(CN) — Democrats remain in the running to take control of the U.S. Senate, but the path was narrowed Tuesday by Republican wins in South Carolina and Iowa.
Democrat Mark Kelly has a strong lead in Arizona, and if he prevails and Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential race, Democrats will need two additional wins to control the upper chamber. That’s still possible, with North Carolina, Maine, Montana and two Georgia seats in play.
Democrats scored the first flip of the night with Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper winning the Senate seat held by a Republican incumbent, while Republicans flipped a seat in Alabama that they were widely expected to win.
Experts eyed tense contests in a handful of states that threatened to topple powerful Republicans like Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Susan Collins, R-Maine. The night ended with Collins ahead and Graham re-elected.
Republican Tommy Tuberville won the seat held by Democrat Doug Jones. The loss, which was widely expected, means Democrats need an additional win to take control of the Senate.
Jones narrowly eked out a 2017 win over Republican incumbent Roy Moore — and that was in a race where multiple women had accused his opponent of pursuing sexual relationships with them when they were teens. Now, Jones now faces an uphill battle in a challenge from Republican Tommy Tuberville in a state that voted heavily in favor of Trump in 2016. Tuberville, a retired football coach at Auburn University, beat former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a March primary.
Michigan typically leans Democratic on Senate races, but incumbent Democrat Gary Peters was trailing in his race with Republican Army veteran John James. James lost a 2018 race to unseat Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. But as of late Tuesday night, Peters trailed by about 300,000 votes, with approximately 70% of the vote counted.
“It’s pretty clear we’re not going to know the results until sometime tomorrow,” Peters said at a Tuesday night campaign event. “A number of jurisdictions are still processing this massive amount of absentee ballots. ... Stay tuned.”
Republican Lindsey Graham won another term in the U.S. Senate after a close race with Jaime Harrison, the first Black man to chair the state Democratic Party. Both Graham and Harrison each individually raised more money during this election than any other candidate in South Carolina history.
Harrison worked as a high school teacher and later as a lobbyist with the Podesta Group. He also headed a nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income kids attend college. He has called for expanded Medicaid, federal action on a Covid-19 relief package and the legalization of cannabis.
Like Senator Collins of Maine, Graham worked across the aisle for many years of his career. Graham is a politician who is used to facing primary challenges, not fighting credible threats in November. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Graham had sharp criticism for Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign — but that all changed after Trump was elected. In 2020, amid nail-biter races where many Republican candidates scrambled to distance themselves from the White House, Graham sent out mailers announcing he was “proud to have the support of President Trump.” An attorney who has held his position as U.S. Senator for 17 years, Graham’s about-face on closely supporting Trump and his policies unsettled voters and opened him up to Harrison’s vigorous challenge.
As chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee, Graham led the push to confirm U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former Notre Dame law school professor with no judicial experience. Barrett was sworn in just five weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a week before the presidential election. Graham’s push was a 180-degree turn from his position in 2016, when he maintained the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia nine months before the general election was far too close to the presidential election for the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia.