GOP seeks to break Democrat hold on Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to regain power in Congress, hard-fought Republicans led a hard push late Tuesday in hard-fought races as they struggled to break the one-party rule of Democrats in Washington and the president’s once lofty agenda Turning Joe Biden on his head.

As polls began to wind down from the East Coast toward the West, the Democrats’ tenuous grip on power was in jeopardy. With the tightly occupied House of Representatives and an evenly divided Senate, the party faced a new generation of Republican candidates — including political newcomers, including 2020 election deniers and some Donald Trump-inspired extremists who easily won some seats.

But the races were close, and the Republicans faced stiff competition as they marched across the states, particularly at the home races in Virginia, hinting at a slog to come.

Essential election coverage

Even with a narrow majority, Republicans could inject new intensity into Capitol Hill by promising to end Biden’s most ambitious plans and launch an investigation and closer oversight — possibly even impeachment of the president.

The first major national elections were held on Tuesday since January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, and the emotions were raw. The recent violent attack on spokeswoman Nancy Pelosis’ husband has left many stunned, and federal law enforcement agencies across the country warned of heightened threats. Biden’s party worked to hold out on the tightest of margins.

“We intend to win,” Pelosi told PBS NewsHour, insisting the Democrats have “far superior candidates” and voters will emerge to support them.

“I think you’re going to be surprised tonight,” Pelosi said.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate would be decided. If Republican newcomers help the party take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate, the outcome will pose new challenges to Congress’ ability to govern — especially when margins are tight.

In the race for the house, the Virginia battlefield provided a snapshot. Republican Senator Jen Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot, defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a former Navy commander who touted her work on the House Committee investigating the January 6 riot.

But elsewhere, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger prevailed over Trump-backed Yesli Vega in a district Republicans hoped to turn around. And Democrats held House seats in Rhode Island, Ohio and Kansas that Republicans wanted.

The Senate races remained in flux. Republican JD Vance, a venture capitalist and author of Hillbilly Elegy, defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in Ohio. In New Hampshire, Trump-styled Republican Don Bolduc failed to oust Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.

The Senate battleground remained focused on four hard-fought states — Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, where the race for a vacant seat between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz was believed to be the key to party control.

Divided governments have offered the opportunity to strike bipartisan deals in the past, but Republican candidates instead fought on a platform to stop the Democrats.

“I think this will end up being a conflict-ridden administration,” said Brendan Buck, a former top adviser to the last two Republican House speakers.

Without a unified agenda of their own, Republicans threatened confrontations that could spark crises as they vowed to cut federal spending, refused to raise the country’s debt limit and refused to back Ukraine in its war with Russia. Everything pointed to a possible standstill.

“You’re going to make it very clear that there’s a new sheriff in town,” Buck said.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who will take the Speaker’s gavel from Pelosi next year if the Democrats lose power, has recruited the most racially diverse class of House GOP representatives, with more women than ever before. But it also has a new cadre of Trump loyalists, including election skeptics and denierssome of which were near the Capitol on January 6th.

Trump endorsed hundreds of candidates nationwide this election cycle, though they weren’t always the first picks of McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. In an interview, the former president said he supports McCarthy as a speaker and taunted his old enemy McConnell as a “lousy leader,” according to Fox News.

In a sign of the nation’s toxic political climate, Pelosi canceled most public appearances during the final week of the campaign after an intruder broke into her family’s San Francisco home in the middle of the night and demanded, “Where’s Nancy?” and bludgeoning her 82-year-old husband with a hammer in the head. Authorities have said the Oct. 28 attack specifically targeted the Speaker’s home.

The election was passed amid deep dissatisfaction. A majority of Americans — about 7 in 10 — disapprove of the way Congress does its job, according to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive poll of over 90,000 voters nationally. About 4 out of 10 strongly disagree.

The House of Representatives elected several new Republicans in newly chartered Florida districts. They are joined by 25-year-old Democrat Maxwell Frost — the first member of Generation Z to win a seat in Congress.

Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a top Trump ally, won re-election in Georgia.

The incumbents also held firm. In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated JR Majewski, a Republican who was in the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, was re-elected in New York. Republican Sens. Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida prevailed over their Democratic opponents. In Colorado, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet was also reelected.

Vote counts could extend beyond Election Day in many states, and Georgia in particular could go into a runoff on Dec. 6 if no candidate achieves a majority. Both parties have already filed legal challenges in some cases to anticipate court battles that could delay final results.

Republicans need a net gain of five seats in the House of Representatives to reach the 218-seat majority and a net gain of one to take control of the Senate. The 50-50 Senate is now in Democratic hands because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a decisive vote in one of the longest stretches of a divided Senate in modern times.

Democrats gained momentum on the abortion issue after the Supreme Court upheld the Roe v. Wade had picked up this summer, and they’ve warned voters about MAGA conservatives, short for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

But Republicans have turned voters’ attention to a more immediate issue — the high rates of inflation and crime – while exhausting unease about the country’s direction.

Republican Senate leader McConnell openly complained about the “quality of the candidates” that his party victories might cost, while Trump championed his preferred candidates to create a potentially untried class of newcomers.

House Democrats faced their own recruiting woes, a situation made worse by a series of Democrat resignations as longtime lawmakers headed for the exits.

In a dramatic example of the difficult political environment for the Democrats, the party’s House campaign chairman Sean Patrick Maloney fought for political survival against Republican lawmaker Mike Lawler in New York’s Hudson Valley. He would be the first Democratic campaign chief to suffer defeat in two decades.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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