WASHINGTON – Republicans were inching closer to a majority in the House of Representatives as Election Day came to a close, but control of the Senate was still up in the air Tuesday night – likely to be decided in the coming days by a handful of tight races – as Democrats avoided the shellacking some had predicted.
Going into the final day of voting, polling and precedent had suggested Democrats were likely to lose their House majority, but it was unclear just how big a “red wave” would wash over the country. Since the end of World War II, the sitting president’s party has lost an average of 26 House seats in midterm elections, and public opinion had seemed to favor Republicans as Americans weather rising costs driven by persistent inflation.
“You heard all this talk about a red wave, and let me tell you, that is not what I’m seeing,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said at an election-night party in Bellevue as she cruised to victory in her safely Democratic state.
Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to take control of the House. Recent polling that showed voters increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the country under President Joe Biden caused some pundits to predict a GOP landslide, but as of Tuesday night Democrats were on track to hold key seats and limit their losses.
Redistricting after the 2020 census resulted in fewer competitive House races, with both parties pushing to redraw congressional districts to give incumbents easier paths to re-election.
With just over half of votes counted in Washington’s 8th Congressional District – the state’s most competitive House race – Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier led Republican Matt Larkin 53% to 47%, with the race still too close to call.
In central Washington’s 4th district, incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse easily dispatched his Democratic challenger, Doug White, despite Newhouse facing GOP backlash over his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In southwest Washington’s 3rd district, Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez held a slight lead over Republican Joe Kent in the race to succeed GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who lost in the primary after she also voted to impeach Trump. The former president endorsed Kent in the race.
Meanwhile, GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho, handily defeated Democratic challengers to hold their seats.
In the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats have control thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, the GOP needs a net gain of just a single seat to seize the majority.
Control of the upper chamber may not be clear for days or even weeks, as a key Senate race in Georgia could go to a December runoff if no candidate wins an outright majority. As in past years, states could take days to count all votes, partly because many voters chose to cast their ballots by mail.
Voting laws differ between states, some of which – including Washington – count mail-in ballots as long as they are postmarked or deposited in official drop boxes by Election Day. Nearly 46 million Americans voted early, including more than 25 million by mail, but some states’ laws didn’t allow poll workers to start processing those ballots until Tuesday.
In Washington, the Associated Press projected Democratic Sen. Patty Murray would win a sixth term over GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley, despite a surprisingly competitive contest that was the most expensive Senate race in state history.
In Idaho, four-term Republican Sen. Mike Crapo cruised to victory, defeating Democrat David Roth and three other candidates, the AP projected soon after polls closed.
In addition to Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker were deadlocked late Tuesday night, control of the Senate could come down to races in Nevada, Wisconsin and Arizona, which also remained too close to call at the end of the day. Democrat John Fetterman flipped a Republican-held seat in Pennsylvania, according to the New York Times.
In Nevada, incumbent Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Gonzaga Law School graduate, was locked in close race with Republican Adam Laxalt.
Ahead of the election, the parties campaigned on sets of issues that reflected ever-growing political polarization in the country.
Republicans blamed Democrats for inflation, rising crime and an increase in illegal border crossings by immigrants seeking work and asylum in the United States.
Democrats touted their legislative accomplishments and warned GOP control of Congress would further roll back abortion rights and threaten democracy itself, pointing to the hundreds of Republican candidates who have supported Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen through massive voter fraud. While some voter fraud occurs in nearly every election, Trump and his allies have failed to show evidence to support their claims.
Biden and Trump, both of whom most Americans don’t view favorably according to polls, lent their support to congressional candidates – with unclear results. Both men have signaled they plan to run again in the 2024 presidential race, when they would be historically old candidates, despite murmurs in both parties calling for new leadership.
At a rally in Ohio on Monday, Trump said he would make a “very big announcement” on Nov. 15, strongly hinting that he may declare his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race.
If he does, the Republican primary could pit the former president against up-and-coming GOP stars like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who easily won a second term Tuesday
Spokesman-Review reporter Laurel Demkovich contributed to this story.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.