Washington: Control of the US Congress hangs in the balance, with both parties notching victories in some of the most competitive races in a midterm election that centered on voter frustration over high inflation and the sudden rollback of abortion rights.
Eager to claw back power in Congress, energised Republicans worked Tuesday to break the Democrats' one-party hold on Washington and threaten the future of President Joe Biden's once-lofty agenda.
Tuesday saw the first major national elections since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and emotions were raw. The violent assault on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband has stunned many, and federal law enforcement warned of heightened threats nationwide. Biden's party laboured to hold on by the most tenuous of margins.
• IOWA: Republicans were trying Tuesday to sweep Iowa's four seats in the US House of Representatives, pushing to oust a Democratic incumbent as two first-term GOP congresswomen won reelection in competitive races. If their narrow lead in Iowa's 3rd Congressional district holds, it would be the first time since 1994 that Republicans would win every seat in Iowa's House delegation.
• TEXAS: Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has won a third term while Republican Monica De La Cruz also won a US House seat in South Texas in another sign of the GOP's widening reach with Hispanic voters. De La Cruz ran as an unflinching conservative and supporter of abortion restrictions against Democrat Michelle Vallejo, who tried to animate liberal voters with promises to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Vincente Gonzalez of Texas won reelection, ousting Republican Rep. Mayra Flores in a rare race between two sitting members of Congress. The outcome is a sigh of relief for Democrats in one of their most important strongholds in Texas.
• CALIFORNIA: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is projected to easily win reelection in California’s 11th Congressional District, continuing her decades-long tenure in the House that began in 1987. Pelosi handedly defeated Republican John Dennis. The Associated Press called the race at 12:14 am Wednesday. This Congress marked her fourth time leading the Democratic caucus as Speaker. Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007.
• GEORGIA: Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker were locked in a tight race night in Georgia as elections officials continued to count ballots in the state that determined partisan control of the Senate nearly two years ago and could do so again in these midterm elections.
• MARYLAND | MASSACHUSETTS: Democrats reclaimed governorships in Maryland, Massachusetts as polls close in two dozen states in midterm elections.
• KANSAS: Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly hoped to win a second term Tuesday in Republican-leaning Kansas, with her close race turning on how many independent and moderate GOP voters stayed with her after lifting her to victory four years ago. Kelly was the only Democratic governor running for reelection this year. Kelly held a lead at midnight, but it shrank as the vote-counting continued. During a speech to supporters in Topeka, she stopped short of declaring victory but said she was optimistic as she sent her backers home.
• PENNSYLVANIA: Donald Trump acolyte, 2020 election result denier and far-right Christian nationalist Doug Mastriano lost his bid to become the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, US media projected Tuesday. Mastriano, 58, was one of the most polarising candidates to receive Trump's backing.
• NEW HAMPSHIRE: Democrats held a crucial Senate seat in New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Sen. Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who had initially promoted former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election but tried to shift away from some of the more extreme positions he took during the GOP primary.
• OHIO | NORTH CAROLINA: Republicans held Senate seats in Ohio and North Carolina.
• MISSISSIPPI: Republican Mike Ezell has defeated a Democrat and a Libertarian candidate in a south Mississippi congressional race, allowing Republicans to retain control of the seat. Ezell defeated Democrat Johnny DuPree and Libertarian Alden Patrick Johnson in the southern 4th District. Ezell is the sheriff of coastal Jackson County. DuPree is a former Hattiesburg mayor and was the 2011 Democratic nominee for governor.
• SOUTH CAROLINA: Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina won reelection Tuesday, beating Democrat Annie Andrews to keep her 1st District seat in GOP hands as the major parties battled for control of the US House of Representatives. Her challenger Andrews is a pediatrician who supported access to abortions in the red state and heightened firearms restrictions to counter the nation's alarming wave of gun violence.
• WISCONSIN: Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers narrowly won re-election, defending his seat against Republican construction magnate Tim Michels, who had falsely claimed that Trump won the 2020 election. Michels had promised, if elected, to enforce a 19th-century abortion ban that Evers is challenging in court.
• NEW MEXICO: Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham won re-election, surviving a challenge from Republican Mark Ronchetti, a former television weatherman, in New Mexico's gubernatorial contest. Her campaign emphasized abortion rights as she directed $10 million in state money to build an abortion clinic near the Texas border, while Ronchetti supported banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
• MAINE: Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills won a second term by defeating Republican Paul LePage, who served as governor of the state from 2011 to 2019. Mills ran on a platform that emphasized healthcare, especially her support for abortion rights. LePage faced criticism during his time in office for making racist and violent comments that led some state lawmakers to question his fitness to serve.
NEW YORK: Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul secured her seat, winning a race that tightened in recent weeks against Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, a U.S. congressman from Long Island. Hochul, the state's former lieutenant governor who took office last year after Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned over sexual harassment accusations, focused on defending the gun laws she had passed and promoting heavier police presence in the New York City subway. Hochul's campaign also attacked Zeldin's ties to Republican former President Donald Trump and warned that Zeldin would roll back abortion rights in New York if elected.
GEORGIA: Republican Governor Brian Kemp fended off Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in a rematch of Georgia's close 2018 gubernatorial election, winning by a wider margin with the benefit of incumbency. Abrams was seeking to become the first Black woman to serve as a governor in the United States. Her voter registration efforts were credited with helping President Joe Biden win Georgia in 2020 and two Democrats capture the state's US Senate seats in 2021.
• PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro won the state's gubernatorial election against Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano, who had echoed Trump's false claims of voter fraud and was present at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 - the day of a deadly riot - to protest the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Shapiro will choose the battleground state's top elections official, with the 2024 presidential election looming.
• FLORIDA: Republican Governor Ron DeSantis won a second term in Florida by defeating Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in what was widely seen as a precursor to a DeSantis 2024 presidential run. DeSantis has been at the forefront of a number of the country's partisan fights, bucking COVID-19 restrictions while backing a law limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.
ARIZONA: Widely seen as one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country, the contest for Arizona's open governorship pits Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, against former news anchor Kari Lake, a Republican. Hobbs rose to national prominence in 2020 when she defended Arizona's election results against former President Donald Trump's false claims of voting fraud. Lake, who received Trump's endorsement, has embraced those claims and vowed to ban mail-in voting if she wins.
• MICHIGAN: Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has made protecting abortion access in Michigan a central theme of her re-election campaign. Her Republican opponent, Trump-backed conservative commentator Tudor Dixon, supports a near-total ban on abortion, including for child victims of rape and incest. A win by Dixon would mean total control of the state government by Republicans, who already have the majority of both legislative chambers. Whitmer's lead over Dixon has diminished from double digits to a much slimmer margin, with some recent polls showing her only 1 or 2 percentage points ahead.
• NEVADA: Incumbent Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has emphasized the protection of legal abortion in his campaign for a second term, in addition to issues such as education, expanding child care and affordable housing. Polls show him in a close race with Republican Joe Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff and a former US Army soldier who has run on supporting law enforcement and cutting public spending. Lombardo has sought to distance himself from the former president, accepting the 2020 elections results as legitimate. When asked in a debate whether Trump was a great president, Lombardo responded, "I wouldn't use that adjective."
• OREGON: A close three-way race could see Oregon's governorship go to a Republican for the first time since 1982. Democrat Tina Kotek is squaring off against Republican Christine Drazan and a strong independent candidate, Betsy Johnson. Kotek has run hard on gun violence prevention, while Johnson has emphasized supporting police and gun rights.
Motivated by concerns about high inflation and crime, voters were poised to usher in an era of divided government in Washington, despite warnings from Democrats about the erosion of abortion rights and the undermining of democratic norms.
An Edison Research exit poll of midterm voters showed that inflation and abortion were the top issues on voters mind, with three of ten citing one or the other as their top concern.
35 Senate seats, 435 House seats on the ballot
Thirty-five Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats are on the ballot. Republicans are widely favoured to pick up the five seats they need to control the House, while the Senate - currently split 50-50 with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote - could come down to a quartet of toss-up races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona.
With voting underway, U.S. officials said they did not see a "specific or credible threat" to disrupt election infrastructure. Local officials reported isolated problems across the country: a bomb threat in Louisiana, a paper shortage in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and a downed website in Champaign County, Illinois.
In Maricopa County, Arizona — a key battleground — officials said they were in the process of fixing malfunctioning tabulating machines and said every vote would be counted.
Polls were open across the US with control of the House and Senate up for grabs.
Officials were on the lookout for disruptions and violence in the first big election since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Candidates who deny the validity of the 2020 election are on the ballot across the country, many for roles that will oversee future elections.
That stoked claims among right-wing figures that the failures were deliberate. "The people will not stand for it!!!" former President Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social, his online platform, without offering evidence of vote fraud.
Experts reported new conspiracy theories spreading across Twitter days after the company fired half its staff and new owner Elon Musk endorsed Republicans.
Biden warned that hundreds of Republican candidates have echoed Trump's false claims that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud.
"They deny that the last election was legitimate," Biden said on a radio show aimed at Black voters. "They're not sure they're going to accept the results unless they win." ECONOMIC WORRIES But many voters said they were motivated by frustration with inflation, which at 8.2%, stands at the highest rate in 40 years.
"The economy is terrible. I blame the current administration for that," said Bethany Hadelman, who said she voted for Republican candidates in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Fears of rising crime were also a factor even in left-leaning areas like New York, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul faced a tough challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin.
"We have criminals constantly repeating crimes. They go to jail and come out a few hours later or the next day," said John Delsanto, 35, a legal assistant who said he voted for Zeldin.
The results in close races might not be known for days or even weeks. More than 46 million Americans voted ahead of Election Day, either by mail or in-person, according to data from the U.S. Election Project, and state election officials caution that it will take time to count all of those ballots. Control of the Senate might not be not known until a potential Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia.
In Congress, a Republican-controlled House would be able to block bills addressing Democratic priorities such as abortion rights and climate change. Republicans could also initiate a showdown over the nation's debt ceiling, which could shake financial markets, and launch investigations into Biden's administration and family.
Republicans will have the power to block aid to Ukraine if they win back control of Congress, but analysts say they are more likely to slow or pare back the flow of defense and economic assistance.
A Republican Senate would hold sway over Biden's judicial nominations, including any Supreme Court vacancy, intensifying the spotlight on the increasingly conservative court.
Inflation and abortion
The Supreme Court's June decision to overturn the nationwide right to abortion had galvanized Democratic voters around the country, temporarily raising the party's hopes they could defy history.
But stubbornly rising prices have left voters dissatisfied despite one of the strongest job markets in history.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found just 39% of Americans approved of the way Biden has done his job. Some Democratic candidates deliberately distanced themselves from the White House as Biden's popularity languished.
Trump's polling is similarly low, with just 41% of respondents to a separate recent Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they viewed him favorably.
Trump, who cast his ballot in Florida, has frequently hinted at a third presidential run. He said on Monday that he would make a "big announcement" on Nov. 15.
The prevalence of election deniers among Republican candidates has elevated down-ballot races that typically receive little attention.
In swing states such as Nevada, Arizona and Michigan, the Republican nominees to head up the states' election apparatus have embraced Trump's falsehoods, raising fears among Democrats that, if they prevail, they could interfere with the 2024 presidential race.
Those concerns swayed even some Republican leaning voters like Henry Bowden, 36, an Atlanta lawyer who said he voted for a mix of Republican and Democratic candidates.
"I was really trying not to vote for any of the Republicans that are too much in Trump's pocket and all the election denial stuff. I was very tired of that," he said.