- Senator Mark Kelly beats his Republican rival, Blake Masters, putting Democrats a seat away from majority.
- Control of the Senate remains undecided, with Nevada uncalled and Georgia headed for a runoff.
- Republicans were inching closer to becoming the House of Representatives majority, possibly ending four years of rule by Democrats.
Washington: President Joe Biden's Democrats retained control of the US Senate on Saturday, a remarkable midterms election result that defied predictions of a Republican win over both houses of Congress.
Midterms traditionally deliver a rejection of the party in power, and with inflation surging and Biden's popularity in the doldrums, Republicans had been expecting to ride a mighty "red wave" and capture the Senate and the House of Representatives.
But the wave never got much beyond a ripple and on Saturday US networks called the key Senate race in Nevada for Democrat incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, giving the party the 50 seats it needs for an effective majority.
The win clinches Democratic control in the Senate as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote if the upper chamber is evenly split 50-50.
One Senate race remains up in the air - a runoff in Georgia set for December.
The two parties had been neck-and-neck at 49 seats each after Democrat Mark Kelly was projected to win a tight Senate race in Arizona on Friday evening.
The result in the House of Representatives is also hanging in the balance, and while Republicans are slightly favored to take control, it would be with a far smaller majority than they had envisaged going into Tuesday's election.
Mark Kelly wins Arizona Senate race
Senator Mark Kelly beat his Republican rival, Blake Masters, putting Democrats a seat away from majority. Howeover, control of the Senate remains undecided, with Nevada uncalled and Georgia headed for a runoff.
Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly defeated Republican Blake Masters on Friday to win a US Senate seat in Arizona, a victory that left the Democratic party one seat short in the battle for control of the chamber, with two more races to be decided.
The win by Kelly, a former astronaut whose wife, Gabby Giffords, survived an assassination attempt when she was a US lawmaker, meant Democrats had battled to a 49-49 tie in the race for the Senate.
"I'm humbled by the trust our state has placed in me to continue this work," Kelly said on Twitter.
Arizona and Nevada election workers toiled to tally hundreds of thousands of ballots that could determine control of the US Senate and the shape of President Joe Biden's next two years in office, in a vote count that officials in the two battleground states warn could drag on for days.
Republicans leading House race
In the fight for control of the House of Representatives, Republicans were inching closer to becoming the majority and ending four years of rule by Democrats.
That would give Republicans veto power over Democrat Biden's legislative agenda and allow them to launch potentially damaging investigations into his administration.
• Many of the races where winners have not yet been determined are in Arizona, California and Washington state.
• Winning both contests would give either Democrats or Republicans a Senate majority, while a split would transform a Dec. 6 runoff Senate election in Georgia into a proxy battle for the chamber.
In the Nevada governor's race, Republican Joe Lombardo defeated Democrat Steve Sisolak, Edison Research projected. Sisolak conceded the race.
"Whether you voted for me or Sheriff Lombardo, it is important that we now come together to continue moving the state forward," Sisolak said in a statement posted on Twitter.
"That is why I reached out to the sheriff to wish him success." Sisolak said it appeared incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto was on a path to win her closely-fought race against Republican state attorney general Adam Laxalt.
As of Friday night she had closed to within about 800 votes of Laxalt with more votes to be counted in Democratic-leaning Clark County.
Political analysts are anticipating a rush of campaign funds into Georgia as Republicans and Democrats gear up for the final battle of the 2022 midterm elections.
In Arizona, law enforcement officials remained on high alert for potential protests, with barricades and security fencing erected around the Maricopa County elections department, where dozens of officials are working 18-hour days to verify outstanding ballots and tabulate votes.
Kari Lake, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Arizona, has criticized election officials in Maricopa County, the state's most populous, as "incompetent" and "despicable," accusing them of deliberately delaying the vote counting.
Bill Gates, chairperson of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and a Republican, bristled at Lake's comments.
"Everybody needs to calm down a little bit and turn down the rhetoric. That's the problem with what's going on with our country right now," he told reporters.
Despite the real possibility that they may lose the House, Democrats have still cheered their success in curbing their predicted losses after they galvanised voters angry over the Supreme Court's decision in June to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
The Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy, has already announced his intention to run for speaker if Republicans take over, an outcome he has described as inevitable.
It is unclear whether a challenger to McCarthy will emerge, but some of the most conservative House Republicans have expressed doubts that he has enough votes yet to become speaker, the most powerful official in the House.
Meanwhile, Republican infighting in the Senate broke into the open on Friday as senators urged the postponement of a Wednesday leadership election so that they have time to discuss why the party did not fare better on Tuesday.
Mitch McConnell is hoping to continue as Republican leader, despite sniping from former President Donald Trump and other conservatives. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, who maintain control thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. Democrats hope to expand their margin.
The former president, who boosted some inexperienced Senate candidates in their primaries who underperformed, declared before the midterms that he wanted "all the credit" if Republicans won.
"If they lose, I should not be blamed at all," he told NewsNation. But now that Republicans are facing the prospect of being in the minority in the Senate and are still waiting to see whether they will officially nab an uncomfortably narrow majority in the House, some unexpected voices within the party are beginning to question Trump's influence.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican who strongly supported Trump, said the poor performance of some of his endorsed candidates is a sign he should step aside.
"It turns out that those he did not endorse on the same ticket did better than the ones he did endorse," she said. "That gives you a clue that the voters want to move on. And a true leader knows when they have become a liability to the mission."
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) — who cruised to victory as the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Don Bolduc lost by a large margin — told SiriusXM that Trump could "muck up" the opportunity for GOP Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker to win if he announces his run before a December runoff in the state.
Here are eight races that party strategists are watching closely.
Jim Marchant, a former Nevada state assemblyman who opposed the certification of President Joe Biden's election win in the state in 2020, was defeated in his race to become Nevada's secretary of state, Edison Research projected on Saturday.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar won the secretary of state race in Nevada, defeating Marchant, according to Edison Research.
In Nevada, the secretary of state does not have the power to certify election results, but can set and enforce election rules. Nevada is a swing state that could play an important role in determining the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, has held onto his seat against Blake Masters, a Thiel-backed Republican. The state is a former right-wing stronghold where Democrats have made gains in recent elections - Biden won the state by 0.3% in 2020.
Kelly successfully portrayed his opponent as too extreme for Arizona, emphasizing controversial comments Masters made suggesting Social Security should be privatized. Masters also recently deleted portions of his campaign website where he advocated for a total abortion ban.
Kelly has been a moderate Democrat in the Senate, pushing for lower prescription drug costs and at times criticizing the Biden administration's response to asylum seekers at the southern border with Mexico.
Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock will head to a runoff on Dec. 6 against Republican former college football star Herschel Walker, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, as both failed to clear the 50% threshold needed to win in the first round.
Walker had been hampered by a series of scandals, including allegations of domestic violence. A vocal anti-abortion advocate, Walker's campaign was rocked by reports that he paid for multiple former girlfriends to have abortions in the past.
Warnock, who serves as pastor at the Atlanta church once led by Martin Luther King Jr., won a surprise victory in a special election in early 2021, giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.
Depending on the results of ongoing Senate races in Nevada and Arizona, the final results in Georgia could determine control of the Senate.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson defeated Democrat Mandela Barnes, the state's lieutenant governor. Johnson's statements questioning COVID-19 vaccines and the 2020 election made him a tempting target for Democrats, but Johnson is known as a tough incumbent, having pulled off surprise victories in years past.
Republicans argued Barnes was too radical for the state, pointing to his past support for progressive policies like Medicare for All and a 2018 photo in which he is holding a shirt that reads "Abolish ICE," referring to an immigration enforcement agency.
John Fetterman, the Democratic state lieutenant governor, flipped Pennsylvania's Senate seat, beating Mehmet Oz, a Republican TV host and heart surgeon who was endorsed by Trump.
The race appeared to tighten in recent days, particularly after a rocky debate performance from Fetterman, who was hampered by the lingering effects of a stroke he suffered in May.
Oz faced accusations of carpetbagging as a longtime New Jersey resident and said that "local politicians" should be involved in a woman's decision to have an abortion.
Incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan held onto her seat against Republican Don Bolduc, a retired U.S. Army general who promoted Trump's lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
The seat was considered a top opportunity for Republicans, but some of Bolduc's statements - including saying the FBI should be abolished and espousing COVID-19 conspiracies - made it impossible for him to win support beyond his right-wing base, despite his post-nomination attempts to moderate his positions.
Republican U.S. Representative Ted Budd beat former state Supreme Court judge Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, for an open U.S.
Senate seat in a relatively low-key race that has not drawn as much national attention.
Budd, a gun store owner, emphasized bread-and-butter concerns like inflation to appeal to moderate voters, backed a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks and has appeared at several rallies with Trump.
North Carolina has been politically competitive for more than a decade, but Republicans still tend to win most statewide contests. The previous incumbent was a Republican.
OHIO Republican J.D. Vance, author of the hardscrabble memoir "Hillbilly Elegy," won Ohio's open Senate seat, defeating Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Ryan in a state that has trended Republican over the past decade.
Trump endorsed Vance, and tech billionaire Peter Thiel was a major donor to his campaign.
Vance's more controversial opinions — that he did not care what happened in Ukraine and claiming the Biden administration was purposely flooding the Midwest with fentanyl — and Trump's comment at a campaign rally made the race more competitive than expected. National Republican groups spent heavily to shore up his prospects.
Ryan emphasized his blue-collar background, supporting domestic jobs and a $15 minimum wage as his key policy planks, and distanced himself from party's liberal wing.
Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, is facing Blake Masters, a Thiel-backed Republican. The state is a former right-wing stronghold where Democrats have made gains in recent elections - Biden won the state by 0.3% in 2020.
Masters has sought to distance himself from controversial comments suggesting Social Security should be privatized. He also recently deleted portions of his campaign website where he advocated for a total abortion ban.
Kelly has been a moderate Democrat in the Senate, pushing for lower prescription drug costs and at times criticizing the Biden administration's response to asylum seekers at the southern border with Mexico. Although Republicans initially pulled funding in the wake of Masters' struggles, the race — as with many others — has tightened in recent days.
Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the Senate, is defending her seat against state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican who spearheaded his party's efforts to overturn Biden's victory there in the 2020 election.
Cortez Masto has emphasized abortion rights, while Laxalt has sought to harness voter concerns about rising prices — a pattern playing out in other states as well. The race has remained extremely close.
In a state where 30% of the population is Latino, analysts are watching whether these voters will continue to drift toward Republicans or whether Democrats can reverse this trend.