US elections: Democrats win House, Republicans hold Senate

Trump hails ‘tremendous success’ on Twitter as Democratic ‘blue wave’ fails to materialise

In a close Texas Senate race, Democrat Beto O'Rourke has failed to unseat incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. However his strong performance has given hope to Democrats, who have taken control of the House of Representatives. Video: Reuters

 

Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives in the US midterm elections, but the party’s hoped-for “blue wave” failed to materialise as Republicans looked likely to increase their majority in the Senate.

As election results continue to come in around the country, Democrats were forecast to secure a net gain of at least 35 seats in the 435-seat chamber.

Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi hailed the House victory, pledging to use the majority to restore the constitution’s checks and balances on the Trump administration. But speaking to activists at Democratic headquarters in Washington she also promised a new spirit of bipartisanship “because we’ve all had enough of division”.

In a significant blow to the party, however, Democrats failed to flip any of the toss-up seats that could have opened a path to victory in the Senate. With many districts still reporting late on Tuesday, Republicans may in fact add to their current Senate majority of 51-49 when the final results are known.

The Democrats had never looked likely to win control of the Senate and in the event they fell short of a tidal wave of voter support that would have given them that. A Senate majority would have allowed Democrats to apply even firmer brakes on Mr Trump’s policy agenda and given them the ability to block any future Supreme Court nominees.

However, the party will now head House committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia. The Democrats could also force Mr Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

‘Tremendous success’

Tweeting from the White House where he was watching the election coverage with friends and family, President Trump tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”

Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who secured election, greets supporters in New York City. Photograph: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who secured election, greets supporters in New York City. Photograph: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Mr Trump called the result a “big win” and is due to hold a news conference at the White House at 11.30 am (4.30pm Irish time).

In an excruciatingly close contest in Florida, Republican candidates narrowly won the gubernatorial race and were expected to win the senate seat. Andrew Gillum narrowly missed his bid to become the state’s first African-American governor, while current governor Rick Scott was ahead of Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, with 99 per cent of the votes counted.

Similarly in Texas, despite pulling ahead in early polls, Democrat Beto O’Rourke failed to unseat incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, although his strong performance gave hope to Democrats who have long hoped that changing demographics in America’s second-largest state could turn Texas blue.

Democratic Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke concedes to Senator Ted Cruz at his midterm election night party in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Democratic Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke concedes to Senator Ted Cruz at his midterm election night party in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: REUTERS/Mike Segar

As predicted, Democrats performed strongly in House contests, picking up dozens of Republican seats around the country. Early results show that suburban America voted Democrat overwhelmingly, even in traditional Republican areas, suggesting a frustration with the politics represented by Donald Trump.

Women candidates also outperformed. In Pennsylvania alone - a state with no female candidates currently in Congress - four Democratic women won House seats: Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon, Susan Wilde and Madeleine Dean.

Senate

However, the Senate race was less positive for Democrats.

As expected, Democratic incumbents in states won by Donald Trump came under pressure. Democratic senator Joe Donnelly lost his seat to Mike Braun in Indiana. Mr Trump campaigned with Mr Braun on the eve of the election. However, Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the Democratic exception - succeeding in securing a second term despite running in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Other toss-up races did not fall Democrats’ way. Despite hopes that Phil Bredesen could win the seat being vacated by Tennessee’s outgoing Republican senator Bob Corker - a frequent critic of Donald Trump - ultimately the seat was won by Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn.

Democrats were also on track to win several governor races, including the governor’s seat in Republican-leaning Kansas and Michigan. However, the governors’ mansions in Ohio and Florida stayed in Republican hands in a setback for Democrats.

Abigail Spanberger, Democratic candidate to represent Virginia’s seventh Congressional district in the US House of Representatives, declares victory over Republican incumbent Representative Dave Brat in Richmond, Virginia. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
Abigail Spanberger, Democratic candidate to represent Virginia’s seventh Congressional district in the US House of Representatives, declares victory over Republican incumbent Representative Dave Brat in Richmond, Virginia. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Election night also contained some significant firsts. Jared Polis became America’s first openly gay governor after winning the Colorado gubernatorial race. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after winning the 14th congressional district of New York as predicted.

In Kansas, Sharice Davids, an openly gay political newcomer, beat four-term incumbent Kevin Yoder in the third congressional district. The lawyer will become the first native American woman to serve in Congress.

Speaking at Democratic headquarters in Washington DC shortly after 11.30 pm on Tuesday, Ms Pelosi hailed Democrats’ decisive victory in the House, and she praised volunteers who “refused to stand still”.

“Tomorrow will be a new day in America,” she said, congratulating the “dynamic diverse candidates who have taken back the House for the American people.”–Additional reporting Reuters