It may take days to decide who controls Congress.
Both parties score major House victories, but tight races hang in balance.
By Sara Burnett, Jill Colvin, and Will Weissert | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON >> Control of Congress hung in the balance late Tuesday night with both parties scoring victories in some of the most competitive races in a midterm election that centered on voter frustration over high inflation and the sudden rollback of abortion rights.
Congressional races in Southern California figured to play into control of the House of Representatives, but early results showed tight races that might not be determined until later in the week.
Luke Fransen casts his ballot at a voting center at Irvine Valley College on Tuesday. It was Fransen’s first time voting, he said. PAUL BERSEBACH — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A district-by-district fight was underway for control of the House, where Democrats held closely watched seats in moderate suburban districts from Virginia to Kansas and Rhode Island. Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran who serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, was the first Democratic incumbent to lose a highly competitive House district. Many other districts had not been called.
Democrats held a crucial Senate seat in New Hampshire, where incumbent Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who had initially promoted former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election but tried to shift away from some of the more extreme positions he took during the GOP primary. Republicans held Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.
The outcome of races for House and Senate will determine the future of President Joe 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.
Democrats 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.
In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Fetterman had faced questions about his fitness for office after suffering a stroke just days before the state’s primary, but nonetheless bested Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in a major rebuke to Trump, whose endorsement helped Oz win his competitive primary.
“I’m so humbled,” Fetterman, wearing his signature hoodie, told his supporters early Wednesday morning. “This campaign has always been about fighting for everyone who’s ever been knocked down that ever got back up.”
Democrats also held a crucial Senate seat in New Hampshire, where incumbent Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who had initially promoted Trump’s lies about the 2020 election but tried to shift away from some of the more extreme positions he took during the GOP primary. Republicans held Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.
Also in Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro beat Republican Doug Mastriano to keep the governorship of a key presidential battleground state blue. Shapiro’s victory rebuffed an election denier who some feared would not certify a Democratic presidential win in the state in 2024. Democrats Tony Evers in Wisconsin, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Kathy Hochul of New York, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Janet Mills of Maine also repelled Republican challengers.
Incumbent Republican governors had some success. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp won reelection, defeating Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, two future possible Republican presidential contenders, beat back Democratic challengers to win in the nation’s two largest red states.
AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the national electorate, showed that high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy were heavily influencing voters. Half of voters said inflation factored significantly, with groceries, gasoline, housing, food and other costs that have shot up in the past year. Slightly fewer — 44% — said the future of democracy was their primary consideration.
Biden didn’t entirely shoulder the blame for inflation, with close to half of voters saying the higher-than-usual prices were more because of factors outside of his control. And despite the president bearing criticism from a pessimistic electorate, some of those voters backed Democratic candidates.
Overall, 7 in 10 voters said the ruling overturning the 1973 decision enshrining abortion rights was an important factor in their midterm decisions. VoteCast also showed the reversal was broadly unpopular. About 6 in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied by it, while about 4 in 10 were pleased. And roughly 6 in 10 say they favor a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.
There were no widespread problems with ballots or voter intimidation reported around the country, though there were hiccups typical of most Election Days.
In the first national election since the Jan. 6 insurrection, some who participated in or were in the vicinity of the attack on the U.S. Capitol were poised to win elected office. One of those Republican candidates, J.R. Majewski, who was at the U.S. Capitol during the deadly riot and who misrepresented his military service, lost to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Democratic Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton held off spirited Republican challengers in Virginia districts the GOP had hoped to flip.
The 2022 elections are on track to cost a projected $16.7 billion at the state and federal level, making them the most expensive midterms ever, according to the nonpartisan campaign finance tracking organization OpenSecrets.
All House seats were up for grabs, as were 34 Senate seats.
Trump lifted Republican Senate candidates to victory in Ohio and North Carolina. JD Vance, the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” defeated 10-term congressman Tim Ryan, while Rep. Ted Budd beat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Trump, who inserted himself into races across the country, endorsing more than 300 candidates, had hoped the night would end in a red wave that he could ride to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but his picks lost high-stakes contests in Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire. After summoning reporters and his most loyal supporters to a watch party at his Mar-a-Lago club, he ended the night without a triumphant speech. Nonetheless, he took to his social media platform to insist he’d had “A GREAT EVENING.”
Biden, meanwhile, spent the night calling Democrats to congratulate them on their wins.
In governors’ races, the GOP faced unexpected headwinds in flipping the office in conservative Kansas, while Democrats were nervous about their prospects in the race in Oregon, typically a liberal bastion.
Despite their liberal history, states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois have elected moderate Republican governors in the past. But the Republican candidates this year appeared to be too conservative in these states, handing Democrats easy victories.
Massachusetts and Maryland also saw historic firsts: Democrat Maura Healey became the first woman elected as Massachusetts governor, as well as the first openly lesbian governor of any state, and Wes Moore became the first Black governor of Maryland.
Healey bested Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts and Moore beat Dan Cox in Maryland, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker defeated state Sen. Darren Bailey. Bolduc, Cox and Bailey were among the far-right Republicans that Democrats spent tens of millions of dollars to bolster during the primaries, betting they would be easier to beat in general elections than their more moderate rivals.