©Reuters. A worker scans ballots cast during the 2022 U.S. midterm elections in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States, November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah Beier 2/6
By Tim Reid and Richard Cowan
PHOENIX (Reuters) – Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly defeated Republican Blake Masters on Friday to win a seat in the US Senate in Arizona, a contest that left Democrats missing a seat and two more races in a battle for control of the chamber were to be decided.
The victory of Kelly, a former astronaut whose wife Gabby Giffords, a US congressman, survived an assassination attempt, meant the Democrats were tied 49-49 in the Senate race.
“I’m honored by the trust our state has placed in me to continue this work,” Kelly said on Twitter.
Control of the Senate — and the shape of President Joe Biden’s next two years in office — will now depend on contests in Nevada and Georgia. Biden’s party avoided historic trends by clipping its losses in Tuesday’s midterm elections, shocking Republicans who had expected big gains.
Democrats needed one more seat for control since Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the casting vote.
In Nevada, incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto came close to Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt by about 800 votes. Georgia’s result is weeks away as incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock will face Republican Herschel Walker in a December 6 runoff.
Republican Joe Lombardo defeated Democrat Steve Sisolak in the Nevada gubernatorial race, Edison Research projected. Sisolak conceded the race.
“Whether you voted for me or Sheriff Lombardo, it’s important that we come together now to move the state forward,” Sisolak said in a statement released on Twitter. “So I reached out to the sheriff to wish him the best of luck.”
Political analysts are expecting a rush of campaign funds to Georgia as Republicans and Democrats prepare for the final fight of the 2022 midterm elections.
In Arizona, law enforcement officials have remained on high alert for possible protests, with barricades and security fences erected around Maricopa County’s Electoral Division, where dozens of officers work 18 hours a day checking pending ballots and tabulating votes.
Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for Arizona’s governor, has called election officials in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, “incompetent” and “despicable” and accused them of deliberately delaying the counting of votes.
Bill Gates, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Republican, balked at Lake’s comments. “Everyone needs to calm down a little and turn the rhetoric down. That’s the problem with what’s going on in our country right now,” he told reporters.
As Republicans battled for control of the House of Representatives, they were nearing a majority and the end of the Democrats’ four-year rule. That would give Republicans veto power over Democrat Biden’s legislative agenda and allow them to launch potentially damaging investigations into his administration.
Republicans had secured at least 211 of the 218 House seats they need for a majority, Edison Research forecast late Thursday, while Democrats had won 199. Many of the races where the winners have not yet been determined are held in Arizona, California and Washington state.
Despite the real possibility that they could lose the House, Democrats have still hailed their success in curbing their predicted losses after enraging voters over the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn constitutional abortion rights.
Republican House Chairman Kevin McCarthy has already announced his intention to run as speaker if Republicans take over, an outcome he has said is inevitable.
It’s unclear if a challenger to McCarthy will emerge, but some of the most conservative House Republicans have expressed doubts that he still has enough votes to become Speaker, the most powerful official in the House.
Meanwhile, Republican infighting in the Senate erupted openly on Friday as senators pushed for the postponement of a leadership election on Wednesday so they have time to discuss why the party didn’t do better on Tuesday.
Mitch McConnell hopes to continue as a Republican leader despite sniping from former President Donald Trump and other conservatives.
(Live election results from around the country are here)
Officials overseeing vote counts in Arizona and Nevada Senate elections, where Democratic incumbents are trying to fend off Republican challengers, have said it could take until next week to count about 520,000 uncounted mail-in ballots. Most of these were located in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
Their work is slowed by the need to match signatures on mail-in ballots with voter registration signatures after large numbers of such votes are cast on Election Day.
Some of Trump’s most prominent candidates lost crucial races on Tuesday, hurting his status as Republican kingmaker and leading several Republicans to blame his divisive brand for the party’s disappointing performance.
The result could increase the odds that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who routed his Democratic challenger on Tuesday, will choose to challenge Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination.
Though Trump has not officially launched a third campaign for the White House, the former president has made it clear he will, and plans to make a “special announcement” at his Florida club on Tuesday.