GOP retains control of Congress; Democrats earn slight gains in House

UPDATE — 11/9, 7:04 p.m. EST: Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte officially lost her reelection bid Wednesday, as New Hampshire’s Secretary of State announced Gov. Maggie Hassan the winner by only 1,023 votes.

Democrats have now secured 48 seats in the upper-legislative chamber, with Republicans likely to occupy a majority of 52 if GOP candidate John Kennedy wins the Louisiana runoff election on Dec. 10.


Republicans maintained majorities in both Houses of Congress on Tuesday evening, dashing the Democratic Party’s hopes of wrestling control of both legislative chambers on Election Day.

In what was a stunning reversal to pollsters whose apocalyptic predictions described the Senate falling into Democratic hands, vulnerable Republicans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina thwarted bids from Democratic challengers.

In the Tar Heel State, incumbent Republican Richard Burr avoided a loss to North Carolina state assembly member Deborah Ross, holding on to his seat by a six-point margin.

Once considered a lost seat, and one in which political groups had for a time withdrawn financial backing, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, turned away former senator Russ Feingold’s bid to return to the Senate. Defeated by Johnson in 2010, Feingold had led in state polls by as many as 10 percentage points until three weeks ago when a late infusion of campaign money lifted Republican fortunes.

In Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey, who had distanced himself from GOP nominee Donald Trump, defeated former aide to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Kate McGinty.  Alternatively leading and trailing until the race’s final weeks, McGinty was dogged late by allegations she had used state time to focus on her campaign for the Senate.  McGinty lost to Toomey by approximately 100,000 votes.

In Ohio, incumbent Rob Portman easily defeated former Buckeye State governor Ted Strickland by 21 percentage points and Missouri’s Roy Blunt staved off a strong challenge from Democrat and U.S. Army Afghanistan veteran Jason Kander.

In New Hampshire, where reigning senator Kelly Ayotte was mounting a furious bid to hold her seat against challenger Governor Maggie Hassan, polls currently have Ayotte clinging to a slight lead, but the race remains to close to call.

In an expected flip, U.S. House member Tammy Duckworth unseated one-term Illinois Senator Mark Kirk handily. Duckworth, a former army pilot who lost her legs during action in Iraq easily defeated Kirk, earning a 15 percentage plurality.  Kirk, who returned to the Senate in 2012 after suffering a stroke, never held a lead in polls tracking the state’s U.S. Senate race.

In upending the hopes for a GOP pickup, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto maintained Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s seat by defeating Nevada state assemblyman and physician, Joe Heck, by three percentage points.

Republicans are expected to hold at least 52 seats in the 115th Congress, as GOP Senate candidate John Kennedy is favored to win a Dec. 10 run-off election in Louisiana over Democrat Foster Campbell.

“After eight years of the Obama administration, the American people have chosen a new direction for our nation. President-elect Trump has a significant opportunity to bring our nation together,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “It is my hope and intent that we succeed in the years ahead by working together with our colleagues across the aisle to strengthen our national and economic security.”

In the lower chamber, Democrats scored modest gains and can be expected to win as many as six seats in the House of Representatives.

In New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District, seven-term incumbent Scott Garrett was defeated by Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton.

In the Sunshine State’s 13th district, former Democratic Florida governor Charlie Crist ousted one-term Republican David Jolly.

Additionally in Florida, in a race which was thrown into delirium over redistricting, 12-term House member John Mica was removed from office by the youthful  Stephanie Murphy in a race considered among the closest and most expensive in the country.

Similarly, in Nevada, one-term Republican Cresent Hardy was unseated by Nevada state senator Ruben Kihuen for the right to represent the Silver State’s Fourth Congressional District.

In California, Darrell Issa, representing the state’s 49th congressional district, was holding on to a slim lead over Democratic challenger, Doug Applegate, 51–49 percent.


[New York Times [AP] [ABC News] [Photo courtesy Getty Images]