Buckle up: Key races too close to call | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Buckle up: Key races too close to call

Between President Joe Biden's unpopularity and GOP candidates with questionable backgrounds, it's anyone's guess which party will grasp control of the U.S. Senate.

(CN) — Despite voter concerns over the economy and crime and poor ratings for President Joe Biden, an expected red wave felt more like a ripple as key races to determine who retains powers in the U.S. Congress remained too close to call at the end of Election Day.

Indications of possible GOP enthusiasm and a red wave began flooding conservative and liberal states over the past weeks as polls showed gains by Republicans running on platforms promising to boost the economy and fight crime.

Midterm elections often don’t favor the party of the president in charge. With voter confidence in Biden regularly in the 40s, the GOP entered a leveled playing field, leaving an opening to snag Democratic seats in Congress and gubernatorial races across the country.


This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 3, 2021, left, and Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaking in Perry, Ga., Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo)

It is possible that control of the Senate could remain unknown until next month if it boils down to the race in Georgia, which may head to a runoff if neither incumbent Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock nor former football star Herschel Walker, a Republican, garner 50% of the vote.

As of 1:30 a.m. EST, Warnock led Walker by less than one percent with more than 95% of the vote counted. In recent weeks, Walker, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, came under fire after a former girlfriend accused the anti-abortion candidate of paying for the procedure in 2009 and encouraging her to have another. Despite the allegation, Walker has remained competitive against Warnock, who first grabbed the seat in a 2020 special election.

While split tickets haven’t been commonplace in the state in past elections, some Republican voters appear to have placed their bets with Warnock and Republican incumbent Brian Kemp in the state’s gubernatorial race.

In a rematch of 2018, Kemp again beat Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Abrams had called Kemp to concede the race Tuesday night.


This combination of photos shows Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Oct. 8, 2022, in York, Pa., left, and Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Sept. 23, 2022, in Allentown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

In another race that will decide the trajectory of the U.S. Senate, Democrat John Fetterman has flipped a seat in Pennsylvania. Fetterman beat reality TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz. The seat was previously held by Republican Pat Toomey, who announced he would not seek reelection in October 2020.

At his election headquarters, Fetterman came out to raucous applause to celebrate his win.

"I'm not really sure what to say right now, oh my goodness," Fetterman said. "I'm so humbled, thank you so much."

Oz’s transformation into a viable candidate was nothing short of miraculous. Initially ridiculed by Fetterman’s campaign as an out-of-touch carpetbagger, concerns among voters about the economy tightened the race.

On the gubernatorial side, Democrat Josh Shapiro handily beat Republican Doug Mastriano. Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, enjoyed consolidated party support leading up to Election Day, while Mastriano emerged victorious from a divided primary, which may have hurt him down the line with swing voters.


This combination of photos shows Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers before a televised debate on Oct. 14, 2022, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It’s the Senate race in Wisconsin that has kept politicos on their toes.

Incumbent Senator Ron Johnson is holding onto a slim one-point lead over the state’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes with 92% of the vote counted. Johnson has netted two wins for the seat since he first was elected in 2010 and beat then-Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, by nearly five points.

Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, held onto his early lead to beat Republican businessman Tim Michels. Michels’ surge in the state over recent weeks came as a surprise as the GOP candidate ran a campaign full of “blueprints” to promote economic growth, combat crime and restore election integrity but focused less on the details of how he would accomplish those feats. 


This combination of photos shows Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, left, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

In Arizona, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, led Republican Blake Masters by 16% at 1:30 a.m. EST with 58% of the vote counted. Kelly, a former astronaut, was first elected to the seat in a 2020 special election after he narrowly beat fighter pilot Martha McSally by 2.4%. That race was also too close to call on election night.

The state’s governor’s race was a similar tale as Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, held onto a smaller 12-point lead over Republican Kari Lake, a former news anchor.

Lake, who believes Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election, said Tuesday night that she would take on the state's election system if she wins.

"I want you to know we are going to monitor the ballots," Lake said during a speech at her election headquarters. "And as they continue to come in and our numbers go up, up, up like they did last time, first line of action is to restore honesty to Arizona elections."

That theme also held true as Democrat Adrian Fontes led Republican Mark Finchem in early returns, 58% to 42%, for Arizona’s secretary of state. 

While the current tallies look promising for the Democratic candidates, they largely reflect early mail-in ballot totals, which increasingly skew Democrat as more swathes of Republican and Independent voters distrust the mail-in process following Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Officials in Maricopa County, Arizona's largest county, reported problems early Tuesday with ballot tabulators in about 40 of its 223 voting centers. Election officials said voters at those centers could insert their ballots into "Door No. 3," a secure drop box that would be transported to the county's election tabulation center and later counted by a bipartisan team. It's unclear how this may further delay the count.


Tuesday night came with expected flipped seats and other surprises in U.S. House races.

In Florida, veterans Anna Paulina Luna and Cory Mills beat their competition on the left, switching the state's 15th and 7th congressional districts from blue to red. In Ohio, former state House Minority Leader Emilia Skyes defeated Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert to flip the 13th Congressional District for Democrats.

And in other governor's races, there were a couple of expected victories for Democrats. Wes Moore became the first Black governor in Maryland history. And Maura Healey became the first openly lesbian governor after she won in Massachusetts. President Biden called Moore and Healey to congratulate them on their wins, according to a pool report.

Republican incumbent Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis held onto their seats in Texas and Florida, respectively.

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