amendment 2/Amendment 3/Proposition C, North Dakota Measure 3, Utah Proposition 2: Marijuana laws on the ballot in these four states. Utah and Missouri’s three competing measures would legalize medical marijuana (Missouri has three for different rates of taxation); Michigan and North Dakota would legalize recreational use.
  • Arkansas Issue 5, Missouri Proposition B: Would increase minimum wage (to $11 an hour by 2021 in Arkansas, and $12 an hour by 2023 in Missouri).
  • Washington Initiative 1639: A gun control measure that would “implement restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms including raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, background checks, waiting periods, and storage requirements.”
  • Massachusetts Question 3: If approved, would keep in place a state law that “adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement.”

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