WASHINGTON - Control of the U.S. Senate remained uncertain Wednesday, as key races in North Carolina and Georgia remained too close to call.
In Maine, a closely watched race that had become nationalized due to President Donald Trump’s impeachment earlier this year and the recent Supreme Court nomination battle, reached a resolution.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins held on to a fiercely contested seat that saw millions of out-of-state dollars pour in to support Democratic challenger and state representative Sara Gideon.
A four-term senator, Collins was the only Republican to vote against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. That vote appears to have preserved her reputation among Maine voters as an independent voice.
According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, just seven of the 35 Senate seats up for election Tuesday were rated true toss-ups. Senate Republicans went into Tuesday holding a 53-47 majority but faced a tough election cycle since they are defending twice as many seats as Democrats this year.
In Colorado, Democrats received a key pickup when Republican incumbent Cory Gardner lost to Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper, the former state governor. Gardner is the last remaining Republican statewide official in a state that was once considered an election battleground.
Republicans picked up a seat in Alabama, with Trump-endorsed former football coach Tommy Tuberville beating incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. The Alabama Senate seat was the only toss-up this year held by Democrats.
Incumbent Republican Steve Daines also held on to his seat in Montana, beating back Democratic challenger and current governor of Montana, Steve Bullock. In Iowa, incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst defended her seat against Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in the heavily agricultural state, defying concerns her support of Trump’s trade wars with China would hurt her standing among the state’s farmers.
Democrats went into Election Day needing net wins of three seats if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the presidency, and four seats if Trump is re-elected.
With the Democrats building on their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, control of the Senate will be essential to the success of the agenda of the next occupant of the White House. The majority party in the Senate also will consider future appointments to the Supreme Court and federal judgeships.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky won an expected re-election, despite a well-funded challenge by Democrat Amy McGrath.
In a victory speech Tuesday night, McConnell said the nation faced significant challenges moving forward after the election.
“We don’t yet know which presidential candidate will begin a new term in January. We don’t know which party will control the Senate. But some things are certain already — we know grave challenges will remain before us,” he told supporters.
If Democrats win the majority in the Senate, the country faces the prospect of either a divided government if Trump wins a second term, with the Republicans in control of the White House and the Democrats in control of Congress, or a unified government, with the Democrats in control of both the Congress and White House, if Biden prevails.
Trump ally, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, defeated Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison in South Carolina. Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic state party chairman, had raised Democrats’ hopes by breaking the record for the largest single-quarter fundraising ever in a Senate race — $57 million. As Senate Judiciary chairman, Graham recently played a key role in confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Control of the Senate could hinge on the outcome of votes in Georgia, where both of the state’s Senate seats are up for election.
Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff is taking on Republican incumbent David Perdue. The other seat was a three-way race in a special election. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat new to politics, secured enough votes to advance past Republican Congressman Doug Collins.
The run-off between Loeffler and Warnock on January 5, 2021, means the final makeup of the U.S. Senate may not be decided until next year.
In the key swing state of North Carolina, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis was still fighting off a challenge from former state Sen. Cal Cunningham on Wednesday.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats were expected to build on their majority with a net gain of at least five seats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is likely to be re-elected to her position when the new Congress convenes next January.
She told reporters in a call earlier Tuesday, “This election is about nothing less than taking back the soul of America — whether our nation will follow the voices of fear, or whether we will choose hope.”