Republicans in struggle to break Democrats’ hold on Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — The promise of a red wave receding, Republicans slogged state by state in a determined fight to break the Democrats’ one-party hold on Washington, a breathtakingly close battle for control of Congress and the future of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

On Wednesday, the Democrats’ fragile grasp on power in the House and the Senate remained at risk. The party faced a new generation of Republican candidates — among them 2020 election deniers and some extremists inspired by Donald Trump handily winning some seats.

But races stayed tight, and Republicans ran into stiff competition in their march across the country, dashing hopes for the sweeping gains they had promised, particularly in the House. Instead, they inched toward what could be another narrowly split Congress.

“The RED WAVE did not happen,” defeated Republican Rep. Mayra Flores of Texas said in a tweet.

It was the first major national election since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and emotions were raw. The recent violent assault on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband has stunned many, and federal law enforcement warned of heightened threats nationwide. Biden’s party worked to hold on by the most tenuous of margins.

Even with a slim majority, the Republicans could bring a new intensity to Capitol Hill with promises to end Biden’s most ambitious plans, tighten congressional oversight and launch grueling investigations — even, potentially, impeachment of the president.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, in line to become speaker if his party takes control, vowed to win the majority as he addressed a crowd of supporters well past midnight in Washington.

“We are expanding this party,” McCarthy said, calling out the races won so far. “The American people are ready for a majority that will offer a new direction that will put America back on track.”

But the mood among Republicans was tense, as Democrats delivered a surprising run of the map in places Republicans expected to claim as their own.

“While many races remain too close to call, it is clear that House Democratic members and candidates are strongly outperforming expectations,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As states continue to tabulate the final results, every vote must be counted as cast.”

All 435 seats in the House and one-third of the Senate were being decided. If Republican newcomers help the party seize control of the House, and possibly the Senate, the outcome will pose new challenges for Congress’ ability to govern — especially if margins are tight.

In the race for the House, battleground Virginia provided a snapshot. Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a former Navy commander who had touted her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

But elsewhere, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger prevailed over Trump-backed Yesli Vega in a suburban Virginia district Republicans hoped to flip. And Democrats held House seats in Rhode Island, Ohio, Kansas and New Hampshire that Republicans wanted, and they flipped some including a suburban Illinois district from Republicans.

Still, Republicans were slowly amassing some of the five seats needed to reach a 218-seat House majority.

They picked up a Nashville, Tennessee-area seat long held by Democrats. And in a dramatic example of the difficult political environment for Democrats, the party’s House campaign chairman Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was fighting for political survival against Republican state legislator Mike Lawler in New York’s Hudson Valley. He would be the first Democratic campaign chief to suffer defeat in two decades.

The Senate races remained in flux. Republican J.D. Vance, a venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio, denying Democrats a chance to pick up the open seat. In New Hampshire, Trump-styled Republican Don Bolduc failed to oust Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

In the evenly split Senate, the battleground was focused on the deeply contested states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman flipped a Republican-controlled Senate seat that’s key to the party’s hopes of maintaining control of the chamber. The 50-50 Senate is now in Democratic hands because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote.

Divided government has historically offered the possibility of bipartisan deal-making. But Republican candidates campaigned instead on a platform to stop Democrats. They promised to cut federal spending, refuse to raise the nation’s debt limit and balk at supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia. It all pointed to potential gridlock.

McCarthy had recruited the most racially diverse class of House GOP candidates, with more women than ever. But it also included a new cadre of Trump loyalists, including election skeptics and deniers, some of whom were around the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump endorsed hundreds of candidates nationwide in this election cycle, though they were not always the first choices of McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. In an interview, the former president said he backed McCarthy for speaker, and he derided his old foe McConnell as a “lousy leader,” according to Fox News Channel.

In a sign of the nation’s toxic political climate, Pelosi canceled most public appearances in the final week of campaigning after an intruder broke into her family’s San Francisco home in the middle of the night last month, demanding to know “Where is Nancy?” and bludgeoning her 82-year-old husband in the head with a hammer.

The election unfolded amid deep discontent. A majority of Americans, about 7 in 10, disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 90,000 voters nationally. About 4 in 10 strongly disapprove.

In the House, several new Republicans were elected in redrawn Florida districts. Joining them will be 25-year-old Democrat Maxwell Frost, the first member of Generation Z to win a seat in Congress.

Incumbents were also holding on. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated J.R. Majewski, a Republican who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. And far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a top Trump ally, won reelection in Georgia.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, was reelected in New York. Republican Sens. Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida prevailed over their Democratic opponents. In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet also won reelection.

Vote counting could extend beyond Election Day in many states, and Georgia could head to a Dec. 6 runoff if no candidate reaches the majority.

Democrats gained momentum over the abortion issue after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision this summer, and they have been warning voters about MAGA conservatives, short for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

But Republicans focused voter attention on closer-to-home issues such as inflation-fueled high prices and crime.

Democrats lead narrowly in Nevada constitutional races

RENO — Early election results show Republicans leading in races for lieutenant governor, treasurer and controller, although many mail ballots have yet to be counted.

As of about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, Republican Stavros Anthony was ahead of Democratic rival Lisa Cano Burkhead in the race for lieutenant governor, 50.9 percent to 44.7 percent. Democratic incumbent state Treasurer Zach Conine had fallen behind Republican Las Vegas Councilwoman 47.1 percent to 46.6 percent. And Republican Andy Matthews had garnered 51.3 percent to Democrat ex-Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel’s 45 percent in the race for state controller.

Cano Burkhead, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Steve Sisolak in December, is a former teacher and principal in the Clark County School District and had little prior political experience before her appointment. Cano Burkhead has said she wants to promote outdoor recreation in the state.

Anthony, on the other hand, has served on Las Vegas City Council since 2009 and previously served on the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents. In 2020, Anthony lost his bid for the Clark County Commission by just 15 votes, which he has claimed was the result of a “stolen” election.

Nonpartisan healthcare lobbyist Trey Delap, Independent American Bill Hoge and Libertarian professional fighter Trujillo Tachiquin are also in the race for lieutenant governor.

Conine, who previously worked as a casino manager before being elected to the position in 2018, has touted his record throughout the campaign, pointing to the state receiving its highest credit rating and increasing access to unemployment benefits post-pandemic.

Conine has been endorsed by some Republicans, including former state Republican Party chair Amy Tarkanian.

Fiore originally ran for governor before switching to the treasurer’s race before the June primary. A former state legislator, the Republican has served on the Las Vegas City Council since 2018.

Fiore’s home was raided by the FBI last year as part of a campaign finance violation investigation. She and fellow Councilwoman Victoria Seaman got into a physical altercation at City Hall in January 2021, in which Seaman’s finger was broken. Seaman later sued the city, but an outside law firm’s investigation concluded both women participated in the fight.

Libertarian businessman Bryan Elliot and Independent American Margaret Hendrickson are also listed on the ballot for treasurer.

Spiegel and Matthews faced off in the race for controller after outgoing Catherine Byrne declined to run for re-election.

Spiegel served in the Assembly from 2008-2010 and again from 2012-2020. A former projects manager at a number of companies, Spiegel has proposed a program that would provide provisional business licenses for individuals who can’t afford them.

Matthews, who formerly led the conservative policy advocacy group Nevada Policy Research Institute, is serving his first term in the Assembly. If elected, he has said that he wants to increase transparency in the office by expanding the detail provided in the office’s annual report.

Libertarian candidate Jed Profeta is also in the race for controller.

An unknown number of mail ballots have yet to be counted. Final election results will likely not be available for several days.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at [email protected]. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.