Democrats Pick Up More Seats in Northeastern States

(CN) – In the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, New Hampshire was on its way to electing its first openly gay candidate to a U.S. House seat, a Latino Rhodes scholar took a contested house seat in New York, Elizabeth Warren easily held her Senate seat, Robert Menendez was also re-elected and Maine voted into office its first female governor – all as part of blue tide in the region.

In one of the country’s most hotly contested Congressional races, Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado closely defeated Republican incumbent Rep. John Faso to become the U.S. House representative for New York’s 19th Congressional District, being only the second Democrat to serve as the district’s House member since 1993. At the end of the night, Delgado received 49 percent of the vote, beating Faso by almost 3 percentage points.

Delgado, a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate who had a short stint as a hip-hop artist under the name “AD the Voice,” campaigned in one of the whitest districts in the country, at over 90 percent, focusing less on making the vote a referendum on President Donald Trump’s administration and more on fighting for universal health care for all, with a public option to allow anyone to sign up for health insurance coverage under Medicare.

While some voters voiced concerns that Delgado would not have their local interests at heart, having only recently moved to the district in 2017, other voters grew disillusioned with Faso after he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Asked why he had voted for Delgado, Dimitrius, of Kingston replied, “Do I think there needs to be change? Yes.”

And in an extremely tight race in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, Democratic challenger Anthony J. Brindisi narrowly defeated the Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney, winning by less than a single percentage point. Tenney, a staunch supporter of President Trump, was seeking a second term in the House.

Echoing Delgado, Brindisi’s campaign focused more on healthcare, promising to fix the Affordable Care Act and keeping protections for pre-existing conditions.

Trump, who endorsed both Republican candidates on Twitter, handily won both districts in 2016, besting Hillary Clinton by a 15 percent margin in the 22nd and a 7 percent margin in the 19th.

New Jersey

Robert Menendez will serve a third term representing New Jersey, fending off Republicans to a crucial U.S. Senate seat, according to several projections Tuesday evening.

Menendez, 64, faced stiffer competition than expected after having faced 14 counts of bribery and corruption due to allegations he used his political influence to help an eye doctor with an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute in exchange for luxury vacations, flights on the doctor’s private jet and campaign contributions.

The case initially led to a deadlocked jury and ultimately ended in a mistrial.

Despite his legal woes, Menendez handily won the primary earlier this year, more than doubling the votes of his competitor Lisa McCormick.

Voters at the polls in New Jersey on Tuesday did not seem enthused about Menendez or his competitor, former Celgene Corporation CEO Bob Hugin.

In the 11th District, former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill (D) beat handily out six-term New Jersey Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) in a traditionally red district.

The 11th District, which includes parts of Morris, Essex, Passaic, and Sussex counties, came up for grabs when longtime Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R) announced his retirement earlier this year after more than two decades holding the seat. Democrats then began targeting independents and moderates tired of President Trump.

“I don’t love any of them, but I have to vote, and that’s it,” said Anna Angelo, 50, of East Hanover, during an interview at the polling station at Central Elementary School. “It felt good to put my two cents in.”

As a Republican and first-time voter—Angelo is from Italy and became a U.S. citizen in 2016—Angelo voted for Hugin and Webber. “I don’t know how much I love Webber, but Sherrill, she didn’t answer any questions,” Angelo said, recalling a recent town hall with the Democratic candidate.

Trump dominated other voters’ decisions, with some wearing “Fake News” hats and others rolling their eyes at the mere mention of the president’s name.

Chester Township residents Bernadette and Richard Marcel, both 71, said they voted Democratic all the way down the ballot.

“I used to vote for Republicans years ago when they were sane, but this is outrageous,” Bernadette said, noting Republican leadership has not stood up to the president’s increasingly strident language about immigration. “With this guy in the White House, I will not vote for a Republican for anything, ever, even if it is for dog catcher.”

The Marcels, residents of the 7th District, voted against re-electing Rep. Leonard Lance (R), with Bernadette calling him “a chameleon” who poses as a moderate.

Another crucial district, the 7th, Rep. Leonard Lance (R) lost his re-election campaign against former Obama administration official Tom Malinowski (D).

The 7th District, which encompasses parts of Morris, Essex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties, has been seen as solidly red in recent years and Lance won reelection in 2016 by more than 10 points.

Despite tougher opposition this year from former Obama Administration official Tom Malinowski (D), Lance remained the safe bet for some voters.

“Basically most of the times I vote, I vote Republican, although I have voted Democratic … but I just feel safer with him being in there,” said Hope LeFrancis, 75, outside of the Chester Township Offices, where lines of cars filled with voters waited to park.

“I think there is a much higher interest in the election in general. If I only go by the number of people and the lines inside, it is much more representative of a presidential election,” LeFrancis said.

As another voter pulled precariously close to LeFrancis during the interview she laughingly added: “And just looking at the number of people pulling in and out, it’s worth your car and your life perhaps.”

New Hampshire

In a historic matchup in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, Democrat Chris Pappas narrowly defeated Republican Eddie Edwards to become the state’s first openly gay congressman.

Buoyed by grassroots support, Pappas is a Manchester native who worked his way up through local political offices. His message of being a “check and balance” on the Trump administration was in sharp contrast to Edwards pledge to “help President Trump make America great again.” Had he won, Edwards would have been the state’s first African American congressional delegate.

The closely watched race is a seen as a bellwether for the political climate in New Hampshire. The district, which covers the solidly purple eastern half of the state, has flipped between the two parties’ candidates five times between 2006 and 2016. In 2016, President Trump carried the swing district by a slight margin. With Tuesday’s victory, Democrats hold on to the seat, as Pappas replaces retiring Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.

In the governor’s race, Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beat former Democratic state Sen. Molly Kelly.

Racing to the polls after a 12-hour shift, Nashua voter Jolene Melanson said she goes “back and forth” on Sununu’s performance to date. The 21-year-old, who cited common sense gun control and the high cost of college tuition as important issues to her, said she was voting for Kelly. Citing President Trump’s unusual relationship with Kim Jong Un, controversial comments on race and policy of separating children from their parents at the border, Melanson said she was dismayed that Sununu had not taken a firmer stand against the president’s actions.

“It seems like a lackluster response to something that seems so obviously wrong,” said Melanson.

Voters in the state also faced stricter residency requirements after the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a new voter registration law two weeks ago.

Longtime Nashua native Cara Bello was one of the voters who used the new registration forms. The 47 year old ran into trouble after his name was missing from the voter checklist at his previous polling location. Instructed to go to a different location that matched the address on his license, Bello expressed a determination to cast a ballot despite the mix-up and long wait time to update his registration.

“They gave me a hard time, but nobody gonna stop me,” said Bello.

Maine

With 62 percent of precincts reporting in Maine, Democratic state lawmaker Jared Golden is closely behind Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin in a critical House race where Poliquin seeks to secure a third term in the rural district.

The results of Tuesday’s election are a likely mood indicator of the state’s crucial independent voters. In 2016, the 2nd District gave its one electoral vote to President Trump, splitting the state’s four Electoral College votes for the first time in its history.

Maine’s congressional election is also the first in the nation to use ranked-choice voting. While the method is being used for the state’s U.S. House and Senate races, it can’t be used for local elections after the state’s highest court found that it violated the Maine Constitution.

In another historic election, early returns show Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is likely to become the state’s first female governor, defeating Republican businessman Shawn Moody in a close race. Mills has clashed publicly and legally with the bombastic outgoing Governor Paul LePage, but the race for his replacement remained civil.

As the people’s lawyer, Mills has refused to represent the controversial administration in court. The former prosecutor appealed to voters with a pledge to take the state in a “new direction” as it writes a new chapter in the post-LePage era.

LePage, an ardent supporter of the president who was barred from running by term limits, promised the Portland Press Herald that he is moving to Florida for tax purposes at the end of his term.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren easily dispatched Republican challenger Geoff Diehl, in a race that was called shortly after Massachusetts polls closed at 8 p.m.

“When I first ran for the Senate, six years ago, I asked you to take a chance on someone who had never even run for office before,” said Warren during her Tuesday night victory speech.  “You took that chance, you sent me into the fight, and today, you asked me to stay in that fight.”

This was Warren’s first successful reelection after defeating Scott Brown in 2012, who went on to be named by President Donald Trump as ambassador to New Zealand.

Warren, who is often cited as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, made headlines earlier this election season when she released DNA results that showed she had a slight Native American ancestry.

The DNA test was the latest episode in a series of accusations from conservative opponents that claimed Warren benefited from claiming Native American heritage, which did not seem to have anything to do with her performance at the polls.

“Trump doesn’t like her and that’s enough for me,” quipped Boston voter Paul Sullivan.

Sullivan added that he was not impressed with Warren’s opponent Diehl, before admitting that he usually votes Democrat anyways.

“I hope more Democrats get in, so we can get some balance,” Sullivan added, in reference to the GOP control of the House and Senate going into the election.

Matthew LoPresti, Nick Rummell and Zack Huffman contributed to this story.

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