US elections: Republicans reach 50 Senate seats with Alaska win

Several incumbents successfully defend seats despite strong challenges from Democrats

Senate Republicans cemented their surprisingly strong performance in last week's election on Wednesday as Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan was declared the winner in Alaska's race.

Mr Sullivan was first elected to represent America’s largest state by territory in 2014. But despite facing a well-funded challenge from Al Gross, he was declared the winner by Associated Press, ahead by more than 20 points when the race was called.

Though Mr Gross, a doctor and commercial fisherman, had run as an independent, he was expected to caucus with Democrats in the chamber if successful.

Mr Sullivan was one of several Republican incumbents who successfully defended their seats in Senate elections around the country, despite facing stronger-than-expected challenges from Democrats. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Joni Ernst easily retained their seats, despite warnings from polls that they could be in difficulty.

Following Cal Cunningham's concession to North Carolina's Republican incumbent Thom Tillis on Tuesday, Mr Sullivan's victory now gives the Republican party 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber. It means that Democrats must win January's two Senate contests in Georgia – which have gone to run-offs because no candidate achieved the requisite 50 per cent needed to win last week's Senate contests.


Intensive campaigning and fundraising are expected in the southern state ahead of the elections on January 5th.

Senator Doug Perdue is facing a challenge from Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old Democrat who was narrowly beaten in a special election for a congressional seat in 2017. Republican Kelly Loeffler, a multimillionaire who was herself appointed to the Senate seat vacated by retiring senator Johnny Isakson, is facing a challenge from Rev Raphael Warnock, a pastor at the same church where the late Martin Luther King Jr once preached.

Though Democrats are believed to have only a slim chance of winning both seats, president-elect Joe Biden’s strong performance in Georgia has boosted hopes that the elections could go their way.

Both Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler demanded that Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensberger – himself a Republican – resign, accusing him of "mismanagement" and "lack of transparency". He has refused to do so.

On Wednesday, he announced a recount of the presidential election in the state. Florida senator Marco Rubio campaigned for the two Republican candidates in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent