(CN) – In the Midwest, Democrats lost crucial Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri, giving Republicans firm control of the U.S. Senate, but Democrats racked up victories in hotly contested races for U.S. House seats.
Comments from voters showed that President Donald Trump was foremost on citizens’ minds as they went to the polls.
In Missouri, Republican Josh Hawley defeated Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in a nationally-watched U.S. Senate race.
As of 11 p.m. CST, Hawley was poised to win by a 55-42 margin. With 93 percent of the votes in, Hawley had 1,153,339 votes compared to McCaskill’s 995,537.
“What the people of Missouri said tonight is that they want a senator who actually stands with the people of Missouri, who represents our values, who respects our voice and who will fight for us in Washington D.C. and I will,” Hawley said in an acceptance speech in Springfield.
President Trump made two stops in Missouri in the past week to campaign for Hawley, the state’s attorney general. Trump won Missouri by almost 20 percent in 2016.
“I’m a Christian and I believe the Democratic platform comes from the pits of hell,” Ronnie Taylor, a Hawley supporter, said while leaving a south St. Louis County polling place. “I vote against the Democrats completely until they change that platform.”
Taylor said he disagreed with the Democrats on hot button issues such as abortion, evolution and same-sex marriage.
David Ousley braved rain and dropping temperatures in downtown Kansas City to place a vote for McCaskill.
“She already has a track record and we like Claire,” Ousley said. “I don’t know (Hawley) but what I do know is that he is more concerned with negative ads than telling people what he can do to help them. I also don’t particularly care for who he associates with; [Republicans] already pushed that Kavanaugh dude through – I hope that pissed women off so much that they run to the polls.”
In Indiana, Republican challenger Mike Braun defeated incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly for his seat in the U.S. Senate.
Braun positioned himself as a pro-business political outsider who is staunchly anti-abortion and who strongly supports the building of a wall on the southern border of the United States.
Touting his background as a businessman, Braun openly supported Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and says he wants to work to make the tax code simpler.
Donnelly ran as a moderate Democrat who supported the building of the wall and expressed anti-abortion views in the past, but backed his party on important healthcare votes.
According to Indiana voter Tricia Meyer, Donnelly “does a good job representing liberal views in a red state, which is hard.”
That appeal to liberals and moderates failed to save Donnelly’s seat Tuesday. The incumbent has been under attack since Trump carried the Hoosier state by 19 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Leading up to election night, many polls had Braun as a slight underdog and in the waning days of the campaign he was buoyed by the help of the president who made several stops in the state.
“A vote for Republicans is a vote to continue our extraordinary prosperity. A vote for the Democrats is a vote to bring this economic boom crashing down very rapidly,” Trump said at a Fort Wayne campaign rally on the eve of Election Day.
Iowa voters delivered a split decision Tuesday, electing a Republican governor while sending two Democrats to Congress.
Incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds, the former lieutenant governor who was elevated to the governor’s office in 2017 when former Gov. Terry Branstad was appointed U.S. ambassador to China, defeated Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell.
Iowa’s most-watched congressional contest was in the 4th District where incumbent Rep. Steve King held on to his seat 50-47 percent against Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten. King had faced criticism by his fellow Republicans over comments he made criticizing diversity and lost support of Iowa companies as well.
In the 1st District, Democratic challenger Abbie Finkenauer won against incumbent Republican Rod Blum. And in the 3rd District, Democrat Cindy Axne defeated two-term Republican incumbent David Young. The two are the first women to be elected to the House of Representatives from Iowa.
Iowa voters interviewed by Courthouse News Service Tuesday tended to identify with the party – Democrat or Republican – they have long supported.
Danielle Nichols, 47, of Des Moines said she voted Democrat because “my Dad was a union worker.”
But President Trump was a factor for both parties.
Jody Kunkel, 56, of Marshalltown, a “longtime Democratic person,” said she was particularly critical of Trump’s “handling of Mexicans, taking their children from parents.”
Republicans generally expressed strong support for President Trump, in large part because of the strength of the economy.
Richard Ziebell, 62, of Des Moines, said “we need to keep things going the way they are going.” Trump is “a little brash, but he gets the job done.”
Howard Hennis, 73, of Marshalltown, said he voted Republican, with the exception of Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller. “I don’t like the free, free, free” give-away style of governing by Democrats, he said. “That ends up costing me money.”
In Minnesota, Democrat Dean Phillips unseated longtime Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen in the 3rd Congressional District, and Democrat Angie Craig beat Republican incumbent Jason Lewis in the 2nd District in a heated rematch from two years ago.
Phillips, a successful businessman and distillery heir, will be the first Democrat to serve the 3rd District since 1961. He built his campaign around the slogan “Everyone’s invited!” and at times ran offbeat political ads, including Bigfoot tracking down Paulsen – who has been accused of avoiding constituents – to see if he “really does exist?”
Voter Kathy Moan, 59, from Minnetonka, said she thinks Phillips is “fresh” and can bring something new to the district.
“I do think [Trump] really does have issues with sex and color, and he has given certain generations and people this privilege that you can finally come out and say who you really are. That’s what really bothers me,” Moan said.
She added that the Trump presidency has torn apart her family, creating political divisions especially with her parents.
Incumbent Paulsen tried to distance himself from Trump, avoiding rallies with the president and Trump’s late-minute endorsement, but voters seemed to view the election as a referendum on Trump regardless.
Harry Johnson Jr., 84, a plastic surgeon from Edina, voted for Paulsen Tuesday and for Trump in 2016. Johnson said he agreed with both Trump’s economic and immigration policies and likes the president’s demeanor because he “really tells it how it is.”
In the 2nd District, Craig narrowly defeated former conservative talk show host Lewis who focused his campaign around GOP tax cuts and attacking the Affordable Care Act.
Voter Oliver Jorbedom, 56, an immigrant from Nigeria, commented on this election: “The fact that people are more divided is a problem. This is why many people came to [America] because it was a home for everyone. I would like to see a more united nation.”
Carol, 73, an Eagan resident, said Lewis’ attacks on the former healthcare executive [Craig] were the deciding factor for her vote.
“Brag about yourself all you want, but don’t call your opponent a dirty dog,” she said. Lewis’ latest attack ad alluded that Craig worked for corrupt companies.
Carol said she finds the political climate today as the most “unsettling” it has been in a while. The retiree, who volunteers at the library – which served as a polling location – said she is “still optimistic” for our nation and loosely recited a quote from George R.R. Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”
In Illinois, J.B. Pritzker won the governor’s race in a landslide, clenching a Democratic victory in an ugly race against incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
At Chicago polls, many voters expressed reservations about Pritzker, but said that Rauner needed to go.
“[Rauner] had a chance and didn’t get anything done,” Chicago voter Dorothea Flores said. “It’s time for someone else.”
The race set a new record as the most expensive gubernatorial race in U.S. history, just passing the 2010 California race, with more than $284 million raised by both candidates.
Most of the money was contributed by the candidates themselves, both of whom are extremely wealthy men who spent much of the campaign addressing their concern for the working class.
Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel chain, has a net worth of approximately $3.4 billion, while Rauner, who headed his own private equity firm before becoming governor, is worth several hundred million dollars.
“They’re both rich guys,” Chicago voter Edna Wilmer said, “but healthcare is important to me, so I voted for Pritzker.”
Pritzker’s win was fueled by a deep dissatisfaction with Rauner’s inability to reach a fiscal compromise with the Democratic state Legislature during his single term, leaving the state without a budget for two and a half years. The stalemate only ended when enough Republican lawmakers agreed to join Democrats in voting to override Rauner’s budget veto.
In the meantime, Illinois’ credit rating was almost downgraded junk, and many state agencies had to cut services.
Rauner called Pritzker less than an hour after polls closed to concede. In his concession speech, he told Pritzker, “Godspeed. I hope and pray you serve Illinois well.”
In the highly-watched race for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District seat, Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Bost defeated Democrat Brendan Kelly. With 585 out of 649 precincts reporting, Bost had 119,826 (53.4 percent) votes compared to 97,765 (43.5 percent) for Kelly.
“I know what it’s like to work across the aisle and I will continue to do that,” Bost told his supporters during his acceptance speech. “We’ve got to move this nation forward. I believe over the last two years we’ve done that and we’ve done that well.”
Cindy Kistler of Columbia, said she supported Bost.
“[Number 1,] I don’t want my taxes to go up for one and I know he’s not going to raise it,” Kistler said. “Number 2, he supports right-to-work.”
K.J., a man from Belleville, said he supported Kelley, saying it was time for a change.
“I don’t like the fact that Illinois has gone how many years without a budget, has gone just years being stagnant,” he said. “I think that’s part of the infighting at the very top.”
In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the former state Senate Minority Leader, was victorious over Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette in the governor’s race.
In the hotly contested 8th Congressional District, the most expensive political race in state history ended with Democrat Elissa Slotkin narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Mike Bishop, who conceded around 1 a.m. EST.
Michigan voters flocked to the polls on a blustery Tuesday to cast their votes.
Candice Christian from Brighton said she voted for Republicans straight down the line with the hope that they can help the local economy.
“My job went to Mexico. I worked for Magna International almost 10 years. I work 7 days a week, 12 hour days,” Christian said, her voice cracking. “And then all of the sudden they pick it up and take it to Mexico.”
In spite of that, she thinks Republicans are doing a good job in power, and voted for Trump in 2016.
“When he came down that escalator, man, I jumped for joy,” Christian said. “Things aren’t great but they’re a whole lot better than they were.”
“I think it’s unfortunate how they’ve treated his family. Look what he gave up, he gave up a lifestyle…they call him a crook. He’s a thief. No. Barack Obama was a thief, I mean, with all the money that was stolen…especially on Medicare…$800 billion dollars he stole from Medicare, to give to the Iran[ians].”
Another voter, Carrie from Brighton, supported Slotkin because of frustration with elected officials but said she wouldn’t commit to vote the whole Democratic slate.
“I’m totally split ballot,” she said. “I’m voting Libertarian [Bill Gelineau]. That was a difficult decision. I’m a pro-life person but I don’t like Schuette, and I don’t like Whitmer’s harsh stance on abortion.”
Another voter, Wally, said he voted “Neither Bishop or Slotkin so I chose the third.”
He voted for Whitmer for governor.
“He’s [Schuette] been in the political realm for a while. Going between the both of them, I gave it to her. So, we’ll see.”
Lorraine Bailey, Dionne Cordell-Whitney, Traci Rork, Joe Harris, Rox Laird, Andy Olesko and David Wells contributed to this report.