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Control of US House, Senate Too Close to Call

https://ift.tt/YxnhPov state of U.S. political fortunes was in limbo Wednesday, with control of both chambers in Congress uncertain pending vote counting that could extend for days in too-close-to-call contests for seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Before Tuesday’s nationwide congressional elections, an array of pollsters predicted opposition Republicans would claim control of the House and possibly the Senate, leaving Republican officials confident they would be able to thwart Democratic President Joe Biden’s policy aspirations for the second half of his four-year term in the White House.

The Senate now is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. But in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Democrats flipped control of the Republican-held seat in the eastern state of Pennsylvania, while the outcome remained uncertain in three other states – Arizona and Nevada in the western part of the United States and Georgia in the South.

Thirty-five of the Senate’s 100 seats were at stake. 

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Pennsylvania’s Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, claimed a soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat in the eastern state, defeating his Republican opponent, celebrity television doctor Mehmet Oz, who would have become the Senate’s first Muslim member.

In Georgia, incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock held a narrow edge over his Republican opponent, former college and professional football star Herschel Walker. But with a third candidate in the race winning 2% of the vote, the eventual outcome was headed to a December 6 runoff since neither Warnock nor Walker reached the 50% threshold needed to win.

The same uncertainty remains in the House of Representatives that is now narrowly controlled by Democrats. As of Wednesday afternoon, Republicans appeared more likely to gain a 218-seat majority in the 435-member chamber, having won 203 seats compared with the Democrats’ 187. There are still 45 contests to be decided.

All the House seats were at stake in Tuesday’s voting.  

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Numerous Republican officials had predicted a red wave of victories. When that did not materialize, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the likely new House speaker if Republicans control the chamber, delayed an election night speech.

Finally, addressing subdued supporters in the wee hours of Wednesday, he said, “It is clear we’re going to take the House back. When we wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority and [current House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority.”

In his remarks, he ignored the fact that Democrats had a much better night than had been expected.

Biden watched election returns Tuesday night at the White House and called victorious Democrats to congratulate them, although he made no public comments about the election. The White House said Biden would hold a late Wednesday afternoon news conference.

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In some states, election officials cautioned it could be days before the outcome is known, as envelopes with mailed-in ballots postmarked by Election Day are laboriously opened and then counted.

Break with history

No matter the eventual vote counts, the outcome was certain to defy U.S. political history in which the party of a first-term president – in this case the Democrats – often loses large numbers of House seats in what is seen as a sort of voter rebuke to political overreach by a new president.

Democratic President Bill Clinton lost 54 House seats to Republicans in 1994 and Democratic President Barack Obama lost 63 in 2010. Republican President George W. Bush defied history and won eight seats in 2002 while enjoying broad support in the aftermath of the 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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All 435 seats in the House were at stake in Tuesday’s voting, and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. The Senate is currently evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes for the Democrats, so Republicans need to pick up only one seat to take the majority. Democrats control the House 220-212, with three vacancies.

More than 45 million people cast their ballots in early, in-person or mail-in voting before Tuesday’s official Election Day. Some analysts suggested the total vote in contests across the country could top the record 115 million tally set in the 2018 midterm elections.

Voters in many states also had questions on their ballots, including the legal status of abortion, sports betting and marijuana. Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved initiatives enshrining abortion rights in the states’ constitutions, while voters in the mid-South state of Kentucky rejected a ballot initiative that would have barred abortion in the state, even as they re-elected an abortion opponent, Senator Rand Paul.

Maryland voters decided to make cannabis legal, but in several other states similar proposals appear headed for defeat.

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History was made in two states. Maryland elected its first Black governor, Wes Moore, a Democrat. Massachusetts will have its first female governor and the country’s first openly lesbian chief executive of a state, Maura Healey, also a Democrat.

In Arkansas, former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, was elected governor, as expected. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as governor of the state for a decade.

In one key state contest for governor, Florida’s Ron DeSantis easily won reelection. Some Republicans are pushing DeSantis to oppose former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and he has not ruled out a possible run for the White House.

Trump, a Florida resident, said he voted for DeSantis on Tuesday in the state’s gubernatorial contest but has publicly been disparaging a possible DeSantis run for the White House, last week dubbing him as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

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On the eve of the election, at a rally in Ohio, Trump said he would make a big announcement next Tuesday, which political analysts expect will be the launch of his 2024 presidential bid.

Election Day was mostly smooth throughout the country. But officials in two Republican-controlled states, Missouri and Florida, refused to let federal Justice Department officials inside polling locations to monitor voting for possible rights violations. Top election officials for the two states questioned the department’s authority to have observers inside precincts.

Both Republican and Democratic parties monitored polls in many places across the United States to watch for any perceived irregularities, although actual fraud in U.S. elections is minuscule. The Justice Department also monitored compliance with federal voting rights laws in 24 states other than Missouri and Florida.

Economy, abortion on voters’ minds

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In a recent Pew Research Center poll, more than three-quarters of U.S. voters said the economy was their top concern this election.

“The interest rates, the housing market, the price of gas, you know, you’re noticing in the grocery stores food is very, very expensive, and there’s items that you can’t even find anymore. It’s a huge, huge concern,” Amanda Douglas, a voter in the southeastern state of Georgia, told VOA.

After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June ending the federal right to abortion, social issues have also motivated some voters.

“I think everybody should have access to health care [regardless of] what your personal views are on Roe v. Wade or abortion,” Georgia voter Theresa Allmend told VOA.

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VOA’s Katherine Gypson, Masood Farivar, and Steve Herman contributed to this report.

Author webdesk@voanews.com (Ken Bredemeier)
Source : VOA

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