House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, gestures with DCCC Chair Ben Ray Luján, as she arrives to speak to a crowd of volunteers and supporters of the Democratic party at an election night event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Washington. Image Credit: AP

Highlights

This midterm vote is one of the most contentious elections in years, with tremendous implications, especially for the global economy, including in the Middle East

Scott Shuey and Ed Clowes from the Gulf News Business Desk bring you all the latest on the bitterly-contested, crucial US midterm elections.

It all goes as predicted – more or less

Scott Shuey

Despite some doubts midway through the evening, it appears the US 2018 midterm elections will go down as predicted.

Republicans will hold the Senate, and Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives. Election night isn’t over, but all that’s left to decide is the margins.

Democrats will likely pick up 34 seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 seats they needed. That number could fluctuate as results continue to come in, but with the majority of remaining votes coming from the heavily blue West Coast, all of the major US networks and analysts are calling it a victory for the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi will likely return to her role as Speak of the House, replacing retiring Speaker Paul Ryan.

Republicans walked away from election night with perhaps one more Senate seat that they expected after victories in Texas, Missouri, and Florida.

This likely means trouble for US President Donald Trump. Democrats had threatened to investigate Trump on multiple fronts if they took the House and impeach hearings will probably be discussed. However, even if Trump is impeached, it is unlikely he would be removed from office due to Republican control of the Senate.

Democrats take the House – CNN

Scott Shuey

CNN is projecting that Democrats will win a majority in the US House of Representatives. Democrats needed to pick up 23 votes to gain a majority. CNN made the call before polls had closed in California, Oregon and Washington, which are generally viewed as Democratic strongholds. Fivethirtyeight.com is predicting that Democrats will finish the night by taking 36 seats away from Republicans, which will give them a 231 seat majority to a Republican’s 204 seats.

Republicans have retained control of the US Senate: AP

Ed Clowes

The Republicans have won the necessary seats in the Senate to retain a majority, ensuring control of the upper chamber until 2020.

Cruz holds Texas

Scott Shuey

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has defeated Beto O’Rourke in one of this year’s most watched races. O’Rourke was originally consider a longshot for the Senate seat, but his ability to raise funds caused some concern among Republicans. In the third quarter, he raised $38 million, three times what Cruz raised, but ultimately he failed to sway voters in the heavily conservative state. Cruz won the night with almost 3.4 million votes to O’Rourke’s 3.1 million. He is still considered a likely candidate for the 2020 presidential campaign.

First Muslim women elected to US House of Representatives

Scott Shuey

On Tuesday night the US elected its first Muslim women to the US House of Representatives. Rashida Tlaib, running in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, will fill the seat vacated by John Conyers, who stepped down last December. She is a Palestinian-American lawyer who currently serves in the state legislature.

There is a big chance that Tlaib will be joined in the House by Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American candidate from Minnesota, who serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She became the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States in 2016. With 69 percent of precincts reporting, Omar leads with 192,352 votes against Jennifer Zielinski who currently has 47,530 votes.

Ilhan Omar, newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on the Democratic ticket, speaks to a group of supporters in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 6, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Ocasio-Cortez becomes youngest woman in Congress

Ed Clowes

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is predicted to win the race in New York's 14th congressional district, becoming the youngest woman in Congress at just 29.

Ocasio-Cortez garnered attention during the summer for her surprising primary victory.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to her supporters during her election night party in the Queens Borough of New York on November 6, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Barr pulls out win in Kentucky

Scott Shuey

Republican Andy Barr has pulled out a win in Kentucky’s 6th District against Democrat Amy McGrath. The race had been seen as a bellwether in national elections, with McGrath, a progressive and former combat pilot, losing to Barr 138,453 to 147,025.

Florida moves to restore voting rights of felons

Ed Clowes

Away from the ups and downs of the election results, some news from Florida: The state has voted to restore voting rights to former felons have served their sentences, passing Amendment 4. The move will impact around 1.5 million residents of Florida.

Over 4.7 million people voted in favour of approving the measure.

Nate Silver cuts forecast for Democrats

Scott Shuey

fivethirtyeight.com, the website run by American statistician Nate Silver, has cut its prediction for Democrats winning the US House of Representatives to 53.8 per cent. The site had given Democrats a 85 per cent chance before polls opened, but at one point in the evening the odds had dropped to as little as 38 per cent. The site is currently predicting Democrats win 27 seats, which would give them control of the House. (UPDATE: the site just raised the odds to 63.9 per cent)

Image Credit: Reuters

However, the site gives Republicans an 97.4 percent chance of holding onto the U.S. Senate, despite Democrat Beto O’Rourke currently leading Republican Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race.

Kentucky’s 6th District still close

Scott Shuey

One of the more closely watched House races may go down to the wire. Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot, is currently leading Republican Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th district. McGrath has been labelled too progressive by Barr, but she currently holds a slight lead with 100,339 to Barr’s 99,738.

Has the 'Blue Wave' begun?

Ed Clowes

Democrats have scored their first flip of the night, with the party stealing a House seat from incumbent Representative Barbara Comstock, with Democrat Jennifer Wexton winning victory in Virginia.

The seat was predicted to go Democrat, but is viewed as a bellwether and may begin what many have called the Blue Wave of Democrat victories in the House of Representatives.

First projected winners

Scott Shuey

We have our first projected winners of the evening. Independent Bernie Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, will hold on to his U.S. Senate seat in Vermont, and Tim Kaine, the Democrat’s Vice-President nominee in 2016, will hold on to his seat in Virginia.

Senate races in Florida and Indiana are still too close to call.

House races are also beginning to come in. Currently 11 Republican and 11 Democrats are predicted to have won their races across Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

So why does this election matter?

Ed Clowes

At stake is a congress that can hold Trump to account in a way that Republicans haven’t up until this point.

If the Democrats are able to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans, a move that is seen as being statically likely, then we could see congressional investigations in to a number of pertinent issues.

Subjects that could come under scrutiny with the Democrats in charge include Trump’s business dealings, his family’s ties to Russia, allegations of money laundering, and the government’s slow response to Hurricane Maria, which killed over 3,000 people and caused widespread devastation in Puerto Rico.

Observers say that the Democrats probably already have a list of subjects they intend to probe, should they win tonight.

Elsewhere in the gubernatorial races, if the Democrats are able to find some success, experts say we might see an expansion of Medicaid, potentially benefitting hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Structural voting reform is also on the line, with the issues of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and congressional boundaries becoming hot-button topics in the build up to this election.

If the Democrats are able to secure a majority in the state houses, otherwise known as the governor races, then we could see a number of ballot initiatives and political reforms tabled, changing the way people vote.

With low voter turnout historically tending to favour the Republicans, this is an issue that the Democrats are taking very seriously.

First polls close in 1 hour

Scott Shuey

Here’s how the next couple of hours are going to play out. At 3am (GMT+4) the polls will close in Kentucky and Indiana.

In Kentucky, four out of the six House seats are expected to go to the GOP, one will likely go to a Democrat, and another — the 6th District — is where we might see an indicator of things to come.

Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot, is challenging Republican Andy Barr, the incumbent. McGrath is being portrayed as too progressive by Barr, so a loss by the Republican could be viewed as a significant shift in momentum towards the Democrats.

Indiana’s Senate race between Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Mike Braun will also be one to watch. Donnelly was ahead in the polls heading into today.

In Indiana, seven of the state’s House seats were expect to go the GOP, while two would go the Democrats.

None of those predications in Indiana would indicate any chance in control for either party. Kentucky and Indiana both went to President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

At 4am (GMT+4) we will see the polls close in a number of states, including: Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire and Vermont. A half hour later, polls in Ohio, W. Virginia, and North Carolina will also close.

A fighter, a spy, and an underwear model: Tonight’s most interesting candidates

Ed Clowes

You often hear complaints that robotic career politicians don’t have any real world experience, and lack a human touch. This year’s midterm elections in the US look set to mark a departure from cookie cutter politicians, with a kaleidoscope of unique characters from an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds running for office tonight.

Democrat Abigail Spanberger is a 39 year old former CIA operative who is running for Virginia’s 7th congressional district.

She’s been reticent to talk about her history with the spy agency for obvious reasons, but she’s also said she doesn’t want to spook people.

Spanberger is not the only military women on the ballot on Tuesday night.

Kentucky’s 6th District features one of the marquee House races of the night. If Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, manages to unseat Republican Andy Barr after the polls close at the early time of 6pm EST, it could presage a strong Democratic night, says FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism website best known for its election forecasts.

But, they add, if Barr wins by a comfortable margin, Republicans will feel better about their chances to retain a narrow majority.

McGrath isn’t the only female fighter pilot running: Former pilot Martha McSally, a two-term Republican representative from Arizona, is running for Senate in the state.

McSally is the first US female fighter pilot to fly in combat and the first to command a fighter squadron, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

To continue the trend of interesting women running for office, student Hadiya Afzal is a candidate for DuPage County Board, District 4 at the age of just 19.

Afzal is campaigning on a platform of better public transportation, preserving the environment, and fixing the opioid crisis.

She’s not the only young person in the race: Kathering Kerwin, Brett Ries, and Morgan Zegers are all 21.

You must be at least 25 to serve legally in the House, and 30 to serve in the Senate.

The age gape between US government representatives and those they represent is huge. Adults under 30 make up nearly 22 per cent of voting-aged citizens in the United States, yet they are completely underrepresented at all levels of government.

So who else is running with an interesting backstory?

Well, there’s Democrat Sharice Davids, who could become the first Native-American woman elected to Congress.

She is a gay ex-mixed martial arts fighter running in Kansas’s third congressional district. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids was raised by a single mother who worked as a drill sergeant, and has a law degree from a top US university, according to the BBC.

She won her first mixed martial arts fight in November 2013, but turned her focus to politics after she was rejected by the UFC, a premiere MMA league.

And who could forget the underwear model campaigning for Trump?

Former Calvin Klein model Antonio Sabato Jr, now a TV actor, is the Trump-supporting Republican candidate in California’s 26th district.

Sabato is most famous now for his belief that Barack Obama was a Muslim.

“If he’s not a Muslim, we should call him President Barry,” he once said.